Forest Creatures: Paper Bird – Part Three
The creature sat on the queen’s shoulder and watched her do astonishing and terrible things. When they first left the forest she pulled a silver shard from her wrist that was more iridescent than diamonds. When she plucked it from her skin, more redness spewed forth.
“I’ll be right back!” The creature said in alarm.
“It is only blood, my pet. It is nothing to be afraid of.”
The sparkling slivers were everywhere; in her long Crimson hair, under her nails, sticking out of her chest and arms. It looked as though she had stood in front of something beautiful as it exploded.
She planted one of the shards in the soil of a wide field. The ground rumbled beneath her and the creature clung closer to the fabric of her dress. Peaks tore their way through the grass atop spires. They soared high above them like branches of an enormous tree. The trunk that joined them was a grand castle made of the same pearlescent glass as the shard. The Queen led them inside and the creature spent the night dutifully pecking the remaining shards from her skin, her hair, and her clothes. She collected them in a small black box.
“You will be rewarded, my pet, in due time.”
With one wave of her hand gardens grew outside the castle. Countless leafy arches, a labyrinth of red roses, endless rows of gardenias, marble stepping stones and glistening fountains. Lanterns were strung along the pathways and cast a white glow over the scene. The creature’s eyes bulged in wonder. If ever there was a time the creature wished it could sing it was in that moment as it sat upon her shoulder and watched magic.
“I’ll be right back,” It whispered.
“Thank you, my pet,” the Queen said with a dark smile on her lips as she surveyed her work. “We are only at the beginning.”
When the sky was black, she gathered the rest of the birds together in the field. They swooped down and landed in the grass in an orderly circle around her. The creature looked down at them from its place on her shoulder and its chest swelled with pride. It was allowed to sit above them. The queen liked the creature best. It had been the first to fall from the tree, to trust in her, to love her and it had been right. The creature’s wings bristled with excitement.
“You have all seen the trees that grow in the forest and the fruit they bear.” She began, her voice low and steady. “I would like you each to begin plucking the fruits and bring them to me.”
A whispered chorus swept through the field as the birds looked to one another. The creature felt shameful to be one of them. How could they hesitate when the queen asked so little of them? Did they not want more words? A different song to sing? The queen held up her hands and they quieted at once.
“The task is not an easy one, but the reward is well worth your effort. Let me show you.”
She held her hands up to the sky and the creature looked up in wonder. The clouds rumbled and cracked with thunder. The queen’s eyes closed and bursts of blue light lit the clouds. The creature clung to her shoulder as a bolt of lightning shot down.
“I’ll be right back!” The creature’s frightened whisper was drowned out by the storm overhead.
The terrible light struck the queen’s hands and she grabbed hold of it. With a thrash, she had torn lightning from the sky with her bare hands.
She brought her cupped hands slowly down in front of her so they all might see the brilliant blue light glowing between her fingers. There was not a whisper among them. She brought her hands to her mouth and drank the light as if it were cool, sweet water. She held her hand up to the creature and it stepped into her palm without question. She brought the creature to her lips and breathed on to its feathers. As the light from her mouth poured over, it felt as if its paper would singe and combust from the heat. Something inside it froze and changed. It opened its beak, unable to contain the feeling in its tiny, frail body. Its wings opened of their own volition and it was painfully rigid.
“Shhh, my pet. It is nearly over,” the queen whispered to the creature and it calmed.
Soon enough the overwhelming forced passed out of the creature and it relaxed. Her fingers stroked its head and she said, “Speak now.”
“Yes, my love.”
Its eyes bulged.
“Yes, my love!” It said again. “I’ll be right back! Yes, my love!”
The creature finally had new words!
previous: Forest Creatures: Paper Bird – Part Two
first chapter: Forest Creatures: Nushka – Part One
more by NOELLE CURRIE
photograph by Daria Nepriakhina