‘Unfollow’ by Nicholas Royle

When you know about something, you get picky. Mistakes niggle. It’s tedious, but you can’t stop yourself.

The A437 doesn’t go past that pub.
That plane didn’t enter production until 1957.
String quartets don’t have conductors. (An actual example from the opening pages of a bestselling book in the 1980s).

So when people write about birds, I find myself checking without thinking. It’s a tic.

Waxwings? In England? In July?

Tedious, as I say.

Good news: Nicholas Royle knows his birds.

Even better news: he knows his humans, too. And he has that ability to underpin the normal with a lurking sense of the uncanny, the knowledge that something will be along in a minute to disturb the hell out of you. Everyday life, twisted. 

Each of the stories in his collection Ornithology is centred round a species of bird. In this case, a juvenile sparrow brought in by the narrator’s cat. It escalates from there, shining a light not just on the dark behaviour of men in the social media age, but on the dark behaviour of cats in any age.

The kind of story to make you check the front door’s double locked.

First published in British Fantasy Society Yearbook 2009. Collected in Ornithology, Cōnfingō Publishing 2017

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