The back wheel of the 10 speed bike locked up bringing cyclist and cycle to a halt. Andrew left one foot on the pedal and the other foot on the ground to steady himself. He looked up and his helmet slid to the back of his head. Far above him in the towering lone eucalypt perched Magpie. When Magpie focussed on the rider its red eyes seemed to glow. Andrew swallowed hard. He fought against the urge to turn around. There was only one way to school and it was a direct path through the Magpie’s territory.

The band-aids on Andrews ears bore testimony to the vicious attacks of the Magpie. As each moment passed, Andrew’s courage withered like the desert wind blasting a field of corn.

“It’s now or never.” thought Andrew.

Andrew plucked up what few grains of courage he could find and pushed off to break the inertia of his bike. He brought his grounded foot up and onto the pedals. He stood with each piston like push of the pedal. He tried to get as much speed as could before he entered the territory of Magpie. As he gained momentum each turn of the pedals brought more speed. Andrew now had enough pace to make it safely through.

The shadow of the great tree was only metres away when a hot wind blasted his face with dust and debris. His eyes stung and dust coated his already dry mouth. As he clenched his teeth, the grains of sand scratched and scraped making an unbearable noise. Every urge inside Andrew was screaming for him to stop the bike and stop the pain. He couldn’t stop. With one hand, he wiped some dust from his eyes and steadied himself. He looked up where the Magpie was perching. The Magpie was gone but he could feel it’s gaze.

Like London searchlights looking for German bombers, Andrew scoured the heavens as he looked for any sign of the Magpie. He even hoped for another victim, someone else to take his humiliation. The Magpie remained elusive. Andrew passed the shadow of the tree and was now in full sunlight again. As he put his head down to push on his heart skipped a beat. The shadow of the Magpie was behind him. His peripheral vision giving him a moment to pick up some more speed before the winged beast was upon him.

The Magpie’s beak snapped at his already bandaged ear and Andrews legs began to move with the fury of pistons in an engine. Again and again the Magpie swooped and swooped. Each time the terrifying click was enough to spur Andrew on to greater feats of cycling prowess.

As soon as it had started, it was over. The Magpie while relentless in it’s territory became a sentinel perched on a bough at the edge of his domain once the victim has passed through. Andrew parked his bike at the rack and went to school. He saw his friends and was once again safe. They had seen the whole thing and thought it was hilarious. The intense fear was soon forgotten.

School couldn’t be finished with quick enough and Andrew and his mates raced out to the bike rack. They rounded the corner and stopped, the last of them just about ran into the group. The blood drained from Andrew’s face as he looked at the bike rack. The Magpie perched on his handle bars with a red gleam in his bead like eyes. The black and white beak seemed sharper than ever. Andrew thought he could see blood on the beak. He stumbled forward as he leaned to get a closer look.

The Magpie walked awkwardly to the edge of the handle bars never breaking Andrews gaze. With an effortless hop off the edge, the Magpie was in the air, it’s wings spread for flight. Its black and white body lifted high to a nearby branch. Ready.