I'm startled out of a strange daze at the command to find myself in a vast white space with a long single-filed line ahead of me consisting of various species of animals. They all moved robotically as they took a step forward. Not in synchrony, though. The smallest basically ran to fill the gaps, while the largest shuffled to keep from crushing anyone. But strangely, they all systematically obeyed the voice, never straying from the line.
I looked around me in confusion. Why am I in a line? Who are all these other animals?
Everyone slowly but surely advanced again, and since I didn't want to be separated from the crowd, I frantically moved with them. After waddling a few steps, I pecked the frog in front of me. "Hey, what's going on?"
"I'm just as lost as you are," he croaked with a shrug, seeming rather indifferent about our situation.
I looked at the animal in front of him and swallowed. A wolf. I wasn't about to grab her attention and be her next meal. I peered around her to try and see the end of the line. It was long but appeared to be moving fairly quickly and I might get the answer once I reached the voice, so I decided to just remain quiet for the time being. It felt like I was going against my nature to not say a peep. Normally, I'd sing my fellow avian's song when I was in distress. But everyone else was eerily quiet, too, like hearing the instruction of the voice was important, and none of us wanted to miss our turn.
As my mind whirled with what might be going on, I felt something tap me from behind, and I nearly shot out of my feathers. I turned around to realize there was someone now in line behind me. A large tortoise of some kind.
"I'm sorry," he said slowly. "But do you know what's going on?"
I shook my head. "I've been trying to figure that out myself."
The tortoise extended its long neck to look out at the line, thoughtfully examining every animal. Not long after, something changed in his eyes like he had a realization, and not a good one. "Oh," he said with sheer despondency. My stomach gnarled into a knot. Before I could ask him what he knew, the command rang through the space again. "Next!"
Whichever creature was next must've been huge because suddenly there was a lot of space in the line and we all scrambled to fill it.
Once I settled into my spot, I turned to ask the tortoise, "What did you-" I stopped short when I discovered that he wasn't directly behind me, but instead was still where I last was, working slowly to cross the space between us. Oh no!
I tried to rejoin him but was hindered by some unseeable force pulling me back. What!? I tried moving to each side, but that didn't work either. Then it hit me. The reason for a well-structured line isn't because everyone's obedient, but because there's nowhere else we can go except forward.
I felt a spurt of panic. I hadn't been as afraid before because I thought we had free will, and now that I discovered we were trapped, my flight instincts activated. I vigorously began to beat my wings but found there was no air to give me any lift, and I tumbled back onto the ground.
"There's no use," the frog in front of me said sadly. When I looked at him, I noticed the wolf was watching me now as well, and I froze.
She shook her head. "There's no need to be afraid. I have no interest in any of you."
My normal immediate inclination would be not to believe her. Only, I didn't have that natural response this time. Her yellow eyes were crestfallen. There was an obvious internal mark on her soul. It was an odd thing to see, especially because she looked so young, healthy, and spry-ish.
My fear returned, only this time, it wasn't fear of her, but instead fear of what might've made her this way. "Do... do you know what's going on?" I asked her.
She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again they were glazed over. "We're the last of us," she answered with somber acceptance. I had no idea what she meant. She didn't elaborate, and honestly, I was more than a little afraid to ask.
We moved yet again, and I noticed there were only a few animals left before my turn. Dread welled up inside me. I hadn't seen where the animals went after leaving the line. I searched the room for a doorway that they might've taken. Then the wolf moved, revealing a stairway that led to a podium. I was so caught up in trying to see where we'd go that I didn't realize I was next as the frog leaped up the steps. My heart raced, and I glanced behind me to find the tortoise was still a ways away.
I was all alone...
The solitude felt achingly familiar, and the urge to sing my song to locate my fellow avians nagged at me. I hesitantly began the intro of the hum, softly, not the deep reverberations that I'd normally make. I repeated the verse with slight frustration. I knew there was more to the song, but for some reason, it wouldn't come to me. Only a vague shadow of its existence, too foggy for me to grasp, which kept me from finishing the lull. If only one of the others could finish it for me...
My body grew numb. I stared at the podium with my heart in my throat. Yet despite my rigid state, my body somehow managed to move, almost on its own accord. Just before I reached the top, I squeezed my eyes shut, fearing what might be waiting for me.
"There's no reason to be afraid anymore, little gnatcatcher."
I peeked an eye open at the soothing voice to see the most beautiful bird I'd ever seen. "What are you?" I asked, then instantly felt rude, but the bird only smiled.
"I'm a Dodo bird," she answered sweetly, not at all offended. "Was that your song I just heard?"
I shrank into myself and nodded.
I began to smile then remembered the single verse I'd repeated and looked down in embarrassment. "It's incomplete though."
"I know," she said gently. "That's because there's no one left to finish it for you."
My eyes shot up to hers. "No one left?"
Her expression softened with sad adoration. The look reminded me of my mother when she'd coo me to sleep. "You sang your species' song without ever knowing the end, waiting your whole life for someone to finish the lyrics. I'm sorry, but no one ever sang with you because you were the last gnatcatcher."
The ache in my chest returned as I processed hers, as well as the wolf's words. I'm the last of my kind. I was barely holding back my tears as I said to her, "So I'm alone forever?"
She moved aside to show me a passage that I swear wasn't behind her a moment ago. "Not at all. Here, you'll be a part of the extinct population, joining all the other animals who have experienced the same heartache."
Extinct. I'd heard the word before. I didn't take it seriously, though. There were so many animals in the world, so it was hard to believe any could cease to exist. Yet as I turned to glance at the growing line below me, it was hard to deny the truth.
"But I'll never know how the song ends." My chest caved with that thought. I couldn't bear eternity singing an incomplete song. A few years were hard enough...
"Why don't you go inside and find out?"
I turned to her with hope. She wouldn't set me up for disappointment after all I had endured... would she?
Then a thought occurred to me. My mother didn't raise me to be selfish. I used to protect the environment from being over-infested with insects while singing to the sun every day. My species might be extinct, but I wasn't the only bird whose song was incomplete. Nor was I the only one alone. In fact, I'd never be alone again. Not with the numerous other animals I'd be surrounded with. I'm sure they've all done their part in nature too, and while none of us deserve this, at least we'd have each other.
I lifted my head and steeled myself. "Thank you, Dodo."
She gave me a proud smile. "And thank you, little gnatcatcher."
Suddenly I felt a soft breeze rustle my feathers. My heart lept at the same time I did, and I flapped my wings, letting its current carry me. At first, the passage was dark. But with the wind dancing around me, I trusted its gentle push to guide me to my forever home. When a faint light appeared, I knew I was right to have faith.
I had to squint the closer I got to it as it became too bright to see through. Soon, I was bathed in an abrupt warmth as I came upon the exit, and I welcomed it. Not long after I heard a loud buzzing, which prompted me to flap my wings harder, determined to find the source. When the light finally cleared to reveal my surroundings, my heart stopped.
Everything was so green. The sky was the bluest I'd ever seen it, with countless birds flocking together as they soaked up their freedom. The urge to join them was demanding, and without thinking I started my song.
Heads turned in my direction, and at first, I felt nervous. Then, deep within the hoard of animals, another bird chirped its own song. No. Not its song. Our song. The second half that I'd been missing. It sounded so beautiful when completed, and my eyes watered as I was overcome with a blend of emotions.
I sang again, and I was taken by surprise when a choir returned the second half to me. In a haste, I beat my wings hard and fast. I'd never felt more determined to get somewhere than I did right then. Tears fell from my eyes as I pursued their harmony, and I noticed everyone watching as I reunited with my fellow gnatcatchers. Cheers went around, and other birds began to sing their own songs, overjoyed at our reunion.
We all took flight as we celebrated, gracing the other animals with our unique melody. One only we knew, and one that I finally had an ending to.
About the Creator
I never believed the sky is the limit, therefore my passions are expansive. My interest in writing stemmed from poetry but my heart lead me to Sci-Fi Fantasy. Consequently, my stories are plot-driven with splashes of evocative elements.
Okay Brin, you got me to tear up with your little gnatcatcher- perfect choice for a protagonist! If this wasn't so beautifully told it would be unbearably painful to read. Lovely work!
❤️💯🎶🎤I love a nice musical piece❤️👍😉Great Storytelling❗❗❗