by Michæl W. Bard
Text ©2005 Michæl W. Bard; illustration ©2005 Cubist

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This is a TBP (Tales of the Blind Pig) story. Go here for info on the TBP setting

   Fly. Fly! His golden eyes glared at the bronze bars that imprisoned him as his wings banged against them. Screaming, he glared around at the cage. Trapped. Can’t fly. Beneath his claws the gnarled wood of his perch creaked at his frustrated strength. Sound! His head turned and he watched two figures shouting and screaming. They were tall, dangerous…
   Deep inside, a shattered fragment of soul recognized them… and wept.

   He heard the bang behind her and it just fueled his rage. Why couldn’t Jorna understand!?
   “It’s mad—no, insane—to release him!” she shouted.
   Closing his eyes, he begged for strength. “Jorna, look at him. Look!”
   She just glared at him, hatred burning in her eyes. This wasn’t the woman he’d married.
   “He’s in pain. You remember what the doctor—”
   “Veterinarian!” she hissed.
   “—said! A month in the cage and he will never be able to hunt. Never be able to fly. It’s torture!”
   She thrust out an arm and pointed at the caged hawk. “He’s our son! If we let him go we’ll… we’ll never see him again!”
   It was the same argument over and over again. He didn’t know anymore what to do. Instead he just thrust up his arms and stomped off. This was wrong! Why couldn’t she see that? Felipe was dead!!!
   Throwing the door open he slammed it shut behind him so hard that he was surprised the glass didn’t break. He needed to get away, to think. Getting into the car he turned into the street and drove, just drove.

   He looked around the silence, his wings still, his heart beating frantically. So small, so crowded. Home? He wanted to fly, he ached to fly!
   A figured moved across the room and his head spun and his eyes focused. Small. Food. Hunt. Kill. He snapped out his wings and they banged against the cage and he screeched his rage as the mouse fled along the sideboard and vanished.
   Frustrated he tore at one of the bars, his beak clinking against the metal. Nothing. He took a couple steps, the wood of his gnarled perch creaking as he took out his frustration on it, and then leaned down to drink.
   In the distance there was a snap!
   Time passed. He watched.
   Sound. Movement. His head turned and he watched one of the familiar figures move towards him. He opened his wings, banged them against the bars, no room to step back. Big, big!! It loomed over him, blocking out the sun and he cowered.
   There was a sound above, an ululating howl that (he somehow felt) ought to have meant something to him. A thud and a dead thing fell to the floor in front of his perch.
   He screeched, grabbed the soft dead flesh with one claw and leaned forward and tore at it.
   Deep inside, a shattered fragment of soul was horrified as his body ate.

   She watched Felipe as he ate the mouse she’d pulled from one of the traps and knew her son was grateful for it as he tore into the flesh. Any flesh. Absentmindedly she scratched at the long bandage wrapping her arm. Everybody had to eat, even her son. She watched as he gulped down the bloody flesh.
   He was beautiful.
   But even more important she knew her son was still in there. Felipe would come out with just a bit of loving care.
   Felipe finished his meal and stared at her, his golden eyes boring into hers.
   Roano was wrong. He had to be! Their son was here, with them. Wasn’t he? But the doctors… She knew Felipe was there! How could she release him into the world? Sure the cage was too small, but it was all they could afford after the hospital bills. Insurance had covered most of it, but the rest, the debts…
   Her son was worth anything!

   He watched the creature as it watched him. Needing to flee but knowing that there was nowhere to run.
   He stared, his body shaking with terror.
   It turned, and walked away and he relaxed, clicked his beak. Sipping some water he began to preen himself. I fly, fly!
   The day passed. The room darkened and in the quiet darkness he went to sleep.
   There he dreamed. He dreamed of flight, dreamed of a flap of his wings, of soaring on the wind. It was like he could remember it! Each muscle knew what to do, when to do it. Air currents shifted, wind whistled past him and he tilted and searched and watched.
   And then he saw it, movement, food. With his wings tight against him he dropped, fast, faster, fastest. The wind howled, feathers tilted as the air tried to rip them off. He knew what to do, his muscles knew what to do. He remembered doing it. A snap as his wings opened and he shot across the sunlit fields, lower, lower. The food screeched, but it was too late and his claws squeezed into it.
   The hot blood dripped from his beak as he fed.
   Deep inside, a shattered fragment of soul slept and dreamed its fragmentary dreams.

   Roano drove, aimless, uncaring. He stopped and refueled. He needed to get away… Images flashed through his mind—finding Felipe in his room, muscles pumping, a rib visible, the stench of rot, some thing forming inside him. He’d called the doctors and they’d come and told him. SCABS. Carefully, as he and Jorna watched, they’d taken Felipe away. They’d followed, and sat in the hospital, doctors scurrying around them.
   He’d felt helpless. Unbelievably, incredibly helpless! All he could do was hug Jorna, squeeze her, provide a shoulder when she cried, and wait. He hadn’t cared about his job, somebody had called for him, arranged leave. Doctors had come and said that there was hope. One, a snake, had tried to explain, had showed magic as his form wavered and changed from one to another. Their son could be like that. Could. The odds were slight, but it was hope.
   False hope.
   Their son had died. Felipe had died and left behind a hawk that sat in a cage on the table in front of them. An animal specialist had talked to them, to him and Jorna. Listed their options. Told them that every test showed nothing was left of their son. He’d suggested a zoo…
   Jorna had screamed, her voice raw, hateful. Her son would never be in a zoo! It was all he could do to hold her, to stand behind her. But she was wrong. He knew she was, and yet he hadn’t had the strength to argue. They’d handed him the cage with the bird and he’d let Jorna carry it.
   She fed it, she loved it. She’d tried to hold it but it’d ripped her arm open.
   She didn’t care.
   She was insane.
   He couldn’t go home so he went to a hotel. It was small, rundown, in one of the poorer parts of town, but he couldn’t drive anymore. The sign said Hotel Hades, but inside he’d learnt from a giant mouse that it was really the Hotel Hadeson—some of the letters were burned out. He’d seen SCABs before, didn’t hate them, but didn’t care for them either.
   And now his son was one of them. His dead son.
   Paying for a night, he took the keys and went to his room and collapsed onto the bed.
   There he didn’t sleep, just tossed and turned. Seeing his son, seeing the doctors, seeing the body, seeing the hawk burst from it…
   The dim electric clock said 5am when he awoke. He knew what he had to do. He had to end this. He had to end this before he or Jorna died any more.
   He got up, his clothes wrinkled, still damp with sweat as the room was hot and stuffy. Opening the door he went downstairs, his eyes wide, feverish.
   “Sir…” the mouse SCAB began
   He just tossed the keys on the desk, their metallic clunk loud in the quiet. An old dog that had been sleeping looked up and watched him as he walked out.
   Slamming the door, he accelerated away in the predawn light, the tires squealing. The night attendant could only watch, and hang up the phone as it was too late for that poor soul and, with the lack of laws broken, the police could do nothing…

   He awoke with the dawn, stretching his wings as far as they could go, the gnarled wood creaking under his claws. Light glistened and crept towards his cage. He drank some water and sat there, waiting, watching.
   Something clicked, and a creature moved towards him. It was big, it stepped between him and the sun but he couldn’t flee. It stopped, looked down at him.
   The figure was familiar, but so big, so very very big! He screeched in fear and terror.
   Deep inside, a shattered fragment of soul had a sudden sunburst of hope.

   She couldn’t sleep in the empty bed. She kept feeling for her husband… but he was gone.
   She didn’t care. He was wrong! He had to be wrong! Didn’t he?
   All night she tossed and turned. Before she’d only been able to get to sleep when Roano held her. But now he was gone.
   Good riddance!
   He wanted to kill their son, to kill Felipe!
   But why, he loved their son as much as he did. Their son. Her son.
   Her son in the cage…
   But he was safe there!
   Her son that couldn’t stretch his wings.
   But he was safe! He was loved, fed…
   She tossed and turned, thoughts boiling over and over again. Felipe, what was right for Felipe? She was his mother, she knew. Keeping him close was right. He was safe!
   He was caged…
   Slowly the night passed, and the dreams ran in torturous circles. What was right?
   The clock showed 5am when she gave up. Maybe if she got out of bed, took a walk. She could pick up some raw meat at the 24 hour grocer; have Felipe’s breakfast ready for him.
   With her body crying for sleep that she knew it couldn’t get she got dressed, gulped down some water, grabbed her purse, and walked out locking the door behind her.
   Stopping and looking at the empty driveway she just sighed, her eyes red. Roano was still gone.
   Well, good riddance! She was right, wasn’t she?
   She hurried down the driveway and down the street, her shoes slapping against the sidewalk in the dawn light. The walk took maybe half an hour, and the meat was quickly prepared and packaged. She did go there almost every day, after all. Then it was another half hour back, the sun filling the world with a golden light.
   She reached the house and stopped. The car was back. Roano was back.
   She didn’t know anymore.
   They needed to talk. Maybe he’d stay calm this time…
   Still holding the bag she walked up to the porch and pulled out her key and unlocked—
   The door was open.
   She smiled. Roano was always so forgetful about those kind of things. He…
   He wanted to abandon their son.
   Frowning, she pulled the door shut behind her, locking it and then making sure, and turned towards the kitchen to cut off a hunk of Felipe’s breakfast.
   A faint screech echoed through the house.
   Had a cat gotten in through the door somehow? Her son was in trouble…
   “Felipe!!” she screamed.
   The meat fell forgotten to the floor and she ran into the living room, her eyes blinking in the sunlight.
   Dear God, the cage… gone!
   Another screech, even fainter this time. Coming from the backyard.
   She rushed to the hallway, past the dining room, and yanked open the door to the back porch. It squeaked against the wood, resisting, and then jerked open—it’d had never opened right, no matter how much Roano had tried to fix it. Frantic, she looked around, ignoring the scent of damp grass, and saw Roano sitting at the picnic table…
   And on the table was Felipe’s cage. Its door open.
   Felipe! Where was Felipe!?
   Fear, panic, anger, love, all ran through her as she ran to her husband.
   But he wasn’t looking at her. Instead he was looking at the base of the birch that shaded the backyard. There was no grass at its base, Roano kept it nice and groomed.
   “Where’s Felipe!?”
   Her husband just pointed and she turned.
   Scratched in the dirt in crude, jerky letters, almost unreadable, were two words: [LUV YU].
   “Oh my God,” she whispered.
   She wavered on her feet and Roano caught her and embraced her. His strength, his scent, brought her to a semblance of calmness.
   Turning, she looked at him.
   “I had to do it. Felipe would have died in the cage.”
   “You were right, he’s our son. And when he’s ready… Felipe will come back.”
   He looked up and she couldn’t help but turn and follow his gaze up past the tree. Up to where Felipe soared in the heavens, screeching out his joy.
   And the tears so long held back by fear, by love, by grief, by the knowledge she’d worked so hard to bury, burst out. Roano, her husband held her, she held him, both full of their renewed love, as she sobbed.

   He soared higher and higher, his body knowing what to do because it had remembered in dreams. The cool air whistled over his feathers, the sunlight glittered, the world shrunk. Buildings fell beneath him, trees, a black road.
   A scream of hunger and pleasure burst from his throat as he soared.
   As he flew!
   He screeched again, this time for joy, for the glory of life.
   And, deep inside, a healing fragment of soul… exulted!

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