It was while I was on my morning walk singing All the Single Ladies to the cows in the front paddock that I heard it.
There is little in this world that will send the prickle of terror up your spine like the clacking of a magpie in your ear.
I had just reached the "uh uh oh, uh uh oh, uh uh oh, uh uh oh" - you know it, don't say you don't - when the magpie swooped.
My "uh uh oh" turned into an "uh uh aaaaaahhhh", sending me scuttling up the path more like Quasimodo than Beyonce.
It was in that moment, with one arm waving madly in the air and my body bent to protect the softer bits, that I saw red. I also saw a streak of black and white as the villain flew away, but the red remained.
This year, this damned rotten year. I might have used another word.
I had already altered my morning route. Through trial and error I discovered two lots of protective feathered parents down the road to the right, and another pair down the road to the left. In a step I have not had to take in seven years, I changed my routine to walking laps of the long driveway.
And now this. Would I have to walk on our own driveway, throwing in the occasional token jog, wearing one of those dorky helmets with cable ties sticking out of it?
It was the final straw. Drought, pandemic, unaccountable tragedies, the endless Donald Trump monologue, whales casting themselves on the sand, and now this.
A bloody magpie.
Had I threatened its chicks? No. Had I hurled stones at its nest? No.
I was minding my own business, communing with the cows, watching dawn turn the paddocks pink and gold.
Enough already. What was going on?
I poured my anger out at the magpie who watched from its tree. I stood there - at a safe distance - and yelled at it and the world. Why were we fed this rubbish about magpies saving lives and palling around with people in need? Purely and simply, this bird wanted to take a piece out of my ear.
Then the wind went out of my sails. I continued my walk up to the gate and stood on the cattle grid, looking down the long, empty road - the road guarded in each direction by clacking beaks.
I turned around and walked home, waving one arm disinterestedly above my head to ward off the watcher in the tree.
This year just feels like that. You are up, you're running, you're boogeying to Beyonce. Then the air is sliced with a clacking threat and you're all boogied out.
Bugger it, it must be time to dig out the bike helmet.
Marie Low is a freelance journalist based in Gunnedah, New South Wales.