The soft roucoulement of a dozen rock doves filtered through the alleyway. High on a window ledge sat Eddie, the oldest and most moth-eaten of the group, his mottled feathers gently moulting in the breeze.
A young juvenile named Jerry fluttered down beside him and surveyed the scene below. All the ledges and outcrops from the first floor down were covered in formidable looking spikes, as though the building’s mother had been rogered by a porcupine.
“Sad, isn’t it?” said Eddie.
“No, Jerry,” said Jerry, perplexed.
“No, the spikes,” said Eddie.
“Oh,” said Jerry.
“I remember when a pigeon could perch anywhere he damn well pleased, but now…” Eddie trailed off in disgust.
“Why do they put them there?” asked Jerry.
“Who can say?” said Eddie, “It defies reason. Where do they expect us to nest? And defecate? One day they’ll work out that the less space we have to go on the ledges the more we have to crap on people in the street. Imbeciles…”
Just then a small, sleek shape appeared on an outpost below, deftly hopping over the spikes as though they were cobbles.
“Who’s that?” said Jerry, his beak hanging open.
“That’s Barry’s young’un,” said Eddie, “he’s evolved.”
Jerry watched in amazement as the young rock dove flapped from one ledge to another, landing without so much as wincing.
“But … how?” said Jerry.
“He’s a Blade Runner,” said Eddie, “hardened scales on his feet, some say they’re solid iron.”
“Blimey,” breathed Jerry, “lucky sod.”
Eddie raised an eyebrow.
The bird looked up and clocked the pair of them staring. He grinned smugly, another keen adaptation denied those with non-stretch beaks, and just to rub their inflexible noses in it he folded his wings and went for a victorious jog around the humans’ cruel fortifications.
“What a prick,” said Jerry.
Eddie said nothing.
“I mean where does he get o-”
Just at that moment, a blur of black and grey swept through the alley, and snatched the young bird in its talons.
“HOLY SHIT!” mumbled Jerry thunderously.
The shrike swooped back to its nest, the lifeless mass beneath it lolling queasily in its slipstream. Jerry watched, rapt, unable to bear the horrific sight before him, but equally unable to turn away.
The shrike was now affixing the juvenile dove to one of his precious spikes, a macabre V-sign to his own hubris. Around him were skewered the corpses of its other victims, each one a mess of blood and feathers, waiting for the formidable beak of the butcher bird to tear into its entrails, and sup.
On the window ledge above, Jerry quietly threw up. Eddie just sat stoically.
“Anyone can adapt,” he said heavily, but with a hint of slyness, “One bird finds a way around the spikes, another finds a use for them. The shrike doesn’t care if its thorns are wood or steel, it’ll stick you just the same.”
He turned to his young protégé.
“Sometimes it’s not so bad being a Ledger.”
~ James Le Lacheur 2015