Rook

Rook

Read this short fiction with a coffee.

They never otherwise went that high but he was lost and then curious. He found himself at the soft end of an ambient warmth through the air of someone passing through not recently but lately and still up there, somewhere, maybe on the way up, maybe on the way down. He was hungry but that wasn’t all. It would be a hard trek for decent food and he would find the same thing closer to home but it would be less of an adventure. The path up otherwise empty here at the tail end of the afternoon between people coming and going already. What he could do was whine up through the dimming day and catch a view rare for him and everyone he knew. So up he went.

Air thins as it rises and it does so in ways we don’t notice for kilometres with thicker blood and skin and miraculous organs. Warmth innate and muscle and fat and strength and thumbs and the top of the food chain tight in our grasp. Little things like him instead suspectible to gusts of breath and conversation, the insect heavier than air with fragile wings as it thins out enough, for him, to count.

The human heat he followed felt more like a run than a walk, like endurance not just exercise, and through it he wafted on an empty stomach as the darkening day turned loose the creatures that ate him at the edges of his wide-eyed view. The scent of warm blood red if he could describe it and about in the shadows things nameless to him but made of primal fear and fur and eyes with silken webs thin and unseeable but for the sun striking them like crystal. He went slow and steady and careful and his whine filled the noise between breaks of birdsong and wind through the canopy and down the path against which he fought with his little strength.

He saw the first of the golden hour after longer than he’d hoped but not longer than he was prepared to push. A thin ray of colour at the top of the black bitumen path where it levelled out ahead of him. He’d seen it all before, of course, from rooves and treetops but he’d never his short shelf life made it so high and seen it so wondrous out across the rest of the world unimaginable and unnavigable to so small a thing. His simple brain illuminated with energy and light refracted through his round, black, absorbent eyes. Pinks at the edges of the daylight and orange beneath as the sun fell beneath the earth behind them to the west, the view out east. Up and up and then levelling out with the smell of food still strong drawing closer.

But he lost his appetite to the thrill of the sunset. Its splendour out over the sprawling ocean stretched as far ahead as he thought the world could be before the water became reefs and then peaceful blue seas for thousands of miles to the beaches again and then mountains taller than this one like a spine about the earth. Watercolours from the sky reflected back up and across the bottom of dark clouds aggregating above, like a painting framed, in fuschia and gold and orange and the last of the light of the sun scattered as pastel all about him. He hovered here a time as the smell he’d chased up came closer and closer without his noticing, dumbstruck by the wondrous sight at this altitude.

They ran back past him and down and he lingered in place, his thin wings tiring in the thinning air nevertheless with a soft buzz as he stayed and didn’t move and realised, too late, that the menu had come and gone. He’d not keep pace. So he stayed through a rumbling stomach to absorb it all and to consume a part of his life in the ways that we move overseas or extended vacations and the purple of the evening dark became the end of a majesty long for him and for us repeated over and over, day after day, but he would not be back. Hungry still and tiring. He glided soft to the ground as the rumble of the clouds overhead threatened another great wet. A rest a moment, a look from here on the side of the path over the stones at the edges keeping the forest itself at bay inside of which creatures as hungry as him saw him as food like he saw the joggers. He hoped, as much as he could with a size made for instinct not knowledge, that he was hungrier than they were.

He leapt back into the sky and he looked again, one last time, into what was now darkness and he turned back around and followed the red trail down home to something else, almost anything else now, to eat. 

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