Unsettled

by Dawn Siofra North

The warm cloudless air brings musical messages, to guide me towards her. Tweeping sparrow-chatter, rising above the steady growl of traffic. The crik of warming wood-planks: a scattered pulse through my weightless bones. These sounds, my only anchor as I am thrust into the arid gulf of sky.

The stillness is stifling. I feel I could cruise for hours above the sterile patchwork of lawns and not find another living being. Only she can tell me what I’m supposed to do, in this unruly airborne body.

Chaos is cruel: I wasn’t prepared for this.

My beak is awkward and my wings, too flappy. I try to land on the splintered fence of her sun-bleached garden, but my claws go all scrambly. The feeders she used to fill – now empty of seeds – hang doleful and neglected, honouring a deeper absence.

The sweet hush of death is unmistakable.

‘Did you fall for the stasis of settled forms?’ a thrumming voice upends my clumsy assumption. I cannot see who has spoken. Did the words come from the sour marigolds, smug and idle in their swinging baskets?

A magnificent bee, sheltered by the shade beneath the doorframe, rests on the cool throne of the step: a tiny old lady in fur coat and fairy-wings.

‘You don’t recognise me? says the bee.

I barely recognise myself.

For a second, I’m hijacked by a memory that belongs in another life, and I half expect her to wave around a smouldering wand of cigarette-in-a-holder. Inside me the truth unlocks into place, and I want to throw myself at her feet, to lose myself in the lustre of her direction. But her six fine-haired legs are so very delicate, and I can’t get my stupid wings to fold the right way to bow to this goddess.

It is high-sun time and the curtains of shade have shrunk away to nothing. In the glaring wide open, I am naked as a hungry chick.

‘How do I find it..?’ I ask (though I feel I should already know), ‘…the right path to follow?’

In answer, as if hit by a bolt of invisible lightning, the body of the bee drops to the ground. Lifeless and complete.

Dawn Siofra North is part of a home-educating family, an occasional mindfulness teacher and a writer of tiny stories. Her novelette The Girl Who Survived won third prize in the Retreat West 2021 Novelette-In-Flash Prize. She is inspired by story-based learning and imaginative meditation. You can find her online at https://dawnsiofranorth.wordpress.com

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