What writing is really for …

Last night I dreamed I saw a strange bird on our land, like a song bird but really aggressive. It looked like a predator, thin and hard like a small spear, it was hunting other birds. Pecking pecking pecking relentlessly,  attacking birds, trying to eat them whenever it could. Who knows how many birds it had already killed here? It flew down to our house, attaching itself to our back door, lancing the screen with its cartilage beak, trying to tear it apart. Relentless.

I knew I was going to have to kill this creature, it was decimating the bird population. Sure enough my hatchet was right there, leaning up against the wall by the screen door. I grabbed the bird and laid its head on a stump, and though it hurts my heart to kill anything, I cut it right across the neck, its head barely attached by a thread of skin.

I went into the house to discover we’d invited guests over and they’d already arrived for dinner. I hastily prepared a meal, adding the bird I’d just killed as a centerpiece to my feast. A husband and wife were waiting in the dining room with their future son in law. Their daughter would be there shortly.

She had a peculiar habit of turning into a bird every night to hunt.

Surely she would be done soon, turn back into a woman and join us. I realized immediately what I had done. That ferocious bird I killed was this families daughter, this man’s fiance. They were all somehow destined to eat her in the meal I’d prepared, not realizing what had happened until she was settled deep in their bellies. Then they could feel her in their guts. She would be so deep in they couldn’t get her out.

I couldn’t let that happen. I had to tell them.

“I ahhh … you’re not gonna believe this but I just killed a bird, a bird we’re going to be served as dinner tonight. This is horrible I know but it sounds just like your daughter, just like your fiancé.”
“No,” they said, “it can’t be.” They were polite, they couldn’t imagine their host could do such a brutal thing. “Describe her.”
And so I did in great detail, the colors of her feathers, the size of her body, no greater than my hand, her sharp semi-transparent beak, I left out no detail, even though it broke my heart to say the words.

“No no no, ” they said, “thats not her. It doesn’t sound like her at all. Now where is that dinner?”

I knew what would come to pass: each one of them was destined to eat their share of this young, magical woman I had mistakenly, stupidly killed. She would get inside them, gather in their bellies. Then and only then would they be struck by the horror of what they had done. They would know that they’d eaten her and surely go mad with grief. I would sit there, seeing them feast on the meal I’d made and watch them go mad. What I had killed and cooked would shatter them to pieces.

Then a voice inside me said: isn’t that just the job of a writer?

Story is not always kind, it can be a force that hurts. We hide its savagery from people when we serve it to them, make them think they’re getting something tasty that will fill their bellies and make them feel warm inside, but thats only the way into heartbreak. We are here to serve people, but its to serve them something that will crush their denial, liberate the hunting bird within them.

We have to feed it to them carefully, sensuously, even though we know it settles in their bellies they’ll feel like they’re dying.

But how else can they be reborn?