The Thing With Feathers
Mist was all I could see. I felt it, too. It was the warm mist that suffocates you- makes you feel like someone is watching you. For the small distance I could see ahead, it looked foreboding. I could still see, though, through the sticky weather and eerie feeling, that it was lovely out here. Yes, I could at least see that. The smell of pine mingled with wet dirt sent me into peace. It was quiet, oh so quiet, save for the discrete rustle of leaves here and there from the various creatures that inhabited this mountain. Slivers of gold sliced through the mist and the umbrellas of leaves. The isolation was pleasing, and I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of my trek up the mountain. Who would ever get tired of walking through this beauty? There was nothing unappealing about it. I hadn’t even broken a sweat. Carefree thoughts flitted into my mind, and I continued into the mist. I didn’t think of what was ahead, only of the moment- the moment of clear thoughts and renewal of peace.
I continued picking my way carefully up the mountain. The terrain had begun to steepen, and loose rocks and imposing stumps hindered my steps. I had come a long way and though I tread carefully, I still tripped and fell a couple times, scraping my knee and once even cutting my lip. The warm blood made me feel a bit sick, but that was an involuntary human reaction. I soon got over it, as I saw the dense trees begin to thin into what appeared to be an opening. The mist was still thick. As I stumbled along, I began to see blurs overhead. Black blurs. They didn’t frighten me, as I was too focused on the fact that I couldn’t really breathe. The black blurs actually complemented really well with the sharp breaths I was beginning to take. My head felt alive and was pounding with the intensity of thunder. My chest felt like I had drunk liquid fire, and each breath confirmed this thought as my throat burned and swelled up with the effort of breathing. Sweat dripped from my hair and through my clothes. Then I couldn’t tell if sweat was sweat anymore or if it had been replaced with tears of exhaustion. I tasted salt either way. The blurs began to make obscene noises, and I became annoyed. Whatever they were, the black blurs were adding to the pain that came with each step I took. Shaking all over with exhaustion, I finally reached the opening. There was nothing to sit on. I fell on my knees and slowly maneuvered myself on my back. I worried my heart might escape through my open mouth. I continued to gasp for air as my pulse began to slow a bit. The pounding in my head subsided a little as well. I became somewhat relaxed. The mist caressed my skin, and the damp ground cooled my tired body. I looked above me. The opening allowed me to see sky, but I couldn’t see much because of the mist. I knew the sky was there, though. It was waiting for me, the sky and the sun, at the top of the summit. I closed my eyes. It was quiet. I momentarily wondered what happened to those silly black blobs. I figured they were still out there, waiting to annoy me.
Silly. Silly black blurs. Why are you bothering me? Stop. I can’t make it. Stop. I can’t see. Black. There’s nothing but black. Stop. Don’t fight. Stop. Where is it? Stop. Oh don’t. Please. Stop. Leave me alone. Stop. I didn’t mean it. Stop. Black. I just wanted to get to the top. Stop. To see it. Stop. I need to see it. Black. Don’t fight. Silly. Silly. Stop. Black. Stop.
I awoke with a jerk. I heard what sounded like cars screeching against each other. I rolled to my side. A black bird stared in my face. It croaked hideously at me. I jolted into a sitting position. It hopped around fearlessly, looking at me. Looking at it closely, I could see the shimmer of blue and purple weaved illustriously through its little body. It was rather pretty to look at. It yelped another shrill gasp from its little devil’s beak, and then I was surrounded. Black blurs flew from the tall trees surrounding me and plopped all about me. They squawked and cawed and hopped about me as if I were an offering. Little pesky devils. I noticed then that their focus was not on me, but the mangled remains of some pitiful woodland creature. I stood up to leave. The black birds didn’t even budge from their stance. I didn’t scare them at all. They didn’t even wait for me to leave before they began pecking gruesomely at the dead animal. I turned to trudge the remaining piece to my goal.
I was almost to the summit. The mist had lifted a bit, and the leaves reflected a happy gold and pink from the sun. Those unnecessarily loud dumb little beasts had upset my peace. Why did I let something so small and insignificant upset me? They were far behind now. I walked on some soft moss and the fragrance met my nostrils. I loved that smell. It smelled so freeing. It grew quiet as I continued. My ears caught a flutter. I felt something light brush my cheek and I laughed because its touch felt so soft and sweet. I stopped and looked around. The light caught on something white. Perched in a tree sat a little white bird. It wasn’t a dove. It was like no other bird I had ever seen. The sun lit its pure white feathers with a lovely glow. It cocked its head at me, as if questioning why I was staring. It then jerked its head and flew off in the direction I was heading. Inspired, I ran after it. I felt lighter and rejuvenated. The bird chirped a soothing melody, promising nothing but happiness where it was leading me. It surged through some branches and disappeared from my eyesight. I hurried along after it and fell flat on my face. Dizziness took over my brain for a moment. Black black. Silly silly. There it is. Go catch it. I slowly stood up and saw where I was. I had reached the top.
The bird’s promise was true . The mist was completely gone and replaced with a flood of sunlight. The trees had retired in a half circle to form a space solely to admire. I sat in this space and looked at what I had struggled up this mountain for. I saw endless sky. Daylight was fighting exhaustion and nighttime loomed hungrily behind. The sun winked and yawned at me as it began its decent into slumber. The sun had its time to shine, and now the night worked desperately to overtake day. I watched the colors melt together and felt the warmth of the sun on my face. Then they came. They floated aimlessly in the sky, appearing to look like raining ashes. The sun grew angry and its rays beat more persistently to get rid of the black blurs in the way. The winged pests looped over me and rested cunningly on their branches. I stared them down. They mockingly cocked their heads and stared back with beady little eyes. Before my annoyance could spill over, the black birds’ attention was drawn to a more intimidating presence. The little white bird who had led me on my last stretch appeared out of nowhere and perched on my foot. It delicately screeched at the black birds. They screeched back. The little white bird stayed on my foot, fidgeting slightly but sticking there. The black birds slowly flew away. The last to depart gave a particularly hideous crow. I smiled at the little white bird as it fluttered into the trees. It really did bring a little hope. I turned my attention back to the sun. The moon was slowly winning. Good thing the sun always decides to come back. The sky turned blood red. I abruptly heard a squabble in the trees. Ear piercing screams and commotion filled the air. I ran to the trees to see what was happening. Before I got there, black shot up through the trees. Black blurs filled the sky and exited to an unknown place. I stood watching their mad flight into the beginning night. As I was about to turn to watch the finale of the sun, I felt something soft brush my cheek. I smiled and looked up, but nothing was there. I then looked down and saw a single white feather. I picked it up and twirled it in my fingers. My smile quickly turned as I saw the piercing red drops tainting the soft white feather. Moon light drenched the dead silent plateau, and I knew the fight was over.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all. - Emily Dickinson