Chronicles of the Greater Warted Vulture


* Diary Extract *

Vulturia 1988

Membranous Pouch Vulture—that’s the name I will give to this strange creature though somehow I doubt it will ever quite take on as a species name. Robina, bless her, suggested The Greater Warted Vulture and I think that ideally suitable as the common name for Membranous Pouch.

I remembered the cycle route along by the Charles River. There was a playground and a tennis court and a coke machine and a call box in the State police patrol car compound. I remembered it because in the wrong weather seagulls would shit on your head as you stared at a pretty girl rollerblading by and because seagulls stayed away from Brogovnia which henceforth I shall call Vulturia.




I will be no carrion. The crazy lyrics kept repeating themselves in my head to a familiarly elusive melody as Robina put the now dead vulture carefully to the ground. She had hardly stood up when the agovultic screeching started again, this time in perfect synchrony.

I say again because I became aware that it had stopped ~ the spinalcholic real time recorder located somewhere within trying to inform the real time active voyeur that the noise had stopped just about when Robina must have reached the…

The sky above began to suddenly break up into small ragged black holes that changed shape and grew rapidly larger, as though the screen of the sky had suddenly been eclipsed by a screen gobbler virus. I waited for the tell tale warning ‘memory l.. s e u wo ’ to appear in fading, broken print across the windowless message fig porridge skies when I was shaken out of it by Robina who held my member in a grip of steel, pushing it up under my nose as if to say ‘I’m warning you…’ as the overhead agovultic synchrony became an almost unbearable din yet not displeasingly sensual to the ear.

"How can you stand there humming Beatles’ songs," she said. I just remember feeling hugely disappointed. I thought she understood me. "And please put your member away before you lose it or it gets damaged."

I knew she was just trying to make light of it. We each had a member, though Robina’s was of a different model to mine. They were designed by the Institute for its staff and were meant to serve as an aid to memory. Several hundreds of thousands of differing characters had been programmed into the credit card-sized member, each unique and like the Chinese language fitting together dozens of sentences with one or two ‘words’. The problem was the help file needed such a powerful system it would have been impossibly heavy to carry around so nobody really knew how to use their members and were just too busy to learn anyway. Still, it was nice to have them to remember what they were supposed to be for. I hadn’t even noticed I’d dropped it.

"Chick, what is the matter with you?"

For a moment it had grown completely dark as the sky was blotted out then we both realised how deathly still and quite it had become. Nothing moved. I didn’t want to move lest I disturb this fragile, this lovely moment, of nothing moving. The thing that had been in Robina’s arms lay limp and still. I’d never been this close to a vulture before and was repulsed by the ugliness of the creature yet fascinated at how healthy the animal looked even in death. It looked like it had endlessly gorged itself on the very best of nosh and only then did it occur to me to wonder just what the creature found to eat out here.

The silence impressed itself on us and we scanned the now clear patch of sky above and the small bits of the cliff tops we could see from within the boulders. There was nothing moving, so sign of anything. Cautiously we edged ourselves from within the shelter of the boulders until we could see across the enclosure. It was de void, man, you know what I mean?

"I’m not sure this is really happening," I said before I realised how typically mentropolausian the comment was. Women never say I’m not sure this is really happening — they like to believe they always know what’s going on even when it’s obvious even to themselves that they don’t.

"It’s happening all right," the maternal reassurance given in the concealed I need to reassure myself mode.

It was warm enough not to be wearing the parkas and I cursed the Brogovnian Run as we nervously edged our way further into the open. Still nothing.

"I’m not sure I trust this place." It seemed like the dumbest thing to say. Robina had quit scanning the cliff tops and was peering back at the dead bird.

"Something not right about that animal," she said.

Apart from it being dead, it was just a vulture on a totally uninhabited archipelago in the middle of nowhere where temperatures ranged from the insufferable 120º to the intolerable -90º. A fat vulture in a land of no pickings.

Robina went back to it and peered at it from different angles then gingerly raised the creature’s tail feathers.

"Look at this," she said. I wasn’t sure I wanted to. Even from where I stood what I could see looked obscenely grotesque, as if a copy of the bird’s bald head had been grafted onto its rump. Robina was unrelenting. "Come on, take a look."

It looked like a huge wart, mottled and with clearly visible veinous threads crisscrossing the taught, wrinkled skin surface. It also looked healthy, too healthy for some sort of diseased growth, which at the time is what I took it to be.

"Maybe it’s what killed it," I ventured. The voice of insofulation chattered in my head like a deranged chimp but even it took momentary pause when Robina hoisted the dead vulture from the ground.

"I think I’ll take it back with us, we can keep it in the ’frigin," she said, grunting a little under the weight of the vulture.

The ’frigin was an ingenious Congolese invention which managed to store natural cold and save on running power. I had the crazy thought of guests dropping in for Sunday lunch and Robina carrying a frozen vulture into the kitchen.

The light started to fade and the wind began to pick up as we reached the bivouac. I’d taken over carrying the vulture and my arms ached from its dead weight. We broke camp and headed for home, the dead vulture strapped to my pack.



I was trying to make sense of the day’s events when the cabin and everything in it began shaking. Robina was examining the vulture in our small laboratory, which was really for examining rock structure, and worried about her I yelled out.

"Don’t worry about me, I’m okay," she yelled back.

"Never mind that, come on in the quob" I shouted, crawling into the confined space myself. A moment later Robina was squeezing herself in and we shut the hatch and in darkness prepared for the worst.

The shaking grew in intensity and a couple of times the quob bounced around as Robina and I clung to each other, then it was all over after a few final spasms. The whole thing lasted but a few seconds. We lay in the dark of the quob for a few more minutes before venturing back out, ready to return quickly if needed. Robina went over to the instrument console.

"Four point one, a baby for here," she said.

Everything in the cabin was, like the quob, virtually indestructible and what could be fastened down was, one way or another. The place had been designed much like an open ocean liner but with far more hazardous conditions in mind. The only thing out of place was the notepad I’d been working on when the shaking started, and the vulture, which had slithered through the still open laboratory door and had wrapped itself around a leg of the console. It looked odd, with a bald patch around its rump where Robina had shaved it to examine the strange lump there.

She was still poring over the instruments and making notes as I dragged the carcass back into the laboratory and hauled it back onto the bench.

"Don’t touch that thing with your bare hands," she called after me. "The… the wart I mean."

Great. I’d carried the thing on my pack for the best part of two hours and now she tells me not to touch it with bare hands. Looking at my hands I rinsed them. "What’s wrong with it, the bird I mean," I asked, rejoining Robina, thinking of ebola and similar distasteful fates.

"I don’t know. Nothing as far as I can tell, but I’ve never seen anything like that growth before," she said. "At least, not that big.

"We’d better log the tremor and prepare a report for control. And I think we’d better bury that thing tomorrow, just to be safe."

I wondered if she was holding something back she didn’t want me to know. It wouldn’t be like her to do so and I didn’t think she was, but who really knows anybody else. We just seem to fool ourselves that we know someone then go on in our foolishness to convince ourselves that we do.

The day had slipped away and it was dark again. "I’ll stick it in a plastic bag and we can leave it in the ’frigin till tomorrow." This time I pulled on some plastic gloves before touching the stiff bird again. The long neck and head still kept flopping out of the bag and I had to twist the flesh into a grotesque shape to stuff it all in. I tied the bag shut and dumped it in a corner of the laboratory.

Control seemed more interested in our encounters with the vultures that with the earthquake. They knew about it, of course, but we were the people on the ground and I thought they’d have been keener to talk. I guessed that living and breathing earthquakes as they do, anything different in their day was a welcome break. It was a different voice today, someone I didn’t recognise and couldn’t remember meeting.

"Your’re probably doing the right thing burying it," said the voice.

"I wonder what the hell they find to eat," I muttered, more to myself. A week of this sort of happenings would entitle someone to at least one year of self-assertion therapy supplied free of charge by the Institute.

"What was that?" said the voice.

"Huh? Oh. Nothing, just thinking aloud." I didn’t want the conversation turning any more vulturisticly Dahlesque.

For a moment I almost took the conversation seriously before it occurred to me to ask myself if they knew anything at all. I think it was at that moment that I began to see the banality of working for the Institute. Here we were in the place of nowhere discussing abnormal vultures as if we were standing in a corn field discussing ears of corn.

I began feeling like an ancient Greek philosopher called Archimedes, contemplating every hidden meaning behind every hidden thing and I knew it wouldn’t be long until I began screaming ‘how do you turn this fucking tap off?’"

After eating we decided to while the evening away with a video before turning in. I’d given the Institute a list of videos I’d always meant to take in and had hunted around for a few myself. I was looking forward to watching Behind the Lens, an attempt by an unknown television news camerawoman to tell her story beyond the images that millions identified her by. As it happened it proved too heavy for Robina after the day’s events and I had to struggle through over two hours of Drooling Bald Zombies 7, more engrossed with Robina’s morbid fascination of the imbecilic plot than with anything that came up on the screen.



* Diary Extract *

Vulturia 1988

LOOKING through the medical encyclopedia contained in my member I discovered the term membranous.

— 4 —



THE sunlight was bright the next morning as I tried hacking a hole into the rocky ground with a small spade to bury the dead bird.

The thing lay in it’s plastic body bag to the side of the spot Robina had chosen to bury it, some hundred yards or so from the cabin. Several times I’d found solid rock beneath the dusting of soil and moved to try a new spot. This time I was down about two feet, enough to accommodate the vulture.

I straightened up and swiped the wet brom my frow. Robina looked like she was going to cry and for a moment I contemplated sticking my own head in the hole and filling it up. It wasn’t out of anger. I’d realised many years before, before even there was God, floating there in His own Imagination imagining that He was Imagining, how anger solved nothing and only fuelled further discontent–it was more a case of flat beer.

"Okay babe, it’s as ready as ever."

Robina stooped to pick up the plastic bag containing the vulture and all hell broke loose. To this day I don’t know whern they came from so quickly but the air was suddenly thick with greasy dark brown vultures flapping and squawking like a huge of flock of gannets after food on some holiday resort promenade.

Vultures are big birds. I don’t know if you’ve ever had one dive down at you then swoop away at the very last moment but I can tell you it’s one hell of a fucking frightening experience. Especially when there are several dozen of them coming at you from every conceivable direction.

I heard a thud and swung around—it was Robina dropping the carcass to the ground. She had her arms up in the air to ward off the swooping vultures. My mind was filled with the terrifying images of hundreds of beady eyes peering at us out of bald skulls and I picked up the spade, ready to slice any vulture that came close to either of us into gory pieces.

I don’t know too if you’ve ever been in an unkempt house with cats that have fleas so badly that when night falls and the light is turned off the whole carpet turns black with the jumping, bloodthirsty parasites. I was, once, sleeping on a living room floor and when I turned on the light to see what was making me itch I found myself in the middle of a sea of living, tiny black dots that were frantically boiling up out of the pile. I spent the whole night sitting on a dining chair balanced on top of the table trying to beat the things off me with a newspaper. The next day I painted myself head to toe and doused every fold and crevasse with calamine lotion and felt a complete moron walking back to my own home.

More vultures seemed to be arriving by the moment.

"Get back to the cabin!" I couldn’t even see the cabin. Robina looked helplessly around at the thronging mess.

The noise was vulcanic. What happened next defies description. At first I took it almost for granted that the vultures had understood our intent to get back to the cabin, but I was wrong. As if under military command they descended en masse and completely encircled Robina and I at a distance of some thirty feet then became silent. In every direction we were entrapped within the dark, heaving mass of feathers and scrawny necks and beady, unwavering eyes. The goose hairs on my neck prickled again. Robina and I had backed slowly toward each other and we now stood fiercely pressing our backs together as if we might merge and somehow escape this madness.

"What’s going on? Why are they doing this?"

I heard her question but how could I answer? "Maybe they’re hoping to scare us to death for dinner." I figured the birds would probably each get a pinch of flesh no bigger than a grain of sand from both of us. I doubted there’d even be any bones left.

We thought we’d seen it all, but of course we’d seen nothing. As we watched, every other vulture slowly turned its tail to us until there was one facing us, one facing away, the next facing us and so on. And then, as if at some unseen command, those facing us slowly lowered their long necks until their heads were touching the ground, all the time never once taking their eyes off us. Those turned away from us remained perfectly still. I searched within my brain for the stupid comfort of the meaningless chatter of the chimpanzee but it too had fallen silent or had wisely fled.

The vultures stared at us and we looked bleakly back towards the hundreds of pairs of glinting eyes.

"YEEEAAAAAAGH!" I don’t know where the courage came from but I yelled at them at the top of my voice. Not one vulture even flinched. I didn’t want to admit it to myself but it did seem like there was an uncanny intelligence within the glaring eyes.

A low moaning started and then the birds facing us slowly lifted their heads from the ground, moving almost as if one bird. The necks raised higher and higher until it seemed impossible for them to stretch any more then they flicked their heads and looked straight into the sky to let out a short, eardrum bursting shriek that made both of us clap our hands over our ears.

Almost as soon as the echoes of the shriek had faded, the long necks slowly lowered as the vultures facing away from us together raised their tails high to point their rumps to the sky and reveal strange lumps, just like the one on the dead vulture but none quite as large, as far as I could see.

Just like the neck raisers, this section now pointed their rumps high toward the sky, seeming to majestically hold their positions as the neck raisers once more put their heads to the ground.

Then the whole show started again, up came the necks, slowly, elongating to their fullest stretch and again came the shriek. My eardrums felt close to bursting.

At the sound of the shriek the vultures with their rumps held high suddenly began waving them from side to side, in perfect synchrony, then lowering their rumps as the neck stretchers lowered their heads to the ground.

Spellbound, we watched this manoeuvre repeated some five or six times before I reached for Robina’s hand.

"Try not to show fear, Robin, in a moment I’m going to start walking. Just keep quiet and walk with me, close, very slowly. And keep hold of my hand."

I started moving. Try not to show fear. Who was I kidding? I was shitting myself. We walked, slowly, in the direction of the cabin and towards the vultures between it and us. They did nothing except alter their collective positions to be either facing directly toward us or directly away from us and they kept up the crazy show we were audience to.

As we neared the edge of their circle I wanted to stop but I willed myself to keep going, squeezing Robina’s hand in encouragement and feeling a squeeze in return. Slowly the ring opened. The creatures were opening a path to let us through, although they never seemed to take their eyes away from us. I could even feel those with their rump toward us watching us backwardly through the eyes on the sides of their bony heads.

The outer perimeter of the circle was about twenty yards away and crossing it seemed like running to the end of the universe in one of those dreams in which you want to run but somehow can’t.

Yet we made it to the edge and as we did the tableaux became even more weird. Robina and I edged around to keep the vultures in sight and they in turn were edging around to face or face away from us. As we looked the circle began to collapse on itself until the birds covered the spot where we’d stood. I could no longer see the carcass of the bird we were trying to bury.

I don’t know if I was more scared by the thought of running or by the agony of just backward walking slowly away. An age later and we’d reached the cabin and shut the door. We both stood faces pressed to the windows watching.

They were still waggling their tails in the direction of the cabin. I laughed in nervous relief but stopped short when suddenly the whole mess rose from the ground, hovered for a moment then moved off and out of sight like an ugly black living ink stain.

"Good Christ, what are these things?"

Robina had crossed the room and was returning to the window with the binoculars. She had a deep frown in the centre of her forehead that made her look attractively vulnerable. She peered through the glasses for a few moments.

"The dead bird’s gone," she said, passing me the glasses.

It had, or if it hadn’t, it wasn’t where it should have been and it was certainly dead when we left it there.

"Did you notice they all seemed to have growths?"

It was a stupid question but I answered it anyway. "I know."

"I want to talk to control about this." She looked serious. "Now."

We were not supposed to contact control outside arranged schedules except in emergency. I doubted it wasn’t less likely but more likely more likely they’d believe we’d flipped than believe this was an emergency.

As Robina recounted the story, control’s stoic silence, which lasted an uncomfortable moment longer than it needed to after she’d finished, said it all. You know the feeling. You know the silence is not one of genuine perplexity but ‘have I got to listen to this crap?’.

The conversation left us feeling very alone. Robina became very sullen that evening and didn’t object when I sat down to watch Behind The Lens to try and take my mind away from what we’d witnessed. It didn’t do much good and after less than thirty minutes I was restlessly wandering round the cabin like a teenager denied the pocket money to go to a discotheque.

I had the first of the strange dreams that night, if dream it was–running down some highway chased by a truck to next be then running up a wide spiral concrete ramp inside London’s Post Office Tower with the truck somewhere behind and me remembering wondering how it got in the tower to follow me up the ramp through a narrow doorway I charged and everything changed. I forgot the truck, lost in a twigroot house strangely twined in haystack curls which let in shards of light but let none see out. Openings that seemed to go on and on and on. I tried floating my way through the labyrinth but it just grew darker and I just tireder then the dream plunged into the black welcome eyeball of sleep.



* Diary Extract *

Vulturia 1988



The greatest joy and the greatest tragedy of life is living.

The Bi.RD Avionary of Quotations.


— 4 —


LOVE took its predestined inexplicable twist just three days after Christmas, which was itself imbued with enhanced poignancy in our isolation.

Robina had been morose for several days and though I tried putting it down to the isolation, I knew deep within that it was something much more.

I was busy checking the generator when Robina dropped her bombshell. She’d been standing fidgeting nearby and although I’d known for some days of her troubled mood and had tried to open the gates, it was one of those frigid moments between friends that cut at the soul. I wasn’t prepared for the severity of the situation.

"Chick, I’m leaving." The finality of her tone said it all. My fingers continued fiddling with the generator as if on auto-pilot before the change of course registered. She continued as if reciting from a well rehearsed speech, which I suspected it was.

"I’m so sorry. They’re arriving for me first thing in the morning. I won’t be going home. I don’t want you coming with me."

It’s funny how from the isolation of one of the loneliest places on the planet you can suddenly see every country, every city, every village, each field flash by in a blur of emptiness. They say in the few moments before death your whole life flashes past your mind’s eye but this was somehow worse. For a moment I thought it all some huge cosmic plot.

She’d straightened and quit fidgeting as if saying her words had unlocked a hidden reservoir of determination and strength. I was trying to find the threads of sensible thought as I looked at a woman with whom I had shared life for so many years and saw someone regarding me with a scrutiny I couldn’t fathom. Was it compassion, pity, indifference?

I was suddenly both a lost abandoned child and a concerned lover and friend. She had no family and slowly her words ‘I won’t be going home’ registered. I became aware I had stopped what I was doing and was standing facing her, both of us frozen images within the tableaux of life. As if in emphasis, a gust of cold wind found its way into the generator bunker.

"For God’s sake, Robbie. Where will you go? Where are you going?" My stupid words sounded hollow and I wanted suddenly to talk forever and to say nothing at all.

She gazed off into a dim corner of the bunker. "It doesn’t matter. I’ve asked the Institute to drop me in Palermo. They agreed."


"I know you won’t understand, Chick. I don’t myself, but my mind’s made up and please, if you love me, don’t try and change it. And please, my love, don’t blame yourself, I couldn’t live with that."

She stared at me for a moment of eternity then came across and put her arms about me and for a numb age I felt myself nothing more than empty space before I could respond and slowly hug her to me, smelling the perfume of her hair and feeling her lithe body. Then she was gone and I stared at the ladder leading from the bunker as if it was all a dream.


IT was far from a dream and that night I suffered the wretched ignominy of foolishly watching Robina pack the few things she’d decided to take with her.

We’d argued and resolved our quarrels in the past but this time there’d been no argument and I knew that neither words nor actions could breach the nameless divide that was suddenly between us.

What conversation we had was trivial to the situation, like my asking what time she was leaving and her easy reply "about 10am" as if she was just going to the corner shop for a pint of milk.

That night as we lay in bed together and I held her close I was frightened somehow to touch her as if by doing so she would be gone even before the morning.


— * —



* Diary Extract *
Vulturia 1989

Vulturosophy : the perception that perspectives are no more than perspectives of perceptions.
The Bi.RD Avionary of Quotations.



AFTER the hovercraft sped from the archipelago taking Robina away and leaving me to complete isolation with the vultures I felt a little like a criminal until I forced myself to realise I’d done nothing wrong.

It was almost a parting of strangers as the same crew that brought us here tried to pass genial words to me in embarrassed uncertainty as Robina boarded.

There seemed an ultimate finality to the parting as the cluttered hodgepodge of images whirred relentlessly in my head.

Back at the cabin I moped around picking at items here and there and trying to make sense of something that made no sense, caught up in the feeling you get when you find yourself living in a community that still adheres to dead belief while the world you left behind has grown to where you wanted to be.

I woke up. Robina had been gone three months and the same dream of her departure haunted me each night.

It was on the 247th afternoon of my second birthday year on Brogovnia when the shit filled the quob.

I had been spending the long months in a kind of stupor, pretending to be doing something. I’d be sitting snug indoors when the Brogovnia Run took its toll on the already harsh world outside and would call in to base perhaps every week at the most. They thought I’d flipped but were content to leave me be. They knew they’d find no one else mad enough to stay here.

The radio telephone buzzed one evening when I was on the toilet and even at the first ring I somehow knew it was Robina. By the time I got my pants up the message was long over and all that was left were the two recorded words ‘hi there’. No number, nothing.

She was like that.

I maintained my sporadic report log to base but it had become farcical.

“Saw about 700 vultures today.” Or “Not one vulture passed for three weeks.”

My own log was growing bulky. I’d grown fed up with it and had burned the first 1,800 pages in a fit of moroseful pique, then spent the next two months remembering and rewriting what I’d written and stupidly destroyed, along with writing the new sections.

So engrossed had I been in my own volatile and yet completely enjoyable isolation that I’d hardly noticed how the vultures had taken to gasping every time they saw me.

Of course at the time I didn’t know they were gasping. It took much more close study before I came to that realisation, but gasp they did. Perhaps they were imbued with the knowledge as only vultures of their ilk could be that I was insane. God knows I had to be to stay in Brogovnia with nothing more than the company of several thousand Membranous Pouch. But I digress from what filled the quob.

I was filling the kettle for an afternoon coffee when someone knocked on the cabin door. The knock took some time to register—I mean I was in Brogovnia in the middle of freaking nowhere with no airport, train or bus station let alone virtual reality pod...

The knock was repeated and incredulous I opened the door to see a medium sized figure encased in a hooded muffle suit with piercing blue eyes visible through a narrow slit in the hood. We stood and gazed at each other in silence for what seemed like several episodes of Coronation Street before the soft muffled female words penetrated my scrambled brain: “Aren’t you going to invite me inside then?”

Once inside she peeled off the hood and long blond hair spilled out. She was young, probably in her early twenties I guessed. Showing neat white teeth with a sweet smile she said: “Hello.” Then: “You don’t recognise me, do you.” It was a statement, not a question.

I didn’t and was too dumbfounded to say anything, even hi, so merely shook my head.

She began unfastening her muffle suit. “I was at an Instutute organised seismology lecture you gave at The Barbican  a few years back. I heard of what you were doing here through the Institute’s newsletter. Can I get my bags? They’re outside.”

“Bags?” I felt like the shop counter monkey in a Chaplin scene. With a quick laugh she slipped out of the door and returned with two bulky hold-alls. “Just clothes and things,” she said.

“Oh...”. I knew I’d have to do better.

“The kettle’s boiling away”, she nodded towards the stove. “If you’re making coffee, I take milk and one, thanks,” she said with another flash of smile.

Robotically I started towards the stove then stopped half way and turned to face her.

“For God’s sake, how did you get here?”

She looked at me for a moment then walked across and offered her hand, now free of its mitten.

“Daddy’s rich. I’m Felicity and you’re Chick,” she said as I took her hand. It was warm and soft but her handshake was firm. “Cozy place you have here. I’ll unpack a little later if you don’t mind. It’s been a rough trip,” she said, sitting down to pull off her thermo-boots.

I somehow got started on making coffee. She spoke from the chair. “When I read what you were doing here and that you were alone, I wanted to come and help.” She stood up and walked over to look out of a window.

“I hope you don’t mind? I’m not technically trained but I am a fast learner and I'm sure you’ll be able to use me.”

I took a coffee across to her. “Thank you,” she said and turned from the window to look at me with a small laugh. “I can see you’re stunned out of your mind. Shall we sit down?” Her voice was pleasant, educated.

Seated, I felt a little more sane. Not much, but enough to gather a question. “What did they say in the newsletter?”

She sipped her coffee. “Not a lot really. That you were here, alone, and that you’d discovered a strange bird colony out here while gathering data for the Institute.”

“Bird colony. What did they say about Robina, er, my wife?”

After a moment she said: “Again, not much. Nothing, really. That you’d come out together, that she’d returned and you’d stayed on.”

As I took in her words, she added: “How could she do that to you.” It was half question, half exclamation. Seeing the frown that came to my forehead she said: “It’s okay. Don’t try to answer.”

I was none the wiser. I’d had no explanation from Robina and the Institute's words said nothing too.

“Where do I bunk?”

Her question drew me from my reverie. “Bunk?”

“Sleep, bed down, you know, put my things?”

“Oh, yes, er, I, well — to be blunt I don’t know.” I racked my brain. It produced zero.

“There’s only the one double bed through there.” I nodded towards the room I’d shared with Robina.

“Bit too early for that, don’t you think?” she matter of factly said and seeing my expression laughed. “You’re still as much a prude as you were when I met you in the bar after your lecture.”

Amid the helter skelter of images in my head I had a vague recollection of speaking with a young woman at The Barbican bar but I couldn’t put the memory to the person sitting before me.

“Don’t fret. We’ll work something out,” she said. “I have an inflatable li-lo in my stuff. Do you still have the special equipment and clothing that, er, your wife used?”

I nodded slowly. Robina had left all her specialist stuff behind.

“Good,” said Felicity. “I have none of that but I did read about it and how it’s all used and everything.” She pulled out a packet of tobacco and started to roll a cigarette. “Do you mind?” she asked.

“No - no, go ahead. I hope you have plenty. There’s no shops here.”

“I’ve enough,” she said.

“I’d better down the shutters,” I said, walking to the control panel.

“I know. Where’s the shower?” was all she said.

And that was five days ago. We’d rearranged stuff in the lab, emptied a few shelves and some drawers for her things and Felicity had put her inflatable mattress against a wall. We’d been out a couple of times so she could become familiar with the surrounds but had an uneventful time. No vultures, no temperature drops. I was showing Felicity how the monitoring equipment was operated when the siren and flashing lights above the door warned us that a freeze was upon us and the steel shutters slid up as the automatic lock on the cabin’s exit snapped shut. Felicity looked towards the sound a little alarmed.

“Don’t worry, it’s a safety precaution. Prevents the door from being opened and letting the cold in. It can be overidden from inside and out,” I explained.

A few minutes later, as the external temperature fell to minus 97 degrees, we both heard the sounds from outside of the cabin.

Felicity looked at me for a moment before asking: “The birds?”

It was the same screeching I had heard with Robina and seemed to be coming from all around the cabin. I nodded to Felicity and crossed to the desk and switched on the outside cctv. The screens showed that the cabin was in fact completely surrounded by a thick ring of vultures, going through the ritual of head and rump raising and lowering and screeching at the overhead sky.

“Weird,” said Felicity after watching the screens for a while.

A few minutes later the whole throng suddenly took to flight as if under some central command.

“Weird,” she said again. For a moment I wondered if she had any greater vocabulary then immediately chided myself for the thought. What else could anyone say to such a site except ‘weird’?

Felicity rekindled my curiosity to further investigate the colony when she asked me if I had tracked them to wherever it roosted. I’d slipped into a kind of mental vaccuum in the weeks after Robina’s departure. That evening I sat with Felicity and we made plans to venture out on a three day vulture camp exploratatory trek.

— * —



* Diary Extract *
Vulturia 1989

Vulturemate : the extreme of vulturosity
The Bi.RD Avionary of Quotations.



WE reached the pillar of rock I had visited with Robina without much difficulty and despite its smooth surface Felicity pulled herself up to examine the top of the odd five feet high rock. She had only been on the top for a few seconds when out of seemingly nowhere a dozen or more vultures appeared and dive-bombed her in a perfect V formation, swooping just inches above her head and letting out an almighty screeching. She quickly jumped to the ground. We could see the birds circling overhead, perhaps at a 1000ft.

Keeping an eye on the


to be continued.....



 ******* big ones; layman's term for Membranous Pouch vultures, 12

agovultic- see footnote 3 on same page re. avionic, 39******* big ones; layman's term for Membranous Pouch vultures, 12

agovultic- see footnote 3 on same page re. avionic, 39

Aviosaurus- The collection of words relating to Membranous Pouch as contained in the section of the Bi.RD Dictionary known as the Bi.RD Avionary and which describes words found in The Bi.RD Dictionary, The Bi.RD Avionary and The Bi.RD Aviosaurus, 42

Brogovnia; the former name of Vulturia, 8

Courtship Canyon; the ritualistic ceremonial courtship location of the Membranous Pouch vultures, 27

crabs; shelled creatures that have no connection whatsoever with Membranous Pouch Vultures, 15

fly-by; the term denoting the nightly flight over the cabin by Membranous Pouch Vultures, 18

footnote gobbler – the dreaded Screen Gobbler was designed by Gobblers Inc to choke the greedy software world and give Gobblers Inc what became known as the Gobbler Monopoly. It failed when the Screen Gobbler, a eustologeniius virus, learnt how to suck u, 39

insofulation- the madman inside released after encounters with Membranous Pouch who is constantly fighting your misbelief of truthful revelation which you yourself know is real .. The Bi.RD Aviosaurus., 42

Membranous Pouch - so called due to the warty growth under the tail of the male birds, 8

Membranous Pouch- ibid., sac, protuberance, growth, carbuncle, sore. The Bi.RD Dictionary appertaining to The Greater Warted Vulture, 5, 8, 12, 15, 18, 27, 38, 39, 42

mess: a gathering together in one place of a thousand or so Membranous Pouch vultures, 50

quob- an internally padded hermetically sealed re-inforced cadmium steel box that affords shelter in the event of an earthquake, available in single, double or family sizes, Delux models are equiped with a 365-day supply of food tablets and water, a 12-month light and warmth supply, one year of recyclable compressed air, satelite television and radio and internet connection. Emperess models include a bidet. 44
The quob control panel

synchrony- the collected orchestral wail of Membranous Pouch, 39

US marine, uniform animal native to the north americas, 35

veinous- ibid. The Bi.RD Dictionary and used to describe the membranous pouch on Membranous Pouch (colloquial), 42

vulcanic: ibid. The Bi.RD Aviosaurus- adverb, describing the vulcibel level of more than one thousand Membranous Pouch vultures screeching together, 50

Vulturosophy: the perception that perspectives are no more than perspectives of perceptions.

whern Spelling mistake for where

[avionic] insnupid, t, eex, vii : see agovultic


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