Songbird by Jamie J. Kelly

I first notice its absence when you try to sing me a story.

Your voice without song is a strange invader, its startled syllables breaching our nest without rhyme or melody. It takes you by surprise and frightened words claw out of you, hard and jagged. Your sentences are sharp enough to leave scars.

Later you tell me you’re sorry, but they’re just hollow, tuneless words. That night you stop speaking altogether.

It was safe here in the crook of the old oak’s boughs; a refuge from a world that tried to clip our wings. We built our home between gnarls of wood, with twigs, sticks and leaves that fell around us like feathers. We took comfort in discarded things and found a forest that welcomed our harmonies, a place where the whispering wind guarded our secrets.

I remember you gathering mud. The slick of the days when the rain never seemed to end, the way our nest kept us hidden until sunset. We would come outside and perch on the treetop in another perfect dusk, our melodies soaring into storm-swollen skies.

I’ve been falling asleep to your lullabies for years, folded in one another’s feathered wings. Now the absence of song keeps me awake long after nightfall, your wings tightly curled around your body, pulling you inwards. I keep watch, terrified that one night you might disappear inside yourself leaving only broken eggshells behind.

Others warned us the ancient tree was dying, but we clung on to our solid branch long after the rot set in. She kept us warm and safe, like sisters wrapped in a tired mother’s arms.

After another watchful night I go outside to herald the sunrise and my lament crescendos into the morning. You join me and I notice your eyes hardened while you slept, already jealous of the tunes my mouth makes.

I promise to change. I can turn my melodies tuneless and learn to survive in a world without music. I wrap my wings around you and tell you if we hold on tight enough, we can survive our tumble down to earth. We can build a new nest, from bricks, mortar and other unshakable things.

We can tell each other stories in these strange new voices of ours, and say remember when we used to sing together, and remember when we could fly, like birds.


Jamie J. Kelly is a writer, researcher and LGBT activist working towards a PhD in English Literature, based in Yorkshire. Jamie can be found blogging about writing at and on Instagram @jacksbrokendreams. This is Jamie’s first published work of fiction.