File 001: The chickens are acting strange lately

[Originally released here and here.]

I recently landed on an office job after a bumpy job hunt.

After graduating from the uni, instead of finding a full-time job, I toured around a couple of small jobs while trying to ‘find my true self’. Looking back right now, I don’t even know what I meant by that. It all seemed so naive and ridiculous. After a full year of searching, I still had no idea of the possible whereabouts of my true self but had a fairly good idea that the bills were piling up and would soon kill me with their tiny fangs. Moving back with my parents was not an option because of my stubborn ego, so one day I got shit drunk and enjoyed a great headache session the next day. On the third day, I started to look for full-time dull arse jobs that could pay my bills.

Eventually, I got this offer to work as an entry-level office worker. It was nothing fancy and was, in fact, every inch similar to the dull drag that had been horrifying me since my uni years. But I needed to keep a solid roof above my head, so I took it nevertheless.

So at the age of 23, I became an office zombie. So much for my free artist true self lifestyle.

My daily work was simple: collect the files sent to me by corporate researchers or anyone else, categorise and document them, then put those into the gigantic file room. It may not sound much, but what made all these boring procedures seemed a bit unusual was the content of these documents. They were all stories of some weird stuff that anyone with a sensible mind would question their credibility. For now, I could only think that my boss liked this kind of strange stories so much that he/she would actually set up a company to collect them.

As I don’t recall signing an NDA on the strange stories, I think it’d be interesting to share some of the stories with you. Some files came to me with certain information redacted, others I’ll choose to actively shield specific info when I figure it’s the better thing to do. But in general, the stories I share will mainly be just what I receive in the first place. I hope you guys will enjoy them.

Below is the story.

 

===========================

 

The chickens are acting strange lately.

They lived together in a fancy chicken coop built like a dream cottage on my uncle’s farm. It really makes you think about what could possibly go wrong in your life when even the chickens’ lifestyle has more class than you do.

After I lost my job, I went to live with my uncle in the country for some time. My uncle owned a small farm–nothing fancy, just something the old man put together to enjoy his retirement. He had a couple of cows, seven pigs, thirteen chickens, and one German Shepherd, Wetnose. I fucking love that dog. I used to play with that girl when I was younger and my parents would still take me to visit my uncle. She took some time to finally recognise me when I moved in last month, but we have since built up our old time companionship. I paid my uncle reasonable rent while helping him out on the farm, learning whatever bits of farm knowledge my amateur uncle could give me. After a week or two, I was given the responsibility of taking care of the chickens. Aside from the smelly animal smell that my urban nose found difficult to get used to, life in general could not be more peaceful.

Two days ago, my uncle drove to the town to buy some farm supplies and called to say that he had decided to stay with his old friends for a beer and poker night. He sounded like a happy parent who found a babysitter and could finally spend a night out of the house. I had little to object really. It was just a night. It didn’t mean that I have to spend the remaining years of my life with these animals.

I wish things were that simple.

That night I popped a beer for myself and spent the most of the night lying on the couch. It was a bliss to have the TV for myself even though my uncle and I never fought over it. I was dozing off after my third beer when I heard something outside of the house.

You know that kind of sound at night which was not loud at all, and was difficult to discern and describe, but had the capability of capturing your attention even when you were not really listening? It was exactly that kind of sound that woke me from my sleepy state.

I stood at the living room window, shielded a small section of glass from the lamp light to avoid reflections, and looked out into the compound.

There was nothing but darkness.

I listened for a moment but at that point could only hear the muted sound of the tv. Wetnose was quiet, but for some reason I still felt a bit uneasy. If this were my own house I probably would have just grunted and headed to bed. But I promised my uncle that I’d take care of things while he was gone, and I hated myself for my sense of responsibility.

I grabbed a torch and went out through the front door. The porch light was on, so I had at least a few metres of visibility in front of the house. Out here the air was rather chilly, and my beer-heavied eyelids were lifted just a little bit. I swept the torch around and found Wetnose standing in front of her kennel (probably waking up to see what I was up to), looking at me with her tail all wagging.

‘Hey girl, did I wake you?’

Wagging.

‘Noticed anything weird?’

More wagging.

‘Alright,’ I said but was in fact not relaxed. Something kept tugging my mind.

I checked the cows and pigs. Nothing unusual. But when I headed toward the chicken coop, the air around me felt somehow heavier. At first I couldn’t register what caused the feeling, but the closer I got to the crazy ass coop, the more uncomfortable I became. It was as if your whole body was screaming at you in silence that something was wrong.

It was probably because of this strange feeling that I pointed my torchlight the other way rather than shooting the light straight through the small windows of the chicken coop. There were some soft rustling and clucking, but very soon the noise died down. Curious, I pointed my torch and shined the light into the chicken coop.

Every chicken was looking at me.

Every. Single. Chicken.

I’m not gonna lie. I nearly shit my pants there and then. I shuddered and almost dropped my torch, but the first words that came rolling out of my mouth were: ‘What ya lookin at you nuggets?’ And then I proceeded to give them a face which I hope meant ‘I’m gonna fry you all crispy.’

Man do I regret that.

Aside from all the shame that I felt a few seconds later after my sanity flooded back, I was pretty sure that the chicken understood my threat extremely well. I didn’t even have a reason to believe this, but there was a primal hunch in my gut that I just couldn’t think otherwise.

So after I threw out those nasty words the chickens made absolutely no fuss, but only continued to stare at me in collective silence. We kept like that for what felt like a hundred years, and eventually I was stared down by those small and beady eyes.

I humphed with contempt while leaving the chicken coop window, trying to salvage whatever pride was left. Then I ran like a chased rabbit back into the house without greeting Wetnose on my way back.

I bolted the door, dropped the blinds, turned off the tv, and went upstairs to play games on my phone until I was too tired to keep myself awake.

When morning came, I was woken by my uncle asking why on earth did I drop the blinds and slept almost into noon. I mumbled something and was glad that my uncle took it as some apology about drinking. There was no way I was going to tell him that I was scared to death by the chickens.

Everything seemed normal enough when I went to feed the chickens and clean up their coop. I collected the eggs and encountered nothing strange. It only bothered me slightly that the chickens seemed a bit quieter than usual, and I often felt that they were staring at me when I wasn’t looking. I dismissed those thoughts thinking that I was just being paranoid.

Last evening before I went to bed, I still lowered the blinds in my room (I used the guestroom upstairs). I fell asleep rather easily since my uncle was also in the house and I felt some security in numbers. But at around two am I woke up to no particular reason and checked my phone. There was no message or call, so it wasn’t the vibration that woke me.

I scanned the room absent-mindedly with dreary eyes and was about to close them again when they fell upon the window.

There was something behind the blinds and I could just barely see a small part of it through the space between the bottom of the blinds and the windowsill.

Wanting to find out, I slowly got out of the bed and equally slowly lifted the blinds with my two fingers.

Three chickens were sitting outside of my window, staring at me.

Chickens don’t usually do this, do they? I flicked on the light and started to wave my arms around trying to scare them away like I would when some random bird came screaming by my window. But the chickens didn’t even move a feather and were simply blinking at me. I felt like I was putting up a freak show for them so I slapped my palm against the window glass with a loud bang. This drove the chickens slowly away. I watched them turned away from the window and one by one disappeared into the darkness.

In the morning, I asked my uncle during breakfast if there was ever anything wrong with the animals, but he said that things had always been normal. The cows and pigs were bought from some local friends, while the chickens were bought from some farm animal distributor, whatever that means. I tried to inquire if there was any concern about the chickens having some strange disease, but my uncle just scoffed and poured himself a large mug of coffee.

Even though I’d pay to not go near the chicken coop at this point, it was not an option because in that case I would have to explain to my uncle about all this and risk being taken as a nutcase.

So I accepted my fate and carried the feeding bucket to the coop. It’s strange how I used to take this responsibility as an honour. Now it was just a burden I would more than happy to dump aside.

All thirteen chickens were there waiting for me when I arrived. They were even quieter than the last time, looking expectantly at me when I approached. The silence was starting to take over me, and I was compelled by an urge to speak in order to disguise my growing uneasiness.

‘Uhm. Listen, I might’ve been a little bit offending last night and said something you normally wouldn’t want to hear.’ I put up my hands as a sign of peace-making while the bucket dangled from my right arm. ‘Take this bucket of offering and maybe we can all be calm and happy? Again?’

There was a moment when I was almost expecting the chickens to speak, but then I just poured their food onto the ground and retreated.

Still worrying over the strange chickens, I tried to make the best use of my time and looked up all kinds of chicken knowledge on my laptop while fixing simple lunch for both my uncle and my self. The two of us were both in the kitchen–my uncle was playing sudoku while I was busy over the food and chickenology.

Suddenly, I heard my uncle asking with perplexity in his voice: ‘Are the chickens looking this way?’

I was cracking some eggs into the pan when this happened, and when I looked up into the kitchen window, the chickens’ heads were all turned toward our direction.

There was a small distance between the coop and the house, which was near if you were thinking about walking distance, but not that near when you were trying to decide if the chickens were just looking at my general direction, or were in fact staring right at me. And the eggs I had just killed (which were now sizzling in oil).

‘Are…are they?’ I really didn’t want to acknowledge this, but didn’t want to leave my uncle’s question unanswered.

‘I think they are. Hmm, strange,’ My uncle nudged his glasses and thought for a moment, but pretty soon lost interest in the matter.

A heavy cloud hung over me during the lunch. I might have made peace with the chickens in the morning, even though I wasn’t even sure if I had really crossed them in saying those things, but killing eggs right in front of them could not be counted as the most considerate thing to do in the world. Now all my newly acquired online chicken knowledge seemed useless.

After lunch, I slipped into a fitful nap on the living room couch trying to get some rest. But I woke up from a nightmare in which the chickens somehow broke into the house and was trying to pull off my pants cackling at the top of their lungs screaming ‘An egg for an egg!’

I woke up frantically grasping for my buckles, but found myself completely alone. The sun was setting, my uncle was nowhere to be seen, and my laptop was silently playing an hour-long documentary on chicken and poultry.

I found my uncle’s note on the fridge saying that he planned to spend another night with his old pals because one of them was about to start his second marriage. Fine.

As night approached, the property became increasingly eerie. I let Wetnose inside the house out of security reasons even though I knew my uncle would not approve. Allowing dogs indoors was never part of his living philosophy. Wetnose was very happy to be let inside and I took quite some effort to prevent her from running over everything.

I had an easy dinner and went to bed early. It’s strange how this kind of unusual situations would make you feel once again like a child, wanting someone to accompany you through the dark and quietness of the night. I didn’t have my uncle, but I had Wetnose.

I woke again in the middle of the night hearing movements downstairs. Wetnose was not in my room anymore.

I edged out of my room barefoot in pyjamas, holding a shovel with both of my hands (Yes, I took that from the yard). Wetnose was crouching at the beginning of the stairs staring down, growling ever so softly but in a way you’d never doubt her hostility.

I slowly walked past her trying to be as quiet as I could manage. The lower floor was complete dark, with the only source of light coming out from the kitchen. A dim light was spilling out to the hallway, just slightly illuminating the surroundings. There was a strange sound which sounded like some means of communication but was definitely not any language I knew of.

I drew closer, and saw five chickens in the kitchen.

Strong, proud, thick muscles and fabulous feathers. These were the most well-fed chickens my uncle owned. It was absolutely ridiculous but the first thought flashing into my head was that the dream cottage chicken community had sent out their elite squad for a mission.

The five chickens were gathering at the kitchen counter next to the fridge, with the door of the fridge wide open (thus the light). Two of the chickens were holding a nest with their beaks, and in it were eggs that were supposed to be in the fridge.

The cooing and rustling stopped the moment I set foot into the kitchen.

We all locked eyes with each other.

‘What the fuck…?’

The chickens replied with their chicken attack.

There were feathers everywhere and I was instantly slapped multiple times by the chickens’ feathery palms. The kitchen burst into screeching cackles and terrified human yelling. I swung the shovel with all my might, and heard what sounded like fifty cups falling onto the floor. Pretty soon I gave up the idea of fighting with a weapon, and opted for covering my head with both of my arms. Then there were dog barks and the chickens screamed even louder.

All of a sudden everything died down. At first I thought I was going deaf, but the next moment Wetnose was licking all over me and I heard myself grunt with disgusted happiness. It was the best greeting I’ve ever got from a friend.

I switched on the lights. The kitchen was in total disaster: broken cups and plates were everywhere, things were spilling out of the fridge, and my arms were covered in blood. The chickens were all gone, and there was a hole in the window where the glass was shattered. I didn’t dare to cross the messy floor and walk over to the window as broken ceramic pieces scattered everywhere. But through the broken window, under the moonlight, I could see all thirteen chickens, small and large, were now outside of their dream cottage coop.

They stood there looking at me with the newly rescued eggs guarded by their elite squad. Their chicken faces looked expressionless as usual, but in my mind they somehow reminded me of a bunch of refugees looking at their burnt down homes and were about to start their new lives elsewhere. Wetnose was barking at them, but I held her back because the hole in the window was too small and I didn’t want her to hurt herself trying to jump out and start a chicken chase. I could sort of understand the chicken mentality I suppose, with all the coop imprisonment and egg murders. But invading the kitchen at night and attacking me? That was just too much. Damn I even apologised at them earlier.

‘They won’t even hatch, ya know? You sinister fucks!’ I screamed at them, barefoot and bloody in the kitchen, holding the broken handle of a shattered mug as my menace-inducing secondary weapon. The shovel was lying too far away from me.

The chickens made no response. They looked at me for the last time, and started to walk away. I watched as they took their chicken steps further and further away, eventually disappearing into the darkness.

Watch where you go. There’s a troop of chickens on the loose right now, and they’re probably looking for a new colony.

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