A Forlorn Fowl

By Robert Russell

 

Locked in an impenetrable cage, constrained by the unyielding arms of circumstance, the forlorn fowl watched as the world floated by. A bystander, no, prisoner, yearning tirelessly for freedom, or at the very most, a field to run into. To feel the cool grass, and breathe the fresh air. To run and jump in avian jubilance and scream at the top of her lungs. Flashes of these desires danced and plagued the tortured, bound hen, relentlessly. 

          Each day was exactly the same. She stared through the tiny slit in the wall, the vivid barely-visible outside world so full of life. The green world existed, and beyond that, more unimaginable worlds, even more green. The crisp arrhythmic wisps of air that trickled in through the slit graced her feathered cheek with a slight taste of liberation. She stood motionless at the wall, always, lest she miss even a fraction of that subtle relief.

          But as the years went by and the bird grew tired, that breeze became more and more seldom. Days, months would go by where her anticipation would fall to naught, as no air would trickle in, no glint of freedom would grace her cheek. Her fleeting glimpse of hope slowly began to vanish. The days grew darker, and soon she lost the strength to even stand and peer through the tiny hole. The other side of the wall ceased to exist. The confines of her coup smothered every modicum of optimism that ever sparked a flame in her heart. And she wished to disappear.

          The darkness consumed her. On the day of her release, she refused to stand up and walk out into the world. After some coercion, the bird eventually emerged but found nothing outside the walls of her prison. This was not her escape; this was not her freedom. The world that she had imagined was long gone, and this green planet on which she existed, the cool grass upon which she walked, the fresh air of which she inhaled, moved nothing within her. The wind blew at a fireless candle.

          She continued alone, diverging from the brood, pondering the new and strange sensation under her feet. Her meager attempt to disrupt the stagnancy that weighted her down only fueled this newly-found journey with no destination. Past the walls of the field, entering the surrounding forests, following the lifeless breeze at her back, the hen pushed on, dead but still walking. The sun, luminous in the clear sky, turned black and shadows sprawled on the dirt floor ahead of her. With open arms, she accepted her fate that she was undeserving of freedom, that the hope she once held on to desperately was not actually hope, but in fact, despair.

          Past the trees, the bird stopped at the edge of a road. The illusory boundary clasped her feet, and as she stared at the asphalt, flashes of that tiny hole in the wall of her coup flooded the foreground of her sight. The only world that she had ever known was now gone, and the only world that she had ever wanted to know had never existed to begin with. A commotion of a car approaching in the distance caught the attention of her ears as it grew louder and louder. She saw the green grass through the slit in the wall and imagined the world beyond it. The thundering clamor was now only a second away. The world beyond the green was the world she belonged to; it was clear now. As she stepped over the pavement borderline, the hen was graced once again with that wisp of air, that slight taste of liberation, that she had almost all but forgotten. The chicken crossed the road into the bright, green world beyond and was gone.