Forest Creatures: Paper Bird – Part One
The creature was born into the world by an exhale. Before, it was nothing. Then a human died in some other place and their last breath turned into the creature. Suddenly, It became. It was not high up in a safe nest or in a warm egg under a mother’s feathers. The creature came into consciousness in mid flight. Its paper wings were cutting through the air and it was sailing. Below it was a forest as wide as an ocean. Beyond that a clearing and a large castle that seemed to glow white as if the moon was saving its store of light for it alone. The creature felt freedom in its purest form and so it opened its mouth to sing.
“I’ll be right back,” a tender whisper left its beak where a song should have sounded. A deep voice had spoken instead of the sweet high trilling the creature had anticipated. Every instinct told the creature that it should be able to sing. It tried again.
“I’ll be right back,” it whispered again.
All at once the creature understood and its freedom was torn away. They were his words. His last words, the human who had died. Now they belonged to the creature forever. There would be no other songs for it to sing. Only a promise to another human that clearly never came true. The creature opened its beak to cry out in misery, but the words only repeated themselves.
“I’ll be right back,”
It tried to scream, but still there was only the human’s haunting whisper.
It caught a breeze and rode it while it spoke the words over and over. The human’s voice had been gentle and assuring. He surely did sound as though he would be right back. The creature sailed on in silent misery, not daring to hear the human’s voice leave its beak again. It thought about calling to any others like it, but that would have been futile. Who could have heard such a whisper?
After some time, the creature saw movement in a tree below and it dove down. It broke through the canopy to find thousands of other creatures like it perched on the branches. They were almost birds, but made entirely of faded white, strategically folded paper. The creature hopped over to the first of its kind in sight.
“I’ll be right back,” the creature asked it.
“I love you,” the other replied.
“I’ll be right back,” the creature asked again, afraid to truly conceptualize the answer its heart already knew. The other cocked it’s head to the left.
“I love you,” it whispered.
The creature left it and tried many others. It flitted from bird to bird with the same outcome.
One said, “It’s okay,” over and over.
Another said, “I’m scared.”
Another said, “It’s late. I’m going to turn in.”
By the time the creature tired and settled down onto a branch, it was sure of two things. Firstly, It would never sing a different song. It was doomed to repeat the same four words for however long it was to live. And secondly, every other creature like it was miserable. It could be seen in the way their wings drooped, how they tilted their heads to the canopy and closed their eyes as if a different song might leave their beak at any moment. The creature decided that hope can make a creature more heartbroken than misery. It can make a creature’s stay in this forest unbearable.
previous: Forest Creatures: Ember – Part Three
first chapter: Forest Creatures: Nushka – Part One
more by NOELLE CURRIE
photograph by khlongwangchao