As I was finishing my post on Émile Zola's The Kill, I heard my parrot George shouting, "Oi!" He's been very vocal this afternoon, as he usually is, and earlier had been shouting, "It's cold!" and whistling the various theme tunes of the various programmes I watch. Even though the "Oi!" became more persistent, I thought nothing of it.
Once my post was up, I went downstairs to check on him and make my dinner. I noticed a Christmas card was on the floor, but when George is out of his cage, as he flies around cards get knocked down. George was in his cage, but he could have knocked it down last night and I hadn't noticed, though probably, I thought, it had fallen down because of the draft I felt by the fireplace.
When I squeeze George's beak, he makes a odd kind of "meep" sound; it's his favourite game. But he wouldn't do it this time. In fact, he was silent. I thought he was in a bad mood, so I gave him one of his treats (he threw it to the ground) and went into the kitchen to make my dinner.
Once I left the room, he started shouting "Oi!" again, then "Oi! No!". Here I became confused: I realised then he only does that when he's being naughty (which he wasn't being), or when something's upsetting or annoying him. I went back into the room and he was pacing up and down his perch. I asked him what was wrong and he repeated, "No!", so I told him I was going to make my dinner then we could watch Law and Order (he loves the theme tune).
Back into the kitchen I went, and he shrieked. Still thinking he was in a bad mood, I whistled to him, but he kept shrieking. I went back and all the Christmas cards were on the floor. He kept shrieking and pacing, but I couldn't see what was wrong with him. I stood with him a while, stroked his feet, sung one of his songs, and gradually he calmed down and I managed to get a "meep" out of him.
At this point, the budgies, who were upstairs, seemed to be having some kind of battle, so I popped up to check on them. Oliver, not being very good at flying, had tried to fly from one window to the other but hadn't made it, so he was sitting on the floor calling me (he shouts until I pick him up). As I picked him up, George screamed.
As anyone experienced with parrots know, the parrot scream, the African Grey Parrot scream, is horrifying. They scream in terror: it is not a noise they've copied, and it's not the frustrated squawk for attention: it is a very rare, but very real scream of distress. I ran downstairs and he was sitting at the bottom of his cage, and this time, a small ornament had fallen from the mantelpiece and smashed. The Christmas tree was shaking.
I opened up his cage to get him on my shoulder and take him upstairs, but he wouldn't come out. At this point, my heart was racing (the scream truly is bloody). George climbed up to his perch, but refused to move, muttering "No!" I didn't know what to do, so I just stood there, when suddenly a look of unholy terror came across his face just as I heard a kind of humming noise, and I felt a sharp draft across the back of my neck. George, once more, shouted, "Oi! No!"
I said out loud, "What the hell was that?" (to which George unhelpfully replied, "Want some?") and I followed the humming noise, which had passed behind me, but all I could see was the empty budgie cage with their cover on top. Nothing else.
If it hadn't have been for George, I would have been out of that room in a second. Though, I have to ask myself, would I have been? because I was rather frozen to the spot. I looked back at George, who was puffed out and pacing again, this time mumbling, "Off there!" and the hum and draft came again. I quickly turned around and, as another ornament fell to the floor, I saw the ghost: it was a chaffinch.
So, all is almost well. The chaffinch is refusing to leave, but I've got it out of the living room and it's now on top of a cupboard. It's asleep, as is George and the budgies, and meanwhile I'm writing this and trying to recover. I'm going to go and read Middlemarch to settle my nerves.