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His feet stand firm on the dark brown, almost black, soil; his toes dig deep, pushing grass aside to penetrate the ground, to be solid. The feet are hard and coated in a thin layer of dirt, the kind of layer that all children seem to have when they've stepped out the door into their backyard worlds. His feet know the ground well, know what it will do for them and to be wary of it. So rough and black are the soles that they could be mistaken for bark. Like the bark that his hand touches, hoary and dark and thick in a way that gives at the same time. His hand knows bark like his feet know the ground. It always feels like if he could push hard enough his hand would just go straight into the yeilding flesh of the tree no matter how firm it thought itself to be.

He stood looking expectingly, curiously, up the trunk of the tree; his one hand poised and experimental against the grey-white specked treeskin. He wore no shirt or pants. His pale, birdlike chest covered in thorn scratches and varying thin patches of earth, his legs even more so. Small and scarecrowlike, the boy still possessed a feral radiance that could only be called spirit by men. The tangle of his black hair whipped and rippled in the breeze that had come up leading a storm along behind it. The mass of hair seemed to move in time with the dark grey clouds overhead, they breaking and reforming brilliantly in the storm wind, occasionally letting a pallid sepia light shoot through, only to drown it again in their numbers. The boy cut a dramatic figure against the world here, staring at the one great tree as if it were the last.

He stared so hard into the branches that his eyes watered and tears created white streaks as they rolled through the grime on his face. He blinked once his eyes that were the color of a snowstorm, steel grey and sharp. He saw no nest in the branches, but he felt that there was one there, just beyond his visual ken. His toes released their grip slightly as his other arm came up to touch the tree. He stood as if arm in arm with the great oak. Thunder rumbled in the distance and the wind began stronger, more savage, as if knowing the boy's intentions. It would stop him if it could. He knew the wind hated him.

He moved quickly, without any warning from his ropey muscles, almost throwing himself against the tree in a leap. His feet had come up and pressed in against the bark, while his arms wrapped themselves as far as they could around the enormous trunk. His face was pressed against the bark and it rubbed his cheek raw as he began to inch and climb his way to the first low branches. The old tree groaned, but from the wind or this new injustice. The boy was pressed tight against the tree now, purposeful and grim. His eyes never left the branches above almost as if he feared losing them if he looked away. The clouds had come together as a solid mass, a tacit audience watching this new spectacle. Another wave of thunder passed in the distance and like thousands of arrows from the sky the rain appeared into being.

The child has reached the first low branch and swung himself up onto it. Crouching and holding the branch with one hand he panted heavily from the climb, his face now scratched and bleeding, the blood mixing with raindrops to wash down his bare chest. He still looked up, sheilding his eyes from the rain with his free hand. He could definitely feel the nest up there somewhere. His heart had only the one fierce desire: to find the nest. It meant his life to find it. If he could find it he could go with them, be with them. He had tied some of their feathers in his hair, hoping that more would grow from the example. The glossy black feathers now twirled by the vicious wind. It wasn't a swelling in his heart, it was more of a pulsing magnetism that pulled him upward to what he knew must lay hidden deep within the rustling leaves.

The tree was swaying and creaking in its struggle to fight against the torrent of air and water that combatted it. The boy ignored these things, barely noticing their existence so firm was his will. He reached up his hand and grasped the next highest branch, quickly testing it for stability and then pulling himself up. His palms were sore already from the rough texture, but they kept grasping inexorably upward. The storm raged harder, reaching a malevolence unknown in the world, almost roaring with its fever pitch. The higher the child went the more the branches shook and swayed. The leaves slashed through the air, stinging his face with their thin, membranous bodies. His eyes were slits against the rain, his hair blown straight back, and struggling like a mad, black hydra. He knew their nest was there. His heart told him it was there. He had to keep moving. If he could but reach it this storm would mean nothing to him. For what does wind mean to a crow, but greater freedom.

They were the first thing that he ever remembered seeing. He was on his back on the soft, warm ground, dead leaves cushioning his body. One of them landed next to him and stared with its head tilted. It had opened its mouth and spoken to him, one loud, sharp word that he didn't know. He tried to answer back. Another landed beside it and hopped closer to him. It stared at him in that strange, alarmingly intelligent way and then turned to its friend. It blinked once and then flew away. The other had looked at him for one last, long second and then spread its wings and beat the air until it had risen, turning, and floated away. Those had to be his family, and he knew he could find them if he just looked hard enough. He would right this mistake and fly away with them.

He snapped from his memories as the tree gave a great shake back and forth. The storm had begun to assault him with a singular force, its one purpose seeming to be his consumption. Still his legs stretched and his arms reached the next highest branch. He climbed higher into the mass of limbs. The rustle of the leaves had become an oceans roar, engulfing his every thought before it could be grasped. His body moved by will alone going upward.

He reached one of his hands to a thinner branch above his head and just then a gust of wind like a hammer came rushing through the treetop. The limb that he grasped for snapped from the force and his hands and feet slipped back. His head leaned back, out over the gulf of air to the ground, his body following in a slow arc, arms thrown out in crucifixion. The rain seemed to slow, almost to pause in the air, all becoming quiet and still. Time for him had been engulfed in molasses. His body slowly floated in mid air, gently moving downward. He kept his arms out, believing that this time he would certainly fly. His slow arc continued as he lay back on the air and the ground rushed ever closer. He looked up into the storm-torn sky as a cloud was broken and a yellowed patch of sky showed through. Slowly circling against the pale light, sillhouetted, he saw one of them. His arms reached forward to the bird so far above him, flying lazily as if ignorant to the storm below it. He could see the tiny black feathers shake in the currents of the air, and the liquid black eye watching him as though waiting. The ground rushed ever closer, time regaining its normal speed like a boxer shaking the last punch from his mind. The boy wasn't scared. It was his time to fly home.

And perhaps he did. For who knows what part of the bird is flying. Perhaps there is nothing but a spirit soaring gently on the air. Nothing else is so light.


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