Once in a very small village there came to live a very strange bird. Well, everyone thought it was strange because it was so different from the other birds that lived in that place. When it was young, it would often keep to itself instead of joining the chickens as they grouped together to eat or as the roosters competed for top chicken pecking positions. As the ducks swam upon the lake, it stood off to the side and silently watched. Soon, all the fowl became fixated on the silent bird in their midst. In fact, they tormented it every chance they got. They plucked its strange looking tail feathers. It got bullied on the playground. It even was forced to eat alone during most of its maturing years in the local bird school.
Over the years, a few peacocks tried to rudely embarrass the unusual bird by mocking its odd coloring and how different it was. It sang different from all the other birds. It walked different. No one even had seen it swim. In fact, they were not even sure what it “was”. “Of course it had to be a bird,” they often would debate. “But what kind of bird?” “Why won’t it join any of the flocks?” “Why won’t it fly?” “Why won’t it swim?” “Why does it speak so strangely?” “Why does it just stand there all the time watching us?” The chattering and clucking and complaining never ceased.
One cruel day, some prankster shoved it into the pond. It almost drowned but a kind rooster named Joe saved it. Actually the strange it bird was a she. Everyone called it “It”. No one even cared what its name was. Another day it was the grand dance of the barnyard. Everyone was going. She sat by herself just watching as always. In all the years she had lived in the tiny barnyard, she had asked nothing of anyone. She had tried to play when younger with the others but after several times of being thrown into walls, having dirt thrown in her face, and the endless, mocking that followed her, she had given up. So she just watched them all live their lives: the ducks swimming; the peacocks strutting; the chickens pecking; the geese soaring; the eagles hunting. She just watched.
As the time passed, the fowl began to notice the strange one started to change. Its eyes got kind of sharp and shiny. When she stared at them, watching their daily activities, they began to feel she was looking beyond the external, perhaps to their very souls. It bothered them. It really bothered them.
After the years of emotional torture, the different one got up and walked to the far corners of the known world. But no matter where she went, she never found another like herself. Yet she enjoyed her travels for she saw wonders she had not even dreamed about and creatures far more exotic than anything from her home barnyard. One day, she decided it was time to return home as age was creeping upon her and all others.
Upon her return to her childhood home, it was like no time had passed. The fowl simply resumed where they had left off in their mockery of her. Still, she stood watching them trying to understand why they had always treated her with such cruelty. Then the biggest, most awful rooster approached her. And in a single strike, he set her on fire. “You weirdo! Burn! Be gone from here!”
She felt the flames. She smelled the burning of herself. Yet she felt no pain. The barnyard fowl now gathered around her, watching her as she had watched them all those years. Some cheered. Some continued to mock. Others simply watched what was perceived to be a murder in process. But as several minutes past, the burning continued. The fowl felt a growing tension. The air was becoming thick with …something. Something was about to happen. They could feel it. Soon they began to fear it. Even the most stupid among them could feel it. It was like the air was changing; the heat was growing stronger.
In a moment, the always tormented one stretched her neck skyward. She felt the pulsating. She felt something inside her BURNING TO get out. There was no pain. But there was this feeling, this desire to “become”. Slowly, she stretched her neck upward and her extended wings to a full wing span.
The Phoenix then transformed into a younger version of herself. She didn’t look a day over teenager. Yet she glowed with a fiery red orange hue that could simply be called ravishing. And the other birds slowly backed away. Never again was a cruel word spoken to her for the birds in her presence finally realized what once perceived as different was actually other worldly.
Never again was another of her kind ever seen in those parts but that was okay as phoenixes were immortal. Every so many years, she simply burst into flames and rejuvenated. And the great, great, great grandchildren still talk of the legend of their Phoenix. And no one who was different was ever tormented in that place again for the Phoenix came to rule that barnyard for multiple generations until she grew tired and then she soared up. Up she flew until she rejoined her ancestors in that other place where the sun never sets and nothing ever dies.
Copyright © 2016 June Narber, All Rights Reserved.