As far as he knew, he was the only one of his kind. In his entire life, he had seen no other like him in the forest. He was bigger, faster, and more powerful than all the rest.
These were the first thoughts entering his mind each morning. Standing on the edge of the giant oak tree’s main branch, his sharp red eyes surveyed the ground some 200 feet below. Being able to see over a mile was both a gift and a curse.
He started stretching his wings. It was a wingspan of over six feet with every inch covered with alternating black and white feathers, feathers as smooth and soft as silk, but stronger than the strongest hickory limb.
Proudly, he held his wings outstretched, letting the morning sun warm them and prepare his powerful muscles for his first flight of the day. The exercise also afforded something else. It allowed all the other smaller birds below that called his forest home to admire and envy how great he actually was, and rightly so.
For in a single word, he was Magnificent. With that comforting thought, he leaped and took flight. Quickly and without any effort, Magnificent started to soar on the warm summer air currents. It was both the best and worst part of his day. They would soon follow.
Other birds of the forest had noticed Magnificent’s early morning flight: red birds, blue birds, yellow birds, exotic long-tails and ordinary blackbirds all flocked and joined in flight just to be near.
For the last 20 years of mornings, the routine has been repeated, but life in the dense forest wasn’t without its hazards. Through the years, many birds had been injured. Broken wings had mended back misshapen, legs had been broken or completely lost during fights with the many predators on ground and hidden in trees. Time and circumstance had taken their toll, but still the Broken took flight when they saw Magnificent soaring above the great tree.
It was these that he loathed the most. They were no longer perfect, and he could no longer stand them. Perhaps if he flew high enough, he wouldn’t have to see or hear them – at least for a while. Tilting his mighty wings, he caught an updraft sending him higher and away from those lesser than he.
The imperfect ones were the first to cease their chase of him. “Good riddance,” he thought. With the updraft fading, he flapped his powerful wings propelling his streamlined body even further upwards. The red, yellow and blue birds soon turned and fell back towards his forest. The exotic long-tails quickly followed, but the stubborn blackbirds took another 30 minutes of maneuvering before giving up.
Even though they could no longer see him, he could still see them with his telephoto eyesight. Turning his head toward the sun, Magnificent flew higher, higher than he ever had before. An hour later, all the lesser birds were out of his sight. Two hours later, his forest was a mere speck on the landscape below.
Tilting his wings, he tried banking back towards Earth, but it was too late. Too high – he was caught in the jet stream and was propelled higher than ever before.
Up, up, and up even higher still, Magnificent went. For the first time in his life, his mighty wings couldn’t overcome the turbulence. The air chilled, growing even colder as it grew thinner. He watched in horror as the thin layer of ice covering his black and white feathers started to thicken, causing once powerful muscles to cease obeying his commands.
As the air disappeared in his lungs so did the light in his red eyes. The last conscious thought Magnificent had was that of falling, falling longer and faster than he had during any previous dive for prey.
In the morning, he was able only to open one eye but saw he no longer was looking down on his forest from the highest tree. The great fall had landed him in a simple pine tree. Pain now replaced the wind, but much like the wind before, the pain swept over his entire body.
With great effort, he rose and tried to stretch his mighty wings. Placing weight on his right leg cause him to fall. It was broken. Balancing precariously on the left, he tried once again to stretch his wings. “The sun will warm my feathers and muscles so the morning flight can start,” he thought.
Pain pulsated throughout his body. His right wing had been shattered in the fall. Many of the black and white silky feathers on that wing were gone, and the remaining were now stained crimson. It would be months before he would be able to try flight again. By then the wing would be healed but grotesquely misshapen, making even flying slowly a tremendous effort, and loss of sight in his right eye would be permanent.
Over the next few months, from his perch in the small pine tree, flocks of mighty birds with wingspans of over six feet with every inch covered with alternating black and white feathers — feathers as smooth and soft as silk — flew overhead, catching the warm air currents they soared. Now and then, they dove to grab prey with their mighty talons.
In a word, they were Magnificents. He was no longer. And they didn’t want anything to do with him. He watched as the Magnificents soared higher, leaving the lesser birds far behind. He now realized just how wrong it was to shun those who weren’t like him or those who were forever broken. He had never heard them complain about their conditions. Those he never would’ve called magnificent actually were. It was he that wasn’t.
The next morning he awoke and, to his surprise, stood on two strong legs. Talons dug deep into the edge of the giant oak tree’s main branch. Had the previous flight and crash had all been but a dream? His sharp red eyes surveyed the ground of his forest some 200 feet below. Stretching his mighty wings, he found no breaks. Muscles quickly warmed in the early morning sun. The other flight had indeed been a dream. This was real, but things were now different. He was different. And so he waited for them.
Red birds, blue birds, yellow birds, exotic long-tails and ordinary blackbirds, along with all the Broken birds of the forest soon gathered and circled above his tree. Magnificent took flight, and catching a warm air current, he started to soar. But this time, he was careful not to leave any behind.
After all, they were all Magnificents — perhaps even more so than he.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]