Parrot Wood

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A clever green parrot is kept captive by a strange psychologist. One day the parrot makes a bid for freedom. The path of her and her captor though would cross again as she plots with the nearby wildlife to take her revenge...

Submitted: June 22, 2017

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Submitted: June 22, 2017

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Parrot Wood

Theparrot had hatched and been raised in captivity - never knowing the rainforests that are the native home for her species. In fact she had not even seen another parrot. She had been bought, whilst still just a chick, by a human who kept her caged alone in his bedroom. It was a sad fate for a very clever parrot and her bright green feathers grew dull as the months of captivity dragged on.

Humans are noisy creatures and the parrot found little peace. At night at least she could hear the silence. It wrapped around her like a black velvety friend. The silence always had a mood or feeling to share. For the parrot, it seemed the silence was saying ‘wait’.

She could see a patch of sky from where her cage sat in the room. With what little she knew of the world outside of cages and the buildings of humans, she knew this was her way to freedom. Occasionally her captor would take her out of her cage and she could fly at least a wing beat or two around the little room whilst the human cleaned out her prison. Of course she tried to fly for the patch of sky, but there was something cold and hard stretched across it so that she was simply knocked back into the room.

For many weeks she watched the patch of sky; through darkness and daylight. From time to time her captor would open a little hatch in the square of sky. Fresh air would stream into the room and with it the sounds and smells of the world beyond her prison. The parrot could hear faintly the sounds of other birds. She knew there must be many many other creatures out there - perhaps some like herself. Each time her captor opened the little hatch to the sky she watched him intently. This was the way through to the sky and the world outside. She had only to wait her chance.

A few more days and there was another cage clean out. This was it. Once her captor had set her down on a shelf he left the room to fetch fresh sawdust. The parrot flew up to the highest point of the room then dropped with all her weight onto the handle that opened the hatch to the sky. The handle gave and the hatch moved just a little. The parrot felt cold air seeping in. She got her claws over the edge of the hatch and pushed with her beak. The hatch opened a little further and it was just enough for her to struggle through.

For a tropical bird the air was extremely cold. She was lucky that she had made her escape in the human month of March, which in this part of the world meant that summer was approaching. If she could make it through a few more weeks then at least there would be some months of relatively warm weather. But of course the parrot knew nothing of this. She had not even flown more than a few wing beats in her whole life and now she was faced with the immensity of the sky. A bird of her size should have learnt to use air currents, should have mastered when to flap her wings and when to glide, should have understood how to use height to her advantage, but all of this knowledge was missing from her. She flapped heavily just to maintain altitude, circling above her captor’s house, wondering where to head. After some time she caught sight of some distant trees and set out in that direction.

Of course she had not even seen a tree before. The closest she got was the bare branch that was stuck in her cage as a mute mockery of some avian habitat. The parrot only headed for the trees out of some instinctual recognition that this was a natural place, whilst everything else seemed to be the place of the creatures that were like her captor - the humans.

She reached the trees at last and perched on a low branch, exhausted already from her awkward flight. The trees were just budding and on the branch where she sat, one small leaf was already unfurling. The parrot had perhaps been given a name by her captor but either she did not know it or otherwise she refused to recognise it. Looking at the leaf though, she decided she would name herself. Of course, she used the language of the beasts in her naming - the language that all animals share, although with many variations. But ‘Leaf’ is the nearest human word to the name she chose, and it was a suitable name as her feathers matched the bright green colour of the unfurling leaf, springing to life on the branch where she sat.

In a few weeks the trees would all be green like this and she would be well hidden amongst their myriad leaves. But for now she was conspicuous amongst the bare branches of the woodland just emerging from winter.

Two days later and things had not gone well for Leaf. She could not find food and was too tired to fly. She was walking through the woods, hiding beneath dead leaves during the freezing nights. Cold, wet and exhausted; it was doubtful if she could last another night. It was just good luck that she had not fallen prey to a fox or a cat.

It was dawn in the wood and an owl was just returning to its roost when it spotted Leaf just below the ruined barn where it lived. The owl swooped down with lightening speed, talons extended, but seeing that the bright green thing was actually a large bird, the owl changed its mind at the last moment about an attack and instead landed beside the exhausted Leaf.

Leaf was too tired to do anything - she just looked blankly at the owl. The owl flew off and returned some minutes later with some berries in her beak, which she set down beside Leaf. Leaf ate them - the first food she’d had since her escape -and felt some strength returning to her wings and claws. The owl seemed to be waiting for her and without any real exchange between them Leaf simply followed her rescuer into the barn. With some difficulty she flapped up to a ledge where the owl and her family had their home. The ledge was strangely warm. (in fact, a cottage adjoined the barn and humans had recently moved into this and installed a stove. The stove’s metal flue was just behind the owls’ ledge. They had managed to remove some crumbling stonework to get the benefit of the borrowed heat. For the owls it was a bonus. For a tropical parrot, it was a life saver.)

Leaf slept all that day and the following night. When she awoke she found the owls still out but they had left her some berries. Over the coming days, Leaf listened to all the different bird and animals sounds in the wood. Of course they all spoke the language of the beasts, but every species has its own variations and these in turn vary from region to region. Only humans have forgotten the language of the beasts and speak in their own strange sounds that are so different as to be unintelligible to even the smartest of wild animals. The language of beasts is partly sound but also pictures that they convey to each other and also feelings that need no sound at all. Humans, if they knew of this, might call it telepathy.

As Leaf regained her strength and improved her flying skills she got to thinking about humans. She learnt from the birds and animals that most creatures were terrified of them. It was partly the noises they made, but also of course because humans were killers. Some big creatures were strong enough to kill a human in turn, bur there were none such beasts for at least hundreds of miles from the wood where Leaf had come to live. In any case, sometimes a human, with one of the strange devices they carried, could kill even the largest of beasts in an instant. It would just drop down dead. Such is the power of humans to take life away whenever they wished, and usually with no reason that is obvious to the beasts. So humans are feared by all creatures, almost everywhere across the world.

Leaf did not have any notion of trying to kill a human. But an idea had begun to form in her mind from the life she had experienced right up to her escape. What would it be like to be the one on the outside of the cage, looking in?

Leaf consulted with many birds and animals. In the language of the beasts, she conveyed the message of a nest from which there could be no flight or a burrow from which there is no exit. Leaf found that the jackdaws and ravens were best at understanding her and perhaps also best for building the trap that Leaf was planning. Much more difficult still was the question of how to lure a human into the trap. As Leaf learnt more about the humans from the other creatures she heard that most of them carried a little device with them wherever they went. Leaf wondered if there was a way to use the devices to entice a human into the trap. The jackdaws stole a few and set about trying to figure out how they worked. The devices would only work for a few days, sometimes only a few hours before going dead so they had to steal a lot of them in order to keep going with their experiments. Finally, after many weeks of tapping beaks onto screens, the jackdaws managed to get one of the little devices to light up and give out its strange mechanical music. It was difficult to know if this had just been a coincidence as sometimes the devices would do this without any interference from the birds. So many more days of experiments followed before they were sure they had cracked it. The jackdaws could call a mobile phone. And humans, Leaf was sure, could not resist answering a ringing phone.

Crows and other birds had meanwhile fashioned the human trap. There were humans who walked these woods and they all hoped that one would walk by soon and allow them to set their plan into action. Sure enough, before long a human appeared, walking along a little path that would lead it right by the trap.

They waited until the human was just in the right place then the jackdaws dialled the number of the phone set within the trap and it gave out its shrill ring. The human looked around then caught sight of the phone. It walked right into the trap, stepping on a pile of dead leaves that concealed a stretched reed. The reed bent under the human’s weight and a series of small twigs snapped. The heavy doors of the trap swung shut with a resounding thud. Branches, held back by woven grass, sprung out and locked into notches in the doors of the trap. The human was caught.

Some animals, the ones that are strong enough to kill humans, hold a certain kind of power. But this was something different. Never before had animals managed to capture a human and it felt like a new kind of power altogether - not about taking a life but about stealing something perhaps even more basic. Leaf had expected to feel elated by achieving such power over one of these evil creatures, but when she saw the doors of the trap swing shut on the hapless human she just felt confusion. She had not really planned about what they would do with the human after they had caught it. Would they keep it, just as she had been kept? But there was no time to think of this now, because her confusion had quickly turned to consternation as she realised the human they had captured was none other than her own captor, who had kept her caged in his bedroom for most of her life.

The trap that the birds had built was not really that strong. If the man had kept calm he could have broken his way out within a few minutes. But he did not stay calm; he panicked and started thrashing wildly at the branches that entombed him. It took nearly half an hour of frantic thrashing for the man to break free and then he knelt down on the ground, still wailing and sobbing, just as he had done throughout his ordeal. All the creatures of the wood were watching him in silence - and Leaf especially. In his distress, the human had uttered a few words in the language of the beasts. They were words that an animal would only have uttered in mortal danger, when it knew its life was about to end. Yet the human had escaped and was unharmed. The creatures of the wood were puzzled. But Leaf was beginning to understand what they had done.

Every wild creature has a fierce dignity; a strong unquenchable thirst for being. Even Leaf - a captive all her life - had retained this wild beauty in her mind. Few animals were ever without it, because to be without it would mean death. This human had kept Leaf captive in body only - her spirit had always been free. But in capturing the human Leaf saw that he was a captive in another way. His body was free but his mind was in a cage. Leaf wondered whether all humans were really like this - trapped in cages of their own making, whilst Nature was always there, pure and free, all around them.

The man’s sobbing fell silent at last. He got up and headed home with a strange determination in his step. By this time it was dusk and several rabbit and guinea pig cages were smashed open on the man’s walk to his own house. Once there, he opened the cage doors of some forty small tropical birds he had kept in his house along with Leaf, although Leaf had never seen them.

It is not a sensible thing to release captive creatures to the wild. Leaf had barely made it; without the owls she would have died of cold and hunger within a few days of her escape. The little birds the man had released might make it through the summer, with foliage to hide their bright plumage. Winter was another matter, but Leaf would help them. As for the rabbits and guinea pigs, they might not be fast enough and could easily fall prey to foxes, dogs and cats. Releasing a captive can be as much of a death sentence as a life spent in a cage. But the man’s gesture was just the start of some big changes in his life.

The man had been a psychologist and academically brilliant. So great was his intelligence that he had managed to hide his fears from himself all his life as well as fooling everyone around him that he was strong, confident and happy. But little by little the truth has a way of revealing itself. The incident in the wood had been a trigger; the last step that brought him to the point of finally realising his fears. The explanation is difficult to fathom. He did not keep little birds caged alone because he was frightened of being alone himself. In fact it was the other way around. He desperately wanted to be alone! But instead he felt trapped in a life of noise, relationships and responsibilities. But now, he was set free! He divorced his wife (setting her free too) and left his job. He set about working to preserve the wild places of the Earth. He visited such places himself as often as he could - relishing the silence. Of course he knew that the day he had got caught in the strange trap in the woods he had acted foolishly. But the shock of what had happened had been severe enough to jolt him into a new life. His mind had been set free.

It was a bright summer’s morning in the wood and Leaf was outside savouring the breeze and listening to how it made harmonies with the deep velvety silence that was always there behind everything. This morning the silence had a mood and the mood was anticipation. All animals feel these things and Leaf felt it now and wondered what would transpire. She did not have long to wait for her answer.

There was the sound of heavy flapping in the trees. A green parrot, a male of a species native to the rainforests of Brazil, was making heavy progress through the wood, struggling for height, tiring fast.

Leaf swooped down from her perch on the barn where she lived with the owls and swung around to fly beside the new arrival. He turned his head to see her and his beak fell open in astonishment. He forgot to flap his wings and dropped suddenly toward the ground. Leaf flew down effortlessly, squawking with laughter and delight. The male bird started flapping his wings again and gradually picked up the rhythm of Leaf’s wing beats. They flew to the barn together. The new arrival ate some berries and fell asleep. Leaf snuggled beside him and there was a peaceful silence all around them. The silence was now saying, belonging, acceptance, rejoicing, hope.

The two parrots made it through the winter thanks to the warmth in their roost. Chicks were raised and fledged the following summer and the little wood was filled with the squawks of many bright green birds.

As well as fearing humans, most animals consider them to be fairly stupid creatures, despite their impressive building skills and strange devices. To the animals, humans are mostly slow, noisy and blind. They had forgotten the language of the beasts millions of years previously and now spoke in their own babbling tongues. They did not seem to know about silence and how the sounds of creatures and the wind and the rain and the leaves all made music together. They did not know the difference between sound and noise. A few humans however had started visiting the woods who were a little different from the usual noisy intruders - amongst them Leaf’s former captor. These were quieter people, who often sat alone for hours amongst the trees just listening and watching. Most creatures in the wood felt that staying quiet and watchful was about the best a human could hope to achieve.

Leaf’s feelings about humans were perhaps a bit more optimistic. She knew how clever humans are despite their cleverness being mostly unintelligible to the animals. But humans could build cages in their minds. Their strange language chattered inside their heads so that they could not hear the silence all around them. They trapped and killed themselves, just as surely as they trapped and killed many species of animal and bird. But what if they could really set their minds free? Perhaps, despite everything, there might be some hope for them.

Leaf stretched her wings and took off into the immensity of the sky, silence weaving with her wing beats. Wild and free - the Earth belonged to her.


© Copyright 2017 Tom Wallace. All rights reserved.

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