Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.
They returned to the Lost Quarter upon the wind from the south, majestic in flight, a vast arrow upon the sky. When they grew tired they descended to rest for the night along a river or a lake, or any patch of ground that held water. The next day they continued their journey, though as they came farther north they left a few of their company behind, their fellows choosing to remain there for the summer. The rest bid their goodbyes, hoping to see each other again when autumn came and they all began the same journey south.
Eventually they came to a river where many of their kind stayed for the winter, for the ice only rarely covered it over completely. Its course wandered through a habitation of Man, which, while having its annoyances particular to that species, afforded a degree of safety. Their usual enemies kept their distance from these territories, staying in the hinterlands. That was their ultimate destination as well – life was good there even if danger came with it – though it was always tempting to stay by the river for the season. They never did though, home was elsewhere, and it called to them each year they came north.
They descended with the rest of their companions, intending to spend a day or two gathering their strength and seeing old friends and family. Some of their children had chanced to settle here and it was always good to see them when the opportunity came.
The river they landed upon had changed, though they didn’t realize it immediately. The waterway itself was as it had always been. There was ice still clinging to the banks in places and they settled upon one floe calling out to anyone who was near to announce their arrival. They spent some hours there catching up before wandering into the habitation. It was always challenging with so many humans running about in their contraptions, but they had constructions that provided wonderful vantage points and there was the odd bit of greenery scattered about that offered places to feast.
As they wandered about the habitation, flying from building to building and calling out to everyone they encountered, they hardly noticed a change. It was only when a brazen magpie darted by calling out to all who could hear – they’ve left, they’ve left – that they realized the truth of the matter. The humans were absent and the river was theirs.