Roy Strang is in a coma after attempting to commit suicide, where he alternates between reliving the memories of his life as a terrible person and a hallucinatory dream world where he hunts birds in South Africa. Roy's flashbacks show us the awful upbringing he suffered through as the son of impoverished and violent parents in a housing project in Scotland. He suffers at the hands of neighborhood kids and his own family, including his father. When Roy is still a child, the family moves to South Africa, but they return to Scotland after his father is arrested for beating a taxi driver who tried to rob him.
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Roy becomes a teenage hooligan. His fellow thugs kidnap and gang-rape a young girl, which horrifies Roy, but he is too scared to stop the assault. He later participates, but justifies it to himself, saying he only laid on top of the girl and did not actually rape her. The crew forces her to shower so there is no evidence of the attack, and then abandons her.
The girl tries to press charges against Roy and the others, but with no evidence, there are no convictions. Roy descends into depression and begins taking ecstasy, but eventually he is too despondent for the drugs to make him feel better. He tries to kill himself, but fails, and ends up in a coma.
It is here that he creates the fantasy world of the marabou stork hunt in South Africa, with his guide, Sandy Jamieson (whose name is a play on real-life Scottish footballer Jimmy Sandison). Roy's consciousness rises up out of the fantasy world at times, showing he is aware of the real world as he is visited by his family and tended to by doctors and nurses. At one point, a nurse performs oral sex on him, to prove to herself that Roy is not entirely dead inside.
In the end, Roy appears to be coming to grips with all of the awful things he's done when he's visited in the hospital by the girl that he and the others raped. She has been hunting the men who raped her and taking revenge on them all. Deep in his consciousness, Roy feels guilt and shame, and wishes he had never participated. As he rises up out of the coma, the girl cuts off his eyelids and his penis with a pair of surgical scissors before stabbing him. The last thing Roy sees before he dies is the nurse running into the room and screaming at his appearance.
Best part of story, including ending:
Though Roy appears to be one of the worst people in the world, it's heartbreaking to see how he was raised and how what he went through as a child turned him into the monster he became.
Best scene in story:
The first time Roy comes up out of his coma to witness the doctors checking on him is disruptive to the narrative of him and Sandy driving across Africa, looking for the elusive marabou stork. But as it becomes clear what is happening, the intertwined narratives take on new meaning. When the doctor shines a flashlight into Roy's eye, and he perceives it as staring into the sun in Africa, you begin to understand how horrible Roy's real life is and how desperately he needs his fantasy world.