Bird of Stone (c) 2005 Daphne Buter
Music by Paul A. Toth

The Bird of Stone

by Daphne Buter


I was in a labyrinth of doors. I knew there was a way out, but I also knew a creature resembling a fishy bird soared through the rooms behind the doors. I knew it was a bird of stone. If the creature found me, it would destroy me. Every time I opened a door, I entered a room with six others doors in its walls. I had to choose one of them, but behind each door was a room with six other doors. It was a never-ending labyrinth of rooms with doors.

All the walls of all the rooms were colored cerulean. I opened door after door, walking through cerulean room after cerulean room, haunted by the bird of stone. Unexpectedly, the bird of stone swam or soared through one of the walls, as the walls were no walls at all, but were made of soft tissue; and it attacked me. It sped in my direction and wrapped its beak around my face. It tried to swallow me and I fought with it until I escaped. A huge fear of death filled me. I ran from door to door into room to room but no matter what door I picked, I always entered another room with six doors.

Finally, I opened a door and all of a sudden I was no longer in the labyrinth of doors but on the shore of the North Sea. The sky was the color of dust and the sea was wild as on a stormy day, although I didn’t feel any wind blowing. I noticed I was naked and looked around me to see if anyone was on the beach, and capable of seeing my naked body. The beach was completely deserted and a thick mist covered the view. Even though there was no one there who could see me, I felt ashamed and fragile. I started to run in the direction of the untamed sea. Now I felt a strong urge to hide under the surface of the water, to hide for from the bird of stone. While I was running over the endless beach, I remembered I had nearly drowned when I was three years old, and that I had been afraid of the water since. Nevertheless, I wanted to take shelter in the gray waves that looked like hungry maws.

I ran naked through that colorless landscape of sand and mist as fast as I could. I ran until I stumbled because something grabbed my ankle. I fell and recognized a hand sticking out of the sand holding my ankle, as my mother’s hand. I squeezed her hand six times to let her know I understood she needed help and she let go of my ankle. Rapidly, I started to dig away the sand around the wrist, trying to save her, as she had been buried alive. While I was digging the sand out from around her wrist, her fingers opened and closed like petals on a flower, as a signal I had to hurry because she was suffocating. After a little while, when I had only hollowed out the sand around her elbow, her fingers stopped moving and I knew she had died in the sand and that it was my fault. I kept digging sand away, crying, and when I looked up I noticed maybe a thousand hands sticking out of the surface of the beach that were opening and closing their fingers like petals.

I looked at the sea and the waves came to rest. Above the water, the bird of stone hung motionless in the sky, its blistering eye an accusation.

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