Just because I promised I would put Part 2 up this week, I thought I should finish it off and post it up. This is NOT the completed story, by the way, but we are almost there. Once again, this is unedited and a little rushed, but please feel free to let me know what you think.
Here you go!
The Climber (PART 2)
It is true to say that Alphonse didn’t really know what his next move would be. Having dismissed himself from the pigeon council and taking flight through the city’s night sky, he found himself at a loss. His goal was clear; he would prove himself to his kin and leave them speechless. ‘Yes,’ he would coo boastfully, ‘pigeon can climb. There is no longer the need for flight.’ Centuries later the pigeon-kin would be living alongside the squirrel-kin as equals in every measure. Or well they would if squirrel-kin could fly. And really fly, as opposed to that ‘jump from a great height and drift’ sort of thing some of their kind can do. So with that in mind Alphonse supposed the two kin would never be equals in every measure. It would definitely be favoured heavily towards the pigeon-kin. Nevertheless, his descendants would recall Father Alphonse The Tree Climber, first of his kind, breaker of conventions, intrepid revolutionary of all pigeon-kin.
In his daydream he narrowly avoided a lamppost and swerved just in time, crash landing into a bush. Maybe his ambitions were a little fanciful to consider quite yet.
The goal was set, and now he had to find a way of achieving it. Several thoughts passed through his pigeon-head, but the one that made the most sense was to approach the squirrel-kin. To observe their ways and seek their wisdom. To become squirrel-kin, one must think as squirrel-kin, act as squirrel-kin, completely immerse yourself to the experience of squirrel-kin. And that started, as everyone knew, in the Park.
The night was rough. It turns out that squirrels were not the most nocturnal of creatures, and Alphonse wanted to make a good impression and not barge into their nests (do squirrel-kin even have nests, Alphonse considered. If not, then this may be a little more difficult than he had planned) whilst they slept. As such he found a branch on a tree close to the trunk, propped himself in as he didn’t have the time to prepare a nest of his own, and slept poorly.
The following morning he perched on the park bench and watched the bin, patiently waiting for a squirrel to delve in. He watched and waited, but when non of the little creatures presented themselves, Alphonse decided he would have to learn the hard way. Time was running out, and to his logic the fact that a bin was significantly smaller than a tree meant it would be an easier task.
The bin in question was, for lack of a better word, roofed. It was a solid, cuboid case of metal with one opening on each of the four sides through which the squirrel-kin would weave and dive effortlessly. Recalling the display from the day before, Alphonse decided that the best way forward was just to give it a go.
Cautiously he flew over to the bin and landed on the hood, self conscious and sheepish as he landed, knowing full well that he was a pigeon acting out of character. When on the hood of the bin, he looked about himself, taking in the surroundings before closing his eyes to meditate on the movement he had seen the day before. From within his inner-eyes he visualised the squirrels movements. Though it was a blur to recall, and fast enough to seem like a weightless flow, he slowed down the movements and broke them down step by step.
First, the squirrel went from an upright position to a low position, body flat against the hood, his head over the edge, his grabbers taking purchase. Ah. There was the first challenge. Grabbers not flappers, as Brother Jeremy had reminded him. Well, it was best to ignore that for now.
Next the squirrel in his mind’s eye flowed forward and under the hood; it’s body following it’s head in a perfect flow. His feet and grabbers clawing as he performed the movement with utmost confidence. Again. Flappers not grabbers. Still, determination made him continue.
The next step was the flow into the bin propper through the opening. The creature had somehow twisted his body around to find footholds on the lip of the opening, and in one fluid movement it’s body had entered the bin. Alphonse opened his eyes. How did it do that? He stepped forward and looked at the bin opening below him. No, no, he told himself, you’re overthinking it, you need to have faith in your movements become the squirrel.
He righted himself again. Closed his eyes. Removed all shred of doubt from his mind. Took a deep breath.
And went for it.
Well… the first time never counts.
For the first four attempts, the pigeon simply ran off the bin top, flapping wildly as he fell to the ground. The next few times he managed to jam his left wing into the opening, but fell straight out again. One time he managed to jam his right wing in, followed by his beak. Still he fell. Humans and other creatures stood around watching this show of deluded determination as a pigeon tried time and again to slide his way into the bin-propper.
Overcome with frustration, Alphonse chose to attempt if from different angles, eventually coming to a new conclusion; it may be that entering the bin from the outside was more difficult than exiting from the inside.
With many attempts at flying into the bin from a distance – several times almost striking passers by, one time flying straight through one opening and out the other, but more times than not he failed by flying straight into the metal casing, almost causing a broken neck and broken wing on several occasions, he finally made it into the bin. Here he discovered quite early that he was wrong. Getting out of the bin proved a lot more difficult that getting in.
After a few hours as a concentrated flapping mess, he had worn himself out. Alphonse lay panting at the bottom of the bin seriously considering his poor fortune (though sometimes people would throw a tasty treat into the bin, so you win some and you lose some), when at long last a squirrel entered and instantly screamed with terror and escaped again.
A moment passed. The squirrel tried his chances again. And again, upon seeing poor Alphonse at the bottom of the bin, let out a screech and bolted.
Another moment passed, but eventually the head of an inquisitive squirrel was sneaking a peek through the opening from above. It disappeared again, but an instant after, the squirrel had made his way through the opening and perched next to Alphonse. It tilted its head as it looked down up at the pigeon, then let out a muttering sound that sounded like an obnoxious person eating nuts with their mouth open. The muttering translated into Alphonse’s mind but in a strange, guttural language that sounded lazy yet harsh at the same time.
Alphonse cooed, ‘Sorry, understanding Squirrel-kin challenge is a fail.’
The Squirrel looked puzzled. He gestured wildly and made the same muttering noises again. And again those noises translated into nonsense in Alphonse’s mind. This was going to be harder than he had expected. The squirrel must have read this from his expression, and planted his palm to his forehead.
Alphonse gestured to the opening with one wrong and cooed slowly. ‘I… would like… to get out. Could… you …. Help me… please?’
The squirrel darted around the pigeon, sizing him up, then shot up to the opening. He looked back, gave a wave as though to say ‘follow me’ then exited the bin.
Alphonse sighed. ‘I would if I could’ he said to no one in particular.
The rodent’s head popped through the opening again. Waved again. So Alphonse tried again. He flapped as much as he could in the confined space, hitting his wings against the bin’s sides as he clumsily raised himself up. He made it to the top of the bin, but could not find an angle by which to pass through the opening. He gave up and came to rest at the bottom of the bin again.
The squirrel had watched all of this with a mix of intrigue and horror plastered to his face. In an instant he was by Alphonse’s side again, sizing him up from every angle and ranting and raving in his guttural language to no one but itself, arms flailing manically as he gestured. Then suddenly he stopped and stared Alphonse in the eye. Through his muttering and careful gesturing, he seemed to suggest Alphonse tried again, then placed a small and on the pigeon’s shoulder and nodded with a smile. Alphonse blinked blankly at the little creature, and in a heartbeat it had made its way out through the opening onto the top of the bin.
After a moment to contemplate his position, Alphonse tried again. He spread out his wings and gave it all he had. He raised himself up to the top of the bin, staring out to freedom, yet unable to grasp it. And then in an instant, the squirrel was flying through the opening and shoulder barged Alphonse square in the beak.
Zak often sat in the park alone after school. It wasn’t that didn’t have friends, more that he likes his personal space, and the park bench was the best place for that. He was the sort of kid who liked hard-hitting German House, a form of music his older brother got him into. Today he put on his over-sized over-ear headphones and put the volume to a little bit under maximum – he didn’t want to ruin his hearing at the age of sixteen.
He rustled about in his school bag and fished out a half eaten ham and cheese sandwich when the squirrel perched on the bin opposite him caught his eye. He smiled at the little creature.
Just as Zak bit into his sandwich, the squirrel made a terribly quick movement. It shot into the bin from one side, and out of the other came… a wildly flailing pigeon.
The mouthful of sandwich fell from Zak’s open mouth.