“A Trilling Song at Twilight”
by Natasha Leullier
A bird of steel grey alighted by the woman’s clenched fist. With deft claws it pried apart her delicate fingers and picked at the desiccated flowers within.
“Strange food for your journey,” said the bird.
The woman opened her eyes and met the bird’s beak, black as a slate blade. Her parched lips trembled as fear and memories flooded her cheeks. She lay on her back, frail arms spread and white gown trailing in the water as her raft made its way on the surface of the Endless Lake. She recalled her name, Elora, and that her husband had cast her away and taken a younger wife. Elora had chosen a final bed of pine strapped with brittle rope over the coarse sheets of the servants’ wing.
Cold droplets coated her skin, but midday warmth rose from beneath the raft, and the sun’s brilliance bore its way into her head. The opposite shore of the great lake would come, but not before her own limits had been reached.
She glanced at the bird again, but in its place was a man with ashen skin sleek like the back of a duck, and nude but for a pendant resting on his heart: a bird’s beak, the tip fine as a needle.
“I ate of the poisonous amarelle flower. You are an illusion,” Elora said, and she shut her eyes.
Wings flapped, and the soles of Elora’s feet tingled. She sat upright and glared at the man who now tickled her with one long, grey feather. His round eyes reflected her form as a mirror.
“For you,” he said, and handed her the feather.
“I have no use for it. I am dying,” she said, but still she placed it in her thick red hair.
“You are thirsty and hungry, but nowhere do I see the shadow you speak of.”
The man cupped his hands and brought clear water to her lips. His nails were overgrown and bent like talons. Elora pushed them away.
“Drinking will only prolong my suffering. Go away now.”
With a keen stare and his head tipped at an angle, the man hopped away.
Elora placed another amarelle on the tip of her tongue, and dreamt of her husband’s rough hands lifting her wedding veil and of heavy jewels at her throat and cold granite beneath her feet. There were labyrinthine halls and vast chambers filled with a thousand nameless faces. But there was a refuge, a room with a cheerful hearth, day lilies, and a bed as plush as whipped meringue. It had been hers…
Elora woke to the rollicking of the raft and a trilling song at twilight. The strange man had returned and was crouched on his heels as he sang to the lake. His muscles glistened in starry radiance.
“You cried in your dreams, same as the wind howls in a storm,” he said. “The Wind heard, and pitied you. It dried your clothes and took your flowers as payment.”
Elora saw that her hands were empty, but it no longer mattered; she was dry and warm. In the silver glow she admired the man’s strong, crooked nose and the soft shape of his phallus resting between his thighs. She could smell his musk. Pine, brine, and something aged and strong like the weathered leather of her riding saddle. Phantasm he may be, but he was truer in form than any other man.
“Are you a god of old or a spirit?” asked Elora.
“I am a bird,” said the man.
He took her hand and placed it on his back.
“Do you not feel my feathers?”
As she pressed her fingertips into his silken flesh, she felt the light brush of feathers and down. She grasped him with both hands, and for her, his wings parted.
“Let me gift you a taste of freedom,” he said, pressing his brow against hers.
In his eyes Elora saw the sky, the land below in all its shades, and even her husband’s stone manor; it was but one dull pinpoint on the vibrant mosaic. Her heart ached to glide above such color.
The man held Elora against his puffed chest, where his frantic heartbeat sent ripples down her spine. His phallus was now long and bowed, expectant against her belly. With pangs of hunger, she took him in her mouth, exploring his texture as if he were a parchment map of the world. Sharp talons glided across her back like dangerous whispers. Elora breathed in the bird man’s scent as she welcomed him in her open throat; he chirped and his seed washed away the bitter taste of dead flowers, replacing it with the salty-sweet of life.
Elora tore at her dress with abandon and knelt on hands and knees. She guided the man’s diminished phallus into her. The white satin strands of her dress sailed in the wind, and became feathers, just as delicate down appeared around her eyes. Elora’s hair transformed into a flamboyant red crest streaked with grey. She pushed her weight against the man, setting the rhythm of their thrusts. His arousal gained strength, and they mated with wings intertwined, their calls piercing the clouds and reaching across the lake.
“You are free. We will soar the skies together, forever,” the man cooed.
From above a regal beak, Elora gazed at the expanse of midnight blue above and below. Her snowy wings opened into an archway to the sky, and finally she said:
“Because I am free, I will soar the skies alone. For now.”
In a flash of moonlit white the bird Elora took flight. The man watched her disappear on the horizon as a blood red feather spiraled downward. He captured the memento and placed it in his hair. The Wind offered the first notes of a mournful song to the grey bird sitting on a raft adrift, and together they sang until dawn.
Unseen places, forgotten histories, and the dark recesses of humanity populate most of Natasha’s stories, though she occasionally lightens up a bit. French-Canadian born, she lives in the Boston area and is writing her first novel. You can find more stories online at The Ginger Collect, Literary Orphans, and Beat to a Pulp.