To the Moon and beyond

The air smelled of emptiness and approaching storms as winter crept closer. We were on our own, the Wingless long dead. The dying moors couldn’t feed us much longer either. My children seemed little more than skeletons, barely able to hold themselves up against the wind. My husband’s wing was burned by a piece of metal that fell from the sky.

by Arthur Rackham

He was outside, desperately searching for something to eat, when the thing crashed next to him.

“It was a warning from Our Feathery Father,” Chip said, “he wants us to look towards the sky when we have to leave.  These lands don’t give us shelter anymore.”

“There is nowhere to go, the Wingless had ruined everything,” I said. I needed to stop midsentence to cough; the wind was full of leaking gases. “The Northern countries are frozen; the Southern ones are burning up. We’ll follow the Wingless into death.”

Chip sat on the top of a crumbling stone wall and pecked at some seeds in the creeks. Our conversations became bleaker and bleaker, just like our marriage. The end of the world only made it clearer that we had nothing to do with each other anymore.

“Do you remember when the fields were still green and full of sheep? We stayed here for the winter because we knew the Wingless would take care of us in those small wooden shelters with delicious seeds.” I tried to break his silence.

“How could I forget? Don’t be nostalgic, though. If it hadn’t been for the Wingless, we could still fly free above the fields and we wouldn’t worry about poisonous air or starvation.”

“What do you suggest then? If you’re so clever, tell me what to do!” This always made him shut his beak. He didn’t have an idea either. He just looked up at the pale moon and sighed.

The days went by and grey snow started to fall. We sought warmth in a concrete nest, where our children spent their days huddling together, stuck in a state of half-sleep.

Chip sat in the window all day long. I had to do everything alone while he watched as the marshlands disappeared under the snow. We were going to be buried alive. I sat next to him to see what he was staring at. It wasn’t the white wastelands as I’d initially thought. He gazed upwards, to the full moon.

“Our ancestors believed that birds came from there. The stories stars to make sense now, it looks like a giant egg and when I close my eyes, I can hear it calling to me,” he said.

“The Moon can disturb the mind. It moves the big waters; it moves your thoughts as well. I didn’t know you believed the silly tales of old birds.”

“We need to believe in something. Even old tales have a grain of truth in them,” he replied, shuddering.

“What do you think the truth in this story is? Do you think we should fly to the Moon and try to see if we can find a new life there? Because I tell you that’s not going to happen,” I knew we were to have one of our pointless arguments again, but I couldn’t help it. I was too cold and tired, I didn’t have any energy to stop myself.

“I think… we should at least try.” He didn’t look at me.

“Try what? To fly to the Moon? Do you have any idea how far it is?”

I couldn’t believe he meant what he was saying.

“Africa is far away and birds can get there!”

“Yes, but it’s on the same planet! Has the cold frozen that tiny brain of yours?”

“We used to be happy. You would tell these tales to our children… now look at them! They’re nothing but bones and feathers. I told them my plan. They agreed to try. They don’t want to wait here for slow death.”

“You talked to them first?”

“I know you wouldn’t approve. We’re having a feast tonight, filling our stomachs with the remnant of the bread. I hoped you would join us…”

“And what if I don’t? Are you going to drag me along?”

“No. I won’t force you.  If you want to come with us, you can.”

“You hate me so much you’d go to the Moon to get away from me? Don’t go, please, we’ll come up with something. This is our home.”

“We had months and we haven’t come up with anything. Our time is running out. You have until the morning to think it over.”

I knew the answer, without thinking. I’m not flying into a suicide mission. At dawn I embraced my children for a last time. They were cold and so embarrassed; they didn’t look me in the eye.

“Are you sure you’re not coming?” my husband asked.

“Yes.  I’ll be here, waiting for your return.”

“You’ll be waiting in vain,” he said and took off. The children followed him. I felt the rush of hope and adventure, the wish to join them. It was gone in a second. They were going to realise how silly it was and they were going to come back to me. Then he’d see I was right. I had nothing to do but to wait. Going to the Moon, what a stupid idea.

I waited and waited. I sat in the window every night, looking up at the Moon. Maybe the old legends were right. Maybe they wrong and killed my family.

The snow rose higher and food became even scarcer. Winter moved into me, freezing my bones from the inside. I felt tired, my eyes were closing. I lay on the windowsill, my last glance on the sky. I could see the yellow plate of the Moon. It called to me and finally I was ready.

With a relieved sigh, the soul of the last bird left the Earth.

If you would like to listen to this story, it has been turned into a wonderful podcast episode by Mariah Avix, graceful hostess of 600 Seconds Saga. (Open for submissions, check it out!)

This story is for the Storytime Blog Hop, hosted by lovely Juneta Key.

You can read the stories by the other participants here:

Surprise, by Katharinia Gerlach

In A Picture by Erica Damon

The Past Tastes Better by Karen Lynn

Revealing Space by Barbara Lund

The Rose Tender by Raven O’Fiernan

The Last Sleeping Beauty by Tamara Ruth

Freeman byElizabeth McCleary

Hell’s Play by Juneta Key

The Token by Eli Winfield

Moshe 4th by Chris Makowski

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