I’m gazing at golden sand beside a sea of sparkling blue that cradles a chain of islands, the nearest ones warmed to a soft butter-gold under the autumn sun. I feel the heat on my skin and the rasp of sand between my toes. I listen to the quiet sighs of small waves gliding up the beach. I might swim soon to let the cool water embrace me under the open sky. Paradise.
Then the bird comes.
A black bird. A bloated bird.
I’ve seen this bird before. Its haunting visits suck light from the sky and leave a gloomy cast, no matter what the day was like before it came. It stands on sturdy, silent feet, watching me.
I dread this bird.
Now cool wind sends shivers down my back and a foul smell drifts past. The sun is dimmer, shrouded by a veil of cloud that dulls all colour. The sand is gritty, harsh. On the islands, dull green shrubs spread across the yellow slopes like mould.
It’s time to go. There is no more pleasure in the day.
Just as I feared, the black bird follows when I leave.