's 2018 Horror Write-off:

Great Tits

Submitted by Jenne Kaivo

They thought they were dealing with a serial killer at first. The first few deaths were located in Hamburg, each a few years apart.

The people were found in their own bedrooms, covered in multiple shallow wounds from an unknown sharp instrument. Their eyes were obliterated, and areas containing fatty tissue received special attention, but the one thing detail that disturbed everyone most was the brains; all the skulls had been cracked open, and brain tissue partially removed.

All the victims were vulnerable people, alone in their homes at the time of the attack, elderly or with their motion somehow constricted. One was a young teenager, who had been lying in bed with a broken leg, but managed to stumble partway across the room before succumbing Another was a quadriplegic man whose live-in caregiver had departed to go grocery shopping. They said the victim type was "opportunistic".

The attacks spread to other cities, then other countries. They increased in frequency. The killer would strike in Minsk, and then a few months later, be somewhere in Italy or Ireland: one death was reported in Wisconsin. Sometimes, the means of entry could not be determined, because all the doors were locked, and the only openings were maybe a bathroom window cracked a few inches. Sometimes, there was clearly a desperate struggle; other times, the victim seemed to have been killed by a wire inserted into the brain through the ear while they slept, although they were no less mutilated than the others.

In many cases, there were feathers strewn about the room among the other signs of flailing desperation. The authorities considered the symbolism of feathers; perhaps they referred to sleep, or the dead ascending to an angelic state. The feathers were determined to be from <i>Parus major</i>, the great tit. They thought maybe the killer kept these pretty little birds as pets, or hunted them between human kills.

Finally, the truth was revealed. Someone heard awful screaming from their elderly neighbor’s house, and after calling 911, began to record video. After all the screaming had stopped, no humans were seen exiting the house, but two little yellow-and-black birds flew out of the unused chimney, their feathers all bloodied. They were great tits.

Great tits had been known to attack smaller passerine birds, smash in their skulls with nutcracking beaks, and peck out their brains. They have also been observed, in the winter, to fly into the caves of hibernating bats, and prey on their brains as well. There are old accounts of them scavenging from the corpses of humans killed by hanging. There are more recent accounts of them using pine needles as tools to pick out little grubs.

No-one knows where they picked up the new behavior of killing humans. It’s theorized that maybe some vital nutrient became harder to find in the changing climate, and humans happen to contain it. After the first bird in Hamburg figured out a method of killing humans, others must have learned it through observation. They say this could have only happened with tits interacting in real time, but a lot of people, in retrospect, remember watching news reports of the killings, and seeing great tits outside their windows, peering intently at the screens.