I thought that everything would be alright. I thought everything was normal. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I flapped my wings vigorously before finally perching on a low-dangling tree branch that overlooked the wreckage. This place… I was certain it was the right place. But…
I had flown so very far. I was exhausted. I needed rest, but couldn’t possibly think to rest in a horrible place like this. I had flown the same course as every year. Never had I steered off course, or got buffered in the wind. This was supposed to be my winter home. Now, as I stared out over the abyss of gray and black silhouettes, I regret even setting a wing over these trees. Smoke ringed up to the sky. Deep scents of garbage and rot slithered through the scene. All that had once been glorious, green, and beautiful had been razed to the roots, all but forgotten in that thick, nature-cursed place.
I turned my beak toward the little light I could see of the suns. The many suns that darted the dark, velvet sky. Stars. It was night. I shook myself with a resolution. I’d find one thing good about this wretched place. Then the journey would have been worth it.
The next morning I flew over the newly planted rooftops – as the pigeons called it – and began my search. Rats scampered across the streets below. Thick, black goo sprawled across the corners, their fingers like tendrils reaching far across what used to be my beloved home. I shook my head and flew upward a little for a better view.
All this time, I had not seen another bird, let alone another animal besides rats and the occasional racoon. The trees looked like they were dying. Some already had been reduced to merely straggling stumps. The only flowers that bloomed were the mysterious ones that were perched on the sides of walls – again, another word I’d learned from the pigeons. Every time I’d dive in for a little snack, a gangly human would slam open an invisible wall and shove me away.
I was just about ready to give up. I was famished. My wings were sore. I’d been chased, grabbed at by mini humans, tossed about by dark, cloudy wind gusts, and had nearly fallen out of the air several times. Finally, my tiny wings couldn’t take it anymore. My vision blurred and I felt myself plummet out of the air.
When I finally came to, I found a soft nest-like material under my talons. I glanced around. The shadowy walls around me enclosed every entrance but one. I could make it out there. Just as I unfurled my wings, ready to take off, I stopped.
There was someone here with me, in this dark enclosure. I turned and hopped cautiously toward the noise. Was that… crying?
A female, miniature human was curled up in the shadows, her cheeks stained with tears. I blinked up at her, unsure of what to do. In my indecision, the human gazed down at me, her face turning upward in the slightest.
“You’re awake?” she whispered. Slowly, she knelt down in front of me, scrutinizing me in wonder. “I found you in the streets, asleep. You looked very tired, so I made you a little bed. Did you like it?”
I didn’t know how to respond to a human, so I just whistled a little. She laughed. I’m not sure why she did, but it felt wonderful to see her laugh. A little like… a glorious winter home there had once been.
“You sing pretty. And you have a little red mark on your feathers,” the little human pointed to my chest, and I furrowed my beak into my wing in embarrassment. “I think I’ll call you Ruby. It’s a red gem.” She sat up again, but never averted her gaze. “Where’s your family, Ruby?”
Ruby. I liked the sound of that. I sang a little again. I didn’t have a family to travel with. We hummingbirds always traveled alone.
“You don’t have one, do you?” the human whispered. Her eyes became wet again and she looked away. “I don’t have any either. They’re all gone now, and I’m alone.”
My heart pricked and I fluttered up to her shoulder. There wasn’t anything I could do for her. I couldn’t think of anything. So I did one thing only a bird could give for a gift.
I let my voice ring high above the rooftops, past the trees. Toward home from the winter home I’d held dear. This was her home now. I had a feeling that her days would soon start to brighten. With that, I gently kissed her cheek, and flew away, breaking into the light.
My wings flapped strongly toward the horizon. I’d go home now. Maybe I’d find my own family on the way. I had found something that had made the trip worth it. Something better than a winter relaxation. I’d found a reason for singing, a reason for a hummingbird kiss. I could always find another home. But now that little female human would always have something precious to think of. To brighten horizons of her own.
I’d made a reason for living. And that was worth more than anything.
And that was fine with me.
Written by Emily