This story is by Syaza and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Munah saw blurry, moving parallel lines as she rubbed her heavy eyes. Her body was sore and her head was still dizzy from the drug. The sound of night crickets and croaking toads were ringing in her ears.
She couldn’t move. She gasped for air as the thought of the wall closing in made her insides spasm.
Adrenaline rushed. Her vision had recovered and to her dismay, she was trapped in a cage.
The room was dark, smelled musty, and packed with shelves of boxes and garage tools. At the center, a ceiling light hung above a ragged, bloody cloth. There was also a gun. The light from an exit sign above a door was flickering and surrounded by moths. It was a mess.
Despite all that, she still felt a tinge of hope because the night was still young; she had time to reach home before the sun would rise.
As Munah was trying to get up, a man came into the light and leaned against a wall. She quickly lied down—covering half of her eyes with her wings—and peeked to see what he was up to.
But he seemed indifferent. He neatly combed his dark brown hair and lush mustache that settled on his dry lips while holding a large military phone on his other hand.
She was probably not his first victim.
He then shuffled towards a display shelf of skulls and jars of animal specimens. While inspecting his collections, Munah took the chance to stand on her two feet again but struggled like a baby trying to learn how to walk.
Then, Munah heard footsteps getting louder… and louder. She smelled pungent chemical and wet cigarettes; they were getting stronger as the man was walking towards the cage. She quickly lied down and turned her face away from the man—pretending to stay unconscious.
“Could make thousands out of this” he conversed with a trader over the phone. He stared at her orange casque on the upper mandible of her bill as that was his ultimate price.
“Yeah, she’s a rhinoceros hornbill or whatever” the man said. Munah was a bit offended; she had transformed into a rare bird tonight but a casual comment was what she received?
“You don’t believe me?” he snapped and his face turned red. He punched the wall next to the cage, shocking the life out of Munah.
He fiercely opened the door cage—breaking the latch—and plucked some feathers off her black plumage.-
Munah hooted maniacally and jumped in pain.
“Well, I want to see the money first, and only then the bird’s yours” he ended the conversation and tied the door cage with a nylon rope.
He walked away with the feather—a proof of her existence—and stomped out of the room.
Blood trickled down her body. Munah started crying in pain.
She stared at her wings, wishing she would have her fingers back.
She ruminated over what could had been had she not flown too far from home, or had she transformed into a predator like a tiger or a snake.
But it was never easy to guess what she would transform into on special nights like these. It always depended on her feelings, and tonight, she had felt free. Her freedom disguised as wings that allowed her to fly.-
It was supposed to be her night away from everything—from being a human.
“Out of all the nights I could have wanted to be free, why tonight?”she thought.
Even her sense of freedom was stolen by a man’s desire to be loaded.
She sat hopelessly, waiting for her fate to die. She shut her eyes and spent her last moments praying for a miracle that her wish to be a human—even for a minute—would come true.
Praying wasn’t enough. But it was enough that she could detect a motion of light ray passing through her closed eyes. It was better to die in peace than be killed.
“Is this the end?” She wondered.
But a few seconds had passed and she felt nothing.
“Well… that’s disappointing” she muttered as death was supposed to be a lot painful than this.
She slowly opened her eyes and instead of being in an another world, she was still in the cage. She saw a faint glimmer of twilight entering the room—not from the exit sign nor from the ceiling light.
She stood up and wondered where the light had come from.
There was hope.
The man could had been a built man but he had forgotten one most important thing—perhaps too consumed by his anger—of being a kidnapper.
It was to never, ever leave any victim alone in a room with a window, especially one that has opened—even slightly. And especially a victim that could fly.-
It was a small round window across the exit door that was high enough from a man’s reach.
It was either she made a move or her human soul would be stuck in a bird’s body forever. She’d probably be dead anyway. Mourning time was over.
Time-constrained and fear-driven, she pecked at the rope hoping that it would snap in time just before the man would return—that it would snap just before the sun would rise at the peak of dawn.
She pulled in the rope so hard and used her claws to scratch them.-
At the same time, she watched the door with wild eyes—terrified that the man would return anytime soon.
She did it!
She pushed the door open and without a second thought flew to the window. Now, she needed to use the strength that she had left to push the window wide enough for her to fit through.
“Almost. There.” she thought as she used her bill to open the window wider.
She froze. It wasn’t her.
It was the man. He returned with a knife—all prepared to cut her body into pieces.
“Oh, Sh-” the man mumbled as he saw an open, empty cage.
Munah pushed the window even harder than before as if it was the last thing that she did but quietly.
Damn these claws.
He saw her.
He threw the knife at her but she instinctively flew backwards and away from the window.
The knife hit the window instead, making an easy escape for Munah.
And off she went and flew.
She flew so fast away from the shabby house but took a second to look back to make sure he wasn’t following her. Her bloody skin had dried up but it was still painful.
She flew across the sky and over the canopy towards the twilight in haste because that was where she needed to go to find her home. The rich sound of the rainforest played as a background music as she’d flown higher from the ground.
The clouds blocked her vision. With her speed, she almost hit a school of migrating birds that headed against her, but they made way for her.
They chirped and sang as if to greet or congratulate her.
Then it was clear. That was when she saw the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
The light blue morning sky unfolded before her eyes as it transitioned from the dawn. The west side of the sky was a darker shade of blue with the moon poignantly exiting the horizon as it made way for the queen of the day.
The eastern sky was a smudge of pink and orange as the sun was rising.
She slowed down to enjoy the view; she’d instantly forgotten what just happened.
But the sunlight started to hurt her eyes.
That was when she then realized she needed to go home before it would be too late.
She flew towards the lower horizon to find her home with hopes to remain unseen by anyone else.
“There it is!” she yelled.
She flew towards her bedroom window and landed on her bed with a huge sigh of relief.
Nothing had changed.
It was until the morning light first hit her body that the magic started to happen.
Her bill transformed into pink lips and its casque formed a button-shaped nose. Her round bluish-gray eyes changed into a pair of mono-lid hazelnut eyes. Her black plumage turned to soft brown skin. Her bloody skin healed, too.
Her fingers and arms grew back to replace her wings. She then jerked the bottom frame of her bed with her toes and felt a pang of cold metal.
She felt human again, but even more than before. It was a miracle.
As she covered her bare self with a duvet, a black feather dropped on the floor.
“This had never happened before” she whispered.
She held the feather up, having mixed feelings about it but decided to keep it as a reminder.
She glued the feather on her bedroom window where the sun light hit it as she claimed her freedom as a human—her miracle.