We passed by his aviary again, and again I marveled at the cacophony it exuded. The structure was a complex web of bamboo, trees, climbing ivies, and trellises. No where did I see a cage to hold any of the birds that, to my untrained eyes, had to be rare to this part of the world. And yet, none of these birds were flying. None seemed intent on making an escape into the free air that surrounded them.
Instead, many sat perched, beaks drooped to the ground, eyes downcast, not at all interested in the sky above them.
I slowed down, as he wasn’t saying anything in particular that I had to attend to. As I did, I noticed how the ones chirping didn’t seem to be flapping their wings as birds normally do when they moved from perch to perch.
No, these birds, it — it almost seemed like they were walking along on their wings. Like apes do on their knuckles. These birds were using their four limbs to move along perches. They were even reaching out to the next perch with their wings, as if they expected to find hands there with which to grasp the perch and pull themselves on it.
As I watched, eyes growing wider at what I saw, my hears picked up on the differences as well.
What I thought was normal chirping had none of the melodic undertones I would associate with birds. The sounds were more uneven, often punctuated with shrill outbursts. Their warbling was more strangled, as if crying out in pain. At times, God helped me, it sounded like a man crying.
I had stopped dead in my tracks at this point to watch in horror these birds that were so unlike the birds I had experienced anywhere else. He noticed that I was no longer at his side and turned to join me.
But he did not seem surprised at the sights and sounds before us in this aviary. Together we watched one bird — it looked like a kookaburra, but bigger, and dear God was that a frown in it’s beak? The bird — the “thing” — used both of its wings to pull itself along a bamboo pole, all the while crying — yes, sobbing, a mixture of that legendary bird’s halting call with all the sadness any human could muster.
I was transfixed. He was not.
“Some of them are new. They haven’t learned to fly yet.”
His response jostled me from the kookaburra. I turned to him.
“How is that possible? They’re birds.”
A slight smile pulled at his lips.
“Yes, they are now.”
That was from a dream last night, where a pro-environmentalist group was cornered by some shady, evil people. But little did they know that one of those people had a special power. He turned all his enemies into birds. And in this dream I stood in front of an aviary, watching these humans-now-birds crying out in pain over their changed bodies, trying to understand what had just happened to them.
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