Unsurprising given how few views the video had. Groundbreaking experiments lose to headbanging black metal kittens and narrated video game playthroughs in the market of passing interest. I watched every other video I’d been through looking for the same thing. It only occurred in the one video. Why? What set that pigeon apart from the rest?
On a whim I wrote down the actions it performed prior to vanishing. Then watched the other pigeons frame by frame looking for any who did the exact same dance. When 8am arrived, eyes bloodshot, hands shaking, I was finally satisfied it was unique. That was the only unique thing about it that was apparent in the video anyway.
I wracked my brain trying to determine what if anything it could mean as I stumbled to bed. I double checked my phone and thanked God that I didn’t have work today before collapsing in a heap and losing consciousness.
My dreams were varied and bizarre. Endless rows of cages stretching to infinity, warping around in a sort of kaleidoscopic flux. A pigeon was contained in each, performing a different dance. Some were breakdancing. Others doing the waltz. I woke up at 5 that evening, feeling rested and inspired.
I downloaded a plugin for capturing Youtube videos and saved the video to a folder I resolved I’d use for everything related to this investigation. That was priority one, as if it were taken offline or something I’d have nothing to show anyone I wanted to convince of any of this. Or myself. Without that video I wondered if, after a long enough time, I wouldn’t just convince myself I’d imagined it and get on with my life.
I should’ve. But it’s like the hanging thread which unravels the sweater. The one you cannot help but tug on despite knowing damn well you shouldn’t. I briefly considered showing this to Leslie. After all it was something concerning her pet interest that she didn’t yet know about. I doubted there was any gift she’d appreciate more.
At the same time I feared she might think I was being foolish. That she’d dismiss the anomaly as something to do with how the video was recorded, a post-processing prank or some other mundane explanation. Maybe that really was it? Something in me nonetheless drove me to tug that thread.
The first stab at it was a Wikipedia binge on quantum teleportation. I couldn’t understand any of it and before long I was on a page about how sailboats are made without fully understanding how that happened. So I searched for information on rituals involving dance. Rain dances, fertility dances, dances to raise the dead. Nothing jumped out at me.
Until I clicked onto a ridiculously dated website about Samhain. It was an archived copy of what had once been a Geocities site so a lot of the links didn’t work and it was littered with animated gifs which had at best a tenuous relation to the topic of the page. Straining my eyes to read the purple text on the black repeating starfield background, I began to recognize that this was what I’d been looking for.
Samhain is believed by Celts to be a special, liminal time when our world is closest to the world of spirits such that they can more easily pass through. I corroborated this on other websites to make sure it wasn’t just the 1994 ravings of some isolated lunatic and found it was accurate, at least with respect to Celtic beliefs. However the site mentioned something I found nowhere else. A ritual for piercing the membrane between our world and the next….which included a dance.
A medieval illustration depicted some crudely drawn robed fellow performing something like a pirouette atop an elaborate geometric glyph on the ground, which the caption said was drawn with charcoal. At the points where the inset triangle, square, pentagon and hexagon touched the outer edge of the circle which contained them all, there were small red candles.
It looked like what Hollywood led me to believe was how you go about summoning demons and other otherworldly creatures from the realms they inhabit. Possibly the same ritual, inverted? For bringing them here, instead of sending yourself there. I smiled as I imagined some nightmarish eldritch abomination summoned at a bad time, appearing atop the symbol in a bathtub, clutching a soapy loofa.
Aha! There it is. “Ritual instructions”. Only upon clicking it I got a white screen with black text reading “Page removed from archive due to copyright claim.” I raised an eyebrow. How does one copyright a ritual? I felt I had enough to show someone now without being dismissed outright. But could I really go to Leslie with it? She didn’t go in for this sort of stuff.
As there was nobody else I felt comfortable discussing it with, I texted her and arranged to meet for lunch. This time my choice, which is almost always huge burritos.
She never eats more than half but I’m only too happy to finish the rest. Seating inside was all taken, as it often is since my preferred burrito joint is a little hole in the wall. It was a nice day though, the fresh air somehow intensified my appetite.
“Alright, this is gonna seem pretty out there. And really it’s just a what-if.” She furrowed her brow, immediately setting about trying to predict where I was going with this. I pulled out my phone and showed her the pigeon video, skipping to the last ten seconds and directing her to watch the one in the far cage. I studied her face as she cradled the phone in her hands.
Her eyes widened. “See?!” I exclaimed. “Fucking weird, right?” She rewound a few seconds and watched again, and again. As I did before her. She asked if anyone else noticed it right before she thought to check the comments.
She continued to even after I told her nobody else had. I knew better than to interpret it as distrust or rudeness, she just confirms everything for herself as a matter of principle.
I’d found something that intrigued her. It was difficult not to feel pleased with myself. She looked so beautiful like this, wavy auburn hair tumbling down her shoulders, freckled face scrunched up in deep contemplation.
I actually preferred her in glasses but she’d recently taken to wearing contacts and was talking seriously about getting laser surgery. I dreaded it. A face like hers is perfectly framed by a sharp set of glasses.
“Well, I don’t see any hiccup in the video. Off the bat, I’m not really sure what the deal is. Occam’s Razor applies, though. There’s any number of things more likely than a teleporting pigeon.” I deflated somewhat.
But really, the discovery served its purpose. I thought that would be the end of it until she told me she wanted to take me to speak with someone who might be able to make sense of it. There was still ample daylight left and it was an excuse to stretch out the date, so I obliged.
It was a shorter drive than I expected. When she turned into campus I initially thought she wanted to pick up something she’d forgotten. But then she pulled into one of three parking spaces in front of what proved to be a fragile antique of a house shrouded on all sides by maple trees.
“What, really? This is the place?” She nodded, then paused as if troubled by something. “Promise you won’t get mad”. I mulled that over, but stipulated that I’d like to know what it is first.
She looked sheepish. “We’re here to talk to one of my ex-boyfriends. I just want you to be cool about it.” Who, me? Of course I’d be cool about it, I said. The picture of cool. The coolest. Absolute zero.
I talk a big game but it really is primally unnerving to share a room with someone who’s gotten naked and sweaty with your girlfriend. The ego kept shouting “Start a fight with this guy” while the superego kept it barely restrained and admonished me not to show any signs of jealousy. Cool as a fucking cucumber and in no way tempted to strangle.
“This is the new guy?” I was as surprised as he was. Leslie really dated this dude? He was maybe 5’11 with blonde dreadlocks, severe stonerface and a “Sacred Geometry” T-shirt. Sandles completed the hippie ensemble although to his credit he wasn’t wearing socks with them.
He smiled warmly and reached out to shake my hand. I could see in his face he sensed how tense I was, but I forced myself to return the gesture. “I’m Zach. You’re a lucky dude, Leslie is pretty fuckin’ special. But no doubt you know that already. She was my negator for a while, one of the best I ever worked with. Last I checked she’s still in mint condition.” He grinned at her and I convulsed slightly when she grinned back.
Stay Tuned for Part 3!