9 min read

Zaferree Making Weather Forecasts with Voices, by Reggie Kwok

Pink and white parrot flying downwards against a bright blue sky
Photo by Chris Charles / Unsplash

Content warnings

Hearing voices; Psychosis; Schizophrenia; Mental Health Crisis; Institutionalisation.

Snow fell, and Zaferree the peach-colored bird needed to find shelter before he froze to death.

The voices didn’t do a great job of finding a good home for him. Various species from the last twenty houses rejected him. He could fly south for the winter, but his wings weren’t strong enough for long distances. By the time he hit the south, the time to fly back to the north would arrive.

Ugh, what did he have to do to find a home?

Follow my lead, and we can find a home to sleep in.

He didn’t know the voices’ names, but he listened to what they had to say. The voices were his only friends. They said the snow would stop soon but never when. As Zaferree trudged through the snow, the voices kept repeating that the snow would stop, but the snow blocked the bird’s vision.

Go to the peach apartment.

Zaferree couldn’t find it, but music burst. He wasn’t sure if the music came from the voices or not, but every time he strayed from the path, a screech from inside of him would reorient him back on the path. He stopped at a peach-colored door, and he used his head to knock.

Towering over the bird, a chubby human with a peach tank-top and shorts opened the door. The home could warm the bird enough without winter clothing. Zaferree could live here year-round if he received permission. The bird would have to convince the human somehow. But what could he say to him?

The human said, “Tell me the weather.”

“It’s snowing,” Zaferree responded.

High of thirty degrees, low of twenty-seven degrees, a total of five inches of snow will fall overnight.

And Zaferree added what the voices had to say to his prediction.

“How do I know that you didn’t look it up on a phone?” The human folded his arms.

“I’m too poor to own a phone.”

“If you are right, I might be staring at a miracle.”

The human brought the bird into his hands, and for the

first time during that winter, Zaferree felt warmth.

Early the next morning, Zaferree woke the human up from his sleep. The human introduced himself as Omar. He took a ruler and measured the snow outside. In addition, he checked online. According to forecasters, the snow measured exactly five inches.

Omar asked, “What will the weather be like tomorrow morning and afternoon in this town?”

Zaferree closed his eyes and focused on listening to the voices.

Rain in the morning, sun in the afternoon. High of thirty-seven degrees, low of thirty degrees.

And Zaferee repeated what the voices said.

The next day, he was right. An inch of rain fell in the morning, and then around noon the sun came out.

In the living room, Omar and Zaferree enjoyed a quick snack of caramel and cheese popcorn. Using a laptop, they watched videos on social media of amateur weather forecasters. Omar switched to the state’s forecasters, who did their job a whole lot better.

Omar pointed at the screen. “That’s what I want to do for a living. Imagine a channel with only weather forecasts. We could revolutionize how to receive the weather. You can be the predictor, and I can communicate your predictions to the world.”

How far would the voices go to make predictions about the weather? What if the voices multiplied? How would his head handle the voices? Zaferree wanted to work but to stay safe as well.

“Let’s do it,” Zaferree said.

At first, Zaferree predicted the weather for only the town that they were in. Omar did most of the video work while Zaferree focused on the voices telling him the weather. The first video gained a couple of views.

One comment asked, “How did he do that?”

The next video introduced Zaferree, where he performed a forecast for the next day on camera. When forecasts proved to be accurate, his videos attracted attention. Soon, commenters were asking if Zaferree could create forecasts for other cities and towns.

When Omar asked for more forecasts, Zaferree agreed, and the voices multiplied. Soon, Zaferree kept a journal of every forecast that he heard, and Omar would repeat them in his videos. And the forecasts were accurate.

Omar received a direct message on one of his social media apps from WCVB.

Omar said, “They wanted to speak to you in person at the news station.”

“Why not you too?” Zaferree asked.

Omar shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe they hate my face.”

“Could you bring me there?”

“You can fly, right? I have never ventured to Needham before, so I don’t feel comfortable going there myself.”

Zaferree frowned. “I don’t know where the building is. And I don’t own a phone like you do.”

“I’ll print out instructions and you can start flying tomorrow.”

Even though they had met recently, Zaferree didn’t want to fly alone to the news station. He recalled the snow he fought through before finding his home. Then, a simple fact comforted him. He could predict what the weather would be like tomorrow, and the trip would be fine. The voices said the weather would be cloudy.

When Zaferree flew, no clouds were in the sky, but a bad prediction didn’t bother him. The flight was the main problem. As he took off, the temperature felt warmer than usual. Wasn’t it supposed to be cold on a winter morning?

During the flight, the clouds came. The voices were right after all.

A radio antenna caught his attention. Holding a pair of binoculars, a woman in a red winter coat waved to the bird. Zaferree landed.

She asked, “Do you want a job?”

A job? Omar would enjoy a job like this. But before Zaferree said yes, he had to figure out what the job entailed.

“Not talkative, huh. Just listen. You’ll be our official mascot for the news channel. We only need your predictions. You’ll be talked about all over Massachusetts.”

Zaferree tilted his head. “What’s the catch?”

“You will be covering predictions for eastern Massachusetts. You’ll tell one of your coworkers about the predictions, and they’ll put it into a computer. That’s all. So what do you say?”

Zaferree had to take a few minutes to think about the offer. On one wing, he wanted to be safe, but on the other wing, he could become very popular through his predictions and forecasts. He had to take the offer.

And he started right away with the voices cheering as he entered indoors.

By the time Zaferree finished his shift at night, his head felt heavy and empty at the same time. He couldn’t fly straight. When the bird found his home, he crashed against the door. Omar opened it for Zaferree, who lay on the concrete.

Omar asked, “Did you knock on your own home?”

“I got the—” Zaferree’s last word was vague.

Omar picked Zaferree up and carried him to the sofa in the living room. “Job? Did you now?”

“Yes, that. It’s so cold outside.”

“Do you have time to record a video with me? Our viewers deserve to hear the good news.”

Zaferree felt empty inside of him, but he couldn’t communicate why. Now that he had given predictions to the state’s newscast, he didn’t feel like appearing in the video would be right. He couldn’t say goodbye, not after all the fans he gained. He would rather fade away in a quiet place while he moved on to his new career.

The voices kept repeating the same word, sleep, in his head. At the same time, the voices kept him awake.

“Are you okay, buddy?” Omar asked. “You’re quiet.”

“I’m tired. It’s been a long day.”

“I guess I’ll give the news by myself then.”

But Zaferree couldn’t sleep.

As workdays passed, the voices came into Zaferree’s head like a thunderstorm that would never stop. Some of the voices were usual predictions that he would offer to his coworkers. Other content was nonsense. Then, there was a constant ringing in his head that he couldn’t get out.

His predictions grew less accurate over time. The forecasters were leaving out the predictions due to the outrageousness of it all. Why would there be an earthquake at three pm? Who would have thought of hail all day? Soon, none of the predictions were true.

When the voices predicted a flood, Zaferree perched on top of the building where he worked and met his boss. He listened to the voices as the flood didn’t come.

And his boss came to say he was fired.

For the rest of the day, Zaferree reclined on the sofa at Omar’s home and listened to the voices. He didn’t want to do anything. He remained alone, where even Omar didn’t recognize Zaferree was there. He didn’t want another job or another video appearance. The voices were there.

The voices told him to kill himself, but he didn’t know how.

The computer would tell him. Or maybe he could fly so high and fall to the ground so that he would kill himself from the height. How high could he fly in the first place? Maybe he could fly so high that the temperature could kill him. But the cold never killed him in the past.

So how could he die?

He couldn’t cry. All the tears were already out of him.

Omar spotted Zaferree. “Hey, why are you here? Shouldn’t you be at work?”

“The voices say there’s a tornado. The voices say there’s an earthquake. The voices say to kill myself. So, fuck me.”

“Hold on.” Omar left the living room.

Zaferree was alone, so he hopped from the sofa to the streaming room. There, he found a computer. He needed a pin to unlock the computer. He tried common pin number combinations and got in with one two three four five. Then, he went to the search engine and researched how he could kill himself.

Omar said, “You need help.”

Zaferree squawked, flapped once, and landed sideways on the floor. Zaferree stared at Omar, who read what was on the screen.

“I already called for help.” Omar picked up Zaferree and headed to the sofa in the living room.

“Who did you call?”

“Emergency services.”

“You are sending me to the hospital?”

“Yes. No. Well, I used the numbers my case worker and my therapist gave me. Someone is going to talk to you, and that person will take it from there.”

“What is going to happen?”

“The same moves that happened to me, I guess.”

Omar invited the worker into his home, and through a proper assessment, the worker sent Zaferree to a psychiatric hospital.

During his stay, Zaferree slept a lot. As the medicine that he took at night settled in his body, the voices narrowed down to two, but they were kind toward him. Most of the day, he did activities prepared by the staff, read, ate, and slept. At three pm every day, Omar would visit. Omar would talk about his videos, and Zaferree would listen. Three days in, Zaferree spoke up to Omar.

The bird said, “Omar, I think I have schizophrenia.”

“I do, too.” Omar smiled.

“So that’s how you knew who to call.”

“If I were to call 911, you would have gone to the wrong type of hospital, so I just used the number my therapist gave me.”

“I guess I’m going to get some people to help me, too. I should ask about that, huh?”

Omar nodded.

Zaferree was friendly without being friends toward the other beings. He watched as some patients left the hospital while others entered it. Even an activities coordinator had to say goodbye when a new hire arrived. Zaferree waited for his turn to say goodbye.

Before Zaferree left the psychiatric hospital, he received contacts over video calls to a temporary case worker, a therapist, and a psychiatrist. After that, he entered the world again.

Three months later, Zaferree perched on Omar’s shoulder. They announced the weather on their social media channel, which had maintained its audience as before.

Omar smiled. “Don’t forget to like and follow the channel.”

Zaferree fell off.

“Or you’ll wind up like my buddy.”

Off camera, Zaferree stood up and flapped his wings. “I’m okay!”

Omar ended the recording.

Was injecting humor into the forecast working? A humor-based weather channel hadn’t been done before. Were the jokes landing or not? Only the comments could tell, and they didn’t receive many comments.

Zaferree didn’t fly as much. He would rather stay at home. When he wasn’t reading, he would write. Sometimes, he would record what the voices said for his therapist. Other times, he would express his feelings for that day. On the right day, a script for a video would come to mind, and he would write it down to show to Omar, who was always monitoring the weather.

The voices would give the bird an accurate forecast of the weather for the town he lived in, one for the day and another for night. Sometimes, the voices would give an outrageous prediction, which Zaferree ignored.

Zaferree rejected forecasting jobs, for he didn’t want to be triggered again.

Zaferree and Omar continued to make videos together, and they lived a fulfilling life with moderate success.

Reggie Kwok

Reggie Kwok holds a B.A. in English and a master’s in education. He currently lives in Massachusetts, USA. His Twitter is @KwokReggie. His Bluesky is @reggiekwok.bsky.social. He had short stories published at Samjoko Magazine, Underland Arcana, Scrawl Place, Androids and Dragons and one forthcoming at Zooscape.