Mad About Pigeons

A retired mad scientist living in the British countryside plots the downfall of all pigeon kind. Hope you enjoy this slightly sillier story! Support my work on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/YurikaSGrant or you can buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/yurikasgrant

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1. Pigeon Genocide for Beginners

  In a large manor house deep in the British countryside, a voice rose in anger.

  “Bloody pigeons!

  “Woo-woo, wu! Woo-woo, wu!” came a friendly response from just outside an open window on the second storey.

  Again, the vexatious voice was raised in agitated annoyance.

  “Where is my damn shotgun, Sebastian?

  “I believe it was lodged in the rear end of a ring dove, last I saw it, sah,” replied a second voice, one that could only belong to a butler, elderly and expressive.

  On the second of three storeys, threadbare brown curtains billowed in and out as they were blown by a gentle autumn breeze, wafting hints of pine and rose and maybe just a minor indication of bovine flatulence into one of many bedrooms. In the room stood a man, mid-thirties with hair as dark as milk-free coffee, shaggy and unkempt.

  The colour brown featured heavily. Brown shirt, brown trousers, brown blazer, brown shoes, brown room. A veritable symphony of earthen excitement. Next to him, a rather older man in a butlering outfit of white and black held a shotgun, almost reverentially so, polishing and cleaning it of pigeon remains acquired after a wholly enjoyable time thinning the flock last evening.

  “Ah, yes, ring dove. An appropriate name for where I shoved the shotgun, is it not, Sebastian?” said the brown man. “One might say I doved it where the sun doth not shine, hah!”

  “As you say, sah,” the butler Sebastian said, his tone carefully neutral.

  Sebastian’s lord and master, one Algernon Octavius Crumplethwait the Third, had always been a handful, ever since his younger years when he would experiment on insects and small rodents to see what made them tick. Thirty years on and he was more or less the same man. It was simply the scale of his experiments and the length of his temper that had changed.

  Sebastian handed the sparkling shotgun to his lord. “All clean, sah.”

  Algernon accepted the weapon, muttering in a mildly murderous fashion as he loaded two shells. “Pigeons… contemptible birds. Good-for-nothing little bas—”

  “I believe collared doves are the blighters that make all the hullabaloo, sah.”

  “Spare me your semantics, Sebastian.” Algernon strode to the window, located the source of his annoyance – perched on the window ledge and peering at him with beady eyes – and pointed the shotgun with malice aforethought. The next sound was a brief ‘woo-woo-boom!’ and a cloud of feathers. “That’ll learn the little stinker, hah!”

  “I’ll get the brush.”

  “And bring me the Righteous Boomstick of Pigeon Perturbation while you’re at it, this little pop gun won’t do at all. I need to blow off some steam.”

  “Followed by blowing off some bobbing heads, sah?” Sebastian asked, moving over to a large walnut cabinet and opening it, revealing several rifles, a number of shotguns, and the aforementioned boomstick.

  “Quite so, yes.” A brief jaunt outside once Sebastian had cleaned up the mess, and Algernon was ready for a spot of clay pigeon shooting in his gargantuan mansion’s grounds.

  Much like its owner’s appearance, the mansion’s garden had an unkempt and untidy look with creepers creeping, plants protruding through the pavings, and hedges hedging their bets.

  Algernon grumbled. “Need to do something about the pigeon problem, that much is certain. Being up all night with my experiments in the basement, I simply cannot have the little bar studs keeping me awake all morning with their incessant cooing.” He enjoyed clay pigeon shooting a great deal. It was most therapeutic vis-à-vis his pigeon-related woes. Almost as enjoyable as whack-a-dove.

  A few minutes were duly spent setting up, then…

  A heavy ‘thunk!’ punctuated the still morning air, trailed by a Doppler-shifted ‘woo-woo, wu!’, which was in turn followed by an ear-bending ‘boom!’ and several dozen feathers spiralling to the ground. Algernon preferred to use live pigeons.

  “An excellent shot, sah, if I may be so bold as to observe,” Sebastian said, setting another portly pigeon into the machine.

  “Yes, I find the report of a throaty boomstick quite alleviates the stresses of modern life.”

  As an oft-retired mad scientist, one of Algernon’s earliest and most-beloved inventions had been this very boomstick, a blunderbuss firing high quality lead buckshot. At least, it originally fired lead buckshot. These days he had to make do with inferior metals.

  He loaded a fresh batch of bismuth-tin shot. “In my day, we used real lead shot! These days, they’re all, ‘oh you can’t use lead shot, that’s poisonous and harmful to birds’. Poppycock!”

  “One wonders exactly how much more deadly to birds it is possible to get than exploding them into a cloud of feathers,” mused Sebastian.

  “And that is why you are my butler, you fully understand the plight of a retired mad scientist whose only crime in life was to revive the dinosaurs and send them rampaging down Pall Mall. I don’t know what all the fuss was about, the whole thing was blown entirely out of proportion.”

  “I personally have never seen the Queen looking quite that cross before, sah.”

  “Yes, I believe I may have ruined my chances for a Knighthood there. Load up another pigeon, old boy, I feel the stresses of modern life returning with gusto.”

  “Very good, sah.” Sebastian did so, releasing another Doppler pigeon into the wild blue yonder, where it was promptly turned into a bright red mist.

  Reloading, Algernon continued muttering. “Enjoyable though this is, I wonder if we could speed up the process? Maybe a second barrel? Or incendiary shot? I could always tie two—”

  “Perhaps explosive bullets might be helpful, sah? With homing capabilities like that movie you watched once? Or maybe some Claymores set with pigeon feed and proximity sensors?”

  “Homing explosive bullets… yes, that is a good idea. Remind me to make a few of those.”

  “Would sah like me to remind sah before sah embarks on sah’s work in the basement, sah?”

  Hefting his boomstick, Algernon gave his butler a vague hand wave. “If you would, old boy, you know how I forget things when I’m working. Pigeons won’t kill themselves, after all. I can’t be slacking off in my important research.”

  “And would sah enjoy his usual Pigeon Mess for supper?”

  “No, I believe I shall have the Dove Delight tonight, if it’s all the same to you.”

  “I shall prepare one later.” Sebastian loaded three pigeons and launched them skyward.

  “Oh, the old three birds, one boomstick manoeuvre? Challenge accepted!” Algernon said in a gleeful tone. “I will have some peace and quiet around here!” he yelled at the expanding cloud of feathers, post-fire.

  “Wonderfully ironic, sah, if you don’t mind my saying.”

  “Yes, it was, wasn’t it? Now, I believe I shall spend the rest of the morning attempting to sleep. Then it’ll be a delicious Dove Delight followed by an evening of discovering the best ways to disintegrate pigeons. Life is good.”

  Late that afternoon, with a steaming hot dove pie bubbling away in the range, Sebastian made his way upstairs to the lord’s room. Algernon’s pigeon-shaped alarm clock – battered, cracked, and scuffed from its frequent flights across the room – had just gone off, filling the air with the dulcet tones of bloody pigeons.

  Algernon had once been asked why he used the noise made by his number one nemesis as his alarm clock’s tone. His response was thus: because no bloody way could he sleep through that thrice-accursed racket of spittle-inducing awfulness.

  Stretching, he sat up in the enormous four-poster he called his bed. He swung his legs out to find his favourite slippers – old faithful as he affectionately thought of them – and sniffed a few times. “Ah, what a delightful scent to wake up to. I can almost taste the salty tears of pigeonkind as I savour one of their own, cooked to perfection.”

  Sebastian held out a bath robe. “Perhaps you could use their delicious tears as a condiment, sah?”

  “Yes… yes, indeed. I wonder if it might be possible to squeeze the liquid out of one? A pigeon pepper grinder of sorts.”

  “Worth a try, sah?”

  Algernon nodded a few times as he tied the robe. “To the garden!” Outside, standing comfortably in his robe and slippers, he carefully sighted along the barrel of a dart gun loaded with tranquilisers. “Steady… steady…”

  A ‘pff!’ sound accompanied the dart exiting the barrel, followed by a distant ‘coo-gerk!’ as a pigeon dropped out of one of the many trees dotting the landscape and landed softly on the grass.

  Sebastian checked his pocket watch. “Just in time for dinner, sah.”

  A tantalisingly tasty dish of delectably delightful dove stuffed with roast vegetables and drizzled in wine and spices was enhanced ever so slightly by the addition of sweet avian tears.

  Algernon enjoyed his supper at the kitchen table, a mahogany affair older than he was, and eventually sat back with a satisfied expression. “Mm, exactly what the doctor ordered. And since I am the doctor, I know what I’m talking about!”

  “We have that delivery of pumpkins coming tomorrow, remember, sah,” Sebastian said as he hustled and bustled about the task of tidying the crockery away.

  “Halloween, by Jove!” said Algernon, his face lighting up. “Best time of the year and no mistake. Always enjoyed a spot of mulled wine and a slice of pumpkin pie as a little whippersnapper. It’s just not the same without Crumplethwait Senior, but we make do. Do we not, Sebastian?”

  Pausing in the act of washing up in the cavernous sink, Sebastian stared blankly at the cracked and peeling plaster of the kitchen wall. “Quite so, sah. Most unfortunate, being trampled by elephants in the Serengeti, but he did manage to take quite a number of them with him, I recall. Never one to roll over and surrender, old Lord Crumplethwait the Second.”

  “Dynamite up the trunk, hah! The old bastard never missed a trick. Right up until he did.” Algernon snorted a pinch of snuff in as regal a fashion as he could manage, and placed his feet up on the table. “Still, his servants were well fed for the next several weeks. Elephant meat is quite filling, or so I hear.”

  “Made a fine piano, too, sah,” Sebastian added as he got back to his tasks.

  “That, they did, once they retrieved the bits and pieces and put them back together.” Algernon dropped his legs back down, wandered to one of the cupboards, and poured a glass of fine brandy. “Care to join me for a little tipple, old boy?”

  Drying his hands on a towel, Sebastian sidled across and took a proffered glass. “Very good, sah. To Lord Crumplethwait the Second, may he rest in pieces.”

  “Cheers!” Algernon drained the glass in one go. “Righto. To work I go!”

  After a meal as good as that, the perfect way to finish the evening off would be to spend it engaged in dastardly and devious experiments in his basement laboratory. Workbenches lined both the walls and centre of the dim space while glasses, tubes, pipes, and all manner of arcane odds and sods – as Algernon referred to the tools of his craft – covered every flat surface, and even a few of the vertical ones. And a stench of chemicals and gases filled the air, like an unusually evil school science lab.

  Never before had he faced an enemy such as pigeonkind. They bred like mad, crapped all over absolutely everything, and regularly woke him from pleasant dreams. And while he enjoyed a spot of sport involving shotguns and explosives, those methods simply weren’t practical for large-scale extermination.

  Around six the next morning, Algernon finally crawled into bed after a productive evening in the lab. Unfortunately…

  “Woo-woo-wu! Woo-woo-wu!

  “Sebastian!”

  “Right here, sah.”

  Crawling groggily back out of bed, Algernon pointed at one of his many mahogany wardrobes. “Fetch me my Lab Coat of Scientific Significance. Enjoyable as blowing the little blighters up can be, I believe it’s time for a more dramatic solution to our problems, and I have the very thing.”

  “Ah, time for an all-dayer, sah?”

  “‘tis the only way, if I’m to get any blasted sleep.”

  Dressed in his usual brown ensemble with a white lab coat over the top, they ended up in the laboratory where Sebastian immediately noticed something new and interesting.

  “Might I enquire as to the purpose of the vats of green bubbly stuff, sah?”

  “My latest triumph: Liquid Death!” Algernon said with gleeful malevolence.

  “Liquid pigeon death, I assume, sah?”

  “And possibly many other things. The virus is, after all, untested.”

  Sebastian rolled up his sleeves and sat at an ancient PC with a crackling and buzzing CRT screen. “Ready when you are, sah.”

  “Jolly good! First, delivery method.”

  “Aerosol seems wise, sah.”

  “Exactly my thoughts!”

  The clacking of stiff, yellowed keys echoed back and forth like the rattle of Death’s teeth as Sebastian entered some details.

  “I’m using the same formulas and equipment as that delightful batch of Kill-o-Matic-3000 you invented several years back, sah. Is that acceptable?”

  Algernon’s eyes sparkled. “Ah, the old Kill-o-Matic Bug Destroyer. One of my better inventions, wouldn’t you agree?”

  “Verily, the locusts did not know what hit them, sah. Quite the altruistic invention for once, sah.”

  “Even mad scientists have occasional weaknesses,” Algernon muttered, embarrassed.

  Sebastian sat back. “Liquid Death has been vaporised. Transferring to pressurised containers for dispersal.” He tapped another button. “Ready, sah.”

  Algernon paced. Back and forth, back and forth, fidgeting and idly rubbing a thumb over an old silver pendant left to him by Crumplethwait Senior. “Soon, Sebastian. Soon, I shall have my peace and quiet!”

  “A master work in dedication and vindictiveness, sah,” Sebastian said, clearly admiring.

  Algernon stopped his pacing. “Truly, pigeons are the Devil’s familiars.”

  “I meant you, sah. Also, isn’t that cats, sah?”

  “No… no, I don’t believe that for a second, old chap. Cats are delightfully vicious creatures when they feel like it, playing with their food and all that. I feel something of a kinship with them.”

  “Very good, sah. Shall I let slip the gasses of war, sah?”

  “Yes, let the little blighters have it!”

  Sebastian did as requested, releasing the aerosolised virus into the atmosphere and watching the screen with eagle eyes, alert for any changes.

  Sensors secretly placed around the country allowed for near-instantaneous data on any and all relevant experiments, a convenient holdover from the last time Algernon had decided he despised a particular animal.

  Sebastian noted some worrying data in addition to the expected pigeon casualties. “The virus has mutated and jumped species, sah.”

  “That was fast. Remarkably so,” Algernon commented, an eyebrow raised.

  “It appears the virus is making use of the high speed trans-optic vein network to propagate further and faster, sah,” Sebastian muttered.

  “From my old Faster Than Night experiment? How devious of it.”

  “Perhaps we should have dismantled the network, sah.”

  “Balderdash! Old experiments are a perfect springboard for new experiments,” proclaimed Algernon. “Which species has it jumped to, incidentally?”

  “Humans, sah.”

  “Well, some losses are to be expected in any great endeavour.” Algernon’s tone was indifferent.

  “I am not entirely certain that seven million can really be considered ‘some’, sah.”

  “Spare me your moralising, Sebastian. The pigeons are being equally decimated, are they not?”

  “Quite so, sah.”

  “Then the experiment is a success. Quit your bellyaching.”

  “Very good, sah.” Sebastian peered at the screen. “Oh dear…”

  “Another problem?” Algernon asked, exasperated.

  “Depends how you define the word, sah,” Sebastian replied, scanning the screen in hopes that he had merely read the data wrong.

  “Out with it, man!”

  “At the currently rate of mutation, humanity will be the second most dominant species on Earth in approximately one week, sah. The pigeons are evolving, sah. Rapidly, sah. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, sah.”

  “Oh.” The indifferent tone had turned into more of a flat one, like a heartbeat monitor after a particularly gruesome accident.

  “Truly, they are like the cockroaches of the avian world, sah.”

  A gentle sigh escaped Algernon’s lips. “They are at that, Sebastian, you are quite correct.”

  “Perhaps sah should have bought a pair of earplugs, sah?”

  Another sigh. “What would I do without you, Sebastian?”

 

***

 

  Precisely ten years later…

  Algerdove Fluffywing the First crawled into bed after a tiring but wholly enjoyable day spent thinning the herd. His beaked head nodded and bobbed as his butler tucked him in. “That was a splendid Ascension Day celebration and no mistake! Much better than that silly old Halloween nonsense.”

  His butler nodded, an involuntary reflex brought about by the pigeon genes. “Quite so, sah. Shame about all the hullabaloo, sah.”

  “Bloody humans! I shall have to do something about them one of these days, Dovebastian, and no mistake”

  A bout of chattering floated through the open window and into the mansion’s bedroom, emanating from the general direction of Algerdove’s human farm.

  He sighed. “Fetch me my Boomstick, would you, old boy?”

  Outside, he sighted along the barrel of his Righteous Boomstick of Human Harassment, a antique silver pendant hanging loosely around his ruffled neck.

  Dovebastian busied himself setting up for a spot of clay pigeon shooting, at which point a heavy ‘thunk!’ punctuated the still night air, followed by a Doppler-shifted and familiar voice yelling, ‘What did I do to deserve this…!

  Algerdove preferred to use live humans.

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