Red Tail

Red Tail

Glittering breeze. First light’s childlike persistence pushes its way through the canopy and dances against the bark. Bough and branch glow like embers, their shadows are soot.  The new day weaves fragrances between hawk’s sleep and awareness. Her sinus cavities filled, yet still she is empty. Hollow stomach growls. Pine, moss, and earth twist around her rousing mind like spiral vines.

The forest floor heavy with sog spreads out around the tree she chose for roosting. The roots cleave deep into the wooded flesh and drink the earth’s blood. Her thicket speaks in hushed reverberations running up the length of the pine and into her feet. The vibrations gossip about nearby goings on with unfocused soft tones. Other things have started to awaken. The pine tree is rocked gently by breeze. The river is somewhere off the other way, and over there, beyond her senses. Further out still was some strange calamity of thunder that continuously ebbed and flowed. The thought of dark clouds dripping with acrid soot rather than the promise of petrichor revolted her.

The warmth of her body had slipped away in the night without her noticing. She becomes aware of her sleek angular head resting on her mottled red-orange feathered breast. Nestled against herself to hold on to the heat of yesterday for just a moment longer. It was gone. The day was new, and with it came new heats, new blood. A yawn splits her beak and with it the matte of pygmy sized feathers across her compact face. They crack apart with the same languished delay a thin sheet of ice shattering from beneath does. The ice’s belly is scratched apart with enormous flourishes of cloudy cobwebs. Flailed to death by spring’s eternal hesitation resolving into a firmer, decisive late April. A shiver runs down her body and rattles her feathers loose. They are puffed cakes. The dew is knocked loose of her feathers symmetry in a shouting exuberant burst and her body erupts into a forest of windows. Each letting the rest of morning’s shrillness run across her. She zips glances in three directions. Needles-Earth-Branch. She pulls her feathers back together.

With one triumphant clap of her wings she is airborne. Pulling off the tangle of tree clinging to her like snake skin. The chill had knitted her together and each beat of wing and heart split the sutures. Chilled blood began to warm and sing within her hollow bones and the air a shrill whistle whipping into a thundering tympani boiling louder within her ears.

Updrafts kiss the tips of her wings, spreading and pulling the feathers upward and apart. It portends a greater range of vision. Thought and form merge into harmony. She angles her tail feathers, flaring them out so she can pull herself into her new heading. With a flick she dips their left hand side downward. She turns. Contorting her glide. Catching and weaving dead air into direction and purpose. The remainder of her wing begins to swim inside the invisible towering jet. She’s thrown off balance. Only for a second, she twists into it, falls into its powerful stream and opens herself once she’s totally consumed by the current. A sudden lurch upward vibrated across her body and she’s pulled into the breast of heaven. A sky still blushing from an impolite spring morning, arriving earlier than it had expected.

The sun peaked out from behind a cloud, warming the length of her plumage. Rays of golden light caressed every single buzzing quill. The essence of life spilled into the hooklets and barbs of each feather pouring down the rachis like water through artesian wells. Geysers of heat bursting forth against the flesh buried beneath. An ocean’s landfall within a subterranean cave flooded once again by full measure of moon. Like flickering choppy waves they poured into the muscle and bone, massaging the last of the morning’s cold and sleeps stiffness away with a foamy rhythm.

Cuts of the stinging talon winds began to unhook their grip against her frantically tranquil mind. Growing more placid, more ravenous, the fullness of consciousness peaked into a fever of possibilities within her. She was now hundreds of feet above the bustling wilderness. It was all so effortless now.

Below, between the rustling foliage cluttered with catkin and nettle adorned brambles, rabbit moved and hawk heard him. Her head turns sharply to see him and to listen. Focus pulled the image in close, anticipation sizzled within her. She listened to the crunch of leaf and petal. A slovenly ravenous snare drum rapport of dull rounded teeth grinding plant matter in rapid staccato. She sharpened her focus still and could perceive the slurry wet tongue slopping about within rabbit’s mouth, messy from mucus and flecked with green. She imagined the smell the nettle leaf releasing it’s soprano scented death rattle. A veridian bolus is coerced down an eager damp esophagus. The whole world a field of slaughter, and the rabbit is so terribly loud.

She belonged to him now. She descended. Came closer, but not too close. Her every sensation focused in on rabbit. She had killed him a hundred times in the space of one of her heartbeats. Anticipated his every escape route. Measured the length of his body. Counted his every step before he could make it and ran ratios of her flaps to his strides. She charted the thin layers of fat and muscle underpinning his lithe frame. She traced his anatomy with her precise visual and auditory awareness as if her mind were a second set of claws capable of tearing his muscles clean of his bones. As with all the others she admired his gestalts. She found a suitable bare vantage point. She perched. It was distant enough for stealth, but close enough to watch and listen. She observed him so closely, so fiercely, that he would consume her before the her kiss of airborne scythe would find his tender and delicate places.

More greenery pressed behind the rabbit’s windpipe and for a moment his breath imperceptibly grew higher pitch as its stomachs newest visitor joined the rest of his breakfast. Tall ears caught the sunlight and glowed. The capillaries looked like rivers from higher altitudes. She marveled at the similarity between the two images. For a fleeting moment Hawk’s mind draws the comparison of morphology to terrain. All of the earth’s children, it seems, are in some way built to resemble their mother. Yet, one is to be seen, the other is to be killed.

For a second the two thoughts overlapped, and a new question went unarticulated: is there really any difference?

She can map the course of the blood running through his body through sound alone. So she does. The streams, tributaries, and headwaters. The major arteries splitting off into veins, veins into capillaries. He shattered her mind like a summer’s madness as her obsession took hold. She can hear his heart. And she held it in the poison laced winds of her mind. They would meld into frenzy.

One of the hairy, fleshy river basins twisted around with a lazy lagamorphic paranoia. It was facing her now. She tilts her head at it, marveling at the complex tangle of veins and skin. So thin. Her hollow stomach contracts. She blinks. Inner eyelid making a imperceptible flik sound.  The rabbit’s contented auditory sentry stops. His muscles have tensed. She’s been detected. She’s been seen. She tenses. She leans into a warble.

Time slowed down for rabbit. The chewing stopped. Bits of leaf and grass folded neatly and politely away from his tongue and into the pockets of his cheeks. Muscles flex, clinch and pulse. He swallows.

Tiny padded paws, pink and brown mottled beans tense and flare and press apart the grains of still damp earth. Wet moss and pine needle clings to rabbit’s long clubbed feet as the first shock of escape explodes with a distant rumble of thunder down the length of his sinewy body. A bit of dew, disturbed by his sudden change in posture, lazily falls from a yet groggy leaf still uncurling for the day. Rabbit watches the drop’s undulation pulled in twisting loafing descent with one eye. He becomes aware of his ears. While one was trained on the hawk, the other had scouted the other direction and now needed to be pulled into focus if there was any chance of his escape. He needed to hear her in stereo to track her approach. He needed to know where not to run. It feels as if his out of position ear pivots all too slowly to map the space behind him accurately. There is no more time. His rising hind legs overtake his shoulder’s scapula, and for a second the whole of his awareness is consumed by the sudden shock of motion.

Gilded in gold-black morning light, an obsidian edged collection of ruddy feathers sliced the air, calibrating for control of her angle and speed. The rabbits always heard her approach, there was no elegance and stealth to her kill. Just a wall of feathers careening like a bursting dam, shattering the air and physics with a deathly brutality. A sloppy sickening crack of violence belonged to her, and she to him. Bone and tendon ripping fury. Every last ounce of hatred that haunted the watery crescent of horizons was a breath of life and the ancient scales of her parched dry reptilian feet were gills sucking in lungfuls of hatred’s unearned certainty. Her talon’s quaked, still held against her body. Not yet, she thought. They stayed in place, tucked in so far as her joints allowed.

Rabbit scratched fast across the forest floor. A wake of twigs and debris fired out from behind each long and frantic stride. But madness belonged to hawk, and not fear or speed or mortal terror would prevent her strike. Still, rabbit knew the forest. It was a genetic thing. Rabbit didn’t have that sense of it. He knew it without knowing. He had maps upon maps imprinted within his blood. All rabbits did. The position of every blade of grass, every delectable touched and untouched crop of  dandelion stem, mushroom, ant hill, rotting log and living tree each perfectly accounted for.

The ease belonging to rabbits was not one of casual malaise. It was bestowed by an acute awareness of all of the spaces in between and a rabbit’s place within those spaces. Knowing exactly where to go was the problem, and there wasn’t any cover quite close enough. He spat air through his nostrils in terrified frustration.  The world was a blur of green and browns and his senses strained to compensate.

Jump! Over the mossy stone. Land! Push-push-push! Now Dive! Below the root. Duck! Within the thicket. Clear it. Go-go-go. Faster-faster-faster-faster-faster!

Each pump of his legs was a rapid fire fuck-word spat at this dance of horror. This breakfast desecrated with her wildness. The hawk’s presence had already disemboweled the day, why must he be next? She’s silenced the careless songs of birds and soon she would silence everything. The world had gone quiet and only she and he exist within it. Death was overhead. He understood her, pictured her in his mind not as a winged and pointed thing, but as a cloud of teeth with a language spoken in the tongues of thunder with its own regional dialect becoming worryingly more localized.

There was only one thing left for her to do. For him, there was no glimmer of hope of surviving, hope was a luxury and there was no time for it. Just raw instinct taking place of the spring’s rousing sweetness. Blood filling every limb, every extremity. His ears throbbed. The tips, they hurt. They listened less but saw more, and a hell of feathers swarmed faster than he thought possible. A sepia toned cloud of endings was upon him with the surety of starlight and milkweed sweetness.

Thunder ever only spoke one word: run.

Not there, no. Not that way either. Field that way. Burrow!  Push right. She’s on you. Tree! No, now bounce from. Not far now. She’s closer! There… Burrow!. Closer-closer-closer!

In one desperate final leap he fired his body towards the hole which promised him safety in a pool of rich black ink. Darkness stung as the burrow swallowed his vision. Then, a different sort of blindness enveloped all sensation in his left rear foot. The weight of it was there, but he had no control anymore. He scrambled, this wasn’t over. He dug his woefully insufficient claws into the ground. They find brief purchase on a sliver of young thin root, but the shattering shock of impact that deadened the feeling in his left leg ran ripples up his spine, shooting up his shoulders and skull and through both of his ears. What strength his forearms had let go. He was moving backwards despite his protests. Daylight spilled panic around him. He screamed a shrill squeak. New fire lanced his right hind quarters in four prickling sparks blossoming into a white hot lances. He bucked, attempting to turn, attempting to swat and kick with what little strength remained. Whatever he lost on his left side could be bundled together and packaged to fiercely strike with his right. He could still break free, he could…

Twist into the flames, into the lances. His right leg, it was no use. Hot blood ran down his body now.  Perhaps he could still use his back muscles to wrench himself free. He just needed one second. Just one more second. He kept squealing. The lances of flame burned brighter, deeper.  Something was tearing. His body rolled over hoping to pull her off balance. She shifted her weight, keeping her head at a distance, waiting for her opportunity. And with his useless resistance he spread himself before. His eyes met her beveled beak. Behind it two twilight twin suns scorching the earth as they began to set. They set on him. Without realizing it, he had accidently exposed the tender underside of his neck.

She squeaked in delight. A spray of blood soaking her feathers. Her new heat. Her raptor tooth piercing his trachea followed by flurry of perfectly efficient and deadly movements separating the essential bones. Ecstasy filled her as he melted into a hot limp mass. Each wet bit of flesh and fur pulled loose of him filled her hollow bones with satisfaction. How delicate he was! She marveled at her kill, smelling his musky earth soaked fur copulating with his coppery blood. She shifted her weight and set her talons to pull him apart. The bottom of his ribcage and the top of his pelvis provided the holds to leverage him into halves. His viscera spilled out into a sloppy red satisfying pile.

She began picking through the slurry of torn organs, picking at his lumps and morsels. A bit of green slipped free of his stomach once her beak had sliced it open. She picked it up, quite delicately and placed it reverently aside.  She bobbed up and down, picking through him for the best bits. Snipping bits of ligament and ripping the meat free swallowing with hearty, marvelous gusto.

Her scaly legs painted red, like the morning she had flown into. The bright blue day would come into fullness soon. Finally, they were one.

*     *     *

The wind was howling with its endless grief, black shadows against the shock of sky began to gather far off, over that way and over there.

A flock of geese near by prattled and squawked their idle gosling gossip and endless migratory complaints. Bureaucrats ever angling their lakesides and straightening river shorelines. Tiring. Some concrete river rattled and hummed like endlessly with the wheeled, smoking monstrosities. They filled its length like blood roaring to life or growing to a whisper. These glistening cells contained no heartbeat of their own. She didn’t understand them, but would watch them when she rested from the hunt later. They never seemed to see her perched upon green silvery rectangles. She hated the smell, but still she looked at shiny boxes. She looked inside. She saw them. And she wondered.

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