Savage Things (Chaos & Ruin #2) - Callie Hart

Chapter One

MASON

A bird flew into the window of the house when I was a kid. I can’t remember what kind of bird it was. Its wings were brown, golden in places, and the tips of its feathers were tinged with a subtle blue that could only be seen at a certain angle when the light caught at them. The bird was broken. Its tiny chest rose and fell rapidly, its beak gaping open, its black eyes filled with fear. My father, high as fuck, just like always, had picked it up and placed it into my hands. I was seven years old, and he told me to wring its neck.

“Look at it, boy. It’s done. Ain’t no point in bringin’ it inside and having it shit all over the house.”

I’ll still never know why he was so concerned about the tiny, broken thing shitting all over the house. It was in no position to fly anywhere. The light in its eyes was rapidly fading as I cupped its shattered body against my chest, the cold biting fiercely at my bare hands, and I knew my father was right. The bird was dying. He didn’t have very long left to live, and I was well aware of it. I couldn’t just snap its neck, though. I couldn’t. When my father grew impatient with me, realizing that I wasn’t going to kill the creature in my hands, he tried to snatch it away from me so he could get the job done himself.

I ran.

I ran out of the yard and down the side of our duplex, vaulting over the toppled, dented trash cans, shimmying past mountains of heaped black garbage bags that were spilling their guts out onto the cracked paving stones between the building and the graffitied fence that separated our home from the dingy women’s shelter next door.

I hooked a left and ran down the street, past a row of rusting eighties muscle cars and Mr. Wellan’s broken down Ford F250. I dodged puddles, not caring when I couldn’t dodge them, when my flimsy tennis shoes sank into the shallow pools, immediately soaking wet through. I wasn’t dressed for being outside. I’d been eating dinner—fish fingers and dehydrated mashed potato—when the bird had careened into the kitchen window, startling my mother, so I’d been wearing my pajama bottoms and a thin t-shirt. Outside, with the crisp winter air stabbing at all the bare parts of my body, I was aware that it was too cold to be dashing about like a madman in next to nothing, but I didn’t have a choice. My father wasn’t going to give me one. I’d seen that mean, spiteful look in his eyes before. I knew he wouldn’t be happy until the little sparrow or blue jay or whatever it was was dead.

I ran until my feet went numb, either from the cold or from the pounding of the sidewalk underneath them. Eventually, I stopped in the doorway of a breakfast diner, panting, my heart racing, eyes stinging. I couldn’t tell if they were stinging because of the cold and the running, or because I didn’t want the bird to die and I knew there was no avoiding it. I didn’t over analyze. I just held the bird to my chest and tried to catch my breath.

I stood there for a long time, pressing my back against the prickly brick wall of the breakfast diner every time someone wanted to go in or out, pretending not to notice their concerned or annoyed expressions as they went about their business. Slowly, softly, carefully, I stroked the