The clocks went back here in Ireland last night…
The black became less black.
To the east a thin grey line appeared. It grew, then grew brighter as the grey became yellow, pale and infinitely beautiful.
It was dawn.
The Blackbird was first, as always, with its short whistling song. The Robin soon joined in with a quicker tune, tinkling like angels giggling. Quickly the others began to sing too, the Wren, the Thrush, the Chaffinch, a glorious, joy-filled, joy-inspiring welcome to the coming day.
After a few minutes, though, they faltered, looking at one another in confusion. They weren’t being joy-inspiring, because there wasn’t anyone to inspire joy in. The streets remained silent, the house-lights unlit.
“Where is everyone?” asked the Wren.
At dawn on a Sunday morning, “everyone” is a relative term. Yet she was right. Normally by this time the man from Number Four was heading down the garden path to his car, on his way to play golf, the man from Number Twelve was walking his dog, the lady from Number Nine was on her way down the street to open her corner shop.
There was no sign of any of them.
“I don’t know,” said the Robin. “Maybe they had a street party last night, and all got drunk.”
“Wouldn’t stop Number Four,” said the Blackbird. “He never misses golf, ever. Even goes if it’s snowing.”
“Really?” said the Chaffinch.
The Blackbird nodded. “Yellow balls,” he explained.
“I’m not surprised,” said the Chaffinch. “He’d be freezing.”
There was a short silence. “We should see if the church is open,” said the Robin eventually. “It opens early every Sunday morning.”
They rose and flew – in V-formation, just because they could – down to the church. Not a single house-light was on as they passed. The church, too, was in darkness, it’s great door shut.
“Gosh,” said the Chaffinch. “God’s gone too.”
They flew back to their own street, each silent, alone with their thoughts. They gathered, as always, in the tree at the back of Number Six.
“Let’s face it,” said the Blackbird. “The humans are dead.”
The Chaffinch nodded. “Internet virus, probably,” he said.
“Wow,” said the Wren. “Death by Twitter.”
“Serves them right for calling it that,” said the Thrush. “It was really offensive, it implied that we talk shite.”
“Never mind that,” said the Wren. “Who’s going to fill our feeders with beer-nuts?”
“We don’t need nuts,” said the Blackbird. “We can pick berries. We can eat worms. Which,” he went on, brightening, “if everyone is dead -”
The Wren shuddered. “Don’t even say it,” she said.
“Mind you,” said the Thrush, “the ducks down in the pond will probably struggle.”
“We’ll have to find a way of feeding them,” said the Robin.
“And we’ll have to organise rescue parties for the budgies trapped in the houses,” said the Wren.
“We could fly down the chimneys in groups,” said the Robin, “we’d soon be able to break open their bars.”
“What about the apartments?” asked the Chaffinch. “They don’t have chimneys.”
“You’re right,” said the Robin. “We’ll have to break the windows.”
The Blackbird snorted, causing a small piece of blackberry to shoot from one nostril. “Have you never flown full-belt into a window?” he said. “It’s like head-butting a wall.”
“We’ll get the woodpeckers to help us,” said the Wren.
“Good idea,” said the Robin. “Then we -”
Suddenly they heard a sound, the hushed sound of somebody trying to quietly shut a front door, as if not to wake a spouse. They all turned and watched.
Number Four was lurching unsteadily down his garden path toward his car.
“They’re zombies!” gasped the Thrush.
“Zombies with beer-nuts, hopefully,” said the Wren, still struggling with the worm idea.
The Blackbird shook his head. “He’s just half-asleep,” he said. “He goes out like that every Sunday morning. How he calls it fun I’ve no idea.”
They watched as drove off in his car, then as Number Twelve emerged from his house with his dog, then as Number Nine came out and began to walk towards the corner shop.
In the distance they heard the church-bell ring.
They all looked at each other in confusion. “So what happened?” said the Chaffinch.
“Morning was broken,” said the Wren.
“Yes, but how?” asked the Chaffinch.
“There’s only one explanation,” said the Blackbird. “The humans all travelled back in time by one hour.”
“How could that be possible?”
The Blackbird shrugged. “Some NASA experiment gone wrong, I’d say. They’ll do some sort of cover-up. No-one will never know.”
“Never know?” said the Robin. “Surely they’ll all notice that it’s brighter than it was when they got up yesterday.”
“Will they?” said the Blackbird, nodding down the street to where Number Nine, with a yawn wide enough to swallow a bear, was trying to fit her key into the door of her shop. “Though they like to think otherwise, people are not morning people.”