© 2007 Linsen. All rights reserved. Skyscapes

The first story

 

The sun breaks through the thick clouds for the first time in weeks, and scatters into a glowing spectrum of a thousand colours. The tiny island basks in the unfamiliar sunlight and at last begins to shrug off its winter stiffness. Gradually a sense of calm wells up through the small patch of earth, flowing around buried rocks and into tiny cracks and flooding the small caverns left by long-gone beetles. The tranquility saturates the ground and spreads into the island’s long-dormant plant life. It fills the grass, pouring in through the shallow roots. The cold fronds are rejuvenated back to a vital green as small sparks of warmth and calm shoot from the tips of the blades. Further still the feeling spreads, gently up into the ancient tree’s venerable trunk. It eases past the homes of insects and ebbs out of age-old cracks in the tree’s bark. All through the silent wood it flows, through every branch and into every bare, leafless twig. Revitalised, the tree feels the winter cold slowly banished from its tired, stiff limbs. With a deep, rooted sigh of relief the arboreal behemoth relaxes into the sun’s gentle glow and is at peace.

Feeling the change passing over her resting place, the sleeping bird slowly awakens from her prolonged slumber. It has been some weeks that she has been alone, trying to protect her precious nest from the incessant clammy, clawing cold. Much of that time she spent barely awake, conserving what little energy remained in her fragile frame for days to come. The long sleep hangs around her like a morning mist, until it too is banished by the spreading sunlight. Slowly she returns to the world.

For a time all is still, a prolonged yawn as the little island shakes off the long slumber that has gripped it. The silence, which is at first sluggish and reluctant, gradually changes. The scene no longer stretches unused muscles, but rather contemplates the new environment in which it finds itself. Despite the seeming perfection, there is still a void to be filled, the merest echo of an absence.

Wings flutter as she takes to the air for the first time. She circles her tree a few times, searching the surrounding clouds, before falling back to her nest and the delicate eggs she protects there. She seems unsettled that she cannot find what she searches for. Agitated, she puts her nervous energy to use as she starts carefully putting her ruffled feathers back into place. Her concern is poorly concealed however, and she finds herself paying more attention to the skyscape than to her plumage.

A discord sounds through the sunlight’s playful melody. The flitting shadow draws her attention, but she turns to observe it too late and can see nothing but brilliant light above her. Loneliness overcomes her, and she lets loose a half-hearted call. The plaintive cry is terribly alone. It gives voice to her fear and sorrow, to the longing pulling at her heart. It fills the void she struggles with. For a moment her mate’s form is drawn in sound beside her, her emotional cry taking the shape of that which she misses. Just as fast as the image appears it is gone and she is left alone once more.

He has been gone for too long. He was foraging for scarce insect life on nearby islands when the storm hit. Without warning everything was plunged into darkness by boiling clouds washing over the airborne archipelago. She had called out for him, had begged him to find his way back through the rain and sleet and ice. Only once she had heard him call back, before his desperate cry was torn apart by the rushing winds. She called again and again but to no avail. Unable to leave her nest to find him, she had had no choice but to stare blindly into the tempest, hoping against hope that he might find his way back to her.

She returns from her dark daydream to find herself in the warm sunlight, safe and dry but still alone.

A cry from above shatters through the calm. It is a weary cry, a desperate request for affirmation by one who has almost given up hope. She is startled by the unfamiliar noise, and it takes a moment before she realises what it means. She answers the call with one of her own. He is alive! He has returned!

She sees him now, little but a speck high up in the luminescent atmosphere. She starts to rise to meet him, but cannot leave her precious eggs. Intently she watches his descending form as it draws closer. His motion is irregular as he spirals toward the island. As he approaches she can see him in more detail: his feathers battered and in disarray, his wings spread in an awkward pose that tells of terrible exhaustion. He circles haphazardly, his erratic glide more a controlled downward fall than true flight.

It seems like an eternity that she watches him. Every moment that he struggles to reach her, his aching wings become more uncertain and his flight more desperate. He falls in great dives, each further and faster than the previous as his final reserve of strength fades. At last he nears her, and with a cry of desperation summons the last of his energy. He flaps his wings to slow his descent. Barely regaining control in time, he steers his course back to the little island, to his tree, his mate and his home.

He glides slowly back to her. All his energy is focused on his final flight, for he knows how little of his strength remains. Tiny wisps of cloud follow him as he draws closer and closer. With a final flutter of his wings he reaches her. Gently he alights beside her. They look carefully at each other and a gentle touch of their beaks restores the bond between them.

At last the two are reunited.

[1000 words]

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