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. Streaking across our land it would pierce a bird, harpoon it, rip it apart and eat what it could. Who knows how many birds it had already killed here?

I had to do something about it, I headed down to the house. Just as I arrived there it impaled itself in our back door, cutting 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 dangled, barely attached by a dab 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.

“Yes, we know its strange but it’s part of what makes her so unique. Surely she will be done soon, turn back into her human form and join us,” they said.

I realized immediately what I had done. That lethal bird I killed was this families daughter, this man’s fiance. They were all destined to eat her in the meal I’d prepared, not realizing what had happened until she was settled deep in their bellies. When they could feel her in their guts, they would know who she was. 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 I’m going to serve with 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 size of her body, no greater than my hand, her sharp semi-transparent beak, the rainbow feathers that seemed to hover between worlds. 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? It sounds delicious!”

I knew what would come to pass: each one of them would 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, watching them feast on the meal I’d made and see them go mad. What I had killed and cooked would shatter them into oblivion.

Then a voice inside me said: isn’t that just what writing is like?

Story is not always kind, it can be a force that hurts, because the truth sometimes 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 entrance to heartbreak. We are here to serve people, but its to serve them something that will crush their denial, liberate the hunting bird within them, slay them.

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

But how else can they be reborn?