They were putting their flasks back in their leaf cloak pockets when Gretta suddenly froze and said, “Shh!” She was listening intently and looking to the sky in the direction of the forest. McDoogle’s ears perked up as well.
“What is that awful ruckus?” inquired McDoogle.
A black cloud was swirling above the forest. The undulating mass darkened an entire section of the sky. It was tracking a course high above Lake Road and it was heading directly toward them.
“The grackles!” she shouted in a whisper. “Hide now! Under your cloaks…hurry…get on the ground!”
Lizzy saw the swarming mass rushing their way. She and McDoogle both did as they were instructed and dove to the ground, huddled in a ball, and pulled their cloaks tightly around themselves. Off in the distance they could hear the high-pitched chattering that was coming from thousands of birds. The horrific noise sounded more like the squeaking shrills of tortured souls than birdsong, and it kept getting louder.
“Don’t move!” said Gretta, as quietly as she could.
Lizzy wasn’t exactly sure why they were having to hide. She had seen flocks of birds before—never this many—but she suspected they were just flying in a group like many birds do, to get from one place to another. Still, something in the sound of Gretta’s voice indicated that the situation was serious, and Lizzy realized she needed to heed the warning. She might not have understood why, but deep down she knew that it was best for her to stay out of sight.
The mass of birds was directly above them. Not only could Lizzy hear their deafening, piercing shrieks, but she could actually feel her leaf cloak moving from the wind that was generated by their aggressive, flapping wings. It seemed like an eternity, but eventually the noise started to ebb and became a long, slow decrescendo that finally faded away.
“Don’t move,” Gretta whispered again.
Gretta was listening for any hint of a grackle that might be lingering behind.
“Mr. McDoogle, do you hear anything?” Gretta had begun to appreciate McDoogle’s ears.
“Naw, Ms. Gretta, I don’t hear a thing.”
Gretta poked her head out and scanned the skies.
“Okay. They’re gone.” She let out a silent sigh of relief.
Lizzy and McDoogle crawled out from under their cloaks, stood up, and brushed themselves off. “What was that?” asked Lizzy.
“That, my dear princess, was trouble.”