Bird Watching

I am off to sea again, a five week stint on a Kiwi deep sea trawler, after hoki on the Chatham Rise some two hundred miles off shore. I’ll be busy in the factory collecting lots of data for the scientist on shore. But part of my duties will involve monitoring interactions with the bird life. Its a lovely part of the job. I bought a nice pair of binoculars to take with me this time, auto-focus and designed for use at sea. I look forward to watching the albatross–such magnificent animals! Wing spans stretching to three meters, gliding in winds that would make me grab on to the nearest railing. Their sense of their surroundings must be so different than ours.

And, of course, I’m bringing my laptop to do some writing. So far this year I completed a book of short stories (out now), and a climate fiction/science fiction novel that will come out next year. The story below is from the collection. Watching those magnificent birds inspired Close Encounter. A flash of inspiration, maybe. It is a mere 300 words, what is known as ‘flash fiction’. I hope you enjoy, and I’ll see you real soon!

First contact, or any alien contact, is usually told with dramatic or fantastical story. But what if it happens more often than thought, and in a much more intimate fashion? Perhaps like in this instance, somewhere in the Southern Ocean.

Close Encounter

The choice was easy this time. On a planet made up two thirds of water, the desire was strong to explore that vast wetness. And whom better to travel with than one of its largest and most majestic species, itself a fellow traveller? There was an attraction to its smooth white feathers and elegant large wings. Entering its vessel felt like a homecoming. Its consciousness made willing room. Together, we moved as one.

The ocean spread around us; an undulating body decorated with white froth. Everywhere its eyes searched was water, and yet it was home. We glided effortlessly. Without thought, the slightest movement of feathers kept our body balanced and on course. A wing dips, and we turn and descend, sea skimming beneath us. A slight tension of muscle, and we soar, only to dip and turn again. Sea approaches, wings pull in and feet gently slap the surface, skim for the briefest moment, and we sit on the surface, held by an endless hand. We know this hand well. It is home. We ride waves, up and down, to summit and then to valley.

And with a deft movement of beak, we feed. Again, and again, in frenzy and yet in no hurry, we turn and submerge and kick into the depths and our yellow tipped beak seeks out a flash and acquires it. We surface and repeat until we are full, until, with a slight flick of wings, we lift from the water and are once again in the air, our home. Tendons lock and currents carry. Hours pass, and oranges and pinks soften the horizon. With my gentle prompting, eyes gaze up, at the distant suns around which circle distant worlds, and it knows from where its guest has come.

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