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Thread: Bird Bones.

  1. #1
    Sipping the Tea a_little_wisp's Avatar
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    Bird Bones.

    “I can’t!” The waif cried. "They say I’ve got bird bones.”

    The soldier grabbed the dirty urchin roughly and shook it until he heard its jaws clicking together. Then he gave the waif a good slap for measure.

    “No more whining, you! I don’t think I’ve ever heard a person complain about getting the chance to escape certain death!”

    “The others… the others were killed!” The waif fell to the ground, shaking madly in its fear. “I can’t do it, I’m scared- I’d rather die! I – no, I lied.” The soldier sheathed the blade. “I- I changed my mind, I’ll take it.” Small, dirty hands grasped the scroll that the soldier held out.

    The waif stared at the red, red wax with wide, wide eyes. “Just west? Just head west?”

    “Yes, Pige, and DON’T lose it.”

    ----

    Pige passed out through a small irrigation system that had been built for the courtyard’s garden. It was dried out, as it had been for months now, and so the waif, being so slight of build, was able to slip through the narrow tunnels.

    Pige muttered to itself as it went along. “What if the water decided to flow again, just now, just my luck…. Gonna come outside… gonna get my head cut off – but it wouldn’t come off in one, clean swipe, no, it’d take three, three painful swipes, and no magic girdle, only knights get magic girdles- ”

    The waif would stop sometimes and consider simply staying in the tunnel until the battle had passed over, until there was no chance of any one catching it in such a cowardly state. No one had ever recognized it, and so if it moved to a new town, somewhere deeper in the country, no one would notice the extra beggar in the streets.

    Bird-boned.

    Hollow, breakable- birds scattered at the first sign of conflict– a name for a coward. Bird-boned.


    The waif did not reach the light at the end of the tunnel, for there was none. It slipped out by the lake, into smoke and distant battle sound- onto the site of a recent slaughter. Corpses, mangled and ruined beyond recognition, lay strewn over the banks, the red, murky waters lapping against them.

    Pige staggered to its feet in the mud, attempting to stay crouched over. Beyond the burning fields, it wasn’t sure who might be watching. It stepped lightly over the bodies, and as though it were standing high above them, whispered to itself: “Don’t look down… don’t look down.”

    Then, of course, to Pige’s great luck, it tripped, falling flat on top of one of the corpses. Crows scattered from the carrion. Flies, unmoved, still buzzed around an empty eye socket, in the gaping mouth, and the only coherent thought that hit Pige was:

    “Al-already? They’re eating at them already?”

    Pige suddenly rolled off the corpse and vomited, shaking, sick.

    “I can’t d-do this,” it whispered, teeth clacking together. “C-can’t. Simple- s-s-simply can’t.”

    Its feet had other plans, however, and kept moving.

    “Stop… just stop!” It cried down to its disobedient appendages.

    The woods, it thought. The woods were west. The woods will be the safest place. Men don’t ride their horses in the woods, not for war.

    It ran, desperately, now stepping heedlessly over the corpses without ceremony. When Pige reached the forest, it came to a halt, clutching the rough scroll tightly to it. The scroll had become a … a sort of comfort by then. If it had any reason to escape life now, this was it – this message that he couldn’t even read or begin to understand.

    It was a scavenger. It didn’t belong in this war game, in their world of poli- politicies- politics! Whatever they were called! All it had ever known, ever wished to know, was that it could find food, from someone in close proximity, that it could sleep, that there would be the occasional pocket to pick. It wasn’t quite sure why it was alive, and it’d heard some of the men in the woolly cloaks say things about “Heaven” but to get there you’d have to be a good person

    The world didn’t allow good people to exist within it, and only the clever ones actually came out alright- the clever ones, and the rich ones, and the evil ones who could actually make a good hit when they swatted at people with swords.

    Through the forest Pige walked, the morning mists rising, the sounds of battle fading far off into the distance.

    It had just begun to think of finding a cozy tree to sleep under when the sound of galloping horses erupted from behind it. It dared to glance, to give the fears that were now bubbling within it confirmation. Its body began to tremble, knees threatening to give.

    “Told him. I told him they were all killed.”

    The blood-caked blade sliding from the warrior’s sheath was enough.

    “HALT, MESSENGER.”

    The capability to think reasonably left Pige. It was the hunted. It ran like it never had before, driven on by the absolute need to escape.

    Pige had one advantage against the horse- it was small. It flew through the narrow trails between the trees, taking the rockiest routes, using wet leaves to skid down the slopes. The horse had a harder time of the trail, and the waif could hear the warrior shouting curses behind it.

    Its blood beat so loudly in its ears that it struck it back to conscious thought.

    Bird bones, it thought.

    A deep, but slightly narrow rocky ravine split the ground on the trail before it, but it did not slow down. Instead, it sped up.

    The warrior cried out behind it, but the waif was focusing.

    Focusing on the jump.

    It didn’t calculate the jump. It didn’t know when it allowed its feet to kick from the earth, hurtling itself across the open air. The wind lifted around its ears, and for a brief moment, it felt something more than fear, but rather a pleasurable thrill.

    She was weightless. She imagined the winds shooting through her hollow bones, lifting her up and onwards…

    Its body burst into pain as it landed on its side, sharp fire shooting up its arm. It let out a scream, but rose, staggering, looking behind it, to see the knight readying an arrow. The waif rose, again, tears streaming down its face, and ran on.

    It wasn’t sure why it’d found life so precious. It could have thrown the message into the stream that cut the ravine, and maybe survived, but then…

    It ran, kept running.

    When Pige finally collapsed, when its muscles gave, it felt as though it had outran time itself. The absolute silence of the forest, devoid of birdsong and the rustling of rodents through the underbrush, gave truth to that.

    The tired little urchin gazed up, through the trees, at the sun which poured hotly through. It all seemed too surreal now, its living. The smell of the earth around it seemed to fade away.

    Bird bones, they’d said.

    Well, she’d heard some other things about bird bones. The birds would die, mid-song. Then the bards took the bones and made them into neat little flutes and whistles. With rough, clever fingers, they carved holes into the bones, little, perfectly round holes. They tied colorfully beaded leather straps to the ivory bones after they’d shaped it into perfection. Perfection was needed for perfect song.
    They’d blow their musical breath through the bones, their fingers dancing along the holes, and the most beautiful and airy of soprano sounds would pour forth. Through the bigger bones, a mystical alto hummed, its sound similar to that of wind that ran through narrow spaces. Then, thousands – no, a million – wordless songs would stream together, flying, soaring upwards. A million songs, that, until then, had never been sung by bird or man…

    A million songs unsung.

    She didn’t know much about Heaven, but she knew a little about songs and stories. She knew that she wasn’t a good person. More importantly, however, she knew that she had few stories. Very few.

    She wondered what songs would come from her bones. She could hear them humming, even now...

    Those songs...
    A million songs unsung.


    The shriek of a hawk pierced through air above it, and the Pige was jolted from the darkness. It looked up, into the sky, through the boughs of the trees, and saw it, flying, wide wings outstretched.

    It rose, watching the hawk.

    Then it ran.



    ----------

    “Your Majesty,” said the knight, from the entrance to the tent. “We have a message.”

    “Bring me the message.”

    The knight carried the waif forward. “He-“

    “She. I’m a girl.” Pige corrected him.

    “Er, sh- she wouldn’t give it to me himsel- herself. She said she had to deliver the message directly to you, but she was too tired to walk, I think. S’alright, she’s as light as a feather.”

    “He claimed he was the king,” Pige said, “and I didn’t believe him.”

    The King turned then, and the waif’s eyes widened.

    This was The King. Oh, yes. He was old, his hair streaked with silver, his face heavy with many lines. Those weren’t the reasons that the waif knew the man was the king, however – it was the sorrow in his eyes. Only a man who cared so much about his kingdom falling to pieces would have that depth of sorrow in his eyes. He seemed a man who once had plenty of songs humming in his bones, but now only the echoes of orchestras remained.

    The waif held the message out The King.

    The King glanced up at the waif, then took the message, unfurling it.
    “Mordred’s taken Celliwig back.” He grimaced. “We’ll have to move as soon as possible.” He rolled the message back up, then glanced at the girl.
    “You’ve come a long way.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    Sadness weighed his smile down. “You must have flown.”

    The waif watched him.

    “What’s your name?”

    “They call me Pige.”

    The King nodded. “You’ve done well, Pige.” Then he turned to the knight, waving him away. “For god’s sake, Bedivere, get the child some water!”

    The waif did not wait for water. She slept, immediately.

    -------------

    When she awakened, she found herself beneath thin blankets, and the sky outside was filled with morning birdsong.

    “Good morning, my dove!” A soft woman’s voice called.

    The girl smiled.

    “Did we win?”

    The woman said nothing, and Pige knew.

    “Was my arm broken?”

    “Yes.”

    “Was the bone hollow?”

    “What?” The woman looked confused.

    “They say I’ve got bird bones.”

    “Who says?”

    “Lots of people.”

    “I doubt that any human has bird bones, my dove.”

    Pige smiled.
    “I do.”




    To Sophia, who helped to inspire this story, and who knows that fear keeps us from life, moreso than any creance, jess, or bell.
    Last edited by a_little_wisp; 03-24-2009 at 10:19 PM.
    Then she would run until morning to ease the ache; swifter than rain, swift as loss, racing to catch up with the time when she had known nothing at all but the sweetness of being herself.

    -- Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

  2. #2
    Registered User Gladdy11's Avatar
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    Astonishingly powerful. The imagery, the symbolism... The ending was captivating, purely in its subtle tone.
    Great, great job!
    Always Glad...

  3. #3
    chercheur ~Sophia~'s Avatar
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    Oh, my dearest dearest wisp! You have the heart of a Golden Eagle. Fierce flyers in the woods where other eagles dare not try. I've tried not to let fear stop me and I suspect, it will not stop you either. It's okay to be afraid, but not to the point where you are immobilized. We just keep going. Take chances, trust instinct. Live, love, laugh, cry. Hopefully, along the way we make a difference in a good way. It won't be easy. The good things seldom are but, they are always worth the trying. There will be wins and losses and - brand new days! You are bright, sensitive, strong, beautiful, talented and the world is waiting for you with open arms. Thank you for this wonderful story. The best is yet to come!

  4. #4
    Sipping the Tea a_little_wisp's Avatar
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    Gladdy- wow!! Thank you for your response! I didn't expect any one to say much about the imagery, so thank you, again! I'm happy you found it to be good read - and you being such a wonderful writer!

    Sophia, I'm just speechless. I'll write you a thank you note when I collect myself again. I'm sososo glad you read!
    Then she would run until morning to ease the ache; swifter than rain, swift as loss, racing to catch up with the time when she had known nothing at all but the sweetness of being herself.

    -- Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

  5. #5
    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    A well written and interesting story. I enjoyed it at its face value, but I'm sure alot of the subtle stuff went straight over my head. (That's a good thing, I'll be thinking about it for the next few days) Well done.

  6. #6
    Sipping the Tea a_little_wisp's Avatar
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    Prendrelemick! If you enjoyed it, I'm happy! ^^ If you remember it still a few days from now, I'll be even happier! Thanks very much for taking the time to read it and comment!!
    Then she would run until morning to ease the ache; swifter than rain, swift as loss, racing to catch up with the time when she had known nothing at all but the sweetness of being herself.

    -- Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

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