Forbidden Birds

Again, just messing around with ideas.

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2. Chapter 2

2 months and 12 days prior

 

I couldn't stop thinking about it. The beauty of physical words and pictures couldn't stop whirling around in my head. I stared harder than ever at the board. Eventually, I couldn't take it. 

"Granddad?" I asked, one day after school. It was only us two, sitting at the kitchen table, eating toast and watching the screen. 

"Yes?"

I gulped "Do you remember any...books?"

He stopped eating and turned slowly to look at me "Why would you want to know that, Elise?"

I'd gone for it now "I saw a book. At the museum."

He nodded "Interesting, huh?"

I waited for him to say something else. 

"I was 9 years old when they took books away. I do remember them, yes."

I lean forward "What were they like?"

He stops. Then, looks around. Discreetly, he motions at me to follow. This is odd. He gets up, and walks to the edge of our house, then down the steps to the basement. I follow him, watching curiously. He switches the light on and I gasp. I've never been in here before. There are books, papers, pens strewn everywhere. 

"You read books?!" I say in disbelief. 

He nods solemnly "I loved them. Somehow, I couldn't let go of them. So I started accumulating."

I go over to one of the bound books and run my finger over the cover. It feels strong and inviting. I immediately want to open it. 

"Elise?" I freeze. That's Daniel's voice. Granddad looks at me then motions for me to go. I climb up the steps and run over to him. He's standing in the kitchen and gives me a curious look as I slow to a halt in front of him. I must look strange. 

"Are you okay?"

I nod, then turn towards the door. 

"Are you coming?"

I'm very excited.

 

We don't really plan to do things, me and Daniel. That's why we normally end up talking in a random place, it's freeing. This time, we sit on the steps of a closed sweet shop. Daniel looks sideways at me 

"So what was that all about?"

I consider telling him. But I have to be sure.

"What do you think...the world would be like...if we still had books?"

"That depends." he bites his lip "You know why they banned them right?"

I nod, but he goes on anyway.

"Books were words made into reality. Words that stay, don't dissipate into the air after you say them. I think that's when they realised that words were dangerous, and that words that stay are even more dangerous." He looks me square in the eye "And they were right."

My heart sighs. I can't confide in him.

"But..." he continues "That doesn't mean they should ban them altogether. Just because people are irresponsible. What's more, they purged of writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, all for holographs. Things that aren't even real."

My heart leaps "Why have you never said anything about this?"

He shrugs "Why haven't you?"

That's true. "I haven't had a reason to until now." I murmur.

And I open my mouth again, to utter those words "Daniel, I want to create a book."

 

2 months and 5 days prior

 

I grit my teeth and let out a growl of frustration. I can't get the word beautiful right, the ink always slips away from the paper at the t. 

I hate wasting Granddad's paper and ink.

Daniel comes over to sit next to me, clutching his paper and ink. I sneak a glance over. His drawings are beautiful. There, there's that word again. I scowl back at my paper. I'm not as gifted as Daniel. He takes a hold of my pen, holding my fingers. 

"Take it slow." He says, cautiously leading the pen around the word, all the way to the last letter.

"There." He says, smiling at me "Beautiful."

I look at the word, then at Daniel. 

"Thanks." I whisper.

"Are you ready now?" He asks in a hushed voice. Only me, Daniel and Granddad know about this. 

I chew my lip "I think so."

"What are you going to write about?"

I smile "You'll have to read it." He groans. And then it started. The book went something like this.

 

Over the course of a month and and 2 days

                                 

People loved them. The birds. Made of paper, fluttering around in colonies. They used to pluck them from the skies and decorate them with swirling black patterns lovingly, before blowing them back out. They adorned them with loving whispers of words and protected them with coats of leather and hide. The birds increased, they grew and grew. But something happened. The words people wrote in the ebony ink burdened the birds with their evil, and as people's words became darker, the birds pain grew, until the cawing cries of help of the birds could be heard in every road of every city, every house on every street, every crevice in every corner. But people were evil. They grew dark, and they changed. Eventually, the birds changed with them. The world was an awful place, where peace and freedom no longer existed. Until one day. 

  A girl found a book. She was only small, and her encounter was entirely an accident. It was a meeting of fate, that a pure, innocent girl meet a newborn bird, free of evil. She was walking home one day, across the dark green fields with the solitary trees, when suddenly, it started to rain. She quickened her pace as the drops thickened and fell harder and faster. That's when she spotted it. A lonely little bird shivering in the cold, the droplets of rain pouring down on it mercilessly like little bullets. She stopped. It looked so pityingly miserable. Faltering in the rain for a bit, she ran over to it and examined it closer. It was pure, new, fresh. No ebony tattoos, no evil adornings. Knowing it was dangerous, she picked it up, then looking around her quickly, she turned and fled home. 

    She saved it just in the nick of time. The poor little fledgling. She wasn't sure what to do at first, just watching the little bird as it perched on the table and watched her with curious unseeing eyes. It was only when she came home one day to find it pecking at a little black bottle that she realised. It was a bird, and it needed to be decorated. Many nights she sat there with ebony ink, wondering what she could possibly tattoo into the wings of the bird. But she knew, and she did. It's not particularly certain what the little girl wrote or drew in the book, but it was pure. The bird was the purest in its time, in existence. But it was the only one, and that, that purity, made it special. So she kept it safe. And the little girl grew from a little girl to a big girl, to a woman, a wife, a mother, a grandmother. She died one day eventually, the little girl, so it isn't entirely sure where the bird is. Some say it is still within the family, the secret kept as well now as it was in the chest of the little girl, and some say, it has been lost and is lying somewhere to be found. But one thing is certain, the pure bird, is still here. The pure bird exists.

 

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