The Caged Bird
by Michelle McMurry
Birds steal shiny things, I muse, shaking my head. Sunlight glints off the small collection of faceted stones he’s used to attract my attention. Loosely nestled among twigs and grasses, they flash like a rainbow of mirrors under the sun. A beacon. Clever.
I wait. Impatient until a shadow obscures the cliff face. The sun blinks out. My neck cranes higher and higher until one more inch would have me toppling backwards. It is him.
Air leaves my lungs in a rush. Finally.
He’s watching, hovering directly overhead, and I smile. I feel small. Frail. Too human, even though I’m not—not entirely.
For him, I will give it up. This time I will stop pretending.
My eyes flutter closed. His wings make wind. It rushes through the clearing. I feel it brush across my cheek, feel it tangle my hair. I let it take me.
The change happens, natural as breathing. Why do I fight it?
Muscles flex, instinct, and then I’m weightless. Soaring towards him, I watch his eyes, the beat of his wings. Slow. Relaxed. I have hope.
Closer. Higher, where the air is thin, I greet him. A shrill sound. He circles and descends, lighting upon a sharp edge of stone. The air shimmers around him.
Heart racing, even knowing I won’t be able to climb down, I still follow. To see him transform, it’s worth it. I snare myself in his trap.
He changed for me. I will change him back.