Sarah Robin - Redwing
We gather at dusk, all twenty-six of us. There’s a buzz of excitement and anticipation in the air for the elaborate event we’ve waited all year for— and now it’s time.
“This year’s migration to Scotland will commence in twenty minutes!” Old Roger yells, pacing the coastline with his scrawny legs.
This is my first trip abroad. I thought our Scandinavian coast was stunning, but the others say the Scottish Highlands is something else; more raw, more rugged, more green. Not the fresh, light, picturesque green we have here in Norway; they have dark green grass, bold in color and it moves violently in the wind as if it has its own dialect. Huge highland cows roam the vast landscape with their impressive pair of horns upon their heads. I’ve heard that bagpipes are played every now and again, their distinctive sound carrying for miles.
The wild berries there are the sweetest and juiciest you can find in northern Europe, perfect for an early winter feast after our long journey. I must admit— I am a little nervous about the journey itself. Some of our elders tried to scare me with stories of birds hitting the deep waves of the North Sea and drowning in the perilous ice-cold water during rough weather. 500 miles is a mighty distance but this is what we do and I’m going to give it all I’ve got.
“Fifteen minutes to go!” Old Roger paces over to me, dodging a crisp packet tumbling towards him in the breeze. “You’ll do mighty fine, boy,” he barks, seeing the fear in my eyes. “The first one’s the hardest but by far the most rewarding.” He reassures me before stomping over to a group of females fighting for an object they’ve found on the ground.
“It’s another piece of rubbish the humans have left behind, leave it — it’s not good for us.”
I hear him yell as a milk bottle top rolls out from the frenzied mass of curious, pecking beaks. Pacing towards the cliff edge, I check out the wind speed and take in the last views of my home, knowing that I will not return until early April when spring has started to blossom. A plastic bag summersaults past me, interrupting my sentimental daydream. It gets caught in a tree half a mile away.
“Ten minutes!” The flock starts to rush around now. The noise of them talking gets louder; like they’re all individual parts of a great big engine getting fired up and ready to go. The excitable atmosphere makes my heart pound hard and I feel energized for the task that lies ahead. I take one last look around, the array of color shines fluorescently against the grey of the cliff rock. I wonder if there are scenes such as this where we’re going.
My stomach overturns and adrenaline kicks in. This is it. I go to make my way over to the others when something pulls on my leg. I look down to see an elastic band wrapped around the top of my foot, grounding me to the hard, rocky surface of the cliff edge. I try to free myself by pecking the band, flapping my wings to keep me from falling over.
“Into your positions!”
No! Wait for me! I scrape my foot against the other in a frantic, frustrated effort to join the others before it’s too late. I fall onto my wing, bending it backwards and breaking it. I shout for help but as I lie wounded, I see twenty-five pairs of wings soar above me into the night sky, their shadows pass over me from the bright white light of the moon.
Edited by Kim-Dan Doan (@a_valiant_attempt)
SARAH ROBIN is a new writer from Bolton, England, starting her writing journey during the coronavirus pandemic. Robin has had several pieces of work published in anthologies and online literary magazines as well as being a competition winner for both short fiction and poetry. She is also a columnist for Floresta Magazine and prose reader for Sepia Journal.