The wrought iron cage swung slightly in the warm breeze from the open window. From the cage came the most beautiful song one heard. Strangers passing by on the street would pause, cheeks lined with tears, when a memory unbidden came.
Visitors flocked from afar to crowd beside the manor's window in rapt attention. Soon a tent city erected itself, fanning outward in a smell of woodsmoke and cooking meat. The Lady of the Manor came once a day to sit in a rocking chair next to the cage and listen, her mind going in the soothing refrain, oblivious to the happenings outside.
A religion sprang up around the mystique of the birdsong, and a melodious doctrine podcast across the world. Once a day when the Lady of the Manor turned to look upon the gathered through the window, a supplicant would beseech for the glorious instrument of the earth be shown. She would always wave with a wrinkled smile, her mind going.
The seasons turned, and the manor soon became the epicenter of a new cultural and religious revolution. Buildings of timber and clay and straw and repurposed refuse. Rainbow streets of glittering bottleglass trod upon by deerhide sandals and boisterous human spirit. Gardens spilled between buildings, from roofs and terraces, tended to by women and children. The men built and built, giving a shoulder to the dreams of others. It was the dream the seventies lost. Always would the bird sing, its sound loud and clear through the perpetually open window.
The seasons turned, like they always turn. The city had become a state, and the state had become a state of mind sweeping the globe. The bird sang. The people lived and loved and sang.
One day there was silence. The cage swung in the breeze, empty.
The city was paralyzed. They stood in the hot sun, blinking. Nobody knew what to do without the wonderful birdsong that had been the constant for so long. The wind sighed. The clouds drew themselves across the domed sky. The old lady waved from the window, her mind going.
"Hey, you!" a man cried. "Where is that bird, that bird who sings so beautifully?"
The old woman smiled, her face a shrunken apple. "It's flown home."
There was an uproar. "But why? Why would you uncage it?" cried a woman.
The Lady of the Manor looked at them, her mind clear for the first time in a long time. "The cage was always open."
All those years.