Flash Fiction: The Tern’s Flight

That Raven stole the disk of the sun and brought fire to the people is a common song. What is less known is that it was he who taught the birds to fly after the seasons, beginning in a time long ago with just one.

raven-steals-the-sun-k-hooverThe dark, wet lines of spring stained the lowlands of the meadow. Crystalline ice created white shadows amid the tufts of grass. While the trees clung to the last of the snow over their roots like a blanket hugged for winter’s warmth.

With feet so light that they did not break the hoar frost edging the dark damp, the mist children came at dawn. Visions of wishes cherished fervently enough that it brought them form, they congregated along the forest edge. Appearing nothing more than wraiths of smoke, small wisps of forms twirled forward over the meadow. They danced into the morning light, all but one.

Raven cocked his head.

Secrets held most tightly in the dark sketched her face in solid detail, while the first light of the day shone rays through her fragile body. Feathered whispers of the night were his wings as he flew to land at her knees resting in the grass.

His beak shot forward. Raven pecked her.

“You are almost real.”

Velvet brown eyes with a shimmer of bronze looked down at him. His bird chest could not contain the heart swell of warmth. He strutted before her. He preened. It won him a smile on lips the color of a kiss.

“Little bird, I am not as real as you.”

Then she lifted her face back to the golden disk of the sun dissolving the horizon.

“Ghaghagha,” he cackled. “What do you watch out there?”

“I want to see . . . what is beyond what I can see.”

“Is that what you are: a dream to go beyond the horizon?”

“Oh yes,” she sighed. “I don’t want to see another winter, only spring and summer when things grow and live.”

“Your dreamer does, you mean.”

She winced. He hopped from foot to foot, but could not erase the glisten of tears in her eyes.

“But I want to go so badly. Why doesn’t she be the one to leave if it is her dream?” she choked.

“There are those who do and those who dream. One cannot be both.”

She looked down at the dark bird, who held so still he was an absence in the meadow.

“She could change!”

“One who only wishes does not really desire to do and will soon give up on the dream as well. Look,” he told her. “You are already fading.”

The wraith girl leapt to her feet now mere smudges of gray vapor. Her head jerked to the horizon again, lips parted and brow drawn.

“No, please, I want to go. I must see what else is there! Do you know the world, little bird?” she asked him.

His form streaked, blackness elongating. As a young man, one with dark eyes as old as night, he stood before her.

“To the north it will soon be summer, while winter comes to the far, far south.”

“I don’t believe you,” she laughed on her outward breath. “Snow is always north.”

“Its true. I can show you.”

“How?”

He held out a hand. “Come with me. I will take you.”

The girl bit her lower lip, eyes darting back to the forest edge. The other mist children watched her, cavorting ceased.

“I can’t abandon her. She dreamed me.”

“She has already abandoned you,” Raven said pointing to her fading legs, gone from the thigh down. “You don’t have much time left.”

“How can she dream me so true and leave me the next moment?” the girl asked, angry.

“People are fickle things. Come,” he said, hand outstretched.

“Will it hurt her?” she asked, staring at his fingers so close to hers.

“She’ll find another dream, or not.”

But she’d already taken his hand. He pulled her forward, her arm changing to a white-gray wing. There was not much left of her, but it was enough for Raven to craft her into a small bird, sleek and born for flight. She followed him into the air.

Raven dived around her, cackling with joy. He spun and twirled while she soared. Dancing on the wing together, they flew over the edge of the horizon.

If you watch for her children you will see them in the spring flying north to the arctic, the warmth of Pacific summer still lingering on their feathers. They are marathon flyers.

Arctic-Tern-7-1024x680

Autumn is the author of the epic fantasy novel Born of Water and its Novel Companion and most recently the compilation of adventure travel stories Danger Peligros! All are available at Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers of e-novels.
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2 comments on “Flash Fiction: The Tern’s Flight

    • Thanks Chantal!

      Raven myths are some of my favorite. Could be it is Raven’s duel nature or it could be that it is my husband’s nickname and character (hmmm . . so that is why we got together! lol).

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