She could feel them on her, approaching with the same fire she had seen and felt so many times before as she huddled against the wall, feeling the cold stone against her feathered body. She wanted to make a sound–a plea to spare her unlike her sisters–but a sound wouldn’t come out as it choked down in her throat. And those eyes kept approaching as she tried to push herself further and further into the wall, but they kept drawing closer and closer and she shut her eyes trying to will them from existing by simply not being able to see them. However, she could still feel their gaze, and terrible feeling gripped her chest as she felt them on top of her. A silent scream tearing from her throat as an inferno erupted from within her.
Her eyes flung open and she shot straight up, her head snapping back and forth in search of those horrible burning eyes, but she, much to her surprise, couldn’t see them anywhere, as if they had faded from existence. She shook uncontrollably as she waited for them to come back and haunt her, but they never did and gradually she could feel the pounding in her chest slow and a calmer, more rational mood came over her.
It had happened again, she thought, perching herself up on her feet and listening to the faint whistling of wind inside her small cave, trying to calm her still ragged breathing. She stretched herself, her wings going wide, feeling the tension in her body dissipate slowly. Sighing, she shook her and began to pick out some leaves that clung to her body before smoothing down and sorting out the nest that, she noted to her chagrin, was in disarray from her thrashings. The hides of animals and those odd pelts that the flat-foots used to cover themselves in their sleep were thrown about, some with deep gashes in them from her talons.
Groaning, she shook her head and rose to her feet, placing them awkwardly one in front of the other, bobbling back and forth and the muscles in her thin legs protesting with faint pain as she moved. Her talons scraped against the stone floor, filling the air with a shrill sound that made her grimace and she quickly retired from that activity and began to hop around normally, figuring she’d try and practice more once she left the cave–the softer grass felt better on her feet anyway
Hopping around the cave, she gathered the scattered nest material quickly and began to place them once more in the center of the cave, ignoring the scattered leaves that were thrown throughout her home, more than content to simply have the hides and pelts be her the only material for her nest; they also got caught up in her body anyway, and it was a daily hassle to clear them out. She hoped one day she could get one of those soft things that the flat-foots rested their heads on, but, unlike the hides and pelts, they rarely put those things outside on those branches outside their nests, making getting one hard. However, for now, she was content with the things she had gathered as they made a soft enough nest as it was.
Once content with how she arranged the nest, she plopped herself back down into it and looked out the circular opening to her home. The rising sun was casting a brilliant orange glow over the horizon as rose into its place in the sky, and the light filtered in dimly through the cave and onto her face, which made her turn away from it. Yawning, she laid back down in her nest and thought about sleeping for a bit longer, but a loud rumbling from her stomach brought her quickly back to her feet and towards the entrance to the cave.
She basked in the sun, feeling the faint warmth on her body as she glanced around her territory, her eyes lingering on the river that snaked its way through the forest and up past her mountain. If she was lucky, she might be able to find a long-ear or other creature drinking along its banks; if not, she could get herself a drink before going to the plains nearby–maybe she’d even visit that big flat-foot nest with the trapped animals, that always made for a nice evening meal.
Nodding at her decision, she rose to her full height and spread her wings wide, nearly encompassing the entrance to her home. She knew she must’ve made an impressive sight and she turned her head, a smug smile on her face only for it to go away once she was greeted with the darkness and emptiness of her home. A sudden weight formed in her chest and she quickly turned away from the darkness and pushed herself out into the air, pumping her wings to keep herself afloat as an updraft of wind propelled herself up high and she took off for the river, the feeling in her chest throbbing all the way.
Hunting was always fun to her. The thrill of it as she flew down, her talons raised out in front of her; the wind roaring past her ears, and the feeling of it as it whipped past her body; the racing of her heart, and ending in a bundle of fur and bone hanging neatly in her talons. It was all so exciting to her and she took great pride in her hunting prowess. She rarely ever failed when she had her target–always having been the best of her sisters, earning particular praise from her mother for it–and that held true as she glided through the air, a gray long-ear hanging limply in her claws. She didn’t know what it died from: the shock or her talons, nor did it matter to her as long as it was her prize.
She took her prize from the plains from where she caught it and back into the woods, preferring to eat it not in the open for fear of a larger predator finding her, and instead roosted herself on a tall tree. She set the long-ear on the thick branch in front of her, taking special care to make sure it didn’t slide off before she lowered her head and tearing strips of flesh from it. The slick meat slid down her throat as she tore into it until it no longer resembled the creature it had once been, but a pile of torn flesh, bone, and blood.
Once satisfied, she rested her back against the trunk of the tree and gazed lazily out into the clear blue sky. A wave of drowsiness washed over her, and she felt her eyes grow heavy, the gentle whispers of the wind and warmth from the sun slowly winning her over. They shut and blackness came over her vision.
They were there again, her sisters, they were waiting for her, watching her as she approached them slowly. A smile snuck on her face and she launched herself forward, colliding into both. They let out a loud squawks of surprise as they tumbled into a ball of flailing legs and wings before coming to a rest near the center of their home. Pushing themselves to their feet, they glared at her as she laid down on the stone ground, letting out a throaty chortle as she looked at the both of them standing above her. She smiled at them before trying to herself back to her own feet as well. However, a sudden weight came down on her shoulders and she felt herself pushed back to the ground, looking up to see her oldest sister holding her down with her talons, a sharp glare in her eye as she looked over and bobbed her head at her other sister.
The other sister looked down at her, a light twinkle to her eyes, before reaching down at her spread wings and plucking out a random feather from it. Now knowing what they were about to do, she struggled feebly to free herself from her older sister’s grasp, kicking wildly but it only served to tire her out. Once her struggles grew weaker, her other sister put her own talons where her legs were to stop her from any future kicking before leaning down, feather in mouth, and began to trail it up and down her stomach, the smooth feathers there barely providing any barrier. She tried to stop herself from letting out a sound, hoping that her indifference to their punishment would persuade them to stop, but, as it continued to feel it trail along, she began to feel spasms start to escape involuntarily from her body, twisting and turning as much as she could under her sisters combined weight. However, she stopped herself from letting out any sounds and she kept her mouth shut tight, her teeth grating against each other as she fought against it.
Her sister leaned further down and pressed the feather deeper before vigorously trailing it along her, causing the spasms to get worse under their claws. The tenseness in her mouth slackened just a bit and it was enough for her willpower to disappear, and, with it, loud throaty noises erupted from her as she writhed under them. She mixed desperate coos in between the panic gasps to her sisters, begging them to stop as she struggled beneath their claws, but they persisted. She could feel the air being ripped from her lungs as she struggled to breathe under their onslaught.
When she thought she couldn’t take anymore, she suddenly felt the weight loosen around her shoulders and her other sister step away, spitting the feather out. She laid on the floor, panting heavily as her sisters gathered in front of her, smug smiles on their faces at their handiwork. She propped herself up with her wings and looked, her eyes narrowed, at both of them, bitter that they had done that to her again. They always did that whenever they wanted because they knew they were stronger than her and she couldn’t fight back.
Pouting, she turned away from the them and faced towards the wall. They couldn’t pick on her forever, one day, she thought, she would be stronger and quicker and smarter than the both of them, and she’d get back at them. She would just have to bide her time and wait which would make it so much greater when she finally got back at them.
Suddenly, she heard a soft cooing and turned to see her oldest sister approaching slowly, her head lowered and a gentle smile on her face. However, she was in no moods for apologies and instead turned away from her, crossing her wings over each other and letting out a small hiss. This did little to dissuade her sister as she continued to approach until she stood behind the rebellious chick, who refused to turn around as she leaned down and nudged her with her head. Rolling her eyes, the older sister sat down besides the chick and wrapped her in her wings, ignoring the hiss from her younger sibling as she brought her up to her chest and leaned her head against it, cooing sweetly as she looked down at her.
The chick struggled for a moment but gave in and allowed her head to lean against her sister’s chest, listening to the rhythmic pounding of her heart, the boiling feeling her in her chest fading away. She could feel her sister nuzzling her face onto the top of her head, and she let out a soft sigh as she listened to her heart and sweet cooing. She felt a sudden weight on her other side and turned her head just a bit to see her other sister now wrapping her up like the eldest, resting her head on the other side of her head.
She closed her eyes and allowed herself to be cuddled between them, no longer thinking of revenge, but of the sweet moments they shared with each other. They may pick on her, annoy her, and even ignore her, but they were her family and they loved each other despite their behavior towards each other. She could not possibly wish for a better family than the one she had now, and she hoped she would never have to go a day without them.
She opened her eyes, but not to the comfort of her sisters, but to the emptiness of the forest and the sun starting to set over her mountain. She yawned and rose to her feet, crouching low on the branch and shaking her body to rid the last remnants of her sleep. She shivered as a stray wind blew over her, the warmth of the sun fading as it lowered over the horizon, but she did not desire to return to the shelter of her home, not desiring to simply spend her time idle looking at the constrictive gray walls. Instead, she took off once more and began to head further into the forest.
It only took a few moments before she saw what she was looking for: the community of nests where the flat-foots resided. She roosted herself silently in a nearby tree and gazed down with her eyes across the nests, watching some of the few flat-foots still not within their nests saunter around, her keen ears picking up the blur of sounds coming from them, though she couldn’t understand any of it, but the tone in which it was spoken. It always confused her why the flat-foots made so much noise when they could get across what they wanted with simple noises or gestures. With her family, a hiss meant leave to leave someone alone or to get someone moving if they were lazing about; a coo meant they wanted to play or lay next to each other, but with the flat-foots more noises were used to get this across.
She would see this nestless flat-foot getting angry with others, stomping his feet all about and getting red in the face, but this would only cause the others to equally get as angry with him. She wondered why he wouldn’t just hiss at them to get them to leave him alone, especially since all that needless noise didn’t appear to deter the others from interacting with him. She rolled her eyes: all the arguing would accomplish was driving away all the nearby prey, and she wondered how they were able to hunt with all that noise. Thinking about it now, the large community could only exist because of that particularly large nest with the animals trapped within. It had large fields where the flat-feet grew their food from the ground, and many of them worked those fields to maintain them, even the flat-foot she had taken an interest in.
He wasn’t anything interesting really–not much different than any the others of his kind: naked without their pelts except for their heads, and average-sized amongst them, but she often found herself finding him in the late afternoons when he went out into the woods. She supposed that’s when it all started: having seen him in the forest so often, she naturally found herself curious as to what he did, seeing as how many of the flat-foots refused to step outside the comfort of their community. She would follow him and watch him as he moved through the brush and trails of the forest, surprisingly very quiet for a flat-foot, and climb trees and rest in them. She had even seen him hunt before using a weird branch in which he put some thin stick with a sharpened rock-like end. He had let out a hoot when he killed a long-ear with it, a large smile on his face as he tied it to his side. She had felt proud for him when he accomplished this for it had been his first success, having watched him fail over and over again until he got it that day.
It became a daily part of her day to see her flat-foot, though today her nap went on too long for her to see him. Until now that was, as she looked down into the clear opening into his nest, seeing him sitting. The clear opening into the nest confused her as she thought it was stupid to have such a large opening that a creature or a vicious flat-foot could get into, but it appeared to be a common feature amongst flat-foot nests. She wasn’t really complaining about it now either as it allowed her to see her flat-foot.
He had a small smile on his face, and he ran his hand through the brown fur on the top of his head, listening to another flat-foot she presumed was his brother. The brother looked frantic as he waved his wingless limbs around, glancing behind him periodically as if he was waiting for something to attack him while he wasn’t looking, and she couldn’t help but chortle a bit at the sight. Her flat foot, for his part, just kept smiling and bobbing his head up and down listening to his panic, but he eventually rose to his feet and pat his brother reassuringly on the back. This seemed to only be a ruse on his part as the next moment under a quick flash of limbs, her flat-foot had his brother hooked underneath his upper limbs, and was wrestling him to the ground, calling out loudly as they struggled to the floor.
She watched as a younger flat-foot, a female, hurried into the room, the mirth conspicuous on her face as she stopped in front of the pair, kneeling and pulling up the brother’s pelt and exposing the naked skin underneath. The brother began to struggle more as she exposed it, but her flat-foot, now positioned under him, wrapped his legs around his and his struggling got weaker. Once placated, the sister began to run the slender digits the flat feet had at the end of their wingless limbs across his exposed flesh causing the captured boy to spasm uncontrollably.
Her eyes widened and a terrible feeling tore through her gut as she watched, remnants of her dream flowing back into her mind. She gripped the branch tighter with her talons, the feeling in her gut growing worse and worse as she watched her flat-foot, a wide grin across his face. He was always smiling whenever she saw him–in the woods, in his nest–it didn’t matter, he was always smiling. It was almost like he was mocking her for what he had, and she could feel a fire burning in her chest now.
She hated him.
He had everything she had lost. A family to come back to, not some empty nest with nothing but herself to keep her company. A loving mother who fretted about him, a sister who looked up to him, and even a brother who went along with everything he did. And what did she have? A cave? What did that mean to her if there was nothing to come back to? What was a nest without the companionship of another?
She wanted it back, all of it: her family, but they were scattered to the winds and she knew not to go back to her mother. Her sisters? They were gone, she had tried to find them, but there was no scent or sight of them anywhere she went. She was truly alone. But, a sudden thought sprang to mind as she watched her flat-foot–maybe growing tired of the game–helping his brother to his feet and patting him on the back, maybe there was something she could do about it.
He could give her the thing she craved most: companionship. Her heart raced excitedly at the thought of it; of getting back the things she had lost. To come back to the nest and see someone waiting there for her, a smile on their face, excited to see her as much as she was excited to see them. It was all there right there in front of her–all she had to do was take it.
With that thought in mind, she pushed off the branch and took to the sky, a smile on her face for the first time in a long time, her thoughts giddy, filled with all of the things she could do with him once he was hers. At first, he may long after those he’s going to leave behind, but she knew that, with time, he’d learn that he was her companion, and that she wouldn’t have to share him with anybody. His smile would be hers; his company would be hers; she would be his happiness, and he hers.
He will be hers.