Quinn Boudreaux

It happened on a peaceful night. Coyote grew tired of being pushed around. He was supposed to be a predator, to tear meat off bone. The others in his pack always bossed him around and nipped at his heels when he wasn’t moving fast enough. With every scrape of teeth against his skin anger built up inside of him and it was only a matter of time before it boiled over. 

When it happened everything was quiet. Even the cicadas had gone to bed, only the echoes of their buzzing remained, but Coyote was awake. His eyes were locked onto his target just a few feet away. There, across from him, was the ringleader, the biggest and strongest coyote and the one who always nipped him and tossed him around the hardest. Carefully, he stood up from his bed and crept toward him. Coyote’s heart was pounding and he heard it rushing in his ears, but his mind remained calm, It’s like when you scavenge, it’s just tearing meat from bone. Once he was close enough he clamped his teeth down on his leader’s neck, watching with a deranged sort of happiness as his companion slowly died. He barely noticed the ringleader’s whispered pleas. 

Once Coyote was sure his victim was dead he padded back to his nest to curl up and pretend to sleep (there was no way he’d actually be able to with all the adrenaline rushing through his body). The first scream came right around dawn, and it was followed quickly by chaos and clambering. Coyote joined in so as not to seem suspicious.

The pack quickly organized a trial, desperate to find who killed the leader they didn’t know how to live without. Each member of the pack took the stand and gave their testimony, the same whiny thing over and over that Coyote imitated perfectly. Finally, near the end of the trial, the only witness was brought. Mockingbird had been in the forest the night of the murder and it had seen everything, but its testimony only consisted of words and sounds that didn’t make sense when strung together. The last thing it mocked was the word “please,” and he said that about three or four times. Coyote marveled at how well the thing had copied his victim’s final words. 

Without any evidence or coherent testimonies the trial was considered inconclusive. Coyote risked a smile as the verdict, or lack thereof, was announced. With the ringleader dead, all of the other coyotes were completely beside themselves but Coyote only smiled and curled up to catch up on the rest he had missed. 

But something was wrong, even days and days after Coyote got what he wanted, he couldn’t help but feel like he was being watched, a small prickle at the back of his neck even as he slept. Coyote was sure he was only scaring himself. Whenever he turned around to find who his watcher was, there was no one. Regardless, the constant fear he felt thrumming through his body began to take its toll, and soon he was restless and plagued by insomnia. 

On the fifth night with no sleep, Coyote pulled himself out of his nest and decided he would take a walk through the moonlit woods. For as long as he walked his mind never cleared. Finally, when the sun was just beginning to stretch into the sky he heard something familiar. After a series of noises he heard that very familiar “please.” Coyote wondered for a split second if perhaps his victim had come back as a ghost, but as he lifted his head he let out a small laugh when he saw Mockingbird, the incoherent witness to his crime. It had to be what had been watching him and causing him all of this needless grief. Satisfied with this answer, he turned around and began to trudge back to where the coyotes stayed but the rustling of feathers caught his attention. As his eyes lifted toward the sky Coyote was filled with a fear so much stronger than it had been on the night of the murder.

There, on every branch in sight, sat hundreds of mockingbirds. All of their yellow eyes were on him and Coyote distantly registered that Mockingbird had started up its call again. Another mockingbird picked up their call as soon as Mockingbird’s ended, and dived down at Coyote, swooping and pecking, and letting their tiny talons make nearly microscopic tears in his skin. Another mockingbird went through the same process, joining the other. Then there were five more, ten, fifteen, twenty, and soon all of the mockingbirds Coyote had seen in the tree were upon him, scratching and biting and tearing. The only mockingbird left in the trees was the one Coyote now knew well. Mockingbird’s yellow eyes were trained on the ever-moving mass of birds and sang out its call once more, then everything was quiet.