The Boy and The Birds

It was an old house; a house with many secrets. No one knew exactly how many rooms were in the house, or even when it was built. Like every proper mansion, secret passages and rooms permeated the entire structure. Not even the Master of the house knew how many secrets rooms there were, or how many miles of corridor had lain silent for a hundred years, or more.

There was at least one secret room which the Master of the house did not know about, and one little boy did. It was accessed by pushing on a certain wall, which opens a tiny door, with a long passage behind it. Crawl down the passage. Feel the old, hard wood beneath your palms. There, at the end-a rectangle of sunlight. Before you know it, you are out of the passage, into a huge room, with long bays of windows, veritable walls of glass, providing a huge view, with all the Mountains of Mist spread out before you.

Though this was not the only secret room which the boy knew of, it was certainly his favorite. The marvelous view, the wonder of feeling a part of the landscape, and-the Birds.

The walls in the room were papered, and all over the paper were birds. Not birds like in regular wall-paper, where the same picture is simply repeated over and over again, but a magnitude of birds-big birds, small birds, birds sleeping, birds flying, flocks of birds, birds alone, baby birds-every size and type of bird imaginable, doing everything a bird might do. It was for this, the boy knew, that he came here.

It was this fascination with the birds which alerted him to the Change. He could not tell what was different at first, but soon he knew. It was one of the birds, low in a corner. It had moved. He knew every one of these birds: he could have drawn the paper down to the smallest detail. This particular bird was one of his favorites; it was a small dove, which had been holding an olive branch in its beak. The olive branch had moved. It hadn’t disappeared; the boy could see it at the feet of a small finch, a few feet away. But that wasn’t the point. The point was that the dove wasn’t holding it anymore. The boy had always loved his birds, and it was his deepest, fondest dream that they would someday speak to him. The olive branch wasn’t the first thing that had Changed; it might be a head pointing in another direction, or a wing held at a slightly different angle, but it was all proof of the same thing. The Birds were alive. The boy did not know why his birds had not yet communicated with him, but trusted that they had their reasons. It would be nice if they hurried up, though.

Wanting this to finally be the day which he was hoping for, the boy moved closer to the dove. As he did so, the bird moved its head. Just slightly, a change so small that no adult would notice it.

It had undoubtedly been a Change. While he was in the room! Watching, careful, ready for the slightest movement, the boy reached out to touch the paper. And felt feathers. Soft, clean, snow-white feathers.

As the boy ran his fingers down the wing, awed by the beauty he was truly experiencing for the first time, the figure began to change. It was subtle at first, a bulge under his finger, a tail out against the light. Slowly, though, very slowly, with great hesitation, the dove became a real creature, free from the confines of the wall.

It soon became apparent to the boy that the dove wasn’t the only living thing in the room. Birds were flexing in and out of the wall, stretching against the confines of the paper. None, however, had become truly real, as the dove had. The boy heard a noise behind him, and saw that the dove had grown. It was now at least three times the size; almost the size of the boy himself. The bird was making a strange motion with its head, like it was trying to get rid of a headache. Soon, however, the boy realized that it was trying to communicate.

“What are you trying to say?” asked the boy.

What? I wasn’t trying to say anything. It’s not pleasant popping out of a wall, you know. You get one heck of a headache. The bird didn’t truly talk at all; it was almost as if he was putting his thoughts directly into the boy’s mind. Nevertheless, the boy thought he could hear a sort of lilting quality to it; almost what it would be like if you could take all the freedom, all the joy, and every wonderful thing in the world and wrap it up in a single note.

“I knew it!” exclaimed the boy. ”I knew you could talk! But why did you never do it before?”

You weren’t ready before; you did not truly believe. This was accompanied by a sharp rap from the bird’s head, almost as if it had decided something. Besides, now we need your help.

“What do you want me to do?” The boy would have been willing to do anything; he loved his birds with all his heart.

You see my brothers are not free; they do not have enough room. We have been trapped in this room for hundreds of years. We need to return to the skies, to live free once again. There was no lilt to his voice this time; the bird was deadly serious.

“You want me to break the windows.”

Yes. We would ask you to do this for us. The sound of huge sheets of glass breaking is a lot louder than you would think; it is like a tornado; it’s all around you, and you feel as if you will never escape.

The wall seemed to explode; birds from every corner of the globe ripped themselves from their paper prisons the feel of mighty spells and enchantments breaking. They streamed from the shattered windows in what seemed like a never-ending wave. Huge screams of joy were ripped from every throat; the rage and fear of captivity was released in seconds. The boy felt a huge desire to follow; the need to jump out of the window and travel where the winds took you-it was almost irresistible. He tried to fight it as long as possible, but it was only a few seconds before he was swept along with the storm. He felt fear instantly-he would be smashed upon the rocks! But not to fear; for he had wings, and was a master of the skies.

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