Monday, January 27, 2014

The story of Two (part 3)

(This is the third installment of a story presented in four parts.)

Two trudged on with Little One and Little Two waddling in line behind her. She did not know where she was heading and she was utterly exhausted. They had eaten little, grabbing a few insects here and there as they came upon them.

When they had started out on their journey, Two had never imagined they would be away from the open water this long so they had not had their regular daytime naps to refresh them. Inwardly, she felt confused, alone and totally devastated.

She knew she needed to have a plan but, quite honestly, Two felt unable to think. The image of the number two position on the hard path kept flashing through her mind, despite her continual efforts block it out. As they walked, her mind began to wander again.

"Oh my Little Three, where are you?" she thought to herself, catching herself before she said the words aloud. Could it possibly be true, as she had always been taught, that he now experienced pure joy in the Kingdom of the Holy One? Or had he simply ceased to be?

If Two were to judge by her feelings, it would be the latter without a doubt. After seeing the crumpled mass of feathers, bones and blood, she could not imagine that there was anything left of her beloved duckling. And certainly in her heart, where once there was a warm spot just for Little Three, all she felt now was a cold and terrifying emptiness.

But Two did not want to give up hope. She knew that, if she stopped believing now, most certainly she would be stepping out of the Way. Even though she could not feel the Holy One surrounding her as she always had before, she knew that He might still be there.

Others had told her that there were times when He seemed silent and she needed Him too badly to turn away. And, if she left the Way now, she was afraid that she might not ever find her way back again. Recalling the tall, lifeless structures, the hot, hard paths and the strange water that did not move, she could not bear the thought of an existence outside of the Way.

Finally, Two felt she could not walk another step. She glanced back at her ducklings and was shocked to find that they had fallen far behind her. They too were exhausted. Never before would she have been so careless as to allow this to happen! She felt a fresh wave of guilt and shame wash over her for what could have happened to them, only to wonder again whether she had lost her third-hatched because of some negligence on her part.

As she and her brood pulled together once more, Two searched the darkening landscape for a place to roost for the night. They had come across fresh puddles from the earlier rain which gave them drink and seeds and insects stilled their rumbling bellies, but they had not found any open waters in which to swim.

Normally, they spent the nights floating on the water or flying from pond to pond in order to be safe from predators - but this was clearly not an option tonight. Two longed for One to be by her side now, to guide her and help her know what to do.

At long last, Two decided that they would be safest if they scooted under one of the large leafy bushes they had been walking around all evening. In the morning, they would fly. They would have to. But for now, desperately needing rest, they huddled close together, tucking their bills under their wings to stay warm.

None of them could rest well, but finally they fell into a fitful sleep. The moon was high in the sky when Two was awakened by the muffled sobs and trembling of her second-hatched, a brave young drake who almost never cried, even as a new-hatch.

"Quattatka ka te quam!" he cried out hoarsely in the ancient Duck language. "Quattatka ka te quam!" ("It should have been me! It should have been me!")

Recovering from the shock she felt at his cry, Two nudged him gently with her bill to reassure him. She knew that Little Two was in torment because it had been his idea that he and Little Three play the switching places trick on her. Because of the ruse, Little Three had been in his place in line behind her. Had he been in his proper place, he would be gone but Little Three would still be alive.

"Qo, quattatka ka te quam," she whispered back. ("No, it should have been me.") For that was indeed how Two felt. If it had not been for her anxious excitement, they would have made the trip later in the summer and Little Three would most likely still be with them. In that moment - and in many moments after that - Two wished that she were dead.

However, since the Holy One had seen fit to keep her in life when the loud roar and hot wind had come, she knew she must carry on. Drawing closer to her son, she tucked her bill once again and dozed, waiting for morning to come.

She knew that, with the rising of the sun, they would need to fly - but she had no idea where they were to go or what they would do when they got there. For the first time since that awful moment on the hard path, Two prayed fervently to the Holy One to be with her and to guide her in the days ahead...

(to be continued...)