22 comments

Fantasy Fiction Speculative

Percy was a Honeycreeper. A Honeycreeper is a small bird with a curved beak that is made for sipping nectar, a staple of the Honeycreeper’s diet. 


Percy had hatched, along with his siblings, Sunny and Samson, six days prior and were being taught daily lessons by their mother and father bird so they would be fully prepared when it came time to leave the nest.


Percy had already learned how to proficiently extract nectar from flowers, whereas Sunny and Samson never seemed able to sip a satisfactory amount, so had to resort to foraging for bugs to fill their growing bellies. 


The Honeycreeper family lived in Hawaii and so had flowers available to them year-round, which was very convenient because they did not have to travel far for their groceries. 


Percy was hatched in a coconut shell that had cracked in half due to natural causes, and subsequently been hollowed out within a matter of weeks by passers-by grateful to find free food. Mrs. Honeycreeper happened upon the picked-clean shell lodged high in a sturdy tree just as she and Mr. Honeycreeper were nest-hunting. They both found the location stunning and the shell just spacious enough to house their impending brood comfortably.


“Sold,” she announced, and then proceeded to gather leaves and grass. Mr. H insisted on doing the heavy lifting, delivering sturdy foundational material such as twigs, wood chips and suitable foreign objects.


They worked tirelessly, preparing the nest that would be their little hatchlings’ home for their entire childhoods, a total of approximately 10 days. Their excitement gave them all the energy needed to complete the task in record time.


As the sun was about to set, with all the accompanying splendor and magnificence you might expect of a tropical paradise, the soon-to-be parents snuggled together in their romantic new abode. The tired couple gave each other a little nighttime nuzzle and then drifted off to dreamland together.


Meanwhile . . .


Trouble was lurking nearby. Cyrus was a virus with a newbie named Sirus. Sirus was a fine little particle of nucleic acid with a shiny new coat of protein. 


“So, how did I get here again?” Sirus was an inquisitive little germ.


“I already tried to explain this, Sirus. Let’s try it this way. We are viruses. I came before you did and made you.”


“How?”


“Well, first I had to find a host.”


“What’s that?”


“A host is like a house. It has the one thing we don’t have, and that’s cell structure.”


“So, is this cell the host, the house?”


“Exactly. Now you’re getting it.”


“And so you used the cell structure to make me?”


“Right. It’s called replicating, like a copy machine for bugs.”


“Where’d you find the cell?”


“Oh, I never know. It’s not important. Usually I just have pretty good luck landing near one. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to show you.”


Cyrus’ last host had been in a mongoose named Moe but there was no way for him to know that. Unfortunately for Cyrus, when Moe had a fever that got too hot to handle, Cyrus grabbed Sirus and they both jumped ship.


Now, because of Cyrus’ role in creating Sirus, he felt somewhat responsible in helping Sirus make his way, which is funny considering viruses, though able to exist on most surfaces for a very long time, can’t go anywhere unless something else does something; like a touch, a sneeze, a kiss.


So, they waited, like one does at a bus stop.


“Are you sure there’s nothing we can do ourselves to find a host? I’d like a home.”


“Not a thing, Sirus. Our job is to recognize a proper host when we’re confronted with one so we don’t miss an opportunity.”


“How do you know I’m ready for a host?”


“Why, just by looking at you! That capsid coat you created for yourself looks strong enough to withstand any and all enemies of germs.”


“You really think so?”


“You latch onto someone’s hands, they’re going to need something stronger than Irish Spring, that’s for sure.”


“Hey, this feels weird, Cyrus. Are we flying?”


“I’ll bet we’re being carried somewhere, Sirus!” 


“I wonder where we’re going.”


“Buckle up, we’re about to find out!”


Meanwhile . . .


Back at the nest, the Honeycreepers were busy cleaning. The baby birds were old enough to tend to their sections of the nest and all were replacing pieces of nesting material that were soiled.  


Mr. H had the job of carrying the used birdie diapers far from the nest so predators wouldn’t be tipped off as to their location. The chicks were getting their first lesson in hygiene, and survival.


“Why can’t we just poop over the side?” Sunny asked.


“Then we wouldn’t have all this work to do.” Samson added.


“Stay under the radar, children, do not give your address to anyone. Safety first. Poop is a dead give-away. I’m your mother. I know.”


After dropping the dirty diapers off at an undisclosed location, Mr. H then returned to the nest with clean leaves and twigs for the others to arrange as they please.


Meanwhile . . .


Cyrus and Sirus are on high alert.


“Remember what I told you, Sirus. If we come in contact with something that I think is a decent candidate for hosting duties, I’ll jump aboard and you just follow my lead, okay? Have you got that?”


“Sure, sure. I feel like something’s about to happen.”


“Yeah, I feel it too. Oooh, get ready.  Something’s nearby and it feels biological to me.”


“I’m ready I’m ready I’m ready . . .”


“GO!”


“Wheeeee!”


“I was right. Feel that? Warm blooded.”


“Cyrus? What are those?”


“Cells! All we have to do is get inside one and I have a plan.”


“Wait, why do we need a plan?”


“These are not willing hosts, Sirus. You can’t just mosey over to any old cell and say, ‘Don’t mind me, I’m just here to engage in a little coup,’ and they’re just going to roll over.”


“No?”


“No way. You need a careful plan to trick your host into thinking you’re doing them a favor.”


“How?”


“Diversionary tactics. A little espionage tossed in. A cell is like a fortress; they have guards that look for hijackers like us, but there’s a way around them.”    


“I’m listening.”


* * *


“Mom, I’m finished. Can I stop now?”


“That looks fine, Percy. I think Sunny and Sam are one branch over. Your Dad’s teaching foraging techniques.”


“Cool.”


* * *


“Remember now, Sirus, let me do the talking. Ready?”


“Ready.”


Knock-knock.


From inside: “State your business!”


Cyrus begins, “We’re a couple of temps hired for the day?”


“Hired for what purpose?”


“Cargo transport.”


“Didn’t know we had a shortage. You have any ID?”


“Sure. I’ll be happy to produce it once we’re inside.”


“Wait there.”


Cyrus gives Sirus a subtle thumbs-up.


“Okay, forklift is on its way with everything you’ll need.”


“Thanks.”


Cyrus turns to see a forklift-like mechanism coming their way carrying a crate. It deposits the crate in front of the virus and his apprentice and then chugs away in reverse.


“Is that . . .”


“Shhh,” Cyrus warns, eyes shift to the cell surface. He opens the crate, then gestures for Sirus to join him and they both peer inside.


Cyrus reaches in and takes a marker, removes its cap. He then turns to the cell wall and draws a box the size of a small window. He replaces the marker and retrieves a dial similar to those used on a combination safe, which he places in the center of the square. 


Then, Cyrus puts his ear to the cell wall and listens.  As he listens, he moves the dial to the left, then to the right. Eventually, they both hear a click. A real window appears and swings open towards them.


“After you,” says Cyrus.


“No,” demurs Sirus, “Please. Follow your lead, remember?”


“If you insist.”


The two climb in.


The guard who’d helped them approaches. “Not bad, you heard the combination right the first time. You two are pretty small for cargo. Can I see some ID?”


“Of course! I de-clare this our new home. Thanks, Sucker!”


With that, the two run off.


Another guard, who’d been watching the entire episode unfold, saunters over to the guard who’d been tricked.


“Tough break. They’re small though; they shouldn’t cause too much trouble.”


“Yeah. Help me repair this, will ya? I don’t need this minor faux pas advertised.”


“Roger that.”


Meanwhile . . .


“Percy, why don’t you give it a try.”


“What? I’m sorry.”


“Weren’t you listening? You’ll be out of the nest soon and this is important for you to know if you’re going to survive.”


“I know. I just feel a little strange.”


“You do, eh. Why don’t you go back to the nest and rest a while. I can give you a one-on-one later.”


“No, I’m all right. I want to get this right. When I sense a bug is near, I freeze, slowly crouch down, ready to take flight, eyes wide open and ready for anything.”


“Ah, so you were listening!”


* * *


“There it is, Sirus! Home Sweet Host!”


“You mean . . .”


“That’s right! The nucleus!”


“It’s so beautiful.”


“Doesn’t matter how many I’ve seen, and I’ve seen plenty, I always get a little choked up. But I understand how you feel. You never forget your first.”


“So how do we get inside? It wasn’t that hard getting here once you tricked that guard. Everybody’s so busy, they’re hardly paying any attention to us.”


“It’s a little different around the Big Nuke. You know what’s stored inside, don’t you?”


“No, you never told me.”


“It’s everything we need to take over the whole thing. It’s filled with Dazzling No-nonsense Artillery, DNA for short.”


“So, what’s the plan?”


“Perseverance, Patience, Positive thinking. Let’s make ourselves comfortable.”


* * *


“I don’t feel so good.”


“Hmm, you’re looking a little green around the beak, Percy. Let’s get you back to the nest. Stay away from the others, okay? Just in case you’re contagious.”


“What’s con . . .”


“Contagious. If you’ve caught a bug, you don’t want others to get it.”


“What’s food got to do with it?”


“No, ‘bug’ is just another word for sickness, sort of like the mites we told you about, except these pests are inside, not outside. Either way, they bug you and they can infect others and spread.”


“I just feel like sleeping.”


“Yeah, and your feathers are all fluffed out. You must be getting chills.”


“I am.”


“To the nest.”


 Meanwhile . . .


“This is the life. Why can’t we just hang here?”


“Because we can’t replicate if we’re not in the nucleus and if we can’t replicate, our numbers can drop and if our numbers drop too low, we might be wiped out.”


“That’s terrible! So, let me get this straight. 

First, I learn we have to depend on public transportation to get anywhere. 

Next, I find out I need to depend on fate to provide me a safe place that I can call home. 

Now, I have the weight of the viral population hinging on my ability to replicate? 

What else is there we have to worry about?”


“Vaccines.  Don’t get me started.”


“What’s . . .”


“A vaccine is a way to build resistance to our clever tactics. There’s always a way around but it can be tough because sometimes we’re the ones who have to make the alterations - within us. Some call it mutation but I think it’s an exquisite, transformative time in a virus’s journey. 


But I wouldn’t really worry about it too much, Sirus.  Most vaccines are not the end of the world.  There are things you can do. You can, as I say, give mutation a try. Some would argue laying dormant is the way to go. If you can survive a long dormancy, when you reappear again, you can really give them a run for their money.”


“Interesting.”


“It’s a bug’s life.”


* * *


“Honey? I’m worried about Percy. He’s puffed out to high heaven and hasn’t accepted anything I’ve offered him. And when a mother can’t entice her own fledgling with fresh regurgitation, I just know something is very wrong.”


“Let me go see. Where are Sunny and Sam?”


“I sent them two branches below. See? They’re playing peck and go peek. This way I can keep an eye on them.”


“You’re a pretty smart mama. How ‘bout a little peck for pa?”


“Oh, you. Don’t get your tail feathers in a twist. Go see about Percy, please.”


“Aye aye, General.  On my way.”


Mr. H hops a short distance away and peers into their half-a-coconut home. He doesn’t like what he sees.


“Hey, Perce. How you feeling?”


Percy can only lift his swollen red eyelids halfway before they close again.


“Mom says you’re not eating. You should try. Want me to get you some water?”


Percy gives a barely perceivable nod. His beak twitches a fraction when he tries to smile.


“Be right back.”


Hop, hop, hop, hop.


“Percy’s thirsty; he’d like some water.”


“So, is your beak broken?”


“Me? Feed?”


“I would but I’m busy here. I just wouldn’t jam it down his throat like when they were little. He’s old enough you can just hold it over him and he’ll do the rest. I’m sure it’ll make you feel gratified.”


“Is that how it makes you feel?”


“No, honey, I get that from you.”


“Aww, thank you, honey. All right, all right. I’m going.”


Meanwhile . . .


“State your business!”


“We’ve been hired by headquarters to inspect the premises.”


“You have, have you? Well, I might have to ask you a few questions first. You wouldn’t be averse to a little interrogation, would you?”


“Of course not.”


“What’s your home base?”


“Cyto Plaza, pool maintenance.”


“Who at headquarters hired you?”


“The head honcho, you know, the top dog.”


“The what?”


“You know, the brains of the outfit, the Great Kahuna.”


“See here, I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”


“How would you feel if you forgot someone’s name from headquarters?”


“I could cite you for that.”


“I can’t help it. I have short term memory loss.”


“You have what?”


“What?”


“No, no, what did you say?”


“Whatever you’d like to hear.”


“But I can’t; hear you that is.”


“I don’t have any problem hearing. You do apparently.”


“Are you dropping your voice intentionally? I think you are.”


“Just now I did, but it wasn’t intentional.”


“This is complete blather.”


“What?”


Sirus speaks. “He said it’s complete blather.”


“I know!” Cyrus hisses.


“Who is that with you?”


“My assistant. He hails from Golgi. He’s specially trained in DNA immunology.”


“But we just had the system recalibrated. It’s fully operational.”


“That’s why you need a specialist. This is not a common situation we have here, sir. I hope you understand the gravity.”


“Please, whoever you are, come back later. Or don’t.”


Cyrus is sweating. 


“We need a new plan.”


“What’s wrong, Cyrus?”


“Is it getting warm in here?”


* * *


“Percy has a fever. I’d like us to take turns bringing him water and building his spirits. What’s the family motto?”


“Perseverance!” peeps Sunny.


“Patience!” pipes Samson.


“And positive thinking!” all four honeycreepers chirp in unison.


Sunny is first.


“I spilled a few drops on your head, Percy, but maybe that’ll help bring the fever down. At least you drank some drops. Hang in there, little brother!”


Then comes Mr. H.


“You can do this, Percy. We’re all pulling for you. Give this bug the time it needs to run its course. We’re here for you and we believe in you.”


Then, it's Samson’s turn.


“Have a drink, Perce, but do not get me confused with Mom. I am not Mom and I don’t plan to feed your lazy bird butt every time you catch a sniffle. You’re lucky you’re a sib, because otherwise I wouldn’t be caught dead . . .”


“Samson!”


“You’re lucky, that’s all I can say. Just get well soon so I don’t have to . . .”


“Samson Honeycreeper!”


“Get better soon.”


Last is Mrs. H.


“Be strong, Percy. You are, I know. I’ve seen it. You have everything you need within you to fight this bug. Soon you’ll be your old self again, even better. You’ll have special germ fighters called ant-bodies. You’ll be even stronger than before.  We can’t wait for you to be better, baby bird.”


“Ugh, Mom. Baby bird?”


“You’re all my baby birds. That’s not going to change.”


Meanwhile . . .


“It’s boiling in here.”


“I know. Where’s the thermostat?”


“Oh, that’s in a whole other part of this thing. We could explore but, honestly, I have no energy. We’re just going to have to hope it cools down soon.”


“Or?”


“Or we’ll have to jump ship before we burn.”


“What’s burn?”


“Poof!”


“What’s poof?”


“Bye-bye.”


“Well, that would not be my choice, poofing.” 


“I’m with you.”


“How do you know you’ve had too much?”


“When it’s too late to do anything about it.”


“I’m outta here. I want to live to die another day.”


“You’re learning fast, little germ. Follow me.”


* * *


Not long after, Percy’s fever broke. He regained his appetite and left the nest with his siblings right on schedule. He was fortunate.


Not fortunate for Cyrus and Sirus, they landed on a cork and, if you didn’t know this handy little fact, viruses cannot survive for long on a cork surface. They don’t die because they’re not technically alive to begin with. And so, instead of a poof, they simply fell apart, which is what happens to viruses in lieu of death.


The moral? Perseverance pays off, patience is a virtue and positive-thinking can see you through any crisis, but it’s always best to have a little luck.


April 14, 2023 15:39

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22 comments

Delbert Griffith
15:41 Apr 21, 2023

As per, another wonderful tale with a deeper meaning. You already know I love this fable, but it seems like you just get better and better every week. I'm jealous, of course. LOL Cheers, my friend. Well done!

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Susan Catucci
16:04 Apr 21, 2023

Thanks, Del - you really are the best. There's no need for jealousy; I can't begin to do what you do. I'm still thinking about 'A Different Kind of Air.' There's nothing better than mutual admiration, that's the best! And I'm thrilled you liked this one. It was fun and so outside the box, a place I love to explore, as you've seen. Who knows where we'll wind up next! Cheers back with mucho appreciation.

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Cindy Strube
19:54 Apr 19, 2023

Bird Friend! <^) This is a tale well told. I can see similarities (besides the birdiness) in the way you and I go about story crafting. Research and factual details, blended with a kind of fantasy. ; ) Great job of showing both sides of the scientific process of the virus - in an entertaining way. I could visualize the little bird, all puffy… And thinking you should illustrate this one! Poor Percy had a rough experience. Of course I was rooting for him! Now he has antibodies. Also, the title is great and the moral very apt! Good work.

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Susan Catucci
20:13 Apr 19, 2023

Thanks, fellow feathered-friend friend! It's great to hear from you. I thought you might enjoy it. You probably knew from the start I'd never hurt a baby Honeycreeper. Cyrus and Sirus were doomed from the start. There's a good reason these bugs survive as they do. And you're right, I enjoy the research as much as the write. It's great exercise. I need to catch up reading your tales, too! (Actually my husband is just getting over Covid, so it's been an unusual couple weeks; a few distractions but now I can begin to catch up). I ...

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Cindy Strube
20:27 Apr 19, 2023

Ah… no wonder bugs were on your mind. Glad he’s in recovery! We’ve all escaped it, to this point; maybe natural resistance.

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Michał Przywara
20:44 Apr 18, 2023

It's definitely a mark of an interesting story if it gets us to empathize with a virus :) Yes, they're breaking and entering, and yes, they're making Percy ill - but you almost feel for the little guys. Beyond that, I think this would be suitable for a younger audience. It definitely gives a bird's eye view (ha!) of how viral infections work, what the effects of it are, and how they're fought. The characters are neat, and I like little details like the Samson ribbing Percy. Cyrus and Sirus also have good rapport. There's a phrase, "Pers...

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Susan Catucci
22:13 Apr 18, 2023

Thank you, Michal, for being here. Seriously, the last bit of your feedback summed up the purpose of this silly bit of a tale perfectly. We all are basically made of the same stuff and we're all seeking the same things - love, acceptance, survival - is it any wonder there is so little change? Good and bad seem at times to be parts of the same whole. Yadda yadda.

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Mary Bendickson
21:45 Apr 17, 2023

Points for relevancy. Maybe you should be head of health department:) The honeycreepers remind me of the hummingbirds that build a nest close enough to my deck I can watch them build and hatch and learn to fly. I did not realize their childhood days were only ten days. Felt more like two weeks:0) Anyway, adorable story and education.

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Susan Catucci
00:24 Apr 18, 2023

I love your feedback, Mary - it's personal and real. I enjoyed reading up on these little honeycreepers. They talk about them being - and I hope not - potentially near extinction so I wanted to give a shout out to these vibrant little beauties. Nature needs habitat to survive, people! (Another story, another time, but I have a feeling you probably appreciate what I'm saying.) You also remind me of something so important - we tend to gravitate to tales that resonate with our own experience and may lend, relate, add something to our life...

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Marty B
18:55 Apr 17, 2023

I love the story and the moral, ‘but it’s always best to have a little luck.’ -And to be a good writer 😉

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Susan Catucci
19:25 Apr 17, 2023

Haha - thank you, Marty. This was fun to piece together. I'm happy to think it's as much fun to read. I appreciate the comment - very much!

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Viga Boland
23:29 Apr 16, 2023

Such a clever approach to enlightening readers about viruses while entertaining us at the same time. Imaginations like yours leave me blindsided. How do you think of stories like this? Bravo 👏👏

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Susan Catucci
00:31 Apr 17, 2023

Love your comments, Viga. Your writings are so good, it means that much more when you have positive feedback. Many thanks!

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Wally Schmidt
18:15 Apr 16, 2023

Susan this story is so well thought out, sweet, educational, humorous. I really think what you should do is write biology books for children. This would be such a great way to introduce them to the complex concepts in an entertaining way (and this is coming from someone who thinks there is sometimes too much entertainment in education these days). This would be an award-winning concept in an educational environment, but it just so happens that it's thoroughly enjoyable here on Reedsy too. Great work!

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Susan Catucci
18:48 Apr 16, 2023

Sweet comments, Wally, thank you. I think the trick was wanting to write a story from an unusual POV but not being that conversant in biology, science, etc. Not a strength. So I had to reduce the story to terms that even I could understand. It was so much fun though, putting the pieces together in a coherent - hopefully - fashion. I appreciate your thoughts more than I can tell you - sounds like you read it just the way I'd hoped a reader would. And really, what's better than education and laughs - rendered responsibly, of course...

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Wally Schmidt
19:15 Apr 16, 2023

I really think in addition to this being a great literary device, it is also a smart business idea. You can always find someone to explain the biology to you if you need an assist. I know I would have been one of those kids who would have loved to have read this story to learn about the concepts before discussing them. Once again hat's off to you!

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Susan Catucci
19:40 Apr 16, 2023

That's an exciting thought. I certainly enjoyed writing it - it was great fun. Thanks for bringing out an aspect I wouldn't have thought of on my own. Grateful.

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Lily Finch
15:51 Apr 15, 2023

Susan, this is hilariously entertaining and educating at the same time. Thank you for the lesson on viruses. I enjoyed this. After a while, you forget they are viruses. LOL. LF6. :)

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Susan Catucci
16:24 Apr 15, 2023

Great feedback, Lily - thanks! It's fun trying to humanize other species and still provide them their own voice. Even the research, though ick-worthy, was kind of fun to implement. Obviously though, a loose adaptation. :)

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Lily Finch
16:57 Apr 15, 2023

Susan, you did an awesome job putting the reader into the mix. Kudos sister! LF6.

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Michelle Oliver
12:45 Apr 15, 2023

So sweet… I like your moral. Very definitely a current issue. Your story has educated me about viruses, thanks for sharing.

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Susan Catucci
13:10 Apr 15, 2023

Thanks for reading and writing, Michelle. I wanted to give this a try and see if I could pull it off. It was a bit of an education for me, too, like so many things. And sharing is what really feels great. I'm happy you liked it.

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