OK – first flash fiction outing. Ever.
The kindness of Author Chuck Wendig over at Terrible Minds.com came up with a way to choose a random title for this exercise. The assignment – 1000 words due by January 17th.
I unknowingly violated the rules in my exuberance to roll for the title and chose two words from one list – was that serendipity? Far be it from me to risk violating the universe. I decided to keep the title Griefstruck Cerulean, and here’s what happened. (In just under 1000 words.)
The Griefstruck Cerulean
By Paula Millhouse
Tiny Azure feathers molted down into a heap at the base of a verdant, humid jungle, and the ornithologist wept. He knelt beside the tree housing the last nest. Acknowledging his love of the winged creatures sometimes overwhelmed, and to lose this last male to forces beyond his control at first angered him, then clouded his mind with grief.
Every endangered creature of the vast green rainforest deserved at least this, right? To have one human feel anguish wash over his soul due to the ignorant effects of all the others. He swiped away his tears, and mourned the senseless loss.
Fluttering blue wings nestled down beside him and his grief. He looked up at the giant green leaf bobbing beside him, brought to life by a four inch tall fairy with exquisite Azure wings. He squinted his eyes first thinking he’d seen a butterfly, then squeezed them tight to shut out the apparition.
“I’ll miss his melodious call the most,” she said.
His hearing certainly wasn’t affected, and his heart raced because the fairy’s voice was there in his head grieving the loss of his favorite bird alongside him. He opened his eyes and she remained on the green leaf mere inches from his shoulder. Resplendent in her fairy garb she regarded him, then pointed at the object of his insanity. “He died from grief when he lost his mate. She’s been gone three weeks now – he held on for you, you know.”
The ornithologist shook his head. “Why would he do that?”
Her face glimmered with a radiance that startled him, and the fairy smiled. She shuttered her wings open for three beats, and his breath caught in his throat. “He knew you loved him and his kind.”
“Creatures can’t know such things,” he snapped, frustration and disbelief clouding his words. At once he felt embarrassed, and angry. He’d obviously been alone in the jungle one day too many. He fingered his stubbled jaw and thought of razors, and showers, and everything comfortable that didn’t live in the depths of the tropical rainforest.
“Of course we can. He told me you’d tracked them for weeks. Your work – your research about the dangers of deforestation, and the poisoning of the great wood – the last Cerulean told us you’d warn the others – ”
He reared to his feet, whipped away from her, and ran. Back down the path he’d taken to the grief-stricken Cerulean’s last resting place he ran as fast as long legs could carry him over roots and branches and vines that threatened to throw him to the forest floor, he ran.
At the edge of the opening to the jungle he paused before leaving the shaded safety of the trees. He looked out on the devastated meadows that separated the rainforest and giant river of life beyond. Industry waited for him beyond the shade. Progress, driven by giant yellow machines that ate at and scarred the earth, targeted the perimeter of the great jungle. The invasion was so…wrong.
He bent over his own knees, bracing his hands there and heaved in breaths. The acrid smell of exhaust and progress tainted the air, and he tasted bitterness on the back of his tongue.
The fluttering of fairy wings brushed his ear. He looked up. She’d pursued. She lit on a branch at eye level, put her hands on her hips, and strode back and forth across her perch. In her belt she’d secured one of the Cerulean’s feathers. She whipped it out and pointedly jabbed the air in his direction with it. “Do you have any idea what the pigment in this feather could do for modern science? What cure for human good this could mean?”
“And now we never will. There’s the problem with over-consumption – men come here and destroy the very thing that could save them and they never even stop to consider the fallout of those actions.”
He shook his head and thrust an arm out at the belching machines gnawing their way toward the jungle. “I can’t stop them!”
“You’re not even going to try?”
“What would you have me do? Throw myself in front of their machines?”
She spread her wings taut and sunshine filtered through luminous blue filaments. “Tell them about him.”
“It won’t matter.” He reared up to standing and fisted his hands. “I’ll publish my report. I’ll put the photos up on the web and do my due diligence, but trust me, they won’t listen.”
“You don’t get to decide the reach of your energy. None of us do. But if you don’t let them know about him, about his sacrifice then you’ve failed him.” She held out the tiny feather, fluttered above the leaf, and flew over to light on his arm. She placed the Cerulean’s feather in his hand.
Her touch was light, and mystical, and magic all at once and his heart sped with the instinct to comprehend her meaning, to really hear her words.
“Tell them about the griefstruck Cerulean.” He peered into her eyes, clutched the feather with his fingers, and nodded. She nodded back and took her leave and flew away into the rainforest.
Three months later he stopped for a coffee on his way to work and regarded the front page of the national newspaper. The news agency showed an inset photo he’d taken himself of the Cerulean and its mate nesting together. The larger headline image showed hundreds of protesters blocking the yellow monsters from their progress into the perimeter of the jungle. His gut flipped. He pulled the newspaper closer focusing in on a stand of trees at the edge of the rainforest. Dozens of Azure winged creatures dotted the leaves.
A smile curled across his face.