It was a different kind of brave, the kind of brave that would walk straight to its own execution. He stood steadfast as the gunman approached and clicked the cartridges into place. His breathing became rapid as his heart tried to outrun the anticipation of the bullet that would be in it.
The gunman squared up to take the shot. Juniper looked at the eye which looked at him from the other side of the gun.
“Put your head down”, the gunman roared.
Juniper lowered his head till he could not see. The gun went off. Nothing happened. Juniper could feel himself breathing and cast his head up. A dead bird lay a few inches from his feet. The gunman cursed and muttered under his breath.
“Head down”, he screamed. Tears welled in Juniper’s throat.
The gun went off again. Another hit lay at Juniper’s feet. He slowly looked up to see a second bird dead on the ground.
Where were they coming from? The gunman kicked the air with his black boot.
“Are you some kind of joke?” he yelled.
The gunman and Juniper stood opposite each other in silence. The gunman picked up the rifle and shot relentlessly one bullet after another. This time Juniper could see bird after bird swopping in rapid succession in front of him. There was smoke and feathers everywhere until the dust finally cleared and a pile of hundreds of bloody dead swallows lay at Juniper’s feet. Juniper stood rooted to the spot and dumbfounded. The gunman looked emotionally exhausted. Juniper stood frozen as the man clung to his chest and suddenly dropped dead to the ground.
Another swallow flew into the courtyard on top of the wall. Juniper looked up and the bird looked upon him. He felt he had defied his chances in life. Here he was but he should have been dead. Why was there a pile of hundreds of birds dead instead of him?
He was shaking all over from what felt like his exposure of some faceless evil. The prison guards rushed around to the aid of the dead gunman and looked at Juniper in wariness. They spoke in hushed tones and began to approach him. The swallow on the wall flew from its perch and circled around Juniper. The guards kept back after what they had witnessed with the gunman. Juniper spun around in a cloud of dust and got lighter and lighter and higher and higher until all was left of him were a pile of clothes on the ground. The guards watched as two swallows flew away into the sky leaving the guards to contemplate a dead man, a pile of dead birds and a pile of clothes where there used to be a body.
A wise man leaves things to mystery as they say and this storyteller will also leave you with these images for your imagination.
Lena O’ Connell
Lena O’ Connell graduated from the Limerick School of Art and Design in 2009. She is a qualified art teacher.