I have killed the thing I loved and seen the beauty of its demise.
His words, not mine. But I understand them well, for I do not kill what I do not love. Look at this creature in my hands – know thou I love it? Broken as it is, its tiny body smashed by my own hand, I love it still and always will. My act was one of mercy. Let me kiss you little sparrow, for you have known life and now you know peace!
I love them, all. I leap from the trees and catch them as they migrate, the swallow and the redbreast, the redstart and the crane, warblers and winchats, pipits and swifts… see them flit, fly, thousands of them rolling by. I wait in the tree til they’re overhead then snatch one from the clouds. Back on my branch, I hold the blessed thing in my hand. Maybe I’ll caress him, sing him a lullaby, hold him and whisper psalms into his ear. Birds know music, even the littlest. They know song.
Sweetly go on the spring-soft wing
How my little birdies fly
Lie with me sweet and with me sing
Let’s float away on a stolen lullaby…
They like to hear me sing. When I open my mouth stars pour out, the music of galaxies. I lull them to sleep with an earful of aether and watch them slumber in my hand. Ever seen a birdie sleep? Likely not. It is the thing of which dreams are born. Which reminds me of a story – the tale of the beginning, if you will. Let me relate it to you.
In the beginning the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep. And in the midst of the sleeping deep a small island lay: barren, uncultivated, lifeless. No living thing had ever encountered that island, or sat on it, or laid eyes upon it. Time did not exist because the sun and moon did not exist, and there was neither coming or going, nor change or becoming. One day a little sparrow alighted on the island after a long and exhausting journey, knowing not the place of his coming nor the wherefore of his being there. The sparrow carried a single seed in his mouth, but seeing the barrenness of the small island, thought, I cannot eat this for I need a place to sleep. Let me plant it instead so I have a place to rest my head. And the sparrow planted it in the ground, and a little sapling grew up into a tiny tree in which the bird made his nest. The little tree in its wisdom thought, But how can I grow if I do not have sun? So the tree whispered to the birdie in his sleep, and the bird dreamed, and the dreaming gave birth to a sun, and the rising and setting of the sun were in him and thus the sun became. The sun nourished the little tree and it grew into big tree, and the bird was safe up high, and soon it had food too. One night the tree whispered to the bird, But imagine how you will dream with a moon in the sky? And the bird dreamed and the moon became, and how the little sparrow dreamed under the moon! He dreamed of the tides and the seas moved, and he dreamed of the coelacanth and the nautilus and the lamprey, and the whale and starfish and manatee, and all the glorious things of the sea he dreamed. And when he was done dreaming of the sea, he dreamed of sand and limestone and quartz, opal and amber, phosphates and the earthworm, and soon he had dreamed up the earth.
God created Earth in seven days. Haha! Earth was created by a single sparrow with a seed. Therein lies the earth’s mystery. All creation from God’s tiniest creature, like this one, cold in my hand.
—Knew ye life? I ask it.
It does not reply. I watched the life go out of it with mine own eyes, robbed of its existence by these very hands. But I know he is not bitter. Still, I wipe a tear from my cheek. Call me not a monster! I weep for this poor bird just as I do for the lost sheep. Was I not all heart once? Aye, a fraction of it remains. I care more for this low creature than for all the Ur-men combined, those wretched rutting animals, like rats they crawl over the flesh of one another then spawn and pollute my creation. Not so this heavenly creature of the sky who dirties not his feet with the soot of the earth. Ye, ye are truly divine! But give these filthy, base rut-monkeys wings and they would still make beasts of themselves. No! Stay in the skies, my beloved.
I stroke his feathers with my blackened thumb. The warmth has left him. I say a prayer for his little soul:
Knew ye that life was good, but that the afterlife in darkness eternal more comfort than all the living.
I kiss him on the mouth.
I leap from the high branches of my tree to my bed which lies below. At the foot of the bed I keep them, my sweet gone loves. I place the sparrow with the rest of them, hundreds, thousands, the passing of their souls a torment every one. Think me mad? Look upon them and see, and tell me how ye would have me be? Life and death at my fingers, change and becoming and ending, all a sleight of my hand. Beauty! The eternal beauty of the dead, the sublimity of their passing, the wretched purity of their nonbeing… How canst one not be mad?
From The Book of God, by Ultan Banan. Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.