She stood under a low awning that smelled of wood, head up, eyes alert. She had placed herself on a patch of land that curled to bite its tail – a patch to where they regularly flocked. In a few moments, she would hear their chatter swell around her, like the spouting water of the round dew tree. They would swing their lardy limbs through the middle of the path, baring their teeth and grunting at one another. They would undoubtedly look down on her.
But her kind was built on perseverance. Generations of generations of her kin had made this rectangular forest, from the gaps between its toes to those between its hair follicles, their homes. Though her loved ones fought and fell to disease every day, she knew she was part of a warrior race. All it took was sitting in her nest, watching those wingless creatures spin through their monochrome world – squabbling, drifting along gray, flat horizons, compressing themselves into moving boxes, sunrise to sunset – to understand that. Looking one way from where she nestled, she would see cloud pictures painted with wingtips, hear cooing orchestras performing in the streets, and read traces of history within the white flecks beneath those creatures’ scuffling feet. Down the other way: angry shapes rounding jagged edges. In and out. In and out. That’s when sleep would come.
Now, the creatures came bustling in, from all sides. There was a tall one with a movable, spider-like nest, with a baby fixed to its center. There was a young one controlling sound with some talon-sized apparatus. There was a group of shrieking, frolicking small ones, making shiny, floating balls – magic – with tiny yellow sticks.
They had built these towering structures from rubble. They were bigger. Stronger. More capable than she could ever imagine. But they were flashy. Restless. Cantankerous, gluttonous, envious. Their beauty ended where their greed began. Yes, she thought as she scoped out a target, the odd weed just barely, barely brushing sunlight…the quiet mosquito frisking to settle still water…the lone dove choking on a chewed wad of – something or other…They were the ones who knew the beauty of living to the end of a day. The tailless creatures, with their endless supply of things, claimed to be warriors. But it was the low-lifers, strugglers and survivors who knew each quivering leaf, each soiled feather, and each laborious breath to be a work of art. We are the true warriors. She ruffled her plumage. Suddenly, the awning above her sagged. Her gaze darted to the two fabric-laden cylinders – chunks of flesh, she realized, as she snapped back into focus from her daydreams – which had materialized inches away from her. Barring her. Caging her. Scattering the sunlight. She smirked.
Rats, bugs, pigeons, vermin; we are the true warriors.