Hi everyone, I hope you’re all well! Today I’m sharing a little fable I wrote with you all. I hope that you enjoy it!
The Robin and the Wren
Under a heavy, grey sky thick with ash and dust, the little robin perched himself on the end of the dry and brittle branch of an ancient oak. He was awaiting the arrival of his friend, the wren, whose turn it had been to scout for food.
Long gone were the days when a bird could patter its feet on a lush, green lawn and trick the worms into burrowing to the surface for fear of drowning in rainwater. Long gone were the lush green lawns. Long gone were the worms.
The monsters had destroyed just about everything.
The rain itself hadn’t fallen for such a long time, and then, after a drought lasting decades, it had started to rain once more, except this new rain was different. It burned the skin, furs and feathers of those creatures left behind in the wake of the monsters’ final battle, and it made all the plants and trees sick, too. Not to mention the constant stench it left in the air.
Before the robin had flown the nest, his mother had told him of the world as it had existed long ago – before the monsters had ever even arrived.
She had told him that the sky had once been a beautiful bright blue scattered with wisps of light, fluffy white cloud and that there had been vast stretches of lush and verdant green land, crisscrossed here and there by streams of fresh, crystal clear water.
The sound of loud cheery birdsong focused the robin’s attention. The wren had returned.
He hopped gingerly from foot to foot on the crumbling branch looking out for her and finally, he spotted her small, rounded form heading towards him, her short brown wings spread fully as she slowly glided in and landed gently beside him.
“Anything?” the robin chirped hopefully.
“Not a scrap,” replied the wren, “I don’t think we will eat today.”
The robin lowered his head, pressing his dark grey chin into the bright orange feathers of his breast. They hadn’t eaten yesterday either.
“Now,” said the wren who was of a more positive nature than her friend, “let’s not get too downbeat. We often have days when food is scarce, but we always eat eventually, don’t we? There’s always a berry or a bean to be found somewhere, we just have to keep looking. ”
“But aren’t you tired of living like this, wren?” The robin hopped to the very edge of the branch causing the tip to break and disintegrate into a tiny cloud of dust. “Sometimes, it feels as if we’re born just to struggle, and then die.”
“It does seem like that sometimes,” said the wren, “but just look around you at all this beauty!”
The robin almost fell out of the tree.
“Beauty?” All he could see – all he had ever seen since the day he’d hatched from his tiny blue egg – was the dead or dying wastelands in which they lived. “I see nothing but bleakness. The skies are grey, the oceans brown and lifeless and the flowers and trees hardly bloom or bear fruit, and those that do are ravaged before we smaller creatures have a chance to peck even a seed.”
The wren hopped closer still so that their feathers were almost touching. “You’re alive. You are here and you are blessed with the opportunity to experience the struggle and the bleakness. Don’t you think that is beautiful in and of itself?”
The robin thought for a moment. He didn’t see any beauty in existing just to suffer. But he didn’t say that to his friend. Instead, he just fluttered his wings slightly as a show of silent acquiescence.
It wasn’t long before the robin and the wren realised that if they were to be successful in their search for food, they would have to start searching together. After all, four eyes searching were better than two.
And so, the two of them set off flying ever onward, searching farther and farther afield, each of them growing ever wearier with each passing moment.
“Look there!” the wren finally squeaked as they began to make their way towards a winding stream, dry except for a trickle of brown sludge made up of earth and rainwater. A sparse copse of cherry trees, all but dead lined the stream on either side.
“What did you see?” asked the robin, his bright red breast heaving up and down with exertion.
“I can’t be certain from up here,” said the wren even as she moved lower and towards the tree line, “but I think I saw the glint of a berry.”
“Oh, wren, it’s your tired and hungry mind playing tricks on you. There can’t be any berries left. If those dusty old trees had been capable of ever producing berries, then they’d have been snatched and eaten long before now.”
But the wren could have sworn…
“Yes, there!” She drove down to the second tree on the southern bank of the stream with the robin following behind.
“Well, say,” said the robin as they alighted gently on one of the sturdier-looking of the tree’s branches, “you were right!”
There, on a single branch below them, was a small clutch of cherries. They were dry and withered – but good grief, they were food and the robin knew that they would taste like paradise.
Gently, the robin and the wren fluttered onto the lower branch and perched themselves right next to the Custer of small, wizened fruits, but as the wren began to use her beak to peck away at the stems so that the fruit would come away, a loud, gruff voice called up from the ground.
“And just what do you think you’re doing?” said the voice.
The robin peered down and saw the scratched and scarred snout of an old fox pointing up at them. He was very thin with sharp fierce eyes and nostrils that flared as he watched them.
“Oh, don’t mind us,” the wren chirruped in her cheery singsong way, “we’re just here to nibble on some of these berries and then we’ll be on our way.”
“I see,” said the fox glaring.
“We’ll be leaving in a minute or two,” the robin called down to him.
“You’ll leave now!” The fox snarled and suddenly growled up at them. “This is my tree and those are my fruits.”
“But they’re so high up,” the wren chirped, “much too high up for a fox in your state to reach.” She knew that foxes were generally rather adept at climbing trees with sturdy branches on which they could balance, however, this particular tree did not look nearly sturdy enough.
“What about,” the wren offered, “if we peck at the stems and let the cherries drop to the floor? That way we can all share them?”
The fox didn’t even think about it. “No! I’ll make my way up there and eat them where they grow and, if I find two little birds waiting for me when I get there, then I’ll eat them too!”
With that, the fox jumped, his sharp claws extended as he used them to haul himself on to the first branch. It wobbled as he stalked along its length but it did not break. He lunged across to the next.
“Please,” said the robin, wobbling as the tree trembled and shook from the fox’s movements, “we’ll starve, we haven’t eaten in so long.”
The foxed ignored him and inched ever closer, causing little bursts of tree dust to escape into the air as the more fragile parts of it began to disintegrate.
“We have to go,” said the wren, “we will fly on until we find another tree that bears fruit, and perhaps the next will have so much fruit that we couldn’t possibly eat it all!”
The robin’s heart broke. He knew that there would be no such tree. They had been very lucky to have found this one.
“I don’t think I can go on for very much longer,” the robin said. A tiny tear fell from his little black eye, rolled down his little beak and dropped off the end. “I’m so hungry and tired.”
He looked at the berries. They were so close. He looked down and saw that the fox was close too. In fact, if the fox had chosen that moment to leap, he would have been able to reach the birds.
“Come,” said the wren, nudging her fried encouragingly.
The robin sighed deeply and, exhausted though he was, he fluttered his little wings and followed after the wren as she took to the sky once more.
The two friends struggled on as best they could but it wasn’t long before fatigue forced them to stop.
At the foot of an ancient and decrepit looking oak with branches so frail that a strong breeze might cause them to crumble, the birds nestled close together and rested.
“We’ll spend a little time gathering our strength and then we’ll move on,” said the wren. “There is food to be had out there somewhere.”
“I think it’s time we faced it,” said the robin, “we’ve seen no spiders, ants or any other insects we might eat for weeks and the trees have all either been picked bare before we find them, or else they’re unable to bear fruit in the first place.”
“I know it’s hard, my friend, but we must persevere. The alternative is to accept defeat and I cannot just sit and wait to die, not when I feel in my bones that a bounty of food awaits us.”
The robin had thus far always admired the wren’s positivity – it had been comforting that the wren just somehow seemed to know that they’d be alright. But now, in the moment of their inevitable defeat, the wren just appeared delusional.
“I can’t go any farther,” he told her, “my poor wings ache even when I’m resting. I am ready now to accept my fate.”
“Oh, I do wish you could muster just a little more strength,” said the wren.
“Me too,” the robin replied.
A little while later, the wren announced that she would fly on and continue their search alone and then when she had found food, she promised she would return and take him to it.
The robin had tried his best to get the wren to stay, though he knew she would never give up. The wren, he knew, would carry on until her wings could lift her no longer, and then she would walk until her little legs couldn’t either.
With deep sorrow, the robin bid farewell to his best friend who, even as she flew weakly away, promised him she would return.
He watched her flutter off, low and a little off-kilter, knowing in the heart that beat beneath his fluffy red feathers that he would never see her again. Then settling himself against the dry bark of the tree out of sight of any would-be predators, he waited for his time to come.
After some time – though the robin couldn’t be certain how much as he had been drifting in and out of sleep – there was a commotion in the sky just above him. Looking up through the barren branches he saw a small bundle zooming right for him. It was the wren.
“Come quickly!” The wren said when she had landed.
“I can’t, I have no energy and I’m so tired,” he said.
“But you must!” the wren chirped, “you don’t understand, I’ve found food – and lots of it!”
“You can’t have,” the robin declared, “we’ve looked everywhere.”
“But we never got out this far!” The wren hopped animatedly from foot to foot as she tried to explain.
“There’s a place not far from here where food is abundant. We should make our way there now before it’s too late for you.”
The thought of moving anywhere at all seemed an impossibly for the robin. He was certain it was already too late, but the wren refused to give in. She told him that with the little bit of rest he had had, he might just make it.
After a very short flight, the wren and a very weak and weary robin touched down on a cracked and crumbling piece of ground.
The robin could feel his little heart pounding hard as his entire body shook from overexertion and his eyes seemed to refused to focus for a long time.
When finally he could see clearly again, the robin was astounded. He had never seen anything like it.
In front of him stood the strangest forest he had ever seen. It seemed to be overgrown, with trees made of stone and glass which rose hundreds of feet in the air. Dotted up and down the length of the trees were large hollows out of which grew roots and vines that clung to the sides of the trees and stretched all the way down to the ground where they spread out in every direction.
It looked just like the places his mother had always told him about. The places where the monsters used to live. Now, it was deserted and silent except for the sound of the wind as it blew through empty alleyways.
“Isn’t it magnificent?” said the wren.
The robin could only stare.
The vines were full of the freshest, juiciest fruit they had ever hoped to find.
“Perhaps,” said the wren after they’d eaten their fill of berries and roots, “we should take a few berries back to that angry old fox. After all, there weren’t very many left on that branch. I’m sure he would be grateful.”
“But, he was awful to us,” said the robin. He was beginning to feel a bit more like himself now, able to stretch his wings out fully as he fluttered gently off the ground.
“Yes, indeed he was, but without him threatening to eat us, we would never have been motivated to flee and we’d never have found this place. We would have surely starved.”
The robin felt his heart flutter at the thought of how close they had come to their respective ends. The fox, he realised, was probably just trying to preserve his own life the only way he knew how.
“All right,” the robin agreed, and they gathered as many berries as they could each carry, holding the stalks firmly in their beaks.
When they arrived back at the cherry tree-lined stream, neither the robin nor the wren could see any sign of the fox.
It wasn’t until they were right over the second tree on the southern bank that they finally spotted him lying curled up at the base of its trunk.
The wren dropped her fruit on the ground next to the fox. “I say, hello,” she called out, fluttering her fawn feathers in the dim sunlight, “I beg your pardon-”
“He’s fast asleep,” said the robin, even as he landed on the same crumbling branch they had occupied earlier and dropped his own berries.
“Look at that,” said the wren, “he hasn’t even eaten the fruit he refused to share with us, and now it’s completely rotten and of no use to anyone.”
The robin felt hot anger bubble up beneath his feathers. “What a waste! And in a time when any food growing anywhere is nothing short of miraculous!”
“Hush now, robin, let’s leave the old fox to his cherry tree and head back to our unique little forest.”
With that, the wren swooped down next to the fox to wake him and let him know that they had left him some food and to tell him where he would be able to find more if he needed it. But when she got close she let out a squeak.
“What’s the matter?” The robin fluttered down to the ground where he found the wren standing at the fox’s snout. “Oh,” he said.
The fox lay curled up on the roots of the tree, but he wasn’t sleeping. He was dead. His were frozen open and the ferocity that had burned within them earlier had been replaced with a look of sadness.
“How do you think it happened?” the robin asked.
“I rather think he starved,” said the wren as she examined the situation.
“But there were cherries in this tree. They’re still, there, why didn’t he eat them?”
“Well, I think that if he were capable of doing so, then he would have done just that. So I suspect that, in the end, he just couldn’t reach them.”
The robin was incredulous. “Couldn’t reach them? Last we saw him he was clambering up this tree to eat us!”
“He was probably trying to put off eating the cherries for as long as he could,” the wren said, “to save them for when he desperately needed them – knowing that there would be no more. Then, when he did need them, I think he would have found he didn’t have the energy to climb up and get them.”
“That’s awful,” said the robin, his heart fluttering with sorrow. “If only he could have hung on just a while longer.”
“I’m just glad that you did,” the wren told him.
As always, thank you for spending your valuable time with my words, it really does mean a lot!
Until next time,
© 2020 GLT