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Ca-Caw! Ca-Caw! Tookie! Tookie -tookie!

The Scarlet Macaw

By Kerry WilliamsPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 20 min read
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Travis Isaacs from Grapevine, TX, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Dago knows what's going on. He acts like he's just an ordinary theropod but he isn't. I know he isn't because, I'm not. Who am I? I'm Dago's son, Trego, but... he doesn't know that.

My mother, Gerix, had feathers so bright, she was hard to look at without it making your eyes water. She had bright red wings, so big they could block out the sun. Her underside was so soft, coated with downy feathers and I used to love rubbing my face against her bosom. She would often pull me in tight against her breast when I was just a yearling, and whisper in my ear. "Trego my son. Your feathers are going to be magnificent."

Mother helped me break my pin feathers, eager for me to show off my plumage as quickly as possible. My pin feathers took a long time to come in, and while I didn't know it at the time, hard to break pin feather's are a good sign. I used to sit for hours while my mother ran her beak up and down my back and wings, crushing the outer membrane of the hard pins and slowly scraping the stuff off. She would use her tongue to fluff the vanes and then smooth everything out so it looked "nice". I remember shying away from the attention, telling her I could do it on my own, but... the truth was, I couldn't. Now, I need her help again and, I don't know what I'm going to do.

The flock is preparing for something big. When I ask questions, most of the other birds just ignore me, or they give me one word answers. "No" and "huh" are all I get. Sometimes I don't even get that much. Sometimes they just squawk at me all crazy like until I sidle away, like they're one second from ripping me apart. I know they won't of course. Our social structure prevents inflicting harm on each other, unless... unless it's for mating purposes. Gross. I have no interest in that, not right now anyway. Mother said I'd get interested when the time was right but, I don't think so. I can't imagine.

"Fly time," I hear the words whispered through the flock and I know what's about to happen. Frush and Tillen are ready to hunt. I watch as the rest of the flock ruffles feathers, heads bob up and down, tails twitch and fan out. Jess jumps from a branch nearby and slams into the side of me.

"Hello gorgeous," she says, giving me some serious side eye.

"Hey," I reply and then blink dumbly. Now who's giving one word replies?

"So what's going on? I heard the flocks getting ready for some serious flying?"

"I... I don't know," I reply, giving her a quick up and down look. I don't mean to but, she does look nice. Her dark blue eyes kinda have that smoldering look to them.

"Come on fly boy. I know you're holding back."

"No, no I'm not," I say quickly. I can feel the feathers on my head starting to heat up. I don't like it. Jess gives me another sideways look. "Look," I say, lowering my voice so that nobody else can hear us talking. "I've tried asking around. Nobody's talking. I wish I knew. I'm trying to find out. But so far... nothing."

"Who have you talked to?" Jess asks.

"I don't know. Everyone? I mean... you know a lot of them don't... they don't talk."

"I know," Jess replies and she reaches up with a claw and scrapes the side of her beak with her talons. "Have you tried Cort or Zander?"

"No," I reply quickly. "Why would I talk to them?"

"Well, for starters, they know how to talk," Jess says, turning her head and looking at me from the other eye. "Aren't they your cousins?"

I almost squawk. "Aren't we all cousins? I mean, on a genetic basis, aren't we all?" Jess gives me one of those looks like, I don't need to show my colors in front of her. She already knows how smart I am. My head feathers are hot.

"Once we're back, go talk to them. They're closer with Frush and Tillen than anyone else. If anyone knows anything, they will."

"Why don't you go talk to them?" I ask and then, I cringe. Why did I say that? I don't want her talking to them. Why? I don't know. I don't have time to analyze.

"You want me to go talk to them?" Jess asks me, rubbing one long feathered wing up against mine. I droop my head and close my eyes. "That's what I thought," she says playfully. "Don't worry. I'm not going to go talk to them, besides... they might be smart, but you're the only big brain for me."

"Don't call me that," I whisper.

"What?" Jess teases me. "Big brain?"

"Yeah," I reply. "I don't like it." I shake my head.

"Hmm. Well... how else am I supposed to tell you... I've got the hots for you?"

Jess rubs her head against mine before I can shy away, and then she leaps off the branch, whipping her wings out and the wind catches beneath her... she soars into the sky.

One after another, and then ten at a time and more, the entire flock hops off the branches of the vinewood tree and takes to the air. By the time I realize we're all going, every last one of us, I'm the only one left standing there. I waggle my head back and forth and then pitch forward, dropping like a stone. I like to get some momentum going before I put my wings out. I wait till I'm a couple hundred feet from the jungle floor before I grab the wind and rocket myself back up to join the flock. God I love being a Macaw.

"Hey Zagnut!" one of the other birds squawks at me. I turn and see it's Sinnora, one of the new recruits. He's just barely a hatchling but I don't tell him that. He's already broken all of his pin feathers and while his plumage is nothing compared to mine, he's still my buddy.

"Hey Sinnora. What's up?" I call back.

"Gwin says we need to stock up on berries and nuts. We're going to a place Frush knows, somewhere none of us have been before. There's supposed to be so much food..."

I shake my head, but not enough to throw me off course. It's always about the food when it comes to Sinnora. I laugh. For a bird as smart as he is, he sure scoffs down his share of the calories.

"Hey, don't laugh. Big brains need extra calories to think," he says.

I stop laughing. He's right of course. Once the humans mapped out our genetic sequence and started doing experiments on us, everything changed. They wanted to know why it was we lived so long, something about a quicker metabolism, smaller body weight, but we still outlived most of them. They thought they were onto something. Tried splicing our genetic code into their own. Stupid chickens.

Humans are closer to chickens, than they are to alligators so I guess they're not completely stupid, but they're not technically chimps either. Whatever the case, humans screwed everything up, as they usually do.

Humans gave themselves faster metabolisms, which made them die quicker. Then they took our ability to learn, and got brain cancer. Earlier sexual maturity... do I need to say that was a big mistake? What did they think was going to happen? For all their efforts, they turned their entire race into nothing more than highly advanced vermin. Super high reproductive rates, early sexual maturity, faster movement and they burn out faster than a birthday candle.

If only they would have taken a step back and just did what evolution wanted them to do, then everything would have been fine, but OH NO! Humans want everything right now! Ugh. I can't even think about that right now. I swear I'll just crash and die if I keep thinking about it.

I focus my right eye and see Jess flying in formation. I see her, and she see's me, looking at her, looking at me... Refocus, I tell myself. Come on. You got this. Jess tilts her left wing a bit and glides over, closing the distance and then maneuvering between Sinnora and myself.

"Hey!" Sinnora squawks.

"What? You wanna cuddle with Trego?" she asks. Sinnora squawks again and flaps his wings twice before gliding away. "You two making plans?"

"No," I sputter a bit too defensively. Jess squawks quietly at my discomfort but then changes the subject as to not rub it in.

"So when we get where we're going, you wanna work together?"

"Sure, yeah, okay," I say, trying to sound indifferent but my heart does that little speed up thing in my chest, when I'm surprised or... when I see something I like. "Cool."

"Cool," Jess responds.

We keep flying for a while, born aloft by the hot humid air rising off the lava pools below. We're a long way from home. Twenty kilometers at least, I think. I keep glancing at Jess, my focus drawn to her. I don't know what it is about her, exactly. She's got the same colors as I do, only her feathers are a tad bit more... dark. She calls it dingy. I call it deep. Deep colors. I like them. I like her eyes the most. She likes me too... or at least I get that feeling, when I'm not trying to deny my attraction to her with every ounce of my being.

"We're past the volcanoes," Jess squawks. I look down, tearing my focus away from her for a moment. She's right. The air is clear and much cooler now. I look back at Jess while trying to not seem so conspicuous. She gives me a wink and then does a little wobble in the air. Is she showing off for me? She tucks one wing and spirals downward.

"Show off," I whisper, but then I notice most of the birds in front of me are gone. I look down to see tucked wings as tail feathers. Ugh. What ever happened to a slow descent? Don't they know "big brains" like me aren't called that for no reason? I look right and left and see the last of the birds still winging it, tuck in and drop like javelins straight down.

"No thanks," I say to myself. I angle my left wing down a bit, rudder my tail to the left. I start a lazy descent, circling through the air like the raptors like to do. I know the others get all flustered when I do this, and some of them even get scared, but I do it anyway. My feathers are brighter than most. They should be able to see me, plain as day. No mistaking me for a rap-

I feel something grab me, digging into my chest and wing and I gasp in pain. I turn, swiveling my head upwards to see my attacker. It's all feathers and fluff, and beating wings, but I know what it is. Serves me right I think to myself. Here I am, messing around, making everyone else think I'm a raptor, and I'm in raptor territory.

With just seconds to spare, I take a mental assessment of my situation. One of the talons is hooked into my thigh. Not detrimental, but it hurts like hell. I've got feathers enough to spare so that won't be a problem. The raptor is having a bit of an issue carrying me upwards. I don't think it's going to drop me. I'm a bird. I can fly after all. So it's holding on for the long haul, and taking me back to the nest... I feel the bird drop. Nope. No, I was wrong. It's taking me down so it can kill me, and then it's going to take me back to it's nest. Not good.

Humans thought they had everything figured out. End of the thirtieth century they were doing all sorts of experiments, trying to evolve the human race by mixing it with the best parts of animals they thought were the key to evolutionary development. I never saw any of this mind you. This is all stuff my mother told me, but she got to see a lot of it. Humans with prehensile tails, wings instead of shoulder blades, gills and webbed hands and feet for swimming in the oceans, scaled plates for war.

Humans weren't just trying to save the human race. Oh no. Humans aren't like us Macaws. No, they can't ever seem to decide, as a group, on anything. So you had some scientists researching ways to make humans "better". Others were focused on adapting humans to the radically changing climate on the planet. That's where the gills and webbed hands and feet came into play. Too many others were looking for ways to make their specific group of humans, more dangerous. Armored plates for skin, talons for finger nails, spikes and horns, even shark teeth that could bite through kevlar and would fall out only to be replaced by more growing in from behind. None of them could come to terms with just being who they were, and leaving nature to figure it out over time. Time... something I was out of.

I could feel the raptor looking for a spot to land and I could see it was slim pickings. It had carried me away as quickly as it could so that it wouldn't get attacked by any of my flock. Damn body snatcher. That's what we call raptors when they're not around. Body snatchers. That's all they are. Well, not exactly "all" they are. They're dumb too. I'm a macaw. A Scarlet Macaw to be exact. And I've got something none of the raptors have. A genetically enhanced "big brain" that can out think a hundred raptors put together. Oh, and, I've got iron oxide and carbon fiber ingrown into almost every part of my being.

As I open my mouth, I silently thank my human meddlers for giving me a couple of nice things to go along with this insanely large, and slightly ugly, big brain of mine. I quietly put my beak around the raptor's right leg, just above the talon and it screeches at me in protest. It looks down, trying to split it's focus between me, and trying not to crash and tumble into a fissure of death. I bite down. The raptor screeches and releases me. I spin twice in the air, catch some air and flap my wings, pulling my twenty kilo body back up into the air.

I head back the way I came from, my sense of direction still as good as natural evolution ever made it. I see the rest of my flock in the distance. They're milling around as if waiting for me to come back. Really? How did they know I was going to make it? I come in at a slow descent, and flap my wings like mad at the last moment, and plop down onto a thick branch next to Jess. She, and everyone else, is just staring at me.

"Whaa?" I squawk, and then realize I've still got the raptor talon in my mouth. "What?" I ask, spitting it out and then cleaning my beak off my my right foot. "Uck! Raptor blood tastes gross!"

"You're alive!" Jess cries out.

"Uhhh, yeah," I say, bobbing my head up and down, ruffling the feathers on my head and exposing my overly large bulbous cranium beneath. I beat my wings and cool my head off before letting my carbon fiber infused feathers fall back into place. "Big brain?" I say, as if it's not already obvious.

"How did you get away?" Jess squawks, astonished.

"I... I don't know. I just thought about it." I lower my voice. Everyone is still staring at me. "I realized it was taking me down, and I figured it was going to kill me, and then take me back to the nest. So I escaped before it could do that."

Jess keeps staring at me until an order from Frush demands everyone's attention. Everyone turns. So do I. I glance at Jess, only to see she's still staring at me. She keeps staring for another long moment, and then slowly, she turns to join the flock. Frush is telling us what we're doing here.

"Gather" is the first word to be spread around, repeated by bird after bird in a cascade from Frush to the rest of the flock. I repeat the word myself, for no reason other than to hear myself speak. There's nobody else behind me, and Jess can hear the word just as well as I can. I give her an embarrassed look but she doesn't seem to notice. She blinks at me, her eyes smoldering again. Oh my god my head is heating up.

"Berries" and "nuts" come next, the words repeated over and over again. "Nets, bags, branch and hold" all come after that. So we're gathering food. Lots of food. The nets we've brought, woven by the chimps in return for our help with various infrastructure projects they've been working on, will finally get put to good use. We have three of them, and once they are full, five or six birds all flapping at the same time, should be enough to get them off the ground.

"I'm going for the berries," Jess says, opening her mouth and grabbing her tongue with her right talon. "I... I might eat a few while I'm at it."

"I'm right there with you," I say.

Tillen squawks out something, I assume a command to begin gathering, and everyone goes to work. Jess and I spot a nice big tree, filled to the brim with bright red berries, almost as bright as my shoulder trim feathers, and we head there. Jess lands on a branch and starts grabbing berry clusters in her right talon, and snips the branch just behind her foot, with her beak. I pick another large branch and start doing the same thing.

"So what do you think is going on?" Jess asks, using her wings to stabilize a long hop through the air from one large branch to another.

"About what?" I ask.

"All this. Gathering nuts and berries. Food stockpiles. What are we going to do with it all?"

"I don't know," I reply dumbly.

"You know... for having such a big brain, you don't think that much, do you."

I cringe just a little. She's right of course. It wasn't a question, but more of an observation. I... I still haven't really come to terms with myself. Like in the stories told by humans, stories of a chosen one who denies they are actually the chosen one, only to realize at the end of the story, they ARE the chosen one... and then... the story ends. I tell Jess what I'm thinking, adding a little bit on the end. "I just don't want my story to end is all."

"Your story isn't going to "end" just because you start using the big brain of yours! You gotta use it. That's what the sky gods gave you and... you're supposed to think. You wouldn't have a big brain if it were any other way."

I think about that, dissecting her argument. The sky gods she's referring to are the humans. Knowing what I knew about humans and their meddling, was having something a reason to use it? Humans had weapons they refused to use... well, some of them refused to use them. Weapons and diseases, armored war ships and rockets that propelled them out past the clouds, into the thin air where it was hard to breathe. Into what they called "the space above". Just thinking about it made my head hurt.

"I think something's going to happen. Something bad. We're preparing."

"Preparing for what?" I ask her. She ruffles her feathers and then says, "something bad", before dropping off the branch to glide down towards the waiting nets on the ground. I do the same, dropping my haul into the growing mound before flying back up to resume my plucking and pruning of the berry clusters.

"You think they'd tell us if something bad was coming?" I ask her, sidling up close to her so none of the other macaws can hear us.

"I don't know," Jess says, and then she adds, "probably not. They don't want us to worry."

I glance around and then spot Frush and Tillen. They're standing close together, speaking in hushed tones and clicks. I can see my father there, along with no less than twenty other divisional leaders. They're having a meeting. As I watch, Tillen stops talking. She looks around and then her eyes focus on me. Me. She cocks her head and then nods at me. It's reflexive. I nod back. She turns and starts speaking to the leaders again. I turn to Jess. My brain... my big brain... grabs hold.

I look up, my eyes analyzing the space above. Dust particles, wavelengths of light, pollen, bugs... no raptors. Not even the occasional one circling, looking for something dead or dying. Nothing. I turn to the left, sniffing the air. My sense of smell isn't that great. I got nothing. I listen. I close my eyes...

"What are you doing?" Jess asks me.

"Shhhh," I say, trying to quiet the noise around me. Jess doesn't reply, but I can hear her heart beating faster. I block it out. I block out the rush of blood pumping through my own body. The rustle of the tree leaves. The wind. I block out one sound at a time, until all I'm left with is... whatever it is.

"What is it?" Jess asks.

"There's something wrong," I say, unable to say exactly what.

"Do we need to go?" Jess asks. I'm still trying to figure it out when a horrific tearing sound rips me from my focus. Instantly I'm looking, spotting the trees swaying, foliage breaking away and fluttering to the ground like a gigantic blanket let loose from the canopy.

"Fly!" I squawk, jumping from the branch and nose diving towards the ground. I angle my eye slightly and see Jess following. Good. I whip out my wings and catch the air right before I hit the floor, right in front of the large group of birds Frush and Tillen are talking to. "We need to go," I say quickly. Frush gives me a look as if I'm still the immature and prone to rash actions I was in my youth. "There's something wrong. We need to go now. This area isn't stable."

"It's a tremor is all," Frush declares. "We know the area is unstable. Most of the planet is unstable. That is why we're preparing. We're flying north in a week to join the master flock. ...We're considering rejoining the humans."

I let the information process. Rejoining the humans? Why? So they can run tests on us and give us injections? I'd never had an injection but my mother said they were like being grabbed by talons and bit by a snake at the same time. Not nice. Humans were not nice.

I give Frush an impetuous look and he cocks his head sideways, looking at me with only his left eye. A moment later, a tremendous crunching sound rips the air. Tree trunks break and branches snap. "Fly!" I shout again, and I flap my wings harder than ever before. Branches and berries, nuts and leaves, rain down so thick they shower my back and roll off as I struggle to gain altitude. I see a large opening ahead, where a tree fell away and the surrounding tree's have leaned or fallen against each other. I aim for the void in the middle, and the open sky beyond.

I use my peripheral vision to focus behind me for a split second, just as a large branch hits my right wing. Feather's rip loose and I duck and tumble, before flapping to catch myself. I turn around in the chaos, looking for Jess... I squawk. I look down, half expecting to see her crushed under the foliage below...

"Move, move, move!" comes the shout and a ball of ruddy feathers shoots past me, diving and swooping to avoid falling debris. It's Jess. I spin around and dart right behind her, flapping my wings with every ounce of energy I have.

We break free of the jungle, the falling trees and tumultuous chaos. I do a quick survey of the area, checking the sky above, and then all around us, and then finally I settle into an easy circular glide with Jess by my side. We watch as the tree's churn and sway below, the sound of rock grinding against rock continues to rumble through the air. Dust and insects billow up from everywhere. Somewhere off in the distance, a jet of molten rock shoots into the air, screaming it's hiss into a rumble that shoves the clouds away like the hands of a sky god.

"This is horrible!" Jess squawks, unable to keep the torrent of emotion out of her voice. "What are we going to do?"

"There!" I shout, seeing the movement of color beneath the canopy of greens and browns. Blues and yellows and reds come streaking out of the jungle, wings flapping and eyes darting around. Jess and I glide down, eager to help where we can. Huge nets carried by four or five birds at a time are hauled up into the air. Jess and I swoop down and grab hold, flapping as well, doing our part to lift.

As we glide through the air, circling, looking for stragglers, we take a head count. Our flock is down by almost half. Neither Frush, nor Tillen, made it out. I shake my head, unable to process the loss. Everyone keeps squawking their displeasure, their complete shock at what has happened. The flock looks distraught, unorganized... we keep flying in circles.

"Jess!" I shout. "We're heading north!" Jess looks at me, as if shocked by my words. "Take lead. I'll make sure we stay close behind." Jess fluffs her feathers and then beats her wings, moving her net and her group of birds forward. "Nox! Hart! Jazz!" I shout, and as soon as they turn their heads my direction, I tell them what to do. Each one of them nods and goes to work. We're flying north. That's what Frush said, and so that's what we're going to do. Head north. Find the humans. Find shelter.

I continue to observe, making sure everyone is doing what they should be and that the formation is orderly and tight. Everyone has a job to do. Look out, hauling, communication, scouting, and for my part, I realized, I was giving the orders. I swallow nervously and tongue the inside of my beak and taste the tartness of a berry tree branch.

I turn my head, and to my surprise, I see Dago at my wing. He has a small net clutched in his talons and a rope held in his beak, which is threaded through the net as well. He glances at me, angling his eyes for a moment before focusing ahead once more.

I wonder what he wants. Is he going to speak to me? Is he just going to fly next to me, silent, the entire way? After a couple kilometers, Dago opens his beak and let's the rope drop to hang below the net.

"Trego," he says, his deep voice catching me off guard, yet, just as I remember it. "Dago is proud." My beak drops open but before I can say anything, Dago shakes his head and adds, "proud Trego is son."

I smile like only a Scarlet Macaw can, and flap my wings, feeling energized and uplifted, by more than just the hot wind and the air currents. I check our direction, and make sure everyone is still flying in formation before I turn back to Dago.

"I'm proud you're my father," I say, winking my eye at him and squawking.

Dago nods and flaps his wings gaining a bit of altitude and then gliding back down beside me again a moment later. He lifts his head, indicating our general direction and then draws in a deep breath. "Gerix is north. Gerix went to find humans." Dago's head feathers ruffle, exposing his enlarged skull and the big brain inside, just like mine. His feathers slip back into place, blown back by the slip stream of air whipping past his head. He turns to me one last time. "North. We find humans. We find Gerix too."

future
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About the Creator

Kerry Williams

It's been ten days

The longest days. Dry, stinking, greasy days

I've been trying something new

The angels in white linens keep checking in

Is there anything you need?

No

Anything?

No

Thank you sir.

I sit

waiting

Tyler? Is that you?

No

I am... Cornelius.

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