Some of you might remember my previous post of the first portion of this story, which I continued as a mini-series. However, this is what was
published as a short story in Red Cedar Vol. XIX. I hope that you enjoy it! It is about a form of dementia and involves both the surreal and reality.
The first part is surreal, whereas the second part is reality.
Creation of the Birds
She was the only one fit to take up the task of painting a song to life: Arlnamis, Queen of Byrrds. A steady hum permeated the space, emanating from
the pigment apparatus. The pressure from the oscillated particles of air made her barn-owl plumage ruffle gently in the sub-motion. A paragon of
serenity, Arlnamis, with eyes closed, combined the ingredients of life: yellow matter, red quantum particles, and blue stardust, upon her palette. Her
stylus, inseparable from her song, deep within the centre of her chest.
Against entropy, she put pen to paper and drew forth life, through the magnified power of the burning stars. Three points of starlight upon the page
imbued her creations with reality through the corkscrewing radiance of their Aether.
The painted wings twitched. Hello, little one. Welcome—welcome to Life.
Her face spread into a warm smile, with pressed lips, as though
kissing the thought, itself. The little wet eyes blinked up at her, slowly, as a tiny —chirrup!
came, unbidden, from its throat. Arlnamis
opened her own fierce yellow owl’s eyes, and looked upon her bird, now hopping joyfully about the tabletop. She grinned toothlessly before taking up
Creation, once again. As her first bird began flight, her second drew its first breath.
After the fourth, all five birds, giddy with the miracle of Life, rejoiced and filled the space with their hearts’ Song. —A success
Creation, complete, Arlnamis turned to group the four little birds upon the sill of the opened window. She gave each of them, in turn, a stare laden
Then, in one swift motion, she ushered them forth, out into the endlessly deep night sky—so that her freed and living Song might grace all of
reality through the infinite flight of their beating hearts.
Arlette’s hands shook as she laboriously poured birdseed into the feeder, only managing to get about half of it inside of the cage, the rest of it
falling uselessly to the floor. The four birds, her only living companions, twittered and worriedly cocked their heads from side-to-side.
At eighty-three, Arlette supposed there were much worse deaths to die—she’d seen them. Had been there, at her husband’s death rattle, some
thirteen years prior. Watched his precipitous decline, as the cancer meticulously ate away at him and left only his shell, behind.
—It’s only my shell—
It hadn’t even been him, really, when he’d died. Just as she supposed it wouldn’t really be her, either, dying. After all—she’d be somewhere
else. That Other place her dementia brought her to with increasing regularity. She’d be free in hallucinations—was
free: from the shaking
and the delusion; the fainting, and the sorrow—free from the inevitable unravelling of her consciousness.
Arlette half-closed one cage and moved on to the next. She did not notice her birds taking advantage of this and escaping, one by one. As if lacking a
keel, her uneven shuffle grew ever more disordered. She progressed, and her tremulant hands spilled far more birdseed onto the floor, than they did
into the feeders. A sudden wave of uneasiness slunk up her spine. She grappled about desperately in search of support. Too little, too late—it hit
full-force, striking her like a bolt from the blue.
Vertigo violently slammed her to the tiled floor with a sickening thunk
. Her perception ground down to a halt. She couldn’t move—couldn’t
think. She tried
to move a finger—to move anything at all! Alas, even her best efforts proved futile. Could she have, she would have cried
out in frustration, for she was helplessly trapped. Her eyes were locked, looking up. Stuck like that, on her back, all she could see was her birds,
Easily, they soared in and out and out and back into Arlette’s limited frame of view. From on high, her four birds gazed down curiously at her. The
rate at which they flew seemed to slow, gradually, until they were just barely inching along. Without preamble, Arlette miraculously unfurled her
wings. Then, with a chirrup!
she jovially hopped about, not a single tremor in sight. Her birds beckoned to her with their song. She joined
in—all of the words already intuitively imprinted within her soul.
—I can fly—
Even as she felt herself flying away—free into the brightest of blue skies that had somehow replaced her ceiling—Arlette chanced a last glance
back, toward the once-familiar room. There, hedged in between the white adobe walls, potted plants, birdcages, and terracotta floor—there she lay,
breathing, with eyes wide-open. Arlette laughed to herself—she had been correct: she really wasn’t
that shell, anymore!
She was finally free.