The peacock stood in the corner of the room, between the bed and the bookshelf, staring at the rows of children’s books and occasionally angling its head as though it were forming an opinion on the titles running up and down the spines. Three-year-old Jessica watched it with awe and admiration. Even her dog, Daisy, seemed to be getting used to this alien creature, or at least tolerated it enough to not bark at it endlessly despite her being quite small and unthreatening. The small white dog appeared comfortable enough with the presence of the bird to busy herself with the task of grooming, her tiny pink tongue poking in and out against her own pristine coat. Still, the little girl and her dog kept their distance.
The hardest part was getting the bird into the house – there had been a lot of faking left and right, coaxing the animal closer and closer to the open door until finally there was nowhere left to go but through. Then there was the hassle of smuggling it past her mother.
Ever since her younger brother Daniel died, Jessica’s mother spent most of her time either under the covers with the curtains drawn and the door locked – giving her bedroom an eerily mausoleum-esque air – or on the phone, tied up in a seemingly endless conversation with a friend who apparently didn’t have a life of their own or anything better to do. Jessica’s mother had sometimes spent whole days doing either of these things. She was on the phone when Jessica went outside to play pirates with Daisy and found the bird wandering around the backyard with no idea where it was or where it was going. To keep her mother from seeing it, she led the beauty to the front of the house and entered that way. It had been an effort, but now it was accomplished and she had a new and magnificently coloured friend to account for it.
The door was closed and all three inhabitants stood in separate corners of the room. The peacock in front of the book shelf, Jessica fascinated, admiring, and Daisy self-grooming, uninterested.
“I think I’ll name you… Danny.” she said. The peacock seemed neither thrilled nor displeased with its new calling, although it now moved from examining the books to the contents of the bed.
“Danny Bird… Do you like it? I like it.” Jessica moved closer as she spoke. “Do you like it, Danny Bird?” She reached out to pet its back. The feathers were rougher than she imagined they would be. The body beneath was hotter and more tough. The peacock twisted its long neck around and pecked at the little girl’s hand.
“Hey!” she shrieked, bringing her hands protectively to her chest. She looked down and saw the one that touched the bird, the right one, now had two marks on it and was starting to bleed. The bird, meanwhile, had gone back to examining the rows of stuffed animals on the little girls’ bed.
Back when Jessica’s mother was still able to crack a joke, she would often tell family and friends that her daughter practically had all of Noah’s ark on her bed, and how she was sure that one day she would come home and find an old man with a beard and staff lying there. One of the plush toys was coincidentally a miniature representation of a peacock, almost an exact replica of the one Jessica now had standing in her room. And with the same speed and swiftness it used to peck at Jessica’s pretty little fingers the peacock dove its head into the pile and returned with this look-alike. Immediately it started thrashing its head from side to side and in no time at all the stuffed toy was nothing more than a flurry of cotton falling through the air and a mess of tattered remains trapped in the beak of the real deal.
“Hey!” Jessica shouted. “You can’t do that!” and with her tiny girl hand she punched the beast that had once been a harmless, welcomed guest. Her knuckles connected with the great hulk of muscle hidden under the beautiful blue-green feathers, like the fatal undercurrent in what looks like a calm and peaceful stream. Suddenly the bird was flapping- its wingspan was almost the length of the entire room- and with a dark talon it scratched at Jessica’s face, tearing at the left side and pushing her to the ground.
From the kitchen Jessica’s mother heard the flapping, although she didn’t know then just what it was. She stopped talking into the receiver and sat confused, time seeming to slow, until the piercing scream reached her ears. She dropped the phone, ran down the hallway to her daughters’ room and threw open the door.
The scene that greeted her was one that she would never be able to erase from her mind. Her daughter sat in one corner of the room, stunned. Blood was streaming down the side of her face, appearing from a black hole above her cheek. There were little bits here and there splattered on the walls and floor. The excitement of what had just occurred proved too much for Daisy, who’s white coat was now, like the wall, also splattered red The small dog was shaking in another corner of the room over a spreading puddle of urine. But perhaps the last thing a mother should ever expect to see is a peacock standing atop her daughters’ bed, picking up and dropping with its beak – as though playing some kind of primitive ball game – a round pinkish object that she would soon find out was her little daughters left eye.
Naturally, once she came out of the shock, Jessica cried a lot. From the pain, betrayal, how quickly it had all happened, and a feeling the little girl was too young to know was senseless guilt. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, she tried telling the medics what had happened through sobs. How Danny had taken one of her stuffed animals and torn it up and then scratched her eye out.
“Poor thing,” one of the medics who knew the family would later say, “So confused – she kept talking about her dead baby brother. She thought he did this to her. I can’t imagine…”