Sometime Last Week: Chapter 5

You Caught Me Monologuing


I have asked the birds what this is all about, and Henwyn, at least, has been helpful. She agreed to come down out of the attic for a chat. And now she is telling me about the flock’s journey to this house from their world in search of the Margravine. Though they speak to each other when I am near, I get the idea that the birds don’t always use words when they communicate to each other, but something about me or being in this world forces them into new ways of thinking. Henwyn often seems confused or frustrated when trying to tell me something, but then her eyes suddenly clear and the words flow.


Apparently, the Margravine was like a queen, or God, or wizard, or all three. And, the birds are her followers? Priests? Floundering Dependents? Anyway, they’re here to find the Margravine and take her back to their world so it stops falling apart. Henwyn thinks that taking the Margravine back will stop the Earth from falling apart too. From what the box said, and what I felt, I agree with her. But Henwyn also says that the bones in the box are the Margravine, and if that’s so, why did the box come to me? Why not just appear in the attic where the birds could pick her up and fly away home as quickly as possible?


Somehow I think there is more to this than what Henwyn is telling me. And she’s still telling me. It’s like she’s just now figured out how much fun it is to talk. I wonder if the birds really actually talked before they came here? Henwyn also flips her tail and ruffles her wings at me while she speaks, like I should understand what that means. Maybe one day Fireflight, or I guess it would have been Nevermore, the raven, cocked her head, flipped a wing, and voilà! The whole flock decided to cross dimensions and invade my attic. Maybe that’s why Fireflight doesn’t talk to me. Maybe he has been talking and I just didn’t get it.


“… seem pompous, but he just wants what’s best for the flock, so don’t hold it against him, dear. Fireflight really is a good leader.” Henwyn continues her monologue. “We really were relieved when Nevermore went back home. She was great at starting this journey, but you know how some people are. She just ran out of steam once we arrived. And now, we have the box, so we can finally move forward, right?” She’s really on a roll, and barely glances at me to see if I’ll answer. I don’t. “Soon, we’ll have our Margravine home safe, and you can get back to your normal life. We’ll see what Fireflight says, but I think the flock will be out of your attic as quickly as tomorrow.”


Again, I don’t disagree with her. Instead I want to ask one of the questions the box wouldn’t answer. “What am I supposed to do?”


“Nothing, dear. I think the box had to appear to someone of this world because it’s been here so long that we of the flock wouldn’t have recognized it.” She looks away when she says this, and I don’t believe her.


So, I ask another question, “Why did the Margravine come to Earth?”


She’s flustered. Her feet move on the back of the kitchen chair she is standing on. Shoulders hunch, and then relax. She finds the words, and the will, to tell me. I take a bite of my cereal and wait for the story to begin.


“A long time ago, long before I or any of the flock was born, the Margravine left our world. The birds of that time were sad but not really surprised. They knew the Margravine wasn’t happy in her world. And they could still feel her, still hear her spirit, no matter where she went. So, they wished her strength on her journey and went back to their homes and lives not very changed for the loss. However, a few of the birds worried about why the Margravine left, and what would happen if she stayed away. They began to meet together to ask the Margravine why she left, and what she was doing now.”


I interrupt Henwyn, “But if she had already left, how could they ask her these questions?” She blinks her eyes at me and it’s obvious she’s having trouble wrapping her head around this revelation of my ignorance. Another bite of soggy cereal, and she continues the story.


“I don’t know how it is on this world, but in my home, all the birds understand all the other birds. It is hard to explain, but we are connected by the Margravine and the Duke and the Fool. So, of course we can speak to them at any time, in any place. Still, as the years have gone by, we have become somewhat rusty at communicating with the Margravine. In fact, that became one of the purposes of the Esteemed Flock; we work to keep ourselves in practice. Many of us are still not very good at it. And these days, no one outside of the flock even tries. But let’s get back to what I was saying.


“Those few who worried discovered that the Margravine was looking for someone. She left our world because she was lonely. They kept in touch with her, even as the people of our world grew further and further from not only the Margravine, but all three of our Founders. Generations came and went. The few passed on their knowledge and passion to younger birds, and they continued to follow the Margravine’s travels vicariously. She went from our world out into the spaces. There, she met no one but saw many beautiful sights. The few who spoke to her wondered at the things she showed them. They were fascinated and constantly asked the Margravine about the spaces and how they worked and why they were. As always, the Margravine was very patient with us, her children, and perhaps even discovered things she herself wouldn’t have looked into without our questions. That was a fantastic time in our world’s history. These few shared the words of the Margravine with others who were too busy to speak to her themselves, and many of the birds turned what was discovered into useful tools and entertainments that benefited our world to no end.


“But, soon, the Margravine exhausted the realms of the spaces, and because she found no one to be her consort, she left. Again, the world was sad, but we adjusted. The inventions the Margravine left behind her sustained us quite happily. Again, few even noticed that it was harder to communicate with the Margravine now that she was farther away. I don’t think anyone noticed that it became harder to communicate with each other too. It was some time later, when we looked back at how the birds were before, that we realized how far we have fallen. As you can imagine, over much time, the group of a few grew in numbers and complexity. Eventually, the world stopped caring at all, and the few wrapped themselves in melancholy and perseverance, becoming what we call the Esteemed Flock. Now, we are a way of life and a self-sustaining whole that can not only listen to the Margravine, but also act on her behalf.


“When she left the spaces, some of the few couldn’t contact her at all, and others found it very difficult. They had to reduce distractions and spend a lot of time just thinking about what the Margravine had said and done in the past in order to keep her connection fresh. Of the cohort that sits in your attic, Fireflight has perhaps the strongest connection to the Margravine. However, all of the magistrates, and a good percentage of the Flock, keep their thoughts attuned.”


“What are magistrates?” I interrupt again. My cereal is finished, and I get up to put on some coffee.


Henwyn chuckles, a funny clacking of her beak, “I, my dear, am the Empirical Magistrate of Care and Forward Thinking. It sounds much more cumbersome here than it did back home. I suppose you could call me a manager, or a mother, or perhaps a teacher. The Mohawk is His Highness, the Magistrate of Confluence and Resolution. And Sybil is obviously the Executive Magistrate of Admin-”


Suddenly, The Mohawk is flopping on the table in front of Henwyn quite furiously. He’s not using many words but I gather that he doesn’t think Henwyn should be talking to me.


“What are you doing!?” He finally spits out, with a tail wiggle I’m glad is directed at Henwyn and not me. Henwyn squints down at him from her chair back, and doesn’t answer. “The human! Why are you telling the human all these, these, these private details of our lives?” he stutters. I have decided to pour the coffee and ignore The Mohawk, since he wants to act like I’m not here.


This coffee is good. I wonder if my mother would drink some. She hasn’t eaten today but she says sometimes the smell of coffee perks up her appetite. I put a granola bar on the saucer with another cup and walk silently past the ruffled Mohawk. He doesn’t stop yelling in Henwyn’s unperturbed face. I wonder if she’s tuned him out too.


Louise Warren


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