By John Pilchard
Far Away From There
Long, long ago in a forest that no one has ever really, actually heard of; nestled away in a teeny tiny little nest, lived a family of bird like creatures. Up near sight they resembled and aviary closely enough but from a far, they are something different entirely. Each creature was different from the next, in a progressively ugly line, which over time only got uglier. The most tragic feature of the bird creatures was most definitely their beaks. They were big and red and crooked. They had several holes in them, scattered about in no particular pattern, to help them breath at such high altitudes. Their feathers were greasy and teal blue, and kind of almost pretty in some harsh light. They had the feet of reptiles, green and scaly, with talons like fishhooks that could pierce any prey. These birds are the last of their kind; every possible creature in the forest hunted them for their beaks, which other creatures used as trophies. These feathered monsters were the most rare in the entire forest. They sat up high, just trying to survive day-to-day, just in search of their next meal.
The nest that the three birds inhabited was nestled in the tallest tree in the forest. They were safe there, no one came knocking and no one came to bother. The snakes below couldn’t harm them if they tried their absolute hardest. Neither could the bears, even if they didn’t try quite as hard. The only threat our little tiny bird creatures faced was starvation, for if they could not scavenge they would face an imminent, painful death. Their bits and tidbits would be writhing from within. They had one task in their short, ugly lives and that was to collect berries, figs and any other sort of food that would help them survive and make it to the next day. Mother bird was the strongest, she raised the two youngin’s just by herself, and she needed no man bird because she was so independent and resourceful.
“I am the strongest bird creature around,” the mother constantly proclaimed. The two little ones just looked up to admire their mother just as the had done since cracking through to her on their first days. The oldest little one was tall and awkward, his legs were longer than his mothers, but his body was teeny tiny, so high above. Old Youngin’ knew that one day he would be the best in the art of flight and he would provide for the family, for he knew he would have to provide for his own one day. He was confident and fearless and always looking for a tussle. As for the Youngest Youngin’ he was a different breed of bird creature, quite metaphorically and not so much literally. The Youngest had short legs and an even shorter wingspan. He had one normal length wing and one tiny, little wing that never fully developed, even though he tried his hardest to make it grow proper. He was not mad about his condition, no, not at all; he embraced it, even though his family knew that he would not be able to scavenge food for them when they needed it the most.
“Let me go out and collect berries with you mum,” the Youngest Youngin’ cried out. The mother bird critter looked down at her youngest little one, most pitifully and simply whispered, “not today.”
There had always been a back and forth between Mother bird and Youngest Youngin’ since the youngin’ could remember, so many days ago. The Youngest vowed to himself that day that he would make a change. He would show his mother and his slightly older brother that he could make a difference. He would vie for this, for the others around him but deep within, also, for himself. There had always been a little voice inside the head of the Youngest that would whisper on especially cloudy days, “not today.”
Some time had passed and the sun had drifted far away from the forest, it had now become the time when darkness and shadows and ghosts and ghouls came out to play, at the bottom of the big, tall tree. The not so youngest was passed out in his twig bed. “Zzzzz,” the middle bird snored. “Don’t go, not now,” he mumbled still deeply asleep. Mother bird had left for the night, not to return till morning with a bounty of figs, berries, nuts and worms. She was so far off in the distance that she may have still been able to say hello to the far away sun. Our Youngest little creature crept out from the other fig and twig bed. His creepy little talons tiptoed across the tidy little nest floor, “tick tack tock,” he and his little talons whispered to anything that might want to hear. Youngest looked both ways to make sure no one was watching, even though he had hoped that someone very far away might be. He continued to creep quietly towards the very edge of the moonlit nest. The Middle-aged bird stirred himself awake, “where are you going little one?” The smallest bird looked back in fear, “I’m going out to prove a point, to make a stand, to rebel and be the best me that I can possibly be.” The middle bird chuckled and went back to sleep.
The shadows began to creep taller and the wind hushed itself some time ago.
The littlest bird made his way to the edge of the nest and looked down, he witnessed first hand all the shadows that only he could make out at this height with this amount of light. The Youngest suddenly heard all of the noises that he never heard from the inside of the nest. Inside the nest, where he was once safe, all the Youngest ever heard was the crackle of gentle branches and the rumbling of hunger. He was about to make a life changing decision on destiny. “I can be useful, I can help others,” he croaked, all choked up with a lump in his throat that tricked his stomach into believing a morsel of food was on its way down. Even though he was high, very high up in the trees he could see all the glowing eyes beneath him. The hundreds of different sized pairs of eyes blazed in the murky dark, faintly illuminating a crooked beak with moisture droplets on its end. It was almost as if the monsters below could hear him and see him and sense all the fear that had begun to swell around his heart. Without any further hesitation the littlest of bird beasts took the plunge down to the dark shadows, down into the blazing optic furnace below.
He fell further and faster then he had ever fallen before. “I wanted this, this is what I want to do. Be brave and flap as hard as you can.” The Youngest spread his uneven wings and spun harder than he had in his free fall. It was at this precise moment in time, at that particular location in mid air, that ours truly realized he would have no way to get up to the top of the big, gigantic tree ever again.
The little tiny bird fell and hit the base of the tree. Roots that dwarfed him surrounded him now, like bricks and mortar that make the far off castles. The same roots that made him look so insignificant were the same roots that broke his fall. “I’m alive!” the tiny creature squealed in excitement, a loud pip in an otherwise quiet forest. Although the woods were a gentle quiet, it would no longer be that way for eternity, something had been stirred just out of sight. Rustling came from the bushes near the base of the tree, it grew louder and louder and more profound. “But for how long?” growled a dark, billowing creature.
The teeny tiny minuscule little bird-baby, sat hollow and alone all the way at the bottom of the tall, tremendous tree. He contemplated what to do, he thought about his whole entire life; from it’s natural beginning to what now seemed certainly like its end. His feathers were more ruffled now, each teal feather jutting out in every different direction, like a sad little sea urchin so out of place. Tears began to flow down his large, busted beak. Neon blue luminescent tears that lit up the area around him, like dye in water. Youngest began to see the snarled, jumbled, and tangled up mess that surrounded him. Roots, branches, leaves even bones and skulls lay wasted around his little hooks. The fresh neon tears cast shadows that began to dance around him. Each shadow drove the nails of fear deeper and deeper into the little fear-based creatures heart.
“What seeeeeeemssss to be your issssssssue?” hissed the voice, just out of reach from the neon blue pools of light.
The littlest bird cowered in fear behind a large root, “I lost my way today, or better-worse yet, it lost me. I tumbled out of my nest half on purpose halfway an accident and now, well now I’m going to be eaten by you and your large monster fangs and your glowing red, beacon eyes and your bowels and innards and stomach and tongue,” whimpered the defenseless little chicky. The eyes of the creature began to glow brighter, bright red, the type of red that could warn an already blind mouse. The crimson glow began to dance and battle and skirmish with the neon blue around the floor of the forest.
“What could you ever mean, little eggling?” inquired the purple-lit beast.
The hissing grew much louder and other voices added into the hissing cacophony around the bottom of the tree. The serpenty creature slinked forward into the blue with his red, pronounced light, a snout as long as ten of the little bird babies hung off the scaly face of the crocodillion. His scarlet eyes sunk low into the sockets of the reptilian face, his teeth black as night, each with marks and cuts, and each with a victim with a story to tell. The Mean Croc talked with a slow southern, below-the-nest accent. His mouth moved quickly, almost in a strobe effect that instilled terror in anyone caught in its brilliance. “It will be just all right, you have my word, chick,” the King Croc mellowed out. “Don’t you lieeeeeee to him!” exclaimed the same croc in a higher pitched rattle. The little chummy bird looked puzzled at what he was seeing and what he was feeling. There was a battle within and a battle outside unfolding in every deviation.
The Croc King stepped forward, illuminated by tears, not of his own crusty skull wells. He looked at the little bird boy in his beady, startled eyes. The King Croc opened up his powerful jaws and howled, “Do you believe in ends, do you truuuuuuly believe in endings?” The little bird began to quiver and shake. At that precise moment, with both sets of eyes locked in a death gaze the head of the king croc began to split right down the middle, like bubbly mud being ripped apart. The Croc howled and laughed and screamed almost inaudibly, all at the same time. The shifting shadows on the outside of the forest floor began to creep away from the light. Croc’s head split in half, into two separate heads looking in opposite directions. The head on the left took longer to morph into an almost inseparable carbon copy, close but too different to the one on the right. The head on the right seemed to be the original head, the fear monger, the fear imposer, and the fear dispenser. The Fear Croc had bright glowing, spiraling red eyes with teeth as sharp as broken bones. This split soul had a winding mind that burnt hotter than glass melding fire, it was dark as the night sky absent of moons or stars. Fear Croc spoke only in hisses and spoke only to instill fear in the shadows around him. The head on the left was still morphing, it was the exact same size as the head on the right with a few minor differences, his eyes were softer, for one, they had pupils and there seemed to be a soft glimmer of purpose in there, even if it was just in one of the eyes. The little bird felt reassured looking into the florescent blue eyes of the softer crocodilly. Soft Croc had yet to speak a word to the little bird, but the teeny ugly little bird felt safe for the first time since he had hit the ground floor of the deep dark forest with a big loud pop.
Finally the Soft Croc spoke, in a soft molasses, southern, down-to-the-right of the bottom forest accent. “What brings you down here to us, Mr. tiny?”
The bird spoke softly, “I want to find food for my family, I want to help, I want to be useful and I want to be noble.”
Fear Croc whipped his head around “You will be the provider of food for my family! I will provide nails for your tiny little coffin, if there is even anything left to put inside of it.”
Middle bird sat up in the nest, he awakened from his snooze. He looked around, “Did these night eyes deceive me?” he mumbled. Middle bird strut around the nest, now very proud to be alone. “This is mine, this is mine and this is even miner now.” Middle bird knew that the smallest one of the family had fled the nest in the middle of the bewitching hour. But he would worry about that later but most likely never. Through the sheer, nasty process of survival of the most fit, he knew that it was his turn to take over, to watch out for what was left of the family now. It was a momentous shift of power, Bird Mother hadn’t returned from her night out and baby bird was lost, surely never to come back in any of their life times. It was time for another bird to slowly evolve.
The creatures were all buzzing around the base of the tree waiting to get their hands on the youngest birds body, for sustenance and to get their hands on his beak for profit. He could hear their horrendous hissing and out crying and sibilant screaming. They all wanted his blood. They wanted his trophy beak and all he wanted to do was try to survive, if given the opportunity. All he wanted to do was prove to his family that he could be a significant member of the tribe. Born for a purpose with not one in sight.
The high hollering increased, the neon lights of the damp emotions accentuated the shadows of the monsters around him. This bird could see things that could creepily crawl up many legs, slither on many bellies when no other things were looking. These horrors that could reach halfway up the tree without even trying, were all around the little, tiny bird. He realized that his tree wasn’t safe from anyone or anything or any creep. It wasn’t safe at all no matter where he went. No bird was safe; birds traveling in a tribe are in jeopardy but those traveling alone are dinner. A warm crawling sensation started to form on the inside of the little bird, “Is this hunger again?” thought the little thing. But he was quickly jeered into a reminder that he knew what hunger felt like. This is new warmth, something he knew that no shadow down in the dark had ever felt before.
“Cut the mind wandering, boy! We have business to attend to, brass tacks to get down on.” shouted the Fear Croc. The little bird was left speechless. “Let’s cut to the chase, boy-o,” hollered the frightening reptilisk. The Soft Croc snipped at the Fear Croc, “leave the little bird-o alone.” He chortled at himself. The big scale ridden beast crept closer and closer to the little bird that was still nestled and hugged by the roots of the tree.
The Soft Croc whispered into his other heads ear, “I know how your mind works, Fear. I warn you now to stop this.” The left foot of the Croc is stabbed into the dirt, now one half anchored to the ground. “You know nothing wise. I will tend to this little wretch and be done with it!” Cried out the still trying to move, Fear Croc. “You will let that little wonder alone, Fearevious. The Fear croc snapped his neck around, looking Soft in the eyes.
“What did you just say!” shouted the Fear. The universal shuddering shook the ground of the forest below.
“Something you haven’t heard in far too long. Please, I ask you to stop what you are doing.” Says the Soft.
A loud roar ignites in the stomach of the Crocs, and Fear strikes out “Why protect such a grotesque little brute?”
“Something you have never been able to see, it’s the most grotesque, it’s the most monstrous, and the most pitifully preposterous that have pushed the hardest. Those are the ones who will continue to push.”
For a fraction of the second, the little bird thought that he was being spoken to directly. Softs blue eyes pierced right passed the little beady black ones.
“So what?” Fear mumbled to himself as he pulls towards the little bird. The eyes of the Soft searched for the beadies again, and a look of understanding swept across The Youngests face. In one swift swipe, the Soft took a bite out of the neck of the Fear. It wasn’t animal, it was cruel, it was peace, delivered at last. The two, very different crocs flutter to the forest floor and shriveled up still biting, still disagreeing eternally.
The sharp shadows around the bird started to get wild and unruly, for there was no longer a wrangler to keep the order. The howls pierced the chilly air around him; he knew that perhaps his time had come, and part of the little feathered, almost-rodent bird, accepted that fact with ease. The ring of outer murk crept closer to the little bird and the sundried looking Crocs. The shadows were in a fury now and they leapt forward with leaps and bounds, quieting slightly as they approached their mark.
The broken and bent feathers on the little birds’ body began to rustle in the breeze, another chill swept over him followed by familiar warmth that puzzled him only minutes ago. The screams and howls around the little wonder dissipated hastily. For the first time since his adventure began, the little fella craned his neck up towards the sky. High above, twilight began to break and light touched the tippy tops of the red, yellow and brown leaves on the highest trees, so far away from the ground from which they began. The Youngest was still so far below and his thoughts materialized, that light wouldn’t touch him because he was just too far.
The rustling of the littlest birds’ feathers swept over him in waves. He could almost feel the pattern in his bones. All of a sudden, out of the rounded corners of his beady eyes he saw it. His Big Mother had come for him, her fishhook talons prepared to scoop him up and take him away from this place. The Mother had no intentions of stopping her trajectory and in one sharp, swift movement, the Youngest was lifted and they began their climb back home, together.
The most comforting rustling of feathers the little bird had ever, and will most likely ever feel was enough to almost put him to sleep and then it did. The flight of the Momma and the Little was almost over, but as the little bird looked down below at the forest floor that taught him well, he swore that he had seen the shadows dancing in merriment around the pruned Croc body. There was almost a song of joy being sung by the darkness below.
Light broke through as the Momma landed on the welcoming twigs of the nest. The tired little creature beneath her wings was tucked into his twigs for the remainder of the night. More adventure will await the Youngest, whether tomorrow or the day before extinction. It’s best though, that from here on out, he never forgets that the ones with the most ruffled feathers are the ones who will never stop their push.