City Bird (Prompt 6)
City Bird (Prompt 6)
Gary woke to the morning cries of the songbirds. He hated those singing songs of sparrows. Gary fluttered his feathers a bit and flexed his neck, first right and left and then up and down. His bones made the waking up sound as they usually did. He chirped ‘Good Morning’ to those who would hear, as was the tradition amongst his kind. The sky was blue as ever and cloudless. The frilly, brown huts of the giants spread across in front of him as Gary made it to the edge of his cup-shaped nest. A giant-made pathway spiralled across this settlement connecting each of the huts with each other and then continuing further down longer than Gary cared. The mountains peaked and dropped on the horizon and the river flowed at the edge of this enormous settlement providing much-needed respite from this summer heat. Everywhere one looked, one could revel in the verdant cover of trees and shrubs and grassy lands.
Leaving his hidden nest amongst the branches of one of these lovely trees, Gary flew down to the river. It was good to get some exercise early in the morning before the giants woke up. His wings had been aching recently and it felt good to stretch them out. Gary landed on the banks of the river. His booted legs felt relieved on landing on the soft, wet, and cold mud. He thrust his long, sharp beak into this soft mud searching for breakfast. He tapped the mud with his feet and poked it with his beak till his breakfast came running out, scared of the trembling ground. It was then that he ensnared them and swallowed them whole. After ravaging a colony of ants and wiping away a handful of earthworms and caterpillars from the face of the Earth, Gary finally felt satisfied. He hopped to the edge of the river bed and bent down to drink a hearty gulp of water. The water would help digest his breakfast. A gentle breeze was flowing from the south and Gary’s feathers rustled. The coolness of the wind felt good. It was going to be a hot day. The sun was now blazing in all its heat. It would only get hotter as it rose directly overhead.
Gary admired the peacefulness of the river water and the titillating sounds of the nature around him. He saw his own reflection on the surface of the water. He noticed the yellow underneath of his beak and the black spots on his white chest. He had always been different from the others. Sometimes, he thought he did not belong. The others looked at him with a weird sense of awe and contempt. They had never met someone like him. He knew of the sparrows and the cuckoos, the ducks and the woodpeckers, the crows and the pigeons, the songbirds, the parrots, the hummingbird, the finches. None looked like him. Only if his parents were alive, he would have asked them why.
Hirock, a pigeon, stepped closer to Gary. Hirock was one of the few who was unconcerned about how Gary looked. For him, Gary was just another neighbour with whom he could share a drink of water and sometimes a stretch of shade.
‘How are we this morning, Spotty?’ Hirock greeted Gary using the usual epithet on his appearance.
Gary nodded. If he could smile, he would have. These small exchanges with Hirock were something that he looked forward to.
‘What’s the news from the pigeon town? Have those eggs cracked yet?’
‘I wish! These progenies of mine are the weakest ever. I don’t remember any of my other children taking so much time to come out.’
When Gary didn’t comment anything, Hirock continued.
‘In any case, I am glad I caught you. I wanted to say goodbye. Martha and I are leaving as soon as the sun starts to descend.’
‘Where are you going?’ Gary asked shockingly. ‘And what about your kids?’
‘Ahh! The kids can take care of themselves. I’ve had it with these ignorant, cruel, gruesome giants. They kill for fun and then burn and eat us afterward. We are old now and we want to spend our last years in peace and not hiding and flying scared.’
‘But where will you go?’
‘Legend has it that there is a peaceful city beyond the mountains. The giants there are different. They give you food to eat and they give you water to drink. Some unlucky ones amongst us, who clipped their wings or injured their feet, have also been known to be healed by them.’ Gary was surprised at the obvious bloviating.
‘Kaw! It’s only a story. Do you believe giants will care for our kind?’
‘It’s true. And what’s more, you have these beautifully designed houses where our kind can stay together and mingle. No one throws stones at you or wants to eat you.’
Gary looked thoughtful for a moment and then with a shake of his head swept away any thoughts of leaving.
‘I wish you all the best Hirock. This place won’t be the same without you.’ They touched their feathers in goodbye.
As Gary was flying back to his secret nest, thinking of all the wonderful things Hirock had said about the city beyond the mountains, he heard a group of little giants huddled together chatting loudly. A few of them pointed at him. These little giants were even more dangerous than the big ones. At least the big ones had the respect to shoot them down and kill them at once. The little ones, on the other hand, loved to tease the life out of them. They did not have a sense of moral turpitude. They would injure you first and then once you were defenseless, they would go on to torcher you by pulling out your legs and your feathers, one at a time. Gary had seen them at work and he did not wish the same fate upon him.
Before too long, Gary was met with a rain of rocks and stones and gravel from below. He swerved left and right to avoid being hit. A couple of stones had almost hit him and only with pure dumb luck, he had been able to avoid those. He dived downwards in order to put his attackers off. They were too well trained. They modified their aims according to his flight path. Gary had only one option left. He halted himself midair and then shot up straight upwards towards the sky taking himself far away, out of their range. He flew around in circles till the assailants grew tired and gave up. As the little giants made their way back to their houses, Gary had made up his mind to leave this hell behind. Birds were not supposed to live like this. He would fly to these lands beyond the mountain to live in peace and solitude.
The sun was on a fast descent today. Gary had rested in the afternoon, to preserve his energy for the long road ahead of him. He did not even know how long he would have to fly to reach his destination. He muttered a small goodbye to his home and the branch it was at and the tree. He chirped a ‘Goodbye’ to all those who would hear. He got none in return. He swallowed a bunch of ants and insects from the trunk of the tree. He wanted to start off this adventure with a full stomach. He looked at his nest for the final time and then without squandering any more time, he took flight and flew towards the mountains.
Gary kept flying into the unknown, stopping only to have a sip of water whenever he crossed a small pond or stream. He had left the river far behind and was flying over grassy lands. After flying for a few hours, he decided to take a breather and landed on the ground, resting his tired wings. Although he wasn’t hungry, he forced himself to feed on a handful of worms. He did not wish to challenge his luck. The sun had finally descended and darkness had started to engulf the air. A few sparse clouds in the sky hid the moonlight from illuminating the dark sky but Gary didn’t mind. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness and even in the absence of moonlight, he knew he would be able to keep to his path. And of course, the mountains, which kept getting bigger but were still on the horizon, were the only thing that Gary had to keep his eyes on. He had thought he would have caught up with the pigeons by now, but there was no sign of them. Typical of those hypocrites. It was no surprise that those cowards had changed their minds again.
Feeling energetic again, Gary resumed his journey. He harked back on the days he had spent at his home. It had not all been bad. Most of them were good. He had lived peacefully. He had never felt hungry or thirsty. He had never had to fight for his food. The only little thing was that he had to live in fear of the giants and pray that they never attacked him. But wasn’t that a small compromise for all the other amenities?
As Gary weighed the pros and cons, his thoughts were shattered by a loud shriek in the sky. The shriek would have made him wet his pants if he was wearing any. Without looking in the direction of the sound, Gary clambered faster, higher into the sky. The shriek came again. This time, involuntarily, Gary looked back. He did not see anything. As he turned back, he sensed the talons of his predator close in on him from above. Gary spread his wings against the wind making himself halt in midair. The timing of it couldn’t have been better. The falcon missed him by a whisker.
The grey-eyed attacker spun around coming back for its food. Gary kicked himself. Here he was, trying to find a peaceful life, but the bird gods were against him. Gary dove straight toward the ground. Falcons have poor eyesight when it comes to things nearer to them. Sure they would identify their prey from miles above, but they would be hard bent to notice them at a closer range, especially when their prey would be hiding in plain sight. In the cover of darkness, Gary landed softly on the ground, careful to not make any noise, and hid behind a small wild shrub. His heart was beating frantically as he waited anxiously for the falcon to give up on his chase. The tension of it all made his eyes water and his body plunged into sleep.
When Gary opened his eyes, he was glad to find himself alive. The dark of the night was at an end and rays of light lit the blue sky. Gary looked at his surroundings. He was alone. There was no sign of the falcon or any other bird. He came out of hiding and walked for a bit, making sure he was out of danger. He saw the mountains. They were not far away. One long continuous flight should take him over them. Enthusiastically, Gary took to the sky.
Gary felt a wave of happiness engulf him as he reached closer to the mountains. The next chapter of his life was about to begin. He was ready as ever to live amongst these gentle and kind giants that Hirock spoke about. The horizon had changed. Where once Gary could see only mountains, now he was able to see beyond them. He saw the tall, lanky structures rising from the ground. They were taller than the tallest trees he had seen. Unlike the trees, they were not of one colour. Some were brown and some were blue. Others were white and different shades of white. As Gary flew closer, fear gripped him. He was a tiny bird who had come from a tiny home. The enormous erections scared the wits of him. It was not until he saw a group of birds flying over one of these tall structures, that he relaxed. He had arrived in the promised lands. The lands where birds and giants co-habituated in harmony.