Eventually, of course, the pigeons did assert dominion over humanity, and as the cities fell one by one to their wrath, Anežka and I ran for our lives along the wrecked and twisted desolation of what once had been the M6. At her insistence, and without further explication, I had packed a bag with every mirror I could lay my hands upon. Keeping keen watch on the sky, I lifted the flap for her approval.

“Birds don’t recognize their own reflections,” Anežka finally explained. “We can use these to camouflage our shelter.”

After what had felt like hours of agonizing progress up shattered roads and through ruined countryside, yet with the morning sun still barely shifted along its course, we happened upon a crumpled van planted nose down in a ditch. It bore a mighty gash on one side, as if through which its previous occupants had been expelled with great force, but otherwise, the van appeared to be habitable. As the southern horizon began to darken and resound with the familiar dreaded squalling, we fearfully but resolutely assembled the mirrors about the vehicle and climbed inside.

It was Anežka who discovered the amateur radio hidden beneath a musty blanket on the van’s floor, and for the first time that day, her thin and somber face yielded a smile. “It works!” she declared, almost brightly. “We could try to call for help.” Then, as if compulsively, her demeanor reasserted itself with a guarded “if…

“If anyone out there is still alive to call, you mean,” I offered.

“No,” she countered glumly, as screeching, winged doom descended on our refuge, “I mean, if we are.”

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