She awoke at dawn. The first touch of the sun's warmth was enough to stir her. She wriggled in her silken bed.
Long, slender legs sought room where there was none. Golden Wing, for that was her name, began a slow, steady scratching that would bare her to the blue sky. Something told her she must struggle to be free.
The time for sleep was at an end, the time for life had just begun. All things alive must yearn for the freedom of a spring wind, and Golden Wing was no exception.
She wondered how many of her friends were already alight this morning. How many of them would find Ecstasy? How many would find death?
There was no doubt in her mind, no fear. Degree by degree the sun's warmth urged her to tear herself free of her bed and be loose on the day. She deemed the wind her only consideration . . . no, there was another.
Even as her own scratching filled her tiny ears, Golden Wing could discern a more delicate music in the air, a random rhythm that was pleasant and soothing in its abstraction. So taken by this new noise was she that her curiosity overcame her primordial need to awaken, and Golden Wing paused to listen.
There it was. A sound of gurgling. A whisper.
It was speech. It was babble. There was reason in the talk, but it was a distant reason, an alien reason. The voices were saying things she could never understand. Only bits and pieces of the ceaseless chatter held any true meaning for Golden Wing. Home. Heaven. Ecstasy. Flight. Death.
Everything that was her life, she quickly realized, would be but empty promises uttered by that strange, unseen speaker so nearby, yet so distant. Its tongues were many, its patrons countless. Its poems catered to myriad souls in search of such empty promises as those delicate lips could whisper. Unlike the wind, whose promises were real, this new voice called to her with a voice against which she had no defense.
This new voice was a lure. It was a lie.
And it was as irresistible as the sweet scent of dew stricken morning glories. Repulsed by her own gullibility, Golden Wing was nonetheless aware that she had already fallen prey to the alluring spell being cast this day.
Her scratching was renewed, more intensely this time. She was a freshly sprung foal on the shelterless ground, writhing to be free of the afterbirth, struggling to stand. All hinged upon her success. Her spindly legs must be made to carry her weight, her eyes must be made to see, her body made to feel.
She must be free! She must awaken!
With a monumental effort of will, Golden Wing forced a tiny hole in her silken bed. Uncovered, the sun at last beat down upon her flesh directly. Sunlight's touch hardened her. She yearned for more.
Slowly, rip by minute rip, the hole broadened. Before long it was a jagged tear in the fabric of her chrysalis.
For the first time her new eyes could see past her downy cell, could survey the lush greenery of life's garden. One long, delicate leg was freed. Given leverage now, the going was easier.
Another leg followed. Then another. Three more.
Now she drew forth her thorax. Her flesh was soft and pliable, unhardened yet by the full touch of Sol. Carefully, instinctively, she found purchase on the tattered outer surface of her once warm, now chilled sarcophagus.
A virgin to the wind, Golden wing was released. Sensations of pleasure and pain gripped her almost immediately, nearly killed her. It was all happening too fast, too savagely to survive. Straightening from its long confinement, her body was racked with spasms of relief. At the same time, waves of pain flooded her nervous system, making her all too aware of each imperfection in the process of repair.
After brief seconds that seemed eternal, the majority of her pain came to an end. With it also ended the pleasures of the wind's first embrace, the sun's first greeting. Already Golden Wing was being conditioned to the extremes of her life.
She was disturbed by an unfamiliar sound in her head. It was enormous, this racket, and it frightened her immensely. Agitated, she shifted her precarious hold on her empty home, trying to see in all directions at once.
What was this growing sound that menaced her? It had the acoustical texture of ten thousand bare tree limbs rattling in a winter storm.
Movement to the left startled Golden Wing. She jumped nervously.
Now there was movement to the right. She jumped in the opposite direction.
Her fate seemed bleak. She was surrounded.
Then the wind caught something stiff at her back. The tempest sucked at her, harder and harder. There was no control, her grip could not last. Each gust was a hammer fall, each breeze a relentless opponent.
Ultimately, she was wrenched free of her perch. Golden Wing instinctively flailed every appendage of her fragile body to stem her fall. There was a flutter at her back, and that something stiff caught the turbulent air. She jerked against this resistance. Her descent slowed. She jerked again and again. Golden Wing quickly realized the potential of her wings and was no longer afraid. She beat them frantically to rise toward the golden orb of the sun, a distant eye that admired her and that she so admired.
Taking her first unhindered look at the world, Golden Wing was finally able to put faces to all the unnamed things that had intrigued her sleep. A base rhythm caught her ears, and she spun in the blue sky to seek its source.
It was a throaty noise, full of pomp and posture. Movement in the grass caught her eye, and the noise maker leapt into full view. In her restless dreams, Golden Wing had envisioned this beast to be grand and menacing, as judged from the sound of its voice. But it was simply a roughly hewn lump of flesh, camouflaged by the texture and color of its skin to resemble a lifeless clump of dirt. Again its base tones filled the air.
Whom was it calling? What did its song mean? Was it friend or enemy?