Dying Embers out now

Dying Embers out now

Monday, 15 September 2014

Review: The Brittle Birds, by Anthony Cowin

Mathieu is haunted by a pivotal incident from his youth, in which his brother Dominic pushed him into a stream. While retrieving his catapult from the icy water beneath a bridge, he sustained some injuries which changed his life. But were those injuries caused by the legendary Hohokw bird, which supposedly lived under the arches of the bridge? The Brittle Birds is a short horror story by Anthony Cowin, published by Perpetual Motion Publishing. It's a story of the lasting effects of childhood trauma, and the coping mechanisms of the brothers as they grow older and realise there can be no escape from the past.


The brittle birds of the title gradually infiltrate Mathieu's life. He sees them everywhere, even under a microscope in a "chilly chemistry lab" when he's at school. Eventually he becomes convinced that they threaten his very existence, and that of those all around him. It seems that this obsession will be his undoing, yet the reader hopes against hope. This is a very well written short story; Cowin successfully builds tension, using the metaphor of the unearthly birds as harbingers of doom. In just the right amount of well-chosen words he conjures a tale which is both deceptively simple yet more than the sum of its parts, and its assured prose lends it atmosphere in spades. Each reader will make something different of this intriguing story, and its ambiguous, open ending will leave you deep in thought.