The Bird and The Cage Chapter 3

Several days have come and gone since her decision, and the start of the fourth started off the same as the others. Rising at the first sight of sunlight peeking into her cave, she would go out quickly and hunt, satisfying her hunger for her long day of stalking and waiting ahead. And now, she sat perched in a tree overlooking the large flat-foot nest that housed animals, watching her prey amongst the cover of the bushy branches. He was toiling away in a field, using some sort of long stick with a flat, rock-like edge to dig into the ground, sweat dripping down his forehead as the glaring sun beamed down on him.

He was so close to her that she felt she could take him right now if she wanted to, but there were too many factors for her to do it safely. She knew she could take and whisk him away, but he was undoubtedly heavier than her typical prey, and take-off after grabbing him would be hindered a bit by the added weight, giving the other flat-feet in the field enough time to interfere in her hunt. And, she thought, a failed abduction would ruin her one advantage she had: the element of surprise. Once they knew of her existence, the whole community would be on guard, and that would ruin her one chance to safely take him.

Her time would come, she knew, she just had to wait for an opening. Nevertheless, she felt a pang of frustration as she gritted her teeth; she had anticipated him going out into the woods like he usually did, making it easier to isolate him. However, recently he had decided to not stray within the woods, instead deciding to go back to his nest after his labors in the fields. For what reason did her flat foot decide to remain idle was lost on her as she didn’t notice anything different about his work, nor about what he does back at his nest; it just seemed like he no longer had the desire to leave the comfort and safety of his community.

Such an odd action compelled her to imagine the reasons for why he refused to come out into the woods, and naturally it had drawn upon the idea that maybe–slim though it may be–he had somehow found out about her, and now was too fearful to venture out. She knew the flat feet to be a skittish animal, if the flat feet with sharp stickers were any indication, so it wasn’t impossible that knowledge of her would cause him to avoid the woods. That thought, at the time, caused a lump to form in her chest since it appeared that all her stalking and hope would be for naught.

Forlorn, she had almost given up at the thought of it, but the final thought of returning to her that dark pit shook her from her stupor. Even he had somehow found out about her, she should never give up the hunt–her mother had taught her that. One who gives up, goes home hungry, she remembered how her mother taught them, having spent a long night crying out in hunger because she had given up on a hunt when she accidentally gave her position away to a long-ear. It had been a harsh lesson, and her mother even prevented her sisters from giving her their prey, but she learned from that. Their mother was only preparing them for the future, and if she couldn’t succeed in a hunt, then she would have no choice but to either persist or go back to the nest hungry. She preferred the former.

She resolved herself: she would continue the hunt even if her flat foot had learned of her existence; she would no longer go back to that empty nest devoid of joy. Every prey eventually makes a mistake or strays too far from safety, she would just have to wait and strike then. Anyway, she thought after the initial panic subsided, it made almost no sense that the flat feet, if they did know of her existence, to come so close to their nests every night if they indeed did fear her. If her flat foot did know of her, then why hadn’t he told anyone else? If he thought her a danger, he would have informed somebody so they could drive her away. The only answer she could think of was that they had no clue that she was there, and it gave her courage to persist in her endeavor.

Instead, she thought, her flat foot could simply be tired after a long day of laboring in the fields, or his mother–having already seemed her chew him out over other things–could be preventing him from going into the woods, and he was appeasing her. It made much more sense than her having made a mistake and giving herself away to her flat foot somehow. She was a perfect huntress and such a mistake wasn’t becoming of her, so there was no way she had slipped up somewhere, especially after all the time spent stalking him when he ventured into the forest.

Nevertheless, his inaction after his labor, has thrown her plan off, but she had done other things over the course of that time to make up for that time. She had realized quickly the first night after coming to her decision that he would need a nest to sleep in, and she wasn’t going to let her precious flat-foot sleep on cold, hard rock. She had thought of maybe sharing her nest with him, but quickly scratched that idea as her nest was only a perfect fit for one, and they would both be likely to be sleeping half on the ground if they attempted to share. So, the night after she had made her decision, she had gone to work that night when everyone was asleep to gather the materials for one, even gathering some more for herself from the pelts left outside the nests. She thought the flat-feet silly to leave some precious and comfortable things unguarded outside their nests, not that she would complain about their stupidity for it allowed her to create a nice nest like hers for her flat-foot. For now, it remained unoccupied, but she was sure that that would change soon.

The sun was beginning to set over her mountain when she saw her flat-foot finally leave the fields, her eyes trailing him as he walked through the small pathway in the woods that led back to his home. Once he disappeared amongst the trees, she stretched out her limbs, hearing and feeling a satisfying pop in her legs, before she spread her wings and took off. Her destination was already in mind as she spotted the large tree that overlooked the flat-feet nests, it’s limbs thick with lush green vegetation. She roosted herself near the top which gave her a near encompassing view of the nests, settling in comfortably in the thick vegetation. The branch was already marred by her talons, deep scratches etched into the bark.

Once settled, her eyes scanned the nests and quickly found her flat-foot entering in from the path that led to the fields, stopping to talk with another flat-foot who held the long sticks with pointy rocks fastened to the end. She didn’t know why these flat-feet wandered along the outskirts of the nests–she assumed they were protecting it–but she found satisfaction in messing with them when she could, mostly when the sun fell so as to avoid them seeing her. She especially liked to lure them towards her roosting spot, mainly by shaking the leaves and branches of trees, before dropping whatever she had nearby. Things such as acorns, thin sticks off the trees, even bones from rabbits she had killed earlier in the day, were all the things she had dropped on their heads before, and she took particular joy from the once look of horror a flat-foot gave when she had dropped a bone on him.  

Stifling the throaty chuckle she was getting at the memory, she followed her flat-foot as he moved through the nests, stopping every so often to interact with another flat-foot before continuing along his way. She hissed as she noticed it was the same path he took to get to his nest, meaning he wasn’t going to come out into the woods again like the other days. Another fruitless day of hunting would go to waste, but, she thought, it was at least better than sleeping or lazing around in her nest.

She watched, her eyelids slackening, as he approached his nest, resigned to another day, it appears, of rest. Shaking her head, she decided that it would be better if she went off to hunt for her last meal if he was going to stay in his nest again for the night. However, before she could spread her wings and take flight, she saw her flat-foot stop and suddenly turned around, as if something had called out to him. Curious, she crouched back down and watched him turn around, seeing another flat-foot, a female she had never seen before, run towards him, her white pelt dragging slightly along the ground, staining the tail-end brown.  

Her flat-foot looked flustered as he saw her, scratching the back of his head and his face turning a slight red as he greeted her. The female gave him a big smile and began to play with the long brown fur on her head as they conversed, rolling it between the digits on the end of her upper-limb, a faint reddish glow on her face. Watching them, she could feel a tight grip squeezing around her heart.

The nerve of this flat-foot to talk to hers! And she was equally upset with her own flat-foot for even entertaining this female. Pouting, her talons dug deeper into the branch, her earlier desire to hunt gone as she watched them, replaced instead with an intense anger directed towards this interfering female. She hadn’t minded when her flat-foots family talked to him, it was only natural his sister and mother would, but this flat-foot had no reason to be interacting with him, and her anger only grew as she began to notice how she tried to draw herself closer to him. However, her flat-foot tried to maintain a respectable distance from the female anytime she tried to approach closer, earning a coo of admiration for him.

Still, she wanted to fling herself from the tree and punish the other flat-foot for talking to hers, but she remained rooted to her spot, not wanting to ruin her whole hunt over a lapse in judgment. And, after what felt like an agonizing eternity, the female finally parted, waving at him as she hurried away, carrying the excess skin of her pelt so it didn’t drag as she ran. She relaxed her grip on the branch as she watched her flat-foot, seeing him gazed after her for a bit before shaking his head and hurrying into his own nest, and once he disappeared, she swiftly spread her wings and took flight, hurrying to the spot that overlooked his nest.

She felt a lump in her chest as she settled in the tree and looked at him inside the nest, her eyes narrowed and a frown spread across her face. She knew now that she had to take him sooner than later, and if that meant taking a risk, so be it. There was no more time to waste on watching and waiting, and she berated herself for being overly concerned. She could’ve had him so long ago, but she waited because of her fear of failing and now he was going around and interacting with other females.

Her talons clenched tight into the tree as she watched move around the nest, smiling as his sister flung her arms around excitedly as she spoke with him. No more, she thought, no more waiting for him to isolate himself in the woods. Tomorrow when he was working the fields, separated a bit from the others, she knew she could take him.

He will be hers.


The night had long fallen upon the nests and the pathways now remained absent of other flat-feet except for the occasional guard, but she remained, joining the guards in their vigil. She had no clue as to why she stayed for so long, the previous nights had already shown that he wouldn’t exit his nest at this period of the day, but she supposed it was better to keep away from the darkness of her cave and remain watching him until he eventually retired for the night. For now, she could see him for a bit longer.

He remained seated, resting his elbows on the flat-piece of smooth wood that the family used to eat their meals, eyes scanning across some grass-thin object she could only compare to a white leaf with the edges of it curled and yellowed from age, strange black markings along the center of it. He twirled a feather with a sharpened edge between the thin digits that made up a feature that she could only compare to the way her own talons and feet work. The five digits at the end were surprisingly dexterous and allowed them to be able to manipulate and hold objects with ease, something she, admittedly, couldn’t do as her talons didn’t allow her to grasp objects unless she was flying. However, their talons on the upper limb weren’t made for killing and they sacrificed the ability to fly for their dexterous digits, something she would never give up; flying was better than being able to hold pointless things.

Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t notice that her flat-foot had risen to his feet and started to stretch, the sudden movement tearing her from her thoughts and back to him. It must be time for him to retire for the night, and she waited to see him move out of sight, but, much to her surprise, she saw him head towards the entrance to the nest, her heartbeat picking up. He hadn’t done this before on the nights she had been watching him, mostly having headed further into the nest to escape her sight. Her breath slowed and her body began to shake as she waited to see what he would do.

Wood was pushed open and she saw him step out into the night’s air. She stopped herself from letting out a squawk in her excitement, scared that he may hear her and go back inside before he could even venture out. Instead, she held herself still, trying to stop the shaking of her body as she watched him move further and further out until he was walking amongst the nests. She had no idea as to why he was venturing out tonight, but none of that mattered to her as she took to the air and flew high above him, hoping the blackness of the night would hide her body well.

Her flat-foot continued along through the nests, realizing quickly that he was heading towards the big nest on the outskirts of the community. This was her chance, she thought, a big smile spreading across her face. The threats to her were now minuscule as she had gone to the big nest enough at night to know that the guards rarely frequented that area, it’s what had allowed her to take the odd winged creatures that rested within. As soon as he appeared in the clearing of the nest, she knew that he would be hers.

Before long, he reached the pathway that led to the big nest, nodding his head in greeting to one of the guards who had wandered by. Her heart leaped with joy as he moved through and she raced to the other side, roosting in a tree that overlooked the clearing. The field was pitch black and she saw no other flat-foot walking amongst the fields, it would only be her and her flat-foot–the way she had always wanted it.

Her body was shaking as she waited, no longer able to quell her excitement, and her heart felt like it would pound out of her chest at any moment. She would never be alone again, and it almost felt like she could cry at that thought, the feelings of isolation will never bother her–he would make sure of that. It’s what she had been waiting for so long; this moment was now hers. He just needed to come through the pathway and he, at last, would be hers.

And once he finally stepped into the clearing, she had to stop herself from grabbing him then and there. She had to still be careful about this: she didn’t want to hurt her flat-foot any more than was necessary, and if she messed up and snatched him from a potentially lethal spot on his body or if her talons–though she knew this was unlikely considering her abilities–struck something other than his shoulders, like his head, he might be in trouble. She had to approach this like any other hunt, and to do that, she must remain calm.

Taking a deep breath, she focused only on him, watching him as he stepped further and further into the clearing before he reached far enough from the trees. She took one last cursory glance around the clearing, but, much like how she had first seen it, it remained empty except for her and her target. She took to the sky quick, spreading her wings and hovering just a bit behind him. The angle was perfect, and her target was clear to her–this wouldn’t be any more trouble than any other hunt that had transpired before it, and it felt like those hunts prepared her perfectly for this moment. She took one last deep breath before she began her descent, gliding towards him unblinkingly, her talons now raised out in front of her, aimed for his shoulders, the wind and the pounding of her heart roaring in her ears.

She struck.

He hadn’t even the chance to turn around and meet her before her talons sunk into his shoulders, keeping mindful to not dig too deep but enough for her to maintain a grip on him. He let out a yell as he felt them dig into him, but she didn’t give him a chance to try and fall throw himself to the ground before she began to pump her wings to pull them both up. It was a bit harder at first to get them both in the air, having grown accustomed to the weight of the long-eared creatures she hunted, but soon enough, she was able to get him off the ground and into the air.

He flailed his legs trying to break free, and he even tried to grip his claw-like appendage around her leg, but a tight squeeze from her talons elicited a small yelp of pain and he let go. Her flat foot have out another kick before she felt all his limbs stiffen and go limp to his side. She grew worried and quickened her pace to their home, fearing that he might’ve died of shock like her other prey, following the similar pattern that she often felt the long-eared creatures go through when she struck them. However, the flight back was unbearably slower because of his added weight, and she began to rationalize his stillness in her head to stop herself from fearing the worst. Of course, he’d stop struggling when they were higher above the ground, for fear of accidentally breaking from her grasp and plummeting to the ground. No creature would want to die like that, even she had fears of her wings failing one day and her falling, so it must even be doubly for one who doesn’t have the ability to fly.

Nevertheless, the flight to their nest was nerve-rattling and she let out a sigh of relief once she saw the familiar hole in the mountain, increasing her pace once she saw it. She flew through the hole perfectly, making sure that the flat-foots body didn’t make contact with the cold rock, before she hurried and dropped him gently in the nest she had made for him, landing right beside him. His eyes were closed as she looked down at her flat-foot, and he didn’t make any movement. Panicking, she rested her head against his chest, hoping to hear the beat of his heart.

For a frightening few moments there was nothing, but then she heard it: a faint pumping followed by the gentle rise and fall of his chest. He must’ve passed out from the shock of the hunt, but he was much stronger than the long-eared creatures who died from it. She fell backwards onto her back-end and looked at the flat-foot before her, everything finally catching up to her.

She jumped to her feet and began to hop around her cave, letting out a loud squawk that she had been keeping buried since he first stepped out of his nest.. She had done it! He was now hers forever, and the thought of that made her tear up at last, small liquid dripping from her eyes and drying up in the feathers around her face. She would never be alone again. All that pain, all that loneliness; it was going to be a thing of the past. They could do everything together; all the things she had seen him done with his family; he could now do with her. And she had so much planned that she wanted to be done. But, first, she thought, she should make sure her flat-foot was comfortable.

She moved over to him once more as he rested on his bedding, and looked at his shoulders, noting the tears in his pelt from where she dug her talons into him, blood dripping out from the wound. It wasn’t much blood, thanks to her taking the precaution in not digging deeper, but it was enough, and it was beginning to pool around and stain the pelt he wore. She heard him groan and begin to fidget, causing her brow to furrow in concern. She had to make sure he was comfortable in his new home, and the pain and blood from his shoulder wouldn’t allow that to happen.

With that thought in mind, she leaned down and began to lick.

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