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For The Record, Episode 7: Something’s Wrong With the Birds


Dante: Oh! Hey Noelle, I was just… Nevermind. Is that…?


Noelle: Here’s your first stack of statements. Figures that should keep you busy for a little while. We’ll want all of these recorded by the end of the week, if that’s alright. You know… just in case.

Dante: You really think there’s gonna be another explosion?

Noelle: I don’t know, Dante. I’m just following orders.

Dante: This is insane.

Noelle: Please just get to work, I have things to do too, you know.

Dante: [SIGH] Alright, I’ll let you know when it’s done.

Noelle: Good. Good luck.

Dante: Alright, what do we have here…

Statement of Sean Lynch, case subject: His experiences with… bird watching? Okay. Archives of the Northern Vigil of Toronto, this is assistant archivist Dante Leeds recording.

Statement begins

Throughout my entire life, I had always lacked a hobby. I wasn’t necessarily abysmal at anything, however, I never truly excelled in any activity. As a student, I’d always try out for different sports or clubs, hoping that perhaps maybe, just maybe, this year I’d find something to be passionate about. Of course, every year was the same: a painfully average performance, and an empty promise to a coach or teacher that “maybe” I’d come back next year… 

Looking back on it now, I’d say it’s all rather depressing. A bland and boring childhood. Having nothing to look forward to at the end of a hard day: it’s something I learned to be soul crushing in my adulthood. Every day, waking up to know there is so little joy to be had, and still driving to a job that strangles me into a mindless conformity. Yet I do it again and again, every day, because I’ve gotten so used to it. 

Ironically, I think that’s the only thing I could say I was good at: persevering the dull moments; watching them pile up until we call them a day, or a week, or a year. To me, I had no reason to care whether I was wasting my life away, simply because that was my life. I had no need to seek for more meaning, because I’d found mine. And while I wasn’t exactly what you’d call happy, it was better than nothing. It was better, at least, than fruitlessly searching for something I assumed I’d never find anyway.

A few years ago, however, I began birdwatching. I had actually taken it up for a variety of reasons, mainly to treat my vitamin D deficiency. However, I eventually found it to be a surprisingly enjoyable way to fill in my visits to the park. I don’t know if it was the simple act of just being outside that boosted my mood, but I definitely thank the birds for making it worthwhile for me. 

I’m embarrassed to say it, but most of the fun came from the voyeuristic nature of it. In my head I saw it as a little game of hide and seek, and it seemed to be a game I would always win. It came to me effortlessly, there was always a bird in my sightline, and in its head, it was hidden, but never to me. It sounds pathetic when I talk about it, but I didn’t care.  And so it went, over the months, just me showing up to the park each day to watch some birds.   

Since two weeks ago, I have not been back to the park.

It was a dreary day, and I’d had to call off my birdwatching plans. I don’t usually let a bit of bad weather stop me, but on that afternoon I could barely hear my own television over the brash lashing of sheets of water against my window. I had no intention to drown myself by setting foot out there. Instead, I absentmindedly leafed through my birdwatching encyclopaedia, while reality show stars chatted away in the background.

I was pulled out of my trance by a sharp tapping at the window. This was odd, considering I lived on the fourth floor. I looked up and squinted, staring into the beastly rain, and caught a flash of movement. I reached over to the standing lamp by my chair, and pulled the cord. Immediately the room was bathed in light, and I saw the source of the noise. It was a crow, perched by my window, soaking wet but, despite the frightful winds, completely stationary. It was still hard to make out its black feathers against the grey sky beyond, but what I did see were its eyes. Two little black beads, bulging and unblinking, reflecting the light sharply. They glowed mischievously, and as I stared into them I felt their image being burned onto my retinas. I started, and almost reflexively turned off the light again. The crow was gone, but in the darkened window, I still saw two little glowing orbs peering in, pointed straight at me.

I took a breath and shook it off. Guess I got to see a bird after all. I got up to make myself some dinner, and when I came back, plate in hand, well, I guess I hadn’t thought to turn on the light again. I sat and ate by the glow of the TV, which was enough. I would never have even bothered to touch the lamp again, but I was interrupted. Again. By a sharp tapping noise at my window. I didn’t need the light to know who was there, but I slowly reached over anyway, and tugged on the cord. My amusement over the crow had worn away by now, and soon turned to unease. There was something… upsetting about the crow’s gaze, upsetting enough to ruin my appetite.

My dinner had gone cold, and I decided I might just go for a walk anyway. The rain seemed a little less violent now, and the wind couldn’t have been all too bad either. I grabbed an umbrella and went out, just in some old direction.  That’s how I wound up trudging through the rain, soaked to the bone, to the park where I did most of my birdwatching. Luckily, by the time I reached the park the wind was all but gone, and I could finally open the umbrella, even if the damage was really already done.

There were no birds in the park that I could see. That was no surprise in these light conditions. What really shocked me was the dead silence. The sound of the rain seemed muted and, even though I was sure I’d seen dozens of birds making their way into this very park, I heard none.

Must be the rain then, I figured. Maybe they were all in hiding. I turned my eyes to the ground and started meandering through the mud, barely hearing the sound of my own boots as I sloshed around through the flooded field.

I had been lost in my own thoughts for a while, so I had no idea when exactly the rain had stopped. I just wanted to call it quits, especially since it had already gotten so cold.

Nothing could prepare me for what I’d see once I closed my umbrella. 

At first, I had no clue what I was staring at: a writhing mass circling above the park. I just stood there, awestruck and confused, until finally everything came together. Birds… hundreds and hundreds of birds moving in a perfect single motion. I had read about the behavior before, but I had never seen a flock with such… impossible numbers. Suddenly, I didn’t want to leave the park. I don’t think I could take my eyes off such an overpowering sight.

And so, I retreated to a nearby bench, my neck craned up to the cloud of feathers above me, caught in a trance. I didn’t know what to feel at first. What came to mind was confusion, but somehow I was ready and willing to accept the circumstance. In the back of my mind, however, there was some latent dread about the situation. The concept of this giant gathering of birds slowly started to overwhelm my mind, and soon the excitement was dwarfed by the terror. There was just something about the way they moved in unison, like a machine.

In my state of appreciation I had somehow forgotten to blink, and was only reminded once I realized just how painful it was to close my eyes. It hurt even to think of blinking, or of anything else. The one thing I could focus on without any pain was the flock above me. I had no choice but to sit and perceive the living ceiling with my own eyes.  

They flew, and flew, round and round, mangled together in the air. Though I could not see it, I knew the flock continued to grow- Denser, larger, and louder… It was the noise, screaming in the wind like the birds themselves until finally all there was were their cries. Their squawks and chirps, and tweets, and hoots, all the noise weaving together as it grew and grew. 

My eyes were burning while the storm of birds closed in on me. They stared back at me now, with an eye full of scorn and anger focused on me.  

Lower and lower they circled, extending down like the flock was reaching out towards me. The wind rushed faster, threatening to knock me down until finally, the cyclone touched the ground, and all around me was a writhing wall of bodies, feathers, beaks and claws.

I was surrounded. I was trapped. A million shiny little orbs were trained on me, my own vision was getting blurry, and I had to frantically hold on to the bench to keep from falling over, or blowing away. I wasn’t sure which. I lost all sense of time, or of direction. My whole mind was full of birds.

Eventually, the wind stopped. I looked up, and right above me I realised I could see through the flock. I could see the sky. This shook me out of my trance. I finally blinked, but my eyes still burned, and tears were running down my face. Knowing that there was still something up there beyond the birds… It gave me a glimmer of hope. With the walls closing in around me, I bolted out of my seat. I only took a second to clench my jaw and shut my eyes tight before I started clawing away at the feathered wall, desperate to escape.

It was almost solid, the mass of warm, damp bodies, scratching at my face, pecking at my eyes, beating at me with a million wings, but I thrashed right back. I flailed and I kicked. I screamed, I think. It was all around me now. Every beast that flew into me at unthinkable speeds made me stumble, until I fully lost my balance. I crawled, my face now pushed into the mud, and still I felt them clawing away at my back. I was so numb now that it took me a while to realise when the air was clear of the flock, and I could feel the comfort of rainfall once more.

I didn’t have the energy to get up, so I sat there in the mud, my head buried in my knees.


I heard a rhythmic sound, from all around me. I finally dared to open my eyes, and I saw what I’d done. The swarm was disintegrating. Feathers were gliding down like snow, and corpses in freefall filled the sky, forming a carpet on the grass and on the paths. I sat up for a moment, frozen, watching this surreal scene, until something heavy knocked into my head, and my neck snapped back. Disoriented, I felt my face. My hand came back covered in blood. Maybe my own, maybe the bird’s. I didn’t really care to know. I scrambled up and took off, faster than I’d ever ran before, and only stopped when I was on the street, out of the park.

When I looked over my shoulder, the flock was nearly gone, and the park was covered in a thick layer of bodies. I suppose I figured that was the end of it. I don’t know if I had much time to think at all. I rushed home, showered, and headed straight to bed. I can’t say sleep came to me easily, but at some point I managed, because when I woke up, it was noon. 

Looking back it seems insane that I wasn’t completely petrified, but the first thought that came to me was that I should get some breakfast. My sheets were speckled with blood, pain from the scratches all over my body was starting to settle in, and in the back of my mind was still the swirling of the storm. But I got up. I got up and got dressed.

I walked out into a dark living room.

That’s when I realised I couldn’t have possibly remembered to close the curtains the night before.

My heart raced as I worked up the courage to turn on the lamp. I already knew what I’d see. When the light filled the room, the window remained pitch black.

But it moved

From behind the window, I was being watched by a hundred hungry, beady little eyes.

Statement Ends



Dante: Alright, further information: We have very little. He left an address, originally, but the apartment seems to be abandoned. I’ve come back a few times, but as far as I can tell he hasn’t been home. The apartment is on the fourth floor, that checks out, and it’s not far from a place called Colonel Samuel Smith park, that could possibly have been the location he was referring to. Otherwise…


Dante: Oh, Noelle, NOELLE! Hold on.

Noelle: Dante I really need to get home, can we not?

Dante: Please, I… Just… Just a few questions. 

Noelle: [SIGHS] Fine. But please make it quick.

Dante: Alright, Alright, just… Does this place seem… strange to you? Like, at all? It can’t just be me right? 

Noelle: What do you mean? 

Dante: I mean… for instance, this statement, Sean Lynch? It came in three days ago?

Noelle: And?

Dante: And since yesterday there’s been that terrible stench surrounding the building. Well, I checked the roof earlier, and you know what I found? 

Dante: Birds. BIRDS, Noelle. Dead. All of them.

Noelle: Christ, Dante…  [STAMMERS] It’s just a coincidence. Birds… [TAKES A DEEP BREATH] birds die. It’s none of my business.

Dante: It wasn’t just a few birds though! It was like… like… It was just everywhere, okay? It smelled terrible. And for some reason, our boss, who might I add I haven’t seen or heard from since the explosion, has said nothing about the stench… None of that sounds odd? Apparently Sean looked terrified to go outside. Did you consider that maybe there was a reason for that?

Noelle: Of course that sounds odd. I just… can’t let it bother me. Look. I’m just here to make rent. I don’t ask any questions, and honestly, things might run a lot smoother if you didn’t either. Okay? I have to go now. See you in the morning. 

Dante: Noelle…

Noelle: Good night, Dante.


This episode of For The Record was written and directed by Reagan Parisi and Floris “Swiftly” Bordewijk, edited by Haley Markulin, and starred Reagan Parisi as Dante Leeds and Lily A. Dewald as Noelle Davis. It used sounds from, under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License. For full accreditation, see the show notes. To be kept up to date on new episodes, submit your statement, or to get involved in production, you can follow us on Twitter @ftrecordpod, on Tumblr at fortherecordpod or view our website at Stay safe, take care, and don’t look up.