Sonny approached the shed. A couple of the others tried to dissuade him from going in, but his mind was made up. He stopped at the entrance and looked inside; it was dim, but he could see two chickens were already in there. Something brushed against his foot: a feather, one of Winston’s. It lay across his toes for a moment before swirling away in the breeze. Sonny took a deep breath and entered the shed. In the shadow he saw the old brown hen. She looked at him with the face of someone who had just caught a glimpse of hell, and what’s worse, it seemed she’d seen it before. Without a word or gesture she left. Perched low in front of Winston’s straw bed was Ivan. He turned around and saw Sonny.
“He’s gone,” he said.
Sonny kept his distance, and nodded. “I heard.”
“This isn’t something you want to see.”
“I do want to see.”
Ivan stood upright and faced Sonny. “He’s dead, that’s all that matters. If not now, then I would have challenged him, you know. He wouldn’t have survived—the old rooster was weak.”
“I want to see him, Ivan.”
“All right, if that’s what you want.”
Ivan stepped aside, fixing his eyes on Sonny as he walked up to Winston’s bed. The old rooster lay on his right side, with his neck stretched out and his left wing bent back at an unnatural angle. Feathers were strewn all about and dark blood stained the straw. Around Winton’s neck feathers had been plucked. His neck and face were covered in deep cuts, almost shredded to pieces. His face was barely recognisable: his skull was caved in on one side, his comb almost torn off, and his left eye socket was just a black, oozing crater.
Sonny shuddered and ruffled his feathers, but did not take his eyes off Winston.
“It was a fox,” said Ivan.
“Huh?” Sonny looked at him.
Ivan stood over Sonny and said, “A fox killed Winston.”
“A fox didn’t do that.” Rocco stood at the door. “He’s been hacked up and left there. Look—there’s a hole right through his head! Don’t tell me a fox did that.”
“You’re hysterical, Rocco,” said Ivan. “Go outside.”
Rocco took an unwilling step back. Ivan puffed out his chest and stamped his foot, and then Rocco lowered his head and went out.
“You should go too, Sonny,” said Ivan.
The little grey rooster took one last look at his old mentor, and then left the shed.
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