Vinnie swooped down, his fragile, leathery wings ending pale light to the dark jungle he knew so well. Beneath him the river quietly passed by and the fish glimmered beneath its surface until Vinnie snagged one and flew onward. In his claws the fish pitifully struggled, but Vinnie wasn't about to skip a meal out of sorrow for such a plentiful creature. His own family was dying off, but fish came in large numbers day after day. Eating one would not hurt anything. He came to rest in his special cave, and held the fish down, tearing into it ravenously. ‘Have you any friends willing to join this meal?’ he asked the fish, but it was dead and couldn’t reply. Vinnie waddled to the edge of the cave, watching out for the sun. He feared humans in the mornings, when they, unlike the fish, fought back with sharp objects and threw things at him. His cousin was bigger and braver, and attacked them for a meal of flesh, but he was now as dead as the fish Vinnie had eaten. The stars twinkled reassuringly with no sign of the sun, so Vinnie took flight again, snapping haphazardly at insects, which tasted good but were never fulfilling. A rumble of noise in the distance startled him. A storm was approaching, and he winced at his inobservance. If water fell too hard, his wings would tear. ‘I should go back,’ he thought, ‘but on the other hand, the river is so near.’ Then a rare smell distracted him, and he flew right past the river, ignoring the changes in the air. Sure enough, there was death nearby. Vinnie perched precariously in a tree to survey the dead human. It was a child, mangled from falling far and landing on jagged rocks. Before he could glide down to eat, a friend called out to him. ‘What are you doing? Look at the sky!’ Vinnie looked up and fled. Not only were the first rays of morning appearing in the distance, but also they were shining through black, ominous clouds, that spilt water all over the jungle. Small drops plinked into the river and dampened Vinnie’s wings, making flight difficult. As the rain poured down harder, he frantically searched the ground for shelter, finally directing his staggered path towards the human village. A few humans were visible, and Vinnie saw them point at him in shock and fear as he continued towards a small wooden shelter standing apart from the huts. Suddenly, he felt the queerest sensation, and the tiny hairs all over him stood on end as if surprised. As he swept past the last tree before the shelter, a disjointing pain brought his movements to an abrupt halt, and Vinnie fell like a rock. Before the world went black forever, he turned his long head once more to look at his wings, which were singed and rippling under the influence of large unmerciful raindrops. Through the trees, he saw a streak of white breach the earth and sky, heard the thunder that followed, and sadly noted the death of another of his species.
January 27, 2013