Fark. Faark. Faaaaark.
It’s not funny like when Graeme Kennedy got himself sacked from Channel Nine for imitating this bird call’s uncanny resemblance to the publicly unutterable.
It’s more like the horror induced in the Hitchcock movie when Tippi Hedren spots them perched everywhere, silently waiting for school to finish and the kids to come out. Eerie.
People are losing their minds, because of the crows.
I was waiting in the town of Blackwood to meet the man of the moment. It had been arranged through the underground connections I had built up over decades of investigative journalism. Most of my work is freelance now since no mainstream media wants to have anything to do with me. I have a reputation of sorts. But nothing like the mystique of Jason Verity, the crow killer. At least that’s what the establishment was calling him, even though there’s no proof he’s killed anything. He was breaking the law they said, and needed to be apprehended, brought to justice – no question about it.
Yes, the laws were clear. The crow was protected. But the general populace had lost all compassion for this avian pest mocking us continually from its lofty perches. People didn’t care what Jason did with the crows, as long as they were gone. The cities and suburbs provided a plethora of poles and wires overlooking a multitude of food sources. The haunting song reminding us all how progress came at a cost. The country folk and farmers who had been losing their battle with this omen in the sky for generations, were somewhat pleased that the city slickers were now being tortured by the incessant cawing of this despicable bird. Maybe the laws would change.
“Worse than rats, and it’s open season on them.” I heard this, or something similar, so many times I used it for a headline on my frequently hacked blog.
But the laws remained and Jason Verity’s image was posted in every police station and on every sensationalist TV news program. But on the web and around dinner tables he was a hero, moved around and protected by the common folk eager for him to do his magic. Even the first peoples of this nation, who you might expect having strict dreamtime lore about this bird, declared Jason a spirit being, sent down from the stars to right the wrongs of the white man. The wrongs of colonisation and urbanisation.
I got word a while back that Jason admired my cutting-edge-no-bullshit journalism and wanted to tell me his life story. We hooked up on Skype one evening when the crows were asleep and he told me he would like to take me to observe his never before witnessed methods of crow eradication. I sensed the gravity of this invite and vowed to do anything necessary.
He told me that until now he had not wanted to share his secrets, it would place anyone in the know in danger, something he didn’t want. “But if they catch me, or kill me, someone must know. It will be your duty to disseminate this,” he informed me. “You will become a marked woman, you know that?”
“I’m sort of that already,” I replied.
I waited in Blackwood’s RSL, sipping a beer and listening to the bells and synthesised muzak generated by the poker machines. They had lost their one arm but were still bandits of the worst kind. The gambling epidemic was in full swing. No one wanted to be outside any more. There was a theory that the oligarchs who controlled the government demanded that no laws be changed in response to the crow explosion. They were making a killing out of it, apparently. True or not, the 1% were richer than ever. There was even a graph showing the correlation of global inequity with the crow numbers – a red and a black line criss-crossing in exponential harmony.
The environment groups were the last to get on board in calling for intervention. They justified that the rapidly declining diversity of other Australian bird species, courtesy of the crow, was a unique situation that warranted unprecedented methods. Problem was that the millions of crow traps they distributed for free to the maddening crowd failed miserably to trap even one bird. Crows are way too smart for that nonsense. It was embarrassing and costly, but worst of all the environmentalists were being lambasted by the media and neo-conservative politicians for being hypocrites.
“And now the Greens, the real environmental terrorists, want to kill birds?” said the environment minister who had just approved the “sustainable harvesting” of koalas for a booming Japanese market.
“We will all benefit economically from this natural resource,” he said stony faced. “We can’t deny the Japanese, or anyone for that matter, the standards of living that we all enjoy on this marsupial laden continent.”
It made me sick, and I was not the only one. The lies and propaganda of the capitalist machinery were running out of steam. Jason Verity was safe as houses in this country. Safe in the houses of the ordinary folk who no longer swallowed the bullshit that urbanisation and economic growth was for the good of all. The crows were telling us. Loud and clear.
Fark. Faark. Faaark.
Yes, they were driving us mad. Mad as hell. Mad enough to unite and take to the streets to challenge the authorities and their ridiculous laws. The fine for killing a crow, greater now than the fine for illegal land clearing, was an insult to us all. We laughed insanely at the ridiculous plans for air-conditioned domed cities free of crows and nicely populated with the correct smattering of kookaburras and rainbow lorikeets. The neatly rendered artist’s impressions only fooled the ignorant courtesans of growth, the imbeciles with an insatiable greed for the impossible dream of limitless wealth for all.
Jason arrived in through the bistro kitchen of the RSL. He was escorted by the Shire President, Flora Finch—I kid you not—and two serious looking body guards dressed in black with gold trim. The group came to my table.
“Pleased to meet you face to face, Clancy,” said Jason as he held out his hand. He spoke gently and I noted his face was more serene than what I had imprinted in my mind.
“Likewise, Jason,” I replied. “Honoured to be a small part of this worthy mission.”
We all sat around and discussed the plans for the day. The security dudes would escort Jason and I to a location a couple of kilometres out of town to the east. There we would be left to walk to a secret spot where Jason would do his thing. We would be picked up later when the crows had been dealt with and taken by helicopter to an undisclosed motel where we could do the interview. I must admit I was surprised by the amount of detail in the planning and sheer scale of the operation. Jason was either independently wealthy or else sponsored by someone. I was champing at the bit to hear the whole story.
We were about to leave when a chorus of sirens came into hearing, unmistakeably getting louder and louder. The two body guards launched into well trained action. They whisked Jason away. He did manage to let out, “Another time Clancy, another time.” Flora Finch and myself were left sitting dumbstruck at the cheap laminated RSL table.
“I thought this might happen,” said the Shire President as she frisbeed a beer soaked coaster into the air. “At least the police used their sirens.”
“Ugh?” I asked.
The President winked. “We just want the crows gone, love. You know the kids in this town are developing rickets because they can’t play outside any more?”
The police walked in casually and arrested me for conspiracy to commit an unlawful act.
“You’re kidding aren’t you?” I protested.
“Don’t worry Clancy, you’ll be released with a token fine,” said the Sergeant in charge. “Then you can get back to doing what you do best.”
“What’s that?” I asked, angry my adventure was over before it began.
“Exposing the lies about economic growth and development. We know that’s what brings the crows. Use your pen, or computer or whatever you lot do these days. Stir up some more protest action. I don’t know how long we can keep pretending we are after Jason Verity.”
As I was being led out to the paddy wagon in the car park, the chorus of crows was building to a crescendo. The sound was awful, permeating deep into my being, unnerving me, and my new police mates.
Then without notice, it stopped and the only sound to be heard was the flapping of a thousand black wings heading east out of town.