Do you remember the Judgement Bird? Remember? It was in Dublin Zoo. It was a huge thing with dark grey feathers and deep set eyes that peered straight into your soul. It usually just stood there with its wings all folded up but when it extended them it was a sight to behold. The span was enormous, like some mighty cloak it could wrap you in and you'd never see the sun again. It was night time under those wings. It was the world before light.
We all made the pilgrimage. We'd queue up and watch the Judgement Bird as it watched us. Judging us. Silently calling us to account. Feelings of great guilt would befall all who looked upon the Judgement Bird. There would be sudden sobs and confessions. 'I slept with your missus', 'I diverted the funds', 'I cogged me maths ekker', that sort of thing. Politicians and various establishment figures seemed reluctant to visit the zoo around that time. There was even an attempt made on the Judgement Bird's life but the assassin broke down and took his own life instead. I heard John Charles McQuaid curled into a ball and rocked to and fro for four days just after seeing the Judgement Bird on the telly.
There was something in the Judgement Bird's eyes. Something primeval, something pure and atavistic, irrefutably authentic and devoid of mercy. Something that spoke of a world lost to us or perhaps even rejected by us. The Judgement Bird seemed to be from an angry Eden. No one actually knew where it was from. It wasn't captured or anything. It just landed in the monkey enclosure. The monkeys were quite deferential where it came to the Judgement Bird and shared their food with it. The zoologists didn't have a clue what type of bird it was exactly. They guessed it was some kind of crane or a stork but who knows? It looked a bit like a giant vulture to me. An ornithologist lost three fingers approaching the Judgement Bird so it was left alone after that.
Even people who didn't do anything wrong felt guilty when they met the gaze of the Judgement Bird. They said that they felt incriminated for behaving themselves in the wrong way, in the way of man, a corrupted way. 'You are not good', the Judgement Bird seemed to say to them, 'you are just scared, obsequious and indoctrinated.' Only very small children enjoyed visiting the Judgement Bird. Everyone else dreaded it but felt compelled to return to it again and again. 'It's like confession', said one visitor, 'only it's God on the other side of the grille and not some dreary old hypocritical bollix'.
The day came when the Judgement Bird took off. First it did a dance of sorts, stretching out its legs, moving around in a staccato fashion and throwing its head about. Storm clouds, great and black, gathered above as it performed. Then the Judgement Bird opened its wings and lifted up and soared away. It was swallowed up by the premature night it had summoned. It never came back.
The Cosgrave government had all footage of the Judgement Bird immediately destroyed. The only thing rumoured to remain of the Judgement Bird is a long streak of silver shite it left behind that was smuggled from the zoo by one of the lads that cleaned out the enclosures. If you know who to ask, you can get brought to a secret place where you can look at the Judgement Bird's shite. They say there's a queer smell off the shite and when you inhale it you're left with the tremendous sensation that we've all let ourselves down. This sensation is said to be accompanied by another feeling, a premonition of sorts is how it is described. It's said that upon smelling the shite of the Judgement Bird you are possessed with an unnerving certainty that the Judgement Bird will return and, when that day comes, it will not be alone.