Animal Dilemmas – Bar-headed Goose Flamingo

short stories about the inevitability of death

Short Story

 

‘More eggs less trouble,’ would the Flamingo say after days of silence. The flamingos around it would repeat its words and some will fly away to carry them to the far side of the colony. Other migrant birds would pick them up and carry them north spreading them to any flying creature they met.

Then the Flamingo would be silent for days just staring at the sea. Birds would bring it shrimp, fish and clams but the Sage would not eat. Piles of gifts were rotting around it but despite the smell pilgrims came to see it. They stayed for many days waiting for the Flamingo to speak but sometimes left disappointed.

It was the end of summer when the Goya volcano awoke. For the first few days a tiny column of smoke rose into the atmosphere and brought the smell of sulfur to the colony. By then it was not only flamingos on the shore but a plethora of birds bearing gifts trying to get a glimpse of the Sage.

‘Leave,’ said the Flamingo. ‘Fly away death is coming.’

The birds repeated its words but not one took off.

‘Leave,’ the Flamingo.

‘Go where,’ asked a flamingo that had been with the sage for many seasons.

‘Fly away death is coming,’ repeated the Sage.

No bird stirred at its words. The Flamingo moved from its place for a first time this summer, strode to the bird that questioned it and started poking it on the head with its great bill. The bird didn’t move or fought back. The Flamingo kept drilling at its head until red and yellow fluids leaked out and bird collapsed.

‘Death is coming,’ the Sage said.

‘Death is coming,’ all bird repeated and the words traveled like wave across the colony and pilgrims.

‘Leave now, no one can save you,’ said the Flamingo.

The colony repeated its words and stood still. The Flamingo started poking the head of the nearest bird until the bird collapsed. Then the next and the next until nine birds lay on the ground with their heads drilled.

One of the Flamingo’s first followers turned to the bird next to it and started poking its head with its bill.

The volcano grunted and molten rocks flew into the sky. Its mouth had widen and clouds of ashes rose and blotted the sky.

‘Fly or you die,’ said the Flamingo and took off. A few bids followed it but most were nesting and stayed behind. The Flamingo flew north into the land and didn’t look back. The volcano gushed out toxic smoke and ashes that mushroomed around it and soon started snowing down. The ashes paralyzed the colony and soon buried all birds in a single mass grave on the shore.

The Flamingo was not happy with itself. It had convinced the colony to listen to its words but could not convince them to act. It wanted to get away from flamingo lifestyle for ever, it wanted to hide.

It flew a great distance until its wings gave up. Its followers had given up and landed long ago. The Flamingo noticed a large colony of birds surrounding a lake forming clouds of grey and white. The Bar-headed goose colony was getting ready to fly back north through the mountains where summer was due to arrive.

The Flamingo landed among the geese and stood three times taller than them like a pink island in the sea of grey. The geese paid it little heed. They were busy eating, arguing and singing their own song. The Flamingo didn’t want attention and sat of the ground. The only curious looks it received were of young first migration geese.

‘Will you fly with us,’ asked one?

‘Fly where?’

‘To the plateau beyond the mountain, through the icy passages.’

‘What’s beyond the mountain?’

‘Summer.’

‘The summer is over,’ said the Flamingo.

‘Beyond the mountain summer is about to begin.’

‘You lay eggs there?’

‘Yes, more eggs less trouble.’

‘I will fly.’

‘No you are not,’ said another goose. ‘There is no way you can fly as high as we do over the mountain.’

‘Better try and regret than not try and regret,’ said the Flamingo.

‘You speak like the great sage that lives in the shore. Have you met the Great Flamingo?’

‘One can not meet oneself no matter how hard one tries.’

‘You must have met it. Only the Great Flamingo talks like this.’

The Flamingo didn’t respond and fixed its stare at the see of geese.

‘We leave soon,’ said the Goose.

‘We cannot escape ourselves,’ said the Flamingo.

‘We can escape winter,’ said the Goose.

May be the mountain will help me escape myself, thought the Flamingo.

At dusk the leading flanks of the colony rose and soon every goose was in the air. The Flamingo lifted off with them and flew in at the tail of triangle formation in the middle of the flock. Soon the distance between triangles widened but every goose seemed to know the way. They entered a mountain passages and started climbing in altitude. The night grew cool. The geese seemed tireless. The Flamingo was struggling to keep up.

‘I told you sage,’ said the Goose flying next to it. ‘You should stay on the shore.’

The Flamingo didn’t speak to conserve its breath.

Just before down the flock started descending over a small mountain lake surrounded by peaks. The lake was cool and without a ripple. The geese drunk water and nibbled at the short green grass. The Flamingo saw tiny fish darting in the water.

At dusk the geese rose again. The Flamingo stood still at the edge of the lake.

‘You are not coming,’ cried the Goose from the air.

‘This was my destination,’ said the Flamingo.

 

next chapter: Animal Dilemmas – Bearded Vulture Bar-headed Goose

previous chapter: Animal Dilemmas – Flamingo Flying Fox

all chapters: Animal Dilemmas

more by XIDAN

photograph by Ornitolog82

 

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