Ellerey was puzzled. For weeks there had been strangeness afoot. The air, normally flush with birdsong, was preternaturally quiet and there was a new coolness that felt unpleasant.
Ellerey shivered and looked at his comrades. There was Lizabetha, aflutter in her usual grapevine gossip. And stalwart Tom, one of the biggest and briskest of the bunch, stiff and resplendent in his cloak of olive green. And who could forget little Henrietta, the newest addition to the cluster, fresh and fie in her verdant spring colours. Ellerey himself was proud of his beauty. Even in this grey light his coat remained bright and clear as an emerald.
He contemplated their shared origins, the many moonless nights of rustling four-footed beings padding away in the dark. The ululating shadows of winged creatures passing overhead. The gusts and groans of the wind, which would set them aquiver as they murmured and thrilled to its passage. The heavy splashes of water, which would move and caress them lovingly. Morning would always find them refreshed and wide-open with possibility, dappling the world with potential.
But that was then. Lately things seemed – different – and that made Ellerey nervous. He wondered if the others had the same foreboding, or perhaps he was simply jangly from too many late nights gossiping with Lizabetha. Thinking back, the change had begun when he noticed the neighbouring colony wearing insipid yellow, and in some cases, faint orange. Even now, as he peered across, he could see red spots crawling like crabs in their midst.
He shuddered and glanced over at Tom. He froze. Surely.. Surely! that was not yellow he could see threading its way through Tom’s olive cloak? As Ellerey stared, Tom stretched out, halting in disbelief as he beheld the traitorous yellow worming its way throughout him. Their eyes met, uncertainty and shock reverberating sharp, guitar twang. Lisabetha’s constant chatter stumbled – all were still, breathless as they looked at Tom. A scream tore out as Henrietta crumpled, gibbering in fear. Blood slowed, pumped thick, heavy through Ellerey’s veins. Clotting.
And then it happened. Suddenly, gloriously, Lizabetha rose to her full height and posed, trembling, outstretched, exposed. Ellerey could now see that her luxurious coat was marred with a red creeping flush, spreading wide. Dying sun fade. They gasped, and with a sudden sharp snap, Lisabetha was gone, spiraling down, gone. Gone. Tom howled and with an anguished lurch broke free, pinwheeling, tumbling after her. Ellery could hear Herrietta crying, small bits of jagged pain. He closed his eyes and gathered his cloak about him. Opening his eyes, he knew what he would see. The telltale signs had started. The yellow had taken hold.
Gazing at Henrietta, he calmly and slowly unfurled. Gathering her to him, they leapt from the only world they had ever known, and falling endlessly, coming at last to rest, and be, no more.
Jeremy stared glumly out the window. He had just raked the yard last week, and thanks to last night’s cold spell, today it looked as though he hadn’t done a thing. He could already hear Mildred squawking and nagging at him as he heard her key – tchk! tchk! – in the lock. As he looked, two small leaves came fluttering down to land on top of a growing pile, adding further insult to injury. Jeremy sighed, and got up to get the rake.