Alexia Jacoby graduated from Franklin and Marshall College with a degree in English and a concentration in creative writing. She has been writing short stories ever since she was little. This is her second piece published in The Horror Zine. She lives with her partner in New York City.


by Alexia Jacoby


Julia Bristow found a dead pigeon on the doorstep of her New York City apartment building for the second time that week.

She’d seen some pretty nasty things in New York City: dead rats, cockroaches, human shit on the street. Yet there was something sinister about how these birds were placed that filled her with dread.

When she saw the first dead bird, Julia noticed it was directly in the middle of the step, as if the person placing the bird did not want anyone to overlook the carcass. She thought it was sinister and worried for a minute but quickly brushed it off since it was the city after all.

Yet when she walked out this morning and saw the second dead bird, she froze and suddenly felt like a cool breeze was blowing around inside her chest, reverberating against her rib cage and threatening to knock her over.

Two dead pigeons in two days could not be a coincidence. She could tell it wasn’t the same bird because the first one had been white—which she also found strange—and this one was colorful. Both times the creatures’ necks were bent at unnatural angles; their stick legs stuck straight up in the air, their wings folded neatly on their chests, so it looked like they were lying on their backs and resting…or how a person looks inside a coffin.

The young woman glanced around, but no one was watching her or even looking in her direction. People were walking by, going about their busy lives as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. And maybe nothing out of the ordinary was happening.

But during the rest of the day, her mind kept wandering to the two dead pigeons on her doorstep. She tried to distract herself, but every time she closed her eyes, she could see their tiny broken necks and folded wings. She pictured their lifeless bodies, their open, unseeing beady eyes, and their wings folded over their rib cages in what looked like a feeble attempt to protect themselves from death.

Julia thought about this on the subway ride to work. The train swayed back and forth as it sped through the dark underground tunnels of the city. She peered around the subway car and saw New Yorkers listening to music, scrolling on their phones, reading books, and staring into space.

Her eyes paused when they fell on a man reading a newspaper. Her breath caught in her chest.

There was a large image of a pigeon on the front page. Julia squinted to try and read the headline, but the man was too far away for her to make out the words. She edged closer to him from where she stood by the train door. Abruptly, the man folded the newspaper and stared right at her. Startled, Julia took a step back and looked away, but she could feel his eyes; they never left her.

She turned around to look out the subway door. When the train doors opened, she scrambled onto the platform even though it wasn’t her stop. She told herself she’d walk the rest of the way to her office. She checked over her shoulder multiple times while leaving the train station until she was sure the man on the subway hadn’t followed her.

Julia walked into the office, slightly on edge and disturbed by the morning’s events. She went to grab a water bottle from the office kitchen and tried to calm her nerves. On the walk back to her desk, she hoped she smiled at her passing colleagues instead of grimacing.

But she couldn’t tell for sure because her mind was racing with unpleasant thoughts. Who was that man on the subway, and what was that image in the paper? Surely it couldn’t have been a pigeon, and if it was, maybe, there was some sort of story about New York City pigeons. And why was that man staring at her? Well, it was hardly the first time a creepy man on the subway had looked at her. Maybe this was all in her head. This thinking calmed her down a bit.

Sighing, Julia opened her laptop to answer emails when she jumped at the sound of a thud against the window. She slowly made her way to the window that overlooked the lower side of the city. Her office was on the second floor, so she had a clear view of the pavement below.

She inhaled sharply at the sight of a few feathers stuck to the once spotless window. She scanned the ground. A speckled bird lay motionless on the sidewalk. Its body sprawled at abnormal angles, its wings crumpled underneath the carcass. People passed by the pigeon without so much as glancing at the lifeless body. Busy city life proceeded as usual.

“What are you looking at?” one of Julia’s co-workers asked. She realized she’d been gawking at
the bird for some time. Julia slowly turned to face her colleague.

“There’s a dead pigeon on the ground.” Her co-worker looked at her oddly, shrugged, and walked off. Julia stood there, gazing at the tiny corpse, until a chime on her computer pulled her away.


When she returned home that evening, Julia braced herself to see the bird on the stoop, but to her relief, it was gone. She hoped the landlord had disposed of it, so no one else had to witness such a disturbing sight.

She decided to speak to the landlord so she could thank him for the bird removal and ask if he’d seen anything unusual. She knocked on his first-floor apartment.

“Oy.” The old man opened the door with great effort. He did not seem pleased to see her, which Julia could understand after the day he’d had from removing deceased squabs from the premise.

“Hello, Mr. Abrams. I wanted to ask if you’d seen anyone strange hanging around the building or anything else out of the ordinary?”

“Strange? What’s this about strange?” He grunted. “You missin’ something? Something of yours get stolen?”

“Oh no. It’s just…” She trailed off because she suddenly felt foolish. Was a dead pigeon in the city really that odd? Would he think she was unstable for saying something? She thought back to her co-worker’s reaction.

“Never mind. Thanks anyway for removing that bird from the stoop.” She made her way to leave.

“What bird?”

Julia felt a cold chill run up her spine. She couldn’t answer, so she turned around, no matter how rude it made her seem. She hurried up the stairs to her apartment and locked the door. Once inside, she realized she was being silly. One of her neighbors could have plucked the bird from the step or even a stranger passing by.

And then she mused that she’d never met her neighbors or even seen any of them. But that was normal. Wasn’t it? She’d heard them in the hallways of the building before, hadn’t she?

A knock on the door made her scream.

“Julia, are you okay? It’s me.” Dammit. She’d forgotten her boyfriend Ernesto was coming over. More knocking. “Julia, what’s wrong? Have you been taking your meds?” She unlocked the door but didn’t step aside to let Ernesto enter.

“Sorry, you startled me.”

“Can I come in? And you didn’t answer my question.” Julia hesitated. Should she tell Ernesto what she’d experienced today? He already thinks she’s insane. This might push him over the edge.

“I’d rather be alone right now. I feel… sick.” Ernesto frowned and looked her up and down. “I think it was something I ate.”

Julia finally convinced Ernesto to be on his way after assuring him she would call him if she needed anything. Again Julia locked her front door and made sure it was triple bolted before making her way to the kitchen.

Immediately a foul order hit her nose. She gagged and placed a hand over her mouth to keep the smell at bay. She stopped. It smelled like something was decaying.

Julia slowly removed her hand to focus on where the odor was coming from. She paused in front of her kitchen sink and bent down to see what was underneath. Her hand curled around the knob, her whole body filling with unease. Her face drained of blood as she took in the horrifying image forming before her eyes.

A dead pigeon with its wings folded on its chest and its legs straight up in the air lay in the middle of the cabinet. Maggots were worming their way in and out of the dead carcass, furiously eating the lifeless bird’s flesh.

Julia ran out of her apartment in a frenzy and started banging on her neighbor’s door.

“Hello? Anyone home? I need help!”


She ran to the next apartment and knocked furiously on their door.

“Hello?” No response.

Was Ernesto still close by? She yelled out his name. When she didn’t hear anything, Julia ran up the stairs and knocked on her upstairs neighbors’ doors. Nothing.

Out of breath, she ran down to the ground floor and pounded on Mr. Abrams’ door. No answer but the door was slightly ajar. She quickly stepped into the stuffy room. “Mr. Abrams?”

She heard feathers ruffling and skidded to a halt. She quietly walked towards the bedroom. “Mr. Abrams?” she said in a whisper.

Julia slowly went to open the bedroom door. Her hand hovered above the doorknob. A feeling of dread filled her entire body. But not the same fear she felt when she saw the pigeons on her stoop or the bird below her kitchen sink; this fear was debilitating and she knew that all the awful events of the day were leading up to something even more sinister.

Before she could change her mind and race back to her apartment, the bedroom door burst open, and out flew hundreds of pigeons. Their wings flapped furiously, and their calls to each other rang with urgency.

Julia screamed as they started to descend upon her. She tried to fend them off as they pulled her hair and pecked at her flesh. A beak caught her on the forehead—blood poured into her eyes.

Another animal dug its talons into her shoulder. She tried to shake it, but its grip never faltered. With her free arm, she swatted another out of the air. Its body flew across the room and crashed into Mr. Abrams’ mirror with a loud crack. Feathers started to fall. The squawks grew louder until it seemed like the birds were living inside of Julia’s head.

She ran out of the room towards the building exit with the birds in tow. She was almost at the door, and her hand formed around the doorknob. Any second now and the birds would fly away toward the open sky. Any second, and she would be free of these awful creatures. Any second and the pain would subside. Any second…