The director always vowed that Harley had no reason to resign from the sanatorium staff. And the increase in the number of nesting blackbirds on the hospital grounds, despite some absurd local legends, in no way corresponded to the increase of cases of catatonia in the patients.
But Harley had been getting more and more agitated as the weeks of his employment as an orderly passed. The last straw must have been when Benjamin Judd passed into oblivion. Ben said he was frightened by the grackles that perched on his windowsill and glared at him at all hours. Harley tried to reassure him the birds were only looking for food, but the patient refused to be comforted; instead he tried tapping out a rhythm to his favorite song to chase away his ghostly fears.
Then, one day, the tapping ceased. Harley entered Ben’s room to see a flutter of dark wings outside the window and Benjamin Judd in a vegetative state in his chair.
Later, Harley was sitting with some other asylum inmates in the garden. Naturally, feathery watchers came and went at all times. But one of them approached Harley, seemingly unafraid and with a persistent stare in its golden eye.
Later that day, Harley fled the asylum and refused to return; for he said that one blackbird seemed to possess or devour something he dared not name. He would only say that the bird, between unrelenting gimlet gazes at him, had on the paved ground tapped out a certain rhythm he knew too well.
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