It's time to aggravate some villagers and steal a new bell!
Generally, you have your fun, you steal a new shiny bell, and then you spend the next several days relaxing and enjoying goose life. Eating bugs and water plants, swimming, spending time with other geese… dealing with humans is stressful. Fun, but stressful. Eventually, though, the boredom of the same-old same-old daily routine sets in, and the desire to eat sandwiches and other novel food that's bad for you but oh so yummy gets more powerful, and finally, it comes to a head and you quest back into the village for fun, excitement, and maybe a new shiny bell. And that's what's happening today.
Except things are strangely different.
Usually, you get started with the garden. You've been thinking about eating some of the cabbage, and maybe the leafy greens off the tops of some carrots… you can't actually eat the carrots themselves, they're too tough, but the green leafy tops are tasty. So you turn on the sprinkler, expecting the gardener to come out and turn it off.
And you wait.
And you wait.
Finally you go to the garden gate and peer in through it. There is no gardener in there. There's no boots, there's no hat, and there's no human being.
That can't be right. At this time of day the gardener is always in there! You walk around the side and through the arch in the hedge, pushing aside a sack of grass seed, or dirt, or whatever it is.
The radio's gone. There's no thermos, no apple, no jam. There are gardening tools, and you listlessly pick them up and drop them places, but all the fun is gone with no gardener.
The back gate is locked. You're not going to be able to get out on the rest of your route through there, but you know a couple of other ways. So you leave the garden through the arch and head up its side, going toward the wishing well… but there's a locked gate there too, and the locking mechanism is on the opposite side from you. You try swimming upstream to the stairs, to take them to the pub, but there's a locked gate there, too.
What to do?
Well. You're a resourceful goose. You go back in and grab the chair in the garden. It's heavy, and bulky, and it doesn't want to fit through the arch in the hedge, but when you try to go open the gate you can't because it's locked with a key, so you painstakingly rip parts of the hedge away with your beak until the chair fits through. Then you drag it to the gate that blocks your path to the wishing well.
Next hurdle. You can't actually get up on that chair. You flap, but to no avail. You can't get lift.
So, next solution! You go and get the rake and drag it out to the chair. By laying it so it falls on the chair, you've made yourself a ramp… sort of. It's not a very good ramp; you fall off it three times while trying to use it to get up on the chair. But finally, you are on the chair, and that makes you high enough that you can reach down over the top of the gate and pluck out the pin holding the gate shut.
This is a precarious position, and you tip over and fall on the other side of the gate anyway. You fluff your wings indignantly, trying to pretend you meant to do that.
From here, you waddle up the path to the wishing well, and turn toward the alley that goes behind the garden. There's a gate there, but the pin's on your side, so you open it easily and head down the alley, out to the street. No puddle on the ground today. You go past that to the High Street Market.
The shops' doors are closed and locked – which is normal – but the lights are off inside and when you peer in, there are no humans. Not normal. The outdoor market is gone. The tables are there, but there's nothing on them.
As you waddle past, you see that the market lady is in her garage, with the door open. She is packing vegetables in boxes festooned with colorful stamps. You feel a sense of great relief. There's a human! She's not out in the street where she ought to be, but she's still mucking about with her goods for sale, and that means there's still something fun for you to steal!
Stealthily you creep into the garage, your eye on a nice bunch of spring onions. She sees you before you have a chance. "Shoo! Shoo!" she yells, waving her broom at you. "Business is hard enough right now, I don't need your shenanigans, goose!" Not that you understand any of the sounds coming out of her mouth; it's all gibberish to you. You don't speak human. But you get the message. She doesn't want you there. Which is absolutely normal and fills you with more relief.
The problem is, the garage is too small. She can see the door from anywhere in the garage that she is, and you can't sneak in from any other direction. After several times of having a broom waved at you, you give up and head toward the houses where there's a gap in one of the fences.
Most houses are pretty impervious to you, their fences well repaired and tight, but one human who likes to sit out in his yard and read the paper, or smoke his pipe, has a gap he just never gets around to repairing, and you can easily peck the loose boards down. You slip in, heading toward the man and all the lovely things he likes to keep with him that you can steal – slippers, pipe, glasses, oh, the possibilities!
He's sitting there, as usual, eating toast and drinking tea. He's not wearing his usual sweater and pants and shirt and tie; he's wearing a brown bathrobe that matches his slippers. "Hello, goose," he says tiredly. You understand his tone, if not his words. "I should have expected you to come by sooner or later. Would you like some toast?"
You cock your head at him quizzically, and he tosses you a bit of toast. This confuses you. The man never gives you anything; you steal things from him. "Go on," he says, waving his hand at you. "It's for you. You can have it."
Well. You're not one to turn down a gift, so you take the toast and munch on it. Bread gives you tummy troubles and sometimes makes your croup feel unpleasantly full, but it tastes so good.
"If you're looking for Elizabeth, you won't find her. They took her to the hospital yesterday, poor woman. She's been poorly for a week or so, but it looked to me as if she was beating the thing. We've been chatting, across the fence, you know. Maintaining a safe distance, though I think I've already had it, perhaps – had a terrible cold and a fever last month, but I didn't think anything of it then. It's normal to get the flu a bit in the winter months, right?"
You finish your toast and honk for more. The man tosses you a crust. Good enough.
"I know you like to go out Liz's fence to head up to the pub, but you may as well not; it's closed. All nonessential business is locked down." The man shook his head. "It's terrible, it is. All of this. Who'd have thought things would come to this in the modern age? All our science and they can't stop this virus."
You honk again hopefully.
"No more, that's all the toast. Here." The man offers you his hat. "I'm not going to be going out for some time, so I won't need my hat. You may as well have it."
You don't understand a single thing the man has said, but he sounds sad, and he's giving you his hat. Normally he chases you when you take his hat.
You take the hat and head down toward the gate to the woman's yard. You rip off the ribbon tying the gate closed and step through, looking for the woman.
She's not there.
All her things are there. Her silly fish statue. The goose statue with the lovely ribbon that you want her to put around your neck. The chimes. The bell that you like to set off to startle both the man and the woman. But she's not there.
You check the spot in the lady's fence where she pulls out her pretty picture of a goose with the bright red circle around it and puts it up, but it's still a fence, and you can't get through it.
You pull the drawer out so the chest of drawers in the back collapses and lets you walk up it, back into the man's garden, and back out the hole you made. You can't have any fun here; the man is giving you things, and the woman isn't even here. You can't get a ribbon for your neck if she isn't here. And you can't get out the back to head to the pub. So you head back out the gap in the man's fence, return to the wishing well, and turn in the direction of the pub.
The door to the pub is closed. You've never seen it that way. It's a metal arch and it's always been wide open before, no evidence that there's even a door. Apparently there's a metal grid that clips to it to seal it shut. Who knew?
You can see through the grid, and through the metal bars of the fence all around the pub area. There are no humans in there. No delivery people. No annoying burly men who like to chase geese. No old men playing darts. No waitress tidying the tables. Nothing.
You try many times to get into the pub by getting over the fence, or through the bars. Nope. You'd need a chair or a box or something to use as a ramp, and you don't have anything. This is very distressing. You always use the pub as a way to get to the model village and take a shiny bell!
This requires thought.
The thought occurs to you that you have never gone down the street that runs perpendicular to the street that ends in the pub. You've been as far as the house next to the one right outside the woman's garden, and in the other direction as far as just past the doors of the big building next to the pub, but you haven't actually explored any further down either street. You are a goose of habit, and your habit is to go into the pub, make a ruckus, steal some things, and then sneak out the back to go to the model village.
So you head back to the perpendicular street and walk down it past the doors of the big building, and onward.
At one point you pass a human on a bicycle, who is wearing a bandana around his mouth and who has a box strapped to the back of his bike. He's the only human you see on your entire walk.
Eventually you encounter another intersection, and turn. As a goose, your brain is engineered for flight even if your body's too heavy to pull it off; you have excellent spatial perception, so you know that this is the general direction you need to go to get to the model village.
Windows are open. You hear humans, and sometimes, if there's a cellar door that's shaped like a ramp up the wall, and a window directly above it, you can walk up it and see the people inside. But why aren't any of them out and about? Why is everything closed? It's a nice sunny day; why are people all in their houses?
You make another turn, and now the model village is in sight. There's a gate, which is open, leading into the streets of the model village that you were never able to get to before. Cheerfully you stroll down the road, until you come within sight of the castle. You stop in shock and utter dismay.
Every time you destroy the castle to get at the bell in the belfry, the humans fix it before you come back. Every time. But they haven't done it this time. The castle is still crumbled on the ground the way you left it. There's no shiny bell to make beautiful sounds.
You pace around the castle, going around the loop to look at the castle from every possible angle. You peck at a hedge and tear it to shreds so you can duck under the fence and get in at where the castle is. It doesn't change no matter what angle you look at it. The castle is destroyed, exactly as you left it, and there's no bell. The humans haven't fixed it.
Dispiritedly you head back the way you usually go, and find the back gate to the pub area. It's locked, but it's the kind of latch you can easily pull open with your beak. In the back area, there's a gate to the pub itself, which you can't open – you've never been able to open it, so that hardly means much – and the opening to the underside of the deck. You stroll through the underside of the deck and come out to the pub area.
Up on the deck you find bins of forks, spoons and knives, and you run around with a knife in your beak for a bit, for fun, but in the end it didn't mean anything. No humans to harass. The nice pub ladies who give you a flower sometimes when you perform for them aren't there. The waitress isn't there. No one is there.
You can't get back out through the front of the pub – there's still a metal gate clipped to the arch. There's no break in the fence anywhere.
This is really depressing. Where are the humans?
You have to go back out the long way since you can't get out through the pub – all the way back to the model village, through the hole you pecked in the hedge, back out into the village. You try going in a different direction, this time, hoping to find someone, somewhere. Why are all the humans in their houses?
The delivery van drives by. The delivery woman has a mask on her face. You try to follow it, but it goes too fast.
There's a human walking a dog. You give them a wide berth; you don't really want to have to fight a dog. They're more vicious than humans and less easily intimidated, and not fun to harass. The dog barks at you. "It's just the village goose, Max," the human says to the dog. You don't understand that, but you can hear that the human's voice is muffled, because they're wearing a mask too.
When you reach the woodlands around the village, you stop. This area of the woods isn't your territory and you don't want to get into a fight with other geese. Or crows. Those little bastards are nasty.
You trudge back the way you came, and return to areas of the village you're familiar with. The church bell tolls. At least that's normal. The sun is getting low, and you're hungry. There's nothing for a goose to eat, in an empty village devoid of humans, outside of the occasional flower, and some foliage you're partial to. The toast was the last substantial food you had.
Eventually you reach the garden, where you eat some weeds, and some cabbage, and a few carrot tops, and you feel better, but you're hankering for some bugs and tiny fish. Also, your feet hurt and you want to soak them in some water and relax. This whole day has depressed you beyond belief.
Your head hangs low on your long neck as you slide back into the water near the garden, heading back home. You're only a goose, and you don't understand what's going on, but your routine has been disrupted and things you didn't expect are happening. You feel sad and afraid in a way you never have before – not afraid like the sheer animal terror of running into a predator, like a fox or a dog, but afraid in a dully uncertain way. What if the humans never come outside again? What if there's never another shiny bell to take, or nice ladies to give you flowers? What if the lady with the goose statue never comes back to put a ribbon around your neck?
Back in your home, you look down at your shiny bell collection. Normally it makes you happy and excited to look down at them. Today you just feel anxious and sad.