I Found Solace in a Great Moving Shadow

By Dario Bijelac
By Dario Bijelac

The chirphum of mechanical birds that drowns the v. parks—like the woody peetooweet of real birds that used to drown the real parks—can be a murderous shriek of grinding gears, unoiled joints, and etched brass talons on concrete, enough to drive folks crazy. But to me and all the ‘planters, I’ve met it’s a passionate dance funneled through the clavichord tubing of the bird’s intestinal music box to the golden mouth-speaker behind the beak. Nats aren’t keen on the music. I used to know why, but I’ve forgotten.

Especially those forced into long spells at the v. park—nat fathers, for example, taking ‘planter daughters to play, relegated to waiting on the bench in the brisk, loud wind—are the ones prone to cracking. Men like these never lose their minds at the v. park, but you can see the perturbed tremble in their hand, growing faster every minute spent without stimulus save the clankcheeptwiiir of forged finches. The mania eats at them for days, getting worse after every trip until one day, weeks or months after their last park visit, they snap. A man wrings a little girl’s neck or throws his coffee at his boss or is seen strolling Hyde V. Park nude in winter. These types get locked away.

I used to be a militant nat, but those days are behind me. Militant’s what they called us for refusing to get ‘plants, but amongst ourselves, we were the Liberationists. When I joined up, an estimated sixty percent of children received augmentation surgery before the age of two. Is that really healthy for our children? we asked. We organized protests asking the public to consider our questions, to demand the release of research done on effects of ‘planting on children, education, society. No ‘planters ever joined our cause. All we wanted was transparency; we were skeptical, not hateful. Every Sunday we gathered for a protest and forum in the legally designated protest zones: various v. parks about the city.

Nats occasionally do lose it in public v. parks while children sing, dance, and swing but it’s not the well-adjusted, child-rearing types. It’s the poor, the overworked, the homeless. The graveyarders might stop by the swing set early Saturday, after a shift, and scream and tear their hair out. Sometimes you wake in the dark of night or you close your morning daily, roused from your concentration by the even, metallic bang bang bang bang of an unfortunate, bearded bum crunching his head into a light post, driven mad by the nighttime scissor-shear violin of a cast-iron cricket or the patterclanking flirwrenchflir of a sunrise robin mocking worm-hunt. Breakdowns are inevitable. Perpetrators are taken away, and you don’t tend to see them again. That’s one of the questions we raised to public officials. Where are they?

Police footmen met us at the early morning demonstrations donning masks, body armor, helmets, carrying plexiglass shields, pressurized deterrents, and handsomely contracted anti-planter hatred. Each report I filed requesting protest space urged our dedication to non-violence, yet there the city army stood like clockwork at sunrise. The hours protesting in the park wore on us nats, and tensions grew with passing minutes. You would read in the dailies that we’d become violent, threatened officer lives, killed people, but we never did.

The jeering uniforms knew we were uncomfortable and pushed us. Some people were weak. Some people broke, and the protest turned into a brawl. I was a fool for being there, for dedicating myself so much to their cause. In one fight, I was pushed into an officer, and she defended herself, maced me. I came to in a dark hospital, blinded because I wasn’t treated for hours after the crowd was dispersed. I could live a deprived life, or I could accept retinal implants, offered by insurance, and use them to aid the Liberationist cause. Not hypocrisy, compromise.

Until then I’d never understood the beauty of motorized ambiance.
I was so wrong. I knew the second I awoke from surgery that I’d been mistaken for years, wasted so much on the protests when I had no idea of the facts. I don’t blame them, the nats, because it’s a truth you can’t comprehend until you’ve been ‘planted.

Something fundamental changes when you alter your nat body. Something in the psyche. Other ex-nats say so too; I’ve found others disabled in the protest where I lost my eyes—and found my vision—and we all came to the same conclusion. You must feel the change to know it’s a good thing. And, you know, it’s interesting, it’s very powerful, it doesn’t matter if it’s animatronics or augments, a faster hand or a sharper eye, it affects us at our core, our essence, and we all end up craving the clankchip of brass pigeons in the v. park.

I left the Liberationists but see their continued efforts frequently. Every spare minute I can muster I’m in the v. park, so I’m here every weekend as the sun rises, planted on this bench scanning nature and bliss-shivering at the resounding caws of cast crows and the intimate song of the birds and bugs. The colors of the sunrise are so much more vibrant now; I’m getting an enhancement soon to extend my violet spectrum. It’s always been my favorite color. I’m lucky it lies on an extendable end of our spectrum.

The Saturdays that Liberationists gather in my park, I watch them and listen and try to remember how I could’ve been mistaken like that. I wish I could help them know, but I can’t. A deep shadow passes over me now and then and fills my ears with excited poetry sung in exalted sopranos by the thousands of flapping wings passing over the park. It’s the 9:15 to Paris, the great avian zeppelin carrying a platform of early morning travelers over the channel to hear pigeons coo in France.