1.5: Songbird

Nuria ambles through a field of dense high grass, the top of her head barely rising over the horizon. She pays no mind to the lower blades smacking her in the face, instead focusing on the journal in her hands. The pen she carries mercilessly crosses out and scribbles new lines.

“I’m racing right round this bridge
Can’t let them distract me with rage
They’ll try and push me over the edge
But I’m gonna break down these cages”

     Nuria rehearses the lines over and over with the whisper of a soprano tone. She tries to disguise her discomfort as she sings, but her constant looking around betrays her insecurities. After several renditions, she slashes through the first three lines.

     I can do better.

     The exercise of hers continues well beyond her trek through the grass field. The young woman traverses a mossy creek with mud banks on both sides, a hill with labyrinthine pathways, and lastly through a swamp. For the latter environment, Nuria leaps from one fallen log to the other, avoiding the murky water. She slips on the moss of the final log, temporarily losing grip of her journal.

     Nuria’s heart races as she dives in to keep the journal dry. Swiftly she removes her backpack and sweeps it through the air, catching the journal in the nick of time. She drives into the momentum and tosses her backpack up onto the dry bank. Her heart rate only elevates more when her backpack lands beside the scaly legs of an alligator. Nuria sees the beast advancing toward the water just as she falls beneath the surface. The scene goes eerily silent after the gator descends beneath the surface, as well.

     Faster and faster, bubbles rise and pop on the surface. A pair of entangled shadows rise nearer the surface, exploding out of the water with lethal enthusiasm. Nuria holds the gator’s jaws wide open as they thrash about in the water. With the gator’s forelegs reaching out to slash Nuria, however, it appears she’s the one with the upper hand, and the gator wishes to flee.

     Nuria keeps the gator’s jaws apart with an impressive hold, backing up toward the shore, which gives her the high ground. She throws her hands up high, and in doing so the gator’s maw. She lands a kick in the beast’s underbelly, knocking it through one of the logs and into the murky swamp.

     Nuria turns and lifts her backpack off the ground, racing away from the swamp with all her might. Despite the rush of adrenaline through her body, Nuria smiles, which leads to a fit of laughter.

     I can’t wait to tell Rum about this.

     As if her thoughts summoned her brother’s presence, a train whistle reverberates throughout the area. Nuria screeches to a halt, the soles of her shoes grinding against the now dry earth.

     Nuria climbs up a skinny tree, finding the only suitable roost halfway to the canopy. There’s gotta be a faster way to do this.

     Squinting, she peers all around, finally capturing sight of the train through the noon sun’s reflection off the metal cars. As soon as she sees the train, it vanishes behind a wall of trees. The next whistle sounds further away. Nuria grins and leans back on her arms. Looks like he’ll beat me there after all. Hope he didn’t forget my stuff.

     Nuria yawns and her arms wobble. Damn, it’s already time for another one. Nuria plops another seed into her palm. Then again, I did wrestle a gator into submission. She sighs before tossing the seed down her throat. In a flash, her strength rejuvenates, and her exhaustion lessens. She rises with a hop.

     Nuria takes a moment to retrieve her journal, finding it sticky with a couple of mud stains. She flips it open to the spot where her pen rests between pages. The damp pages display smeared ink, but the two somewhat visible words that haven’t been crossed out are “breaking” and “cages”. Guess I’ll have to start from scratch, Nuria thinks with a sigh. Just like before, Nuria leans back to nosedive toward the ground.

She flinches when she sees the same alligator is awaiting her below, hissing as it opens its jaw wide.