Bogleech.com's 2015 Horror Write-off:
City Diaries: Pigeonhole
I live on Long Island, where nothing out of the ordinary really happens. But; several times a month I commute to New York City, and there always seems to be some sort of unusual occurrence around every bend. I figure it's a city thing. I've decided to record some of my experiences, in hopes that someone might relate. Maybe somebody will be able to tell me how to avoid these strange encounters.
If there's one thing you could call a trademark of the NYC experience, it's pigeons.
They flock every street, crowding docks and parks and time's square, always pecking around at the ground in search of food scraps. They sit on the awnings of tightly packed buildings, occasionally leaving droppings on the shoulders of unfortunate souls who pass underneath at the wrong time. Pigeons are such a common part of everyday city life, they're often ignored, put to the back of the mind. No one looks twice at a couple of pigeons strutting down the sidewalk.
Perhaps it's because I'm not a city local that I did, in fact, happen to look twice at the right time for an anomaly to occur. Or perhaps it's just my penchant for strange things to happen when I'm around. Maybe both.
Regardless of reason, I happened to come across an unusual sight one evening while walking down West 28th. I'm used to seeing flocks of pigeons crowding the ground in areas with food, but there's a certain expected chaos; they stay in the same area, but they move separately, almost mindlessly. They do have very small brains after all, or so I've heard. But the birds I saw that day seemed to be moving in a unified fashion, walking in a sort of line down the street.
There must have been at least twenty of them, strutting along in single file like a kindergarten class. After a minute of watching, I gave in to curiosity and decided to follow them, walking on the opposite side of the street. They moved quietly, not a coo or flutter, plodding along the sidewalk and, eventually, into the slightly cracked gate of a construction area. I couldn't see what lay beyond the green fencing from a distance, but once the last pigeon had filed in, I quietly went over to peek inside.
I've seen flocks of pigeons crowding a piece of pizza or the like before. All feathers and beaks pushing against each other, desperately trying to reach a single crumb before it could be devoured by the others. That's what it looked like when I first peered through the gate, but after only a moment I could tell it was different.
The hoard of pigeons was massive, what must have been hundreds of them piled on top of one another in a giant ball of bluish-gray with flecks of black and white. The longer I watched, the more abnormal the scene appeared. The birds were entirely silent, aside from the sound of feathers brushing against feathers, and the way they moved in their huddle was slow and rhythmic. It was almost like a funnel; the pigeons at the top of the heap burrowed their way deeper into the pile as the ones towards the bottom rose up.
I'm not sure how long I watched. It was a hypnotizing sight; I could have stood there staring for seconds or minutes. But then my weight shifted slightly against the gate, and pushed it open just a fraction with a tiny metal squeak. Immediately, the rippling mass of pigeons froze, and hundreds of beady little eyes turned to look directly at me. In a slight panic, I stepped back and slammed the gate shut.
The pigeon hoard dissolved as it rose into the sky, a giant ball breaking into individual pieces that flew off in all different directions at the same time. I stood there for a minute more, and after I was sure they had dispersed, carefully opened the gate once again.
There was no sign the pigeons had ever been there, aside from some scattered droppings and a single bluish-gray feather. But I noticed something on the ground, unmoving, right where the mass had been. Cautiously moving closer, I found a single sneaker. White, clean and brand-new looking, lying on its side in the dirt amidst sawdust and pigeon droppings.