The morning was bleak and cold. The first few breaths of the new born spring had started to awaken the land from its slumber. Tendrils of green were now visible perforating the thin veil of white that crowned the land. Wherever the lazy sunlight had kissed the land, now there were small patches of color midst the grim white. A pine tree, that had shed its cloak of snow, now stood majestic and green in the still and desolate landscape.
Wait. It wasn’t all too silent. No, some sound was emanating from the tree.
Two distinct yet similar sounds resounded through its branches. The sounds whispered new life. Two tiny chicks chirped in their rudimentary nest. Settled midst the broken egg shells and the feathers of a mother, whose calls would never be heard again, the two brothers waited in the cold, huddling together to find warmth. Though the worst of the winter had passed, the cold was still severe enough to stop their tiny hearts. In the nest was another chick, who had been claimed by the cold, and now lay there motionless, eyes unseeing into the distance, skin turned pale and blue in the merciless grasp of the winter, feathers wilted away, its neck bent at an angle that seemed inappropriate for the little chick.
The two brothers chirped away, calling to their mother for food, but their cries faded away into the wind just as the mother had faded away into the unknown.
Days lapsed. The little chicks couldn’t bear the pangs of starvation any longer; and as the crude primordial instinct for survival dominated all others, the chicks fed on the carcass of their brother. They fed on the gruesome decaying carcass for days, nibbling off a bit of the bloody mess each time, not recognizing that the creature whose blood now marred their beaks had in fact been in the same nest as the other two and been laid by the same mother. The only difference was that fate chose him, and not one of the other two, to become one with death.
Soon they become accustomed to the taste of the flesh of their brethren. They survived the days because of their ill starred brother. Soon they grew up to be fine young birds, from feeble curled talons they grew. Brothers forever, they thought they would be.
The dice of fate rolled once again and in a stormy summer night, the two were torn from one another, as their branch snapped in the gales. They were torn apart, send whirling through the night to different lands. Separated from their only companions. Solitude without respite. Loneliness beyond compare.
Each yearned for his brother, and they both gazed into the horizon at dusk hoping that the other would return. Each waiting to hear a certain song. The song of the other’s calls. The song that reeked belonging. Each wanted the other, to find a sense of respite from the despondency they felt inside.
Months dissolved into years and neither of them found the other. The longing had now become an absolute need. Each was frantic to find the other. They flew over vast expanses, through all weathers, never ceasing the search. It had reduced them to feathers and bones, not eating or resting properly because of the madness that gripped them now.
They ate whatever little they could find, rested only when fatigue churned their minds into oblivion. But neither stopped searching. All the bloodied wounds would fade. All the pain would end. Only if each found where his brother was.
One was always stronger than the other. Right from the start. Always superior. Though both were equally broken and tired, one had more power to resist giving up than the other. His talons were sharper, muscles more powerful, beak more poised to tear flesh from bone. Yet both were nearing death. Age had taken its toll on them. They had almost lost their eyesight. The cold was fiercer against their bones now. The wind more numbing than it had ever been. Bones and thoughts had turned old now. Their feathers burned, cold and lost.
The stronger one now flew drearily over the plains with leaden wings and an anguished heart. The sun failed to warm his blood now. He knew his end was near. Soon the bird of death would come and fly him to the blackest nest of all. There he would rest for evermore.
His feeble stomach growled with hunger. He realized then that he had last eaten four days ago and that too just a few bugs. Not enough to give him the energy he required for the rest of his search. But he knew he couldn’t stop looking. Couldn’t stop searching. He had to find something to eat before he fainted with fatigue.
He flew for a few more hours, his fragile frame aching with every lap of wings. It was almost as if every beat of his bleeding heart was a punishment filled with nothing but hurt and desperation. Later he finally found something that he could eat. A small bird was flying towards the south. It looked ill and tired. A potential target. His eyesight was failing him but he could hazily make out that it was a small bird, probably a chick or an old bird. He did not know who the bird was or even what bird it was.
But he again felt the sensation he had felt all those years ago in the cold nest on that wintry night. The feeling of despair overwhelming the senses and the crude hunger of survival breaking through. Though he never ate other birds, he couldn’t bear it any longer. For surviving and continuing his desperate search for his brother he had to snub out the candle of the little bird.
The strong talons tore at the flesh of the helpless bird, tearing away skin from the feathered mass. Blood splattered on the ground and he sat down to consume his kill. The little bird did not cry out even once or resist. Life was torn out of him before he could react.
As the sun began to sink behind the mountains, casting crimson over the landscape, the strong bird ate his fill. He was no stranger to the taste of his brethren. The blood reminded him of the night when he and his brother had survived against all odds, taking life from the wings of death. Suddenly he felt immense misery. The thought brought back the feeling of loneliness and desperation without his brother. He needed to find his brother at any cost. He took another bite while he pondered. A new resolute filled his heart. The next morning he would do all he could to find his brother. The next morning he felt that they would be reunited once more.
He felt that next morning his brother would fly over the horizon, towards him, and all the years of separation would dissolve into a sense of belonging and love. He was convinced that this would be the day when fate finally blessed them both. He knew that it would happen. It surely would.
So he sat above the unfinished meal, to wait for the next morning to come and free him finally of his misery.
Above that carcass, he waited for the dawn to come. He sat to wait.
Above his brother’s corpse, he sat…to wait.