Bird Thoughts

[Hi, everyone. Back from break after touring the best part of the Silver State via Highway 50 and back round Interstate 80. Fun times for this Nevada nerd. Now, time for the writing exercise. If you’re late to the game, I bought a book of writing prompts to kick start my butt back into the game. If you’re interested, these exercises all have the same hashtag (link). As always, my comments at the end are at the end in italics and brackets.]

Bird Thoughts

Think of a specific type of bird, such as a wandering albatross, and write a detailed description of it, including its appearance and its movements, and perhaps even its thoughts.

Argus of the Icari nest watched the human below climb the near-perpendicular shale cliff without rope or support. Even in the near darkness of the dawn, he could see the human was laboring, yet not being as careful as the others before today. He found himself counting the seconds for the man (perhaps women) to put a hand on a loose offshoot of rock. The cliff face was too dangerous to fly by, much less ascent, and he was sure the rock crumble under the weight of the climber. The fall would be sudden, too quick to save itself from the fall to the valley floor below.

Argus hoped for the fall, because if it made the ascent to his station, he would have to kill the human to save his nest’s secrets. Despite his training, he had no taste for murder.

His left wing quivered and he folded the tip to his face, plucking the small ant trying to nest between the feathers. Like those his age, Argus was a speedbird, the youngest of the warrior caste. Their youth and physical fitness made them the swiftest of the nest, able to fly incredible speeds during the hunt. Their wings were developed to the point where they could withstand sharp turns as high speeds, including the turn upwards from the ground after falling a far distance.

Speedbirds were not especially tall, as every ounce on the body worked with gravity and against the warrior, yet Argus was exception to the rule, the tallest of the speedbirds: two meters tall when standing erect, and his wingspan was of equal length. Had he chosen otherwise, he could have been a soarer, the nest charged with high altitude surveillance. They floated with the high clouds, wings rarely moving, their eyes watching the plains around the mountain nest, searching for prey and intruders. They were the scouts and early warning system, and it was they who warned Argus of the climber below.

But Argus loved the speed of flight and the heat of battle, and his prowess with the rope and spear was legend in the nest. The former was used to break the necks of the land crawlers, and the latter protected the nest against intruders.

A shout, almost a bark, below him and Argus was certain the human had fallen, but not yet. He or she had secured a grip with one hand and hung in the open air, its legs kicking below to find a secure toehold. It was successful after a minute of kicking and, taking a breath, began the ascent.

Argus was a little impressed with this one’s stubbornness and strength. As was custom, he’d lived among humans in their river city for a year during his training, learning their strengths and weaknesses. He was young, and his wings were still pliable to the point they could be hidden under a thick coat. He pretended deafness while learning how they spoke as he worked their fields and ranches. Their language was deep and felt guttural in his throat, unlike the High Speech the nest used, and he remembered telling the elders that he felt as though he was swallowing rocks whenever he had to speak.

The elders. Argus had little use for their antiquated ways, though he knew he was destined to become one in time after his flying days were done. Between now and then, he would evolve into a predator. Age and injury were the natural enemies of mature speedsters, and when they slowed down, they gained mass and muscle to become the nest’s fighting army of the air. Predators could fly long distances, lift heavy cargos, and withstand long days of battle to protect the nest. When their fighting days were done for whatever reason, predators became elders and ruled the nest in the safety provided by the speedsters, soarers, predators, and other castes. When anointed as elders, only then were they allowed to breed, birthing the next generation of younglings who eventually became speedsters, keeping alive the cycle of nest life.

Argus started. A shout and a scream below! The human was falling!

Later he would not remember make the decision. Custom dictated letting it fall. After all, the nest’s best defense was its secrecy. His training and experience centered around protecting the nest.

Yet he pushed himself off his perch and dove after the human almost as a reflex. His eyes focused on the dot below, his mind calculating the distance to the rocks below along with the speed needed to catch the falling figure. A part of his brain reveled at the speed of his wings, the muscles around his chest and across his back flapping the short beats needed for speed.

This was life!

The ground was distant, but approaching faster than he remembered in the past. He decided he had one chance: he’d wrap his arms around its waist while fulling extending his wings at an angle, hoping to soar along the ground instead of stopping. The forward spars at the top of his wings would be tested the most. If they shivered at all, even a hint, he’d drop the human to save himself. One death instead of two.

One saving grace with the human was falling face down and was limp, without screaming, as if it has accepted its fate. He’d seen others fall, kicking and fighting to the end, wishing against hope for the gift of flight. Others in the nest gathered the bodies for cooking, but Argus never tasted human and never desired to, no more than he would eat a nestmate.

Ten wings in distance.

Five.

Contact!

He could feel the shock from his touch ripple through the human as he wrapped his body around it, but he paid it no mind. He stopped beating his wings and slowly extended them against the wind, angling them at first in line with their descent. The forward spars were strong so far, he was gratified to see, but the work was about to begin.

He moved his shoulders and extended the wings as far as they could reach, then pulled his knees in a little, changing the angle of the wings. Their descent did not slow, but they were no longer falling straight down. He pulled his thighs in, changing the angle more than before.

Now the forward spars were barking a little, but still solid in the gale force wind of their fall. Argus arched his back a little, then more, focused on balancing the load in his arms against his own body. They would no longer land among the jagged rocks, but they in danger crashing into the trees.

One more hard pull, Argus decided, arching his entire body now.

Almost there. Almost not falling. Almost flying.

The forward spar on his left wing quivered.

Without thinking, he spun their bodies to the left so they were facing upward and his extended wings were under them, putting the wind to their backs.

And the trees.

The arch of their fall downwards worked for them, and they turned upward, breaking a few branches.

Argus laughed aloud because they were flying again! He had cheated death!

He spun again and flapped his wings, feeling joy as both showed no signs of weakness. The left forward spar may need a brace later, but for now, he was still a warrior.

But what to do with the human?

He turned it around in his arms, expecting gratitude, but he almost dropped it when he received a slap across the face.

The elders preached humans were never happy. Argus hated it when the humans were right.

He easily held the human at arms’ length and almost swallowed his tongue to speak their guttural language. “I should drop you.”

“I didn’t ask to be saved!”

Its fury was savage, its face nearly the shade of its hair. He had trouble with their genders when he lived among humans, but he decided this was a female, soft in places that he himself was not. The women in the river city annoyed Argus, as they always seemed to need to touch him in some way. This female was not like them. The power in her attack entranced him.

She took another swing and he almost dropped her. “Look down, woman.” She did and gasped. The mountain she’d been trying to climb was far below, almost lost in the distance. “Continue to fight and I may not be able to save you.”

Her reply was lost as her face lost color and her eyes rolled back into her head. Argus cursed himself, forgetting that humans could not survive the heights of flight. He gathered her into his body and tipped over, gliding towards a summit far away from the nest. Soon she would have air and warmth, and he would ask her why she wanted to die on the mountain.

No matter. Her old life was gone the moment he touched her. Once humans learned of the Icari, they did not return to their homes. Often, they were killed out of hand, secrecy being the nest’s priority. Sometimes, rarely, one or two were taken as pets. Argus hoped this one was nest broken.

Gliding across the morning plains, Argus of the Icari and his unconscious human pet flew towards a joined future neither could even begin to predict, a future that would change their two races forever.

[Yeah, I was supposed to write about a bird, but meh. Birds are boring. On the other hand, human birds are pretty darn interesting. Unlike previous writing exercises, I had little to no experience to draw on, so this is all freehand and off the cuff (redundant much?). Minimal editing done, as usual, because I wanted to have fun and not work. Comments always welcome. Thanks for reading.]

[One last thing: I am not the owner of the above image. If the owner reaches out and asks the image to be removed, I’ll be glad to do so. Thanks.]

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