Her wrinkled fingers clutched the mesh. The beaded gaze of a pigeon replied, turning its idiot head to look her in both its eyes. The birds were the bringer of omens and portents of the future. These captive beasts the last.

 She rolled the fat ball up and down her moistened palms. Prepared over days for this moment of divination. Chopped and diced and rendered in cast iron until liquid and golden. Poured into heatproof jars to form creamy white tallow. That morning she scraped out the pots with her digits and pressed in a selection deciduous seeds and threaded them with string unbleached. She hung a few in the aviary and observed. 

 The birds ignored all until the sun touched the mountaintops. An ill symbol she would have to tell the elders. That this one’s body had carried the taint and so too will all the other girls. She returned to the barbed wire pen to take another sample. Just to be sure.

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