Saturday 18 June 2022

'Progress' by Amanda Saint

Hungry, hungry, give me food. The command grows more insistent. Three grasping, gaping mouths fill the nest. Demanding, unrelenting, impatient. Obeying their orders, the bird stretches her wings, drops, glides, floats away. Her passing shadow darkens the wood and its dwellers below. Tiny creatures freeze, afraid that the bird is looking for them, then melt with relief as she flies on by.

The landscape is familiar. The landmarks seldom change, except with the seasons. Yet today, something is different. The berry tree has gone. In its place noise, dust and machines fill a new hole in the wood. The bird wheels around fast, startled, eager to escape these confusing sights and sounds. She heads, instead, for the other berry tree. Much further to go, a more arduous trip for already tired wings to undertake but the ‘give me food’ command, it must be obeyed.

Later, on her return, the weary bird is confused once again. The landscape is no longer familiar. The landmarks have completely changed. The hole in the wood has grown into a wide, human-infected wound. The noise that so startled her earlier has died down, the dust settled, but the machines they have multiplied. The bird can’t find the nest. She circles around and around. When she does finally find it the nest is shattered on the ground amongst broken branches, scattered in the shadow of a machine. Three mouths lie silent now.

First published by Flash Fiction Magazine, 19th June 2014.

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