Birds Of A Feather

By and for Bird-People

Burrow and Fly

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Humans weren’t likely to tolerate his eccentricities, more than they already did. He was a strange fellow, who had long decided that since his species was so good at mimicry, perhaps in a past life, he’d mimicked humans well enough to fool his DNA or maybe this was reality’s way of having a laugh at his expense, by forcing him to live life as a human.

Well, he wasn’t going to let that bother him much, although he sorely missed his wings. So he decided to keep playing at being human, out of spite. When he had to be, he could make a fairly convincing human, when he tired of it, he played it up to the level of parody. If he had to wear clothes, why not wear every colour, bright and bold? If he had to have good manners, why not pick and choose a new set of manners to abide by each day? No, no, that wasn’t rude, why it’s a compliment in some countries~! If he had to have hair, then why not dye it and style it as he pleases, sometimes up, sometimes down, sometimes flat, sometimes spiked?

He didn’t expect humans to want to have anything to do with him. And quite frankly, even if he found them amusing for a day or two, he never wanted very much to do with other humans himself.

It was all well and good, until one day, he decided to pop into a library. To this day, he’s not quite sure what dragged him there (maybe it was fate?), as it wasn’t a place he normally went, for he was considered too loud and boisterous for such places. He peered around curiously, taking an interest in the colourful books on display. He could tell his current spiked-up do was distracting some of the people reading at the table, as they put down their books to stare in mixtures of surprise and fascination.

He reacted as he always did, taking a theatrical bow and tipping his non-existant hat.

They soon returned to their reading, no doubt remembering it was impolite to stare. He smiled and turned around, wondering how long it would take before he’d be kicked out for looking too wild. He’s done a good job of keeping quiet for now, but it wouldn’t be long before he’d remember a song or catch an interesting snippet of conversation from the other readers that he’d like the sound of and feel the need to test it on his tongue, maybe in different voices— he can’t help it, really, some words just flow so nicely, he can’t help repeating them, over and over. Maybe with a different intonation, expressions to match— he must look mad to onlookers, when he does it loud enough for others to hear.

Oh, but instead of anyone wanting to chase him out, the eyes he felt from behind the front desk, only looked interested. A bit shy, judging by how they peeked over a book. The rest of the body, he couldn’t really see, as the woman curled tight, drawing her limbs in.

“Hello!” he smiled.

“… hi.”

“I was just going to have a look, so if you think I ought to leave, I understand—”

“No, that’s alright!” she brought down the book, looking more surprised than he was about her little outburst.

“… sure.”

She tried to keep quiet, then, but she did say something about liking how different he looked.

He had a look around and found some books to read, even if no one else seemed willing to sit anywhere near him. He thought it made things easier, like he had his own little barrier to keep uninteresting people away. More room for his wings to stretch!

The only person who ever came anywhere near him, on this and the following visits, and tried to helped him understand how the books were organized was the odd librarian who complimented him.

It started out simply, but he was surprised to find he never got bored of or felt stifled by her company with the passing of days. She never judged him when they were alone, although she did try to keep him under control when he got too noisy in the library. But that was her job, so he never held it against her. At first, he thought that maybe she, too, was putting on an act for the humans.

After all, when they were alone, he was free to be himself. He never felt quite this free in the prescence of anyone but other birds and hard as it was to believe, he really was a social creature, even if human society wasn’t one he wanted anything to do with. It was different from what he was used to, so much so, it was almost magical.

But, he was surprised to discover that she was just as quiet outside of the library as she was in it. Very timid. Always wrapped up in plain, subdued shades (she was very fond of scarves, he noticed, and had a habit of wrapping them high enough to hide her mouth and nose when it was even mildly chilly). He liked to feel the breeze against his back and the wings he could’ve sworn he still had, but she avoided the cold and holed herself up. He didn’t mind it much when she snuggled up against him for warmth.

He loved life and he didn’t mind having a human body much. He never felt badly about his body, even if it wasn’t quite right, except when he stood on a high place or on days when the wind blew so hard he could hear nothing else, when he almost felt like he was being lifted off his feet and if the wings he had were only real enough to support him, he’d spread them out and take flight. Only then, was he filled with the most unbearable heartache and longing.

Only then.

Which is a bit masochistic, when he also felt happiest in high places, so he sought them out, knowing that no sooner would he be overwhelmed with joy at the sight, than be crushed by the realization that he could not take wing.

Now, he could add grimly a new competitor to that painful ache for the best-worst he’s ever felt in a single moment, the times when she drew close and he could only draw thin arms around her in an insufficient hug, knowing he could never wrap her in the stronger, warmer and more complete embrace of his wings.

One day, he found out, entirely by accident, that she wore a wig. He was a bit confused, but he didn’t question her. She looked somewhat embarrassed, but he was hardly one to judge people by their appearances.

“You’re not ill, I hope?”
“No… don’t worry.”

She didn’t sound like she was lying, so he smiled in relief; maybe it was just genetics, he thought. “Right, right, ‘don’t worry.’ Won’t worry!”

She put the wig back on. “Do you think I’m ugly?”

“Er.”
Odd question to ask someone who dressed like a carnival, but he certainly didn’t think so: “of course not! It’s a good look on you. Honest! I’m always honest.”

She smiled, although she still looked a bit uncertain.

The next time she saw him, he decided to shave his hair, which was something he’d never done before. Hair was a sad compensation for his missing feathers and wasn’t spread quite as nicely, nor was it as varied, but he could always colour it and style it different ways. Blow-dry it for a cute, fluffy, downy hatchling look, spike it high for a cockatiel look (he could use blush to finish off the look!). He had a lot of fun with it, so shaving it all off was never something he ever thought of doing.

He couldn’t handle leaving it completely bare, so he decided to stick some feathers to his head.

Now, she never reacted badly to the dramatic ways his appearance changed from meeting to meeting… until now.

When he walked in with his shaved, feathered head, she stared at him in shock and hid behind her earthy brown scarf like she’d seen some terrible monster. He had to look behind him to make sure there wasn’t some axe murderer or a burglar with a gun standing behind him, politely waiting for him to walk through the door so they’d be trapped in her apartment.

Nothing but air.

He turned back to look at her. He couldn’t understand why she looked so terrified, so he shut the door. He thought (perhaps a bit too hopefully) that she wouldn’t be offended, because he mimicked everyone and never meant any harm by it. “… well, I thought that since you wore the bald look so nicely, I’d try it too. But I quickly realized I couldn’t go without a bit of fluff on top, so I thought the feathers would be a good idea. Oh– are you allergic? Your eyes are tearing up! Tell me, tell me, what’s wrong?”

She caught the corners of the scarf, pulling it higher up over her face, trying to hide her tears, elbows digging it into her sides as she tried to make herself as small as possible.

“I knew it… I knew…”

She didn’t talk very much, so he made a point of paying very close attention to anything she said, since it had to be important. But she didn’t continue. “You knew, you knew what?”

“A bird! You’re a bird.”

He felt his shoulders tense up and his wings flap anxiously. His eyes darted to the window and he briefly contemplated diving out of it. But he couldn’t fly, he knew he couldn’t, and her apartment was on the second floor. Still, he felt exposed and like he should be the one hiding.

“And if I am?” he asked, a bit defensively.

Was that it? Was that all the weirdness she could take? Was this going to cost him her company…?

“I’m an earthworm. I’ve been scared of birds all my life. My grandmother’s birds even nipped my finger when I was a child!”

Oh.

Fate really did love tugging on his tail feathers, didn’t it? First, by having him reborn as a strange and noisy earth-bound human, then by drawing him to some quiet library where he would meet and fall in love with the only other person he knew who was not what she seemed to be. And shehad to be what his past self would be less inclined to taking out to dinner than to have for dinner. Was that what drew him to her, some sort of leftover hunting instincts that told him she was food? No, no, it couldn’t have been.

“… wonder if that’s why we’ve been given the wrong bodies!” he suggested with a grin, trying to lighten the mood. “If you knew right from the start, you wouldn’t have come anywhere near me, and maybe burrowed into one of your books instead of peeking over it, right?”

She finally seemed to calm down, wiping the tears from her eyes.

He came closer, putting an arm around her shoulders and nuzzling her.

“Do you really think so?” she asked.

‘Do you really think so?’ Sure! Why not? It’s a lot nicer than thinking we’re being punished for something. And you know I’d never hurt you… never did before and don’t plan on starting.”

Knowing that to be true, she pressed closer to him, closing her eyes and breathing in his scent, feeling safe and secure again, worries easily fading away.

“… m-maybe you’re right. Maybe that’s the reason why.”

“Right, right ‘maybe that’s the reason why.’ ‘Maybe that’s the reason why!’ I think so too, never been a romantic, ever, never, never-ever, but I like that! That’s the reason why, definitely. Oh, and one more thing,” he leaned forward to whisper cheerily into her ear. “I’m a parrot, dear! We’re herbivores. Never had a taste for worms, in this life or the one before it. If I’m lucky, I never will! Would you pass the cashews, dear?”

2 Comments

  1. Absolutely beautiful! I adore the idea of a ‘tiel do, and swapping a head of unruly and rather non-insulating hair for a head of feathers. Would you mind if I shared this on my personal Tumblr with full credits to yourself, of course?

  2. I have no problem with that! ^^ Go ahead.

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