As I flew over the city, I thought once again how overrated humans were. It was a big city, New York City my mother had told me, and as it is with most big cities, it was loud and bright. Flashing billboards, hoards of people, fumes, large glass windows, pretty much everything a bird despises resided in NYC, making the journey through it a particularly perilous one.
The other members of my flock seemed to have some sort of respect for humans, as if their toying with new ways to ruin the ecosystem is a valuable skill that us birds are incapable of practicing. I have no respect whatsoever for these mega monkeys, just like my mother. Ok, fine, maybe we can't create toxic fumes or light pollution or plastic that ends up in the oceans, injuring my cousins the seagulls, but we can survive and thrive without those things. We don't need the flashing lights or black fumes that stain the sky as humans seem to need; we live like we always have, free and happy, not always looking for ways to have a more powerful grasp on nature and the universe.
Snapped out of my thoughts by a familiar honk, I now focused my attention on the skies ahead. It was my turn to lead the group. The existing leader fell behind, and I took the place. Almost at once, the blasting winds hit me full on in the face, I could practically feel my beak freezing. The way us geese fly, it's easier to have one of us take the first hit of wind, and take turns rather than flying in a straight, solid line. We fly as one, making our journey less of a battle.
At the moment, however, I felt singled out, like I always do when I'm in the lead. Flying up front is both thrilling and dreadful. Today I felt both, as I soared what seemed like miles away from the ground below, the fierce wind ruffling my feathers. When I was just a gosling, flying behind all the rest, I never imagined how formidable the journey was. I loved it, except for the fact that everywhere we went was littered by people, cars, lights, flashes, screams, shouts, crying, annoying chatter of humans telling other humans things that nobody actually cares about.
I'm daydreaming again. I shouldn't be, I should be focusing on where I am going. Where am I going? Flying South is like a second nature, it doesn't require much thought, but I still need to pay attention to the sky ahead. I realized that I was flying low, amongst the buildings of NYC. I glanced behind me, only to find I had lost my group. Panicking, I swerved around the buildings, trying to get out of the labyrinth of concrete and steel. The fumes from the cars clouded my eyes, It was hard to breathe. Then I saw it, the sky, an oasis of light in this dark, crazy place. I flew towards that patch of light like mad, more than happy to escape this prison. I was approaching the light. I ruffled my feathers and prepared for the blast of cool air after all that city smog.
It never came.
I woke up on a hard, cold, rough surface. My vision was blurred but I could see two small figures lurking over me. I realized where I was. I was back on the bottom of the city, my head pounding and feathers missing, with two human children lurking over me. Just what I need. Two filthy human spawn in a situation like this. How did I even get back down here? I must have been unconscious for some time. Now I realize what happened. That patch of light wasn't sky at all. It was one of those brightly lit modern buildings with large glass windows, so big they take up entire walls. That's what I had crashed into. My heart sank. How could I have been so stupid? What did I expect, a perfect escape route. I sighed, I would never get back to my group now.
Oh no. The humans are picking me up. Maybe they're going to eat me. Is it Thanksgiving yet? It's getting close. Oh, god, I'm going to pass out again if they don't put me down.
They didn't put me down. I did pass out.
I woke up in an infamous place, known to humans as the vet. I had never been here before, but my mother and my older sister had been, and they described it to me in painful detail. The white walls, much-too-bright-for-anything lights, the shining table and the stinging smells. I'm so tired I don't even feel like being sarcastic. That's a first. The vet is talking to the human children, who are now accompanied by a full size human.
Minutes pass. Minutes feel like hours. I get poked and prodded, slipping in and out of consciousness. Eventually, The vet pulls out the biggest needle I have ever seen, and shoves in into me. It hurts. Like crazy. Scrambling off the high table, I try to make an escape. The window is open, but when I try to fly, I don't go anywhere. My wings. They aren't working. They felt like two rocks stuck to my body with superglue. Without my wings, I am helpless.
The children take me to their dwelling. They lived in a small apartment with barely any furniture, unlike the normal clutter and mess of humans. For the first time I noticed that the kids' clothes were ragged and old, not all shiny and spotless like the humans I saw when flying over the city, the ones eating at restaurants or sitting in big, fancy modern houses. Suddenly I felt like I had only seen one side of humanity, the big, loud kind, the kind that always rushes to be first, to be the best, to be the loudest. The humans I were seeing now were more like us, less like the obnoxious apes some other humans are. These humans cared not only for themselves but for others, which I had not experienced from humans before. I felt more relaxed, the human's small home had become a safe haven, no longer a threat. For the third time in who knows how long, I fell asleep.
I smell peanut butter. I love peanut butter. Once I found a half empty carton of peanut butter laying on the ground when i landed at the beach one year. Strange, but utterly delicious. I opened my eyes, and found myself staring into the eyes of a girl, i recognized her as one of the children who brought me in off the street. She was speaking to me, an endless chatter that normally would be quite annoying, but for some reason it wasn't. A little while later, the girl picked me up, and that's where the soothing feeling I got from her ended; I leaped out of her arms, and with joy realized that my wings worked again! I flew around the small apartment, enjoying the familiar feeling of soaring through the air, like no human would ever achieve.
The girl was laughing as a boy joined her, he pointed to me and nodded. The girl stopped laughing. She looked up at him like she was losing something she would never have again. She went over to me and reached out a hand, her small, delicate fingers gently stroking my back. She looked at the boy and nodded back, then went over to the window and opened it wide. I knew what this meant. I was free again.
At first I was overjoyed. I sprang towards the window, thinking of the freedom that I love so much, but when I got to the window I stopped. I looked back at the children, not believing they would let me go this easily. The girl was standing back at the boy's side, tears glistening on her face like crystals in sunlight. It was true, I was being released, but suddenly I knew what was missing, something my mind would not let me fly until I had done. Squatting down, I disposed last night's beetle dinner onto the windowsill. Then, with a farewell honk, I flew off into the bright blue sky.