Paradise Lost

The death of the last Paradise Parrot

by Sarah Thorne

It is dawn, and the soft, milky light of a newborn morning gently rocks the forest awake. The birds are first to stir. Their songs peel away the early mist like a blanket and conduct the forest to an impatient crescendo. Scurrying paws soon crack and snap through leaves and dead wood and insects splash loudly in their pollen-baths. Seeds explode into fruits in time with a deafening cicada chorus and the forest’s animals shout and scream through the thickening air to make themselves heard.

But the Paradise Parrot hears nothing. He sits alone, pressed thin against the sides of his bare ground-nest, and his is now a silent world. He is dying, and his sense are dead already.

How different it used to be. His song was once the first to fill the forest with the breath of morning, taking centre stage in an ages-old chorus, and his rainbow wings would mirror the first light to the dark forest beneath him as he darted and flashed through the trees in celebration of the new day.

He had grown with this forest over thousands of years and generations. He had come to know every one of its plants and animals and physical elements at the deepest of levels, and his relationship with them was so intimate and so instinctive that it was not possible to speak of bird and environment as separate, but rather as continuous in energy and spirit.

He was this place. He knew the intention of the rain from the way it fell on the grass-blades sheltering his nest, and could feel danger vibrating through them the instant a distant foe took a first step. He could glide on a pre-empted breath of wind to a seed that flashed its ripeness to him like a beacon, navigating through the tall trees by feeling – not seeing – them.

But this is now a distant memory. The change when it came was swift and brutal. Overnight, it felt to him, the very fabric of the forest had been ripped apart. Its structure had changed beyond all recognition, its familiar plants and animals faded and disappeared, and even the elements seemed to change their mood. And each time a part of his world was taken away, he lost a connection, a meaning, a piece of himself.

The new and unknown took the place of the familiar and the intrinsic in the forest. But his senses were so sensitively attuned to the subtle nuances of life in the forest he had known that it was as if he was blind and deaf and dumb to the newness that now spread around him like wildfire. A plant whose form he could not recognise and whose seeds were hidden to him; an animal whose attack-cry he did not know; a bird that did not recognise his call; a breeze that no longer sang to him of the coming rain.

The vibrant, pulsating canvas of the forest – of his spirit, his experience and his existence – was in one stroke painted over with the blankness of a newness that had come too quickly for him to understand. It was a fatal blow.

He began to close down. Nothing could be instinctive in this new canvas of the unknown, and every basic action drained him. His flight became painfully slow and deliberate, and so he stopped flying. He learnt that the forest no longer recognised his song, and so he stopped singing. His senses gave up the struggle to find meaning in the blankness, and so his world became black and silent and still, his sensory input limited to the hunger devouring him and the deep ache in his soul.

And so here he sits; the last Paradise Parrot. The once radiant mirrors of orange and turquoise, of scarlet, aqua and brown that streaked down his wings are so dull now that they reflect no light, only pain. He does not know how long he has been sitting here, but he knows that it will not be for much longer.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, he feels something stir inside of him, something he has not felt for a very long time. It is a memory, a spark of life-energy that trickles almost imperceptibly through his lifeless body. And like a single drop of water that falls on the tongue of a man dying of thirst, it gives him the sweet taste of hope.

He knows in this moment that he must try one last time to stretch his withered wings and search for something familiar in his dead world. Without hesitation he makes the jump from his nest out into the unknown and his wings painfully rise and fall in uncertain half-flight as he skirts low over ground that seems to hold no solidity to him.

Out of the misty corner of one eye, he makes out the blurred and familiar outline of a seed a short way in front of him. He feels a little more energy pulse through his wings with relief and joy and the tall grass beneath him waves in sympathy with their shaky plight.

Slowly, falteringly, he moves closer and closer to the seed. It appears so huge in front of him now that it obscures the sun behind it, and his world once again goes dark. He can feel his energy leaving him too, and cries out one final, futile, beautiful song that is reflected back to him by the forest as the silent echo of time. The beating of his wings grows slower and slower and slower. The seed is so close, but he cannot reach it. His spent wings miss a beat and he falls to the ground with a mighty thud at the foot of the stem that bears it, his rainbow wings crumpled beneath him.

The seed that almost saved him is shaken from its ancient grass-flower and hits the ground next to him with fury and with rage. The Paradise Parrot is dead.

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

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