feathers and bones and dying alone -- flash fiction by Allison Champ
The children crowd around it, jostling each other restlessly in an attempt to get a better look. They whisper in twos, saccharine pity filtering between their fingers and disappearing into the air. It flaps feebly, chirping a hoarse call for a mother that will never come and a nest it can never go back to. Its wing lies ground into the pavement, bone shards jutting through the mess of feathers, matted with congealed blood. One of the braver, crueler children pokes it with the tip of a neon-green shoe, snickering nastily as it jerks away in terror, its good wing beating senselessly against the concrete.
A stricken child has run to get the recess supervisor, who strides purposefully across the ground and sends the rest of the children scrambling backwards with a glare and a shout. Carefully, he kneels down and scrapes the creature off the grittiness of the road. It wriggles fiercely for only a moment before going limp, wings lying useless against the calluses of the supervisor’s hands.
He tells the children, eyes wide with feeling, that he’s taking the little birdy to the nurse. Young in years and simple in the ways of the world, the children accept it. They are not old enough to fear death.
Instead of the nurse, the supervisor traipses through the grass until he reaches the back of the school, far from every prying eye or interest. The air is calmer back here, the breeze singing sweetly as the creature is shaken from the supervisor’s hands and into the dry, cracking dirt. Pain ricochets throughout what bones it has left as it writhes, trying in its own way to get the supervisor to remain. But the supervisor is gone, and it will never again see another living thing.
It lies its head down on the dirt, breath coming in shallow gasps and weak peeps. The agony is almost enough to put it to sleep, and it closes its eyes. Maybe when it opens them, it will see something else. Maybe when it opens them, it will have bones and blood.
For now, though, the creature fades -- in life and in memory. Its shattered bones will return to the earth and its feathers will rot away in the wind. Nothing has changed and everything has. There is no yesterday and there is no tomorrow. There is only wind and stillness and hurt and peace.
Allison Champ is a high school senior in the trenches of suburban Minnesota. She is entirely too obsessed with overanalyzing monster movies, drinking copious amounts of milkshakes, and dreaming up stories. Someday soon, Allison dreams of finding her life's purpose. Her works have previously appeared in Teen Ink and her school's award-winning literary arts magazine, Voices.