Bottomless, beady eyes peering at you. The tilt of its head. The shiver that runs through you as it takes a few, halting steps towards you. You pray it doesn’t come closer. You hope that no one startles it into motion. Go away, you mutter, just leave.
It won’t. It never will. There is no escape because it and its kind are everywhere-
Anyone with a healthy dose of anxiety about birds can relate to the terror they strike when they come too close. Some might find these creatures beautiful and magnificent. But you know better. Like me, you find no beauty in those grotesque claws or malevolent eyes. There’s something eerie about the intelligence behind their side-glance.
Perhaps no one better could encapsulate the creepy aspect of birds like Daphne du Maurier in her short story, “The Birds.”
“The Birds” tells the story of Nat Hocken, a war veteran who works odd jobs around a farm. As the title suggests, the story revolves around birds, more specifically, birds who have decided to attack humankind. Like a true horror story, this tales starts with a few unusual incidents before turning into a full-blown nightmare.
What adds to the already terrifying premise of the story is the way the prose builds up that fear with the description of certain small details:
Muffled sounds came from the windows, from the door. Wings brushing the surface, sliding, scraping, seeking a way of entry. The sound of many bodies, pressed together, shuffling on the sills.
While reading, you get swept up in the imagery, the idea of being isolated, with no help for miles as winged beasts single-mindedly attack. The desolate, lonely atmosphere du Maurier creates only heightens the suspense. It’s pretty hard not to eye those pigeons suspiciously after finishing this story:
Nat listened to the tearing sound of splintering wood and wondered how many million years of memory were stored in those little brains, behind the stabbing beaks, the piercing eyes, now giving them this instinct to destroy mankind with all the deft precision of machines.
It’s hard to tell if the fear started with “The Birds” or if “The Birds” only added to it, but what is certain is that should a bird-spurred apocalypse occur, it would come as no surprise to this lady.
Daphne du Maurier was on to something!