The Dead Bird


Other Stories



I wrote this in 1976 or 77, my first years in college. I recently found it in a pile of old memories so I can't be sure. As I picked it up to read it I instantly remembered the story. It must have been a powerful one for me to write. To be honest, I like this so much I wonder if I copied it from somewhere. Given the manuscript I found, I have to believe it is mine.

The Dead Bird


The bird was dead. It was not a pretty bird, being an oily black, but it was dead. The force which gave it life had left. It was the only living thing to fly over the Devil's island since the beginning of time. Washed ashore, its body lay on the sand, contorted and ugly; it was a body. Without life.


The mind sees, thought exists. Yet, there is no connection to the physical world. Day after day, year after year, the mind had existed. Living, if our words fit such an alien conception, in the "bodies" of plants. There was a time when the mind had been able to roam the world, moving from body to body as it pleased. But, everywhere it went it left a trail of dead. If the mind was to use a body of a thinking creature, the thinking process of the host must be stopped first. No mental resistance can be left. The host must be dead.

Long ago the mind had been discovered. It was found out by one of its own kind. But this mind was more powerful; it could live with creatures without killing them. In fact, it could live outside of all physical bodies if it chose. And worst of all, it thought killing was evil. So it had captured the weaker mind and jailed it the only way possible. It had constructed a barrier to keep all sea life away from the island. The island itself was so far out of the way that no birds ever came near. Only the plants were left, for the outright killing of the lesser being would have been immoral. The powerful mind withdrew itself from Earth. The weak mind waited.


A pine tree on the mountain. The sun was warm and a breeze was blowing in off the ocean. The mind yawned as only one of its kind can. Consciousness spread from the trunk to the very thin tips of the pine needles. The wind shook the tree gently and the needles rubbed each other.

A field of wheat in the valley. It feels so good to be so tall and thin. Your head stretching away from your roots. Swaying in the wind, bending to touch the ground. A slight feeling of vertigo as you regain your balance. Round and round you go. Running through... No! There are no legs, there will be no running. Why?

His thoughts follow the same pattern as they have every day since his imprisonment started.

If the other had only listened to me. I will stop I projected. I will choose one body and stay there. No, it had replied, you were meant to wander in the bodies of animals. You could not confine yourself, the temptation would be too great. You will remain on this island until the very end of time. And so it had been.

A palm tree. I tire of the exhilaration of the wheat. After the first year existence seemed to become tiresome. If only I had been killed. Someday I will find a means of escape. I may even learn to live without a body. Someday I will find him who put me here.

Ah well. At least I am master of where I am. My mountain, my valley, my beach, my trees... MY BEACH! Something is wrong. Slow down, take it one step at a time. Examine every inch of beach until the inconsistency is found. Expand. My consciousness scanning the beach, the rocks, the waves, yet still tied to the palm. There, by the water's edge, a black mass. The grass. The ice plant. To the very edge of the last stem of the ice plant. Moving closer to the black mass. At last. The bird.


Release!!!!! Movement. I am back in touch with the world. Nothing's broken, that's good. Flex, flex, flex, again able to move things. After all these eons, learn. I must learn again.

Five minutes later he could control his body.

Ten minutes later he could stand and stagger along.

Twenty minutes later he could strut.

An hour later he could glide.

By sundown he was soaring.