Clementine sensed the storm approaching. Not because of extrasensory insight—though her friend Lucy would argue differently—but because her left ankle had begun aching just after lunch. The remains of her chicken sandwich sat queasily in her stomach, anticipation of bad weather having somehow stunted her digestion. The tips of her fingers tingled. Her heart galloped.
A glance at the sky outside her office proved problematic; there wasn’t a cloud to be seen, and she couldn’t very well ask to leave early because of a feeling. But she knew the storm was coming, just as she’d known about the last one, and the one before that, all the way back to the first one.
It hadn’t been her ankle that warned her, back then. At ten years old, it would be a full two years before she made the reckless leap off the back steps and suffered the nasty sprain. What warned her instead, that first time, was the odd resonance in the air as she’d stepped onto her grandmother’s porch. Clutching the dewey glass of lemonade, she’d walked toward the figure sitting still in the rocker. Only after she’d offered the glass to her grandmother, and her wrinkled hand didn’t lift to take it, did Clementine understand the source of the resonance. Silence.
“Where are the birds?” she’d asked in a small voice.
“Gone,” replied the whispery voice. “Like everyone else, they’ve gone.”
Her grandmother never did drink the lemonade, and to this day, Clementine wretched at the smell of lemons. Staring out her office window, she looked for birds. There were none. As she passed the reception area, Dominic asked where she was off to in such a hurry. She didn’t answer—didn’t even hear him—as she ran toward the stairs and the safety of the basement.