The windows of the B&B Enterprises office tower ran the full height of every floor, and, like all office tower windows these days, they were mirrored on the outside so as to be tinted on the inside. On a bright day with not too many clouds in the sky, the windows could be counted on to confuse at least two or three birds.
Gordon only flinched a little, then, when a bird flew into his cubicle window and bounced off with a very solid thunk sound. He finished formatting the columns in the profit-and-loss summary he was working on before he glanced out the window to check on the bird's status. If it was lying dead or injured on the ledge, he'd have to call Real Estate Services to get someone in a window-washer's bucket to sweep it off. Company policy was that any animals found dead or injured on or in the building were to be reported immediately so they could be cleaned up. This policy had come into effect after the incident in the fifth-floor men's room between Director Fraser and the sewer rat.
Gordon startled when he saw that the bird was neither dead nor injured. The bird seemed to be in rude good health for a small creature that had just collided with the side of an office building. The feathers on its yellow body and black-barred wings were all in place, and it looked through the window with a thoughtful expression in its obsidian eyes. Gordon felt like it was inspecting him as its little yellow head twitched from side to side, observing him from all angles.
"Can it see us?" he said to no-one in particular.
"Can what see us?" said Angela, his nearest cubicle-neighbour. She popped her head up over the divider to see what Gordon was doing and spotted the bird. "Awwww!"
"Don't move around too much. I don't want to scare it," said Gordon.
"Get your cell phone! Take a picture! Or wait, I'll get mine." Angela dropped back into the depths of her cubicle. Gordon slowly took his phone off his work table and got it into position, but the bird left before he could key the lock combination and turn on the camera.
The bird came around the same time the next day, and the day after that. Co-workers made a point of dropping by Gordon's desk around when the bird was meant to show up, cell phones at the ready. The bird got caught on camera a few times, but the shots were all dim and blurry.
Director Fraser teased Gordon about his new "assistant". Fred from Accounts Payable declared the bird was an escaped canary, and that it would surely die once winter came. Stan from IT said it was a goldfinch, and not a domestic bird at all.
"How would you know?" said Fred.
"I go birdwatching on the weekends," said Stan. "My parents got me into it when I was a little kid. It's their favourite hobby."
"I guess that's why you have an opinion about it," said Fred. "But I think it's a canary. But, you know," he added when Stan opened his mouth to protest, "we're all entitled to our own opinions. It's just a bird. It doesn't matter."
Stan left, muttering something under his breath about goldfinches.
The bird appeared on the window ledge outside of Gordon's cubicle every day for two weeks. On that last Friday, it alighted just as Gordon was e-mailing his profit-and-loss report. He hit "send" and turned to say hello to the bird. The bird looked him side-to-side one last time, then flew away.
"That was a short visit," Angela said from the other side of the cubicle divider.
"I still can't decide if he can see inside or not," said Gordon. "Maybe the cloud patterns are a little different today. Might be throwing off his game."
"It's still a beautiful day," said Angela.
"It is," said Gordon. "Do you want to hit a patio after work? Quick dinner and a beer?"
Angela thought that was a great idea.
The bird flew over the vacant lot next door to the office tower, over the ravine with the underpass to the shopping mall, over the professional services development centre. It shifted course to fly over a set of identical white-sided townhouses, and flew into an open second-storey window in one of them. Once inside, it alighted on a computer workstation desk and walked across it to a small metal plate. The bird froze the moment both feet were on the plate. Somewhere downstairs a bell chimed.
There was the sound of a heavy tread on the stairs, and then a man entered the workroom. "Welcome home," he said to the bird, giving the top of its head a light pat. He pushed on the bird's black-feathered forehead, which made the lower jaw drop open. Where the bird's tongue should have been was a micro USB port.
The man plugged the loose end of a USB cable into the port in the bird's mouth, then turned his attention to the computer monitor. Images of Gordon's cubicle appeared. Most of the images were too grey to register much, but his computer screen was bright and sharp.
The man zoomed in on one image. "Interesting," he said.
A few images later he began to laugh.