|The Transformation Story Archive||Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...|
It was a bright English Summer afternoon when the seagull landed on the boy's bedroom windowsill. Carefully he peered into the relative darkness, to make out the shape of a most unremarkable 11-year old boy fast asleep on his bed. Curiously, the gull cocked his head a moment- so much promise in so ordinary a package!- and flapped gently over to perch on the headboard. Then, composing himself, the gull gently closed his eyes and joined the child in his dreams...
The boy became aware slowly that he was no longer alone. First there was a presence beside him, then a shape of whiteness chasing out the chaotic images of toy soldiery that had been idly pouring through his young unconscious brain. Then he was aware, yet in a dream. It was something he'd never experienced before, yet somehow the most natural thing in the world. And when the Seagull spoke, it didn't seem odd at all.
"Young man, I have come to show you some things. Will you accompany me on a short journey?"
There some mystic quality about this gull, the boy thought, something that inspired trust, but also didn't brook argument. "Well," he replied, "I suppose so. Should I tell my Mum I'll be gone?"
The gull seemed to smile, though it's beak was of course immobile. "No, child," he replied. ""No one will even know you've been gone. Stand still, now. You've a long way to fly today, and we've got to get you ready."
"Yes, of course. Hold still." And the seagull rocked his head this way and that for a moment, until the boy laughed a little at funny way the bird was looking at him. But then, he felt a gentle tickling over his body, and shrinking and swelling sensations all through his body. Then the world seemed to grow, as his viewpoint shrank. Presently, he too was a gull, prancing about fearfully on his now-empty bed.
"Awck!" he cried in fear, trying to speak. "Awck!"
"Shh! Shush, now!" the Seagull said. "You can't talk, I'm afraid. But stay with me, close under my wing, and do as I say. I promise, you won't be hurt, though some of what I show you will be very, very frightening. Are you all right, then?"
"Awk!" said the boy, a little more calmly this time.
"Good, then. Spread your wings, yes that's the lad. Now, on our way!"
And the two birds, one still somewhat clumsily, flapped into the sunshine.
Presently, as the boy grew more confident he looked around him, and saw the world in ways that only the daring balloonists had ever experienced before. There was the village down the road! And there was the wood he explored on dull afternoons, playing at shooting Afghans. And over there was the little brook...
But almost immediately, things became blurry and the muscles in his chest began to ache as he traveled impossible distances with each wingbeat. The world grew blurrier and blurrier, until...
...it returned into focus, in a place clearly far away. The boy looked about him, trying to find a clue, a hint to orient himself by, but even the plants were strange. Below him, soldiers in khaki with odd-looking rifles formed up as others dressed like farmers on ponies came on from several directions. A fight began, and one young officer with an even odder looking handgun, like nothing the boy had ever seen, took charge quite easily and naturally. The men in khaki stood, and the pony-mounted farmers faded back into the veldt...
The picture blurred, and again the boy's wings strained until...
...they swooped over another strange place with no landmarks the boy knew. This time, though, he knew the uniforms worn by so many of the men, both dead and alive. They were Americans, in the traditional dark blue, though it was so hot that it was clear the wounded were suffering greatly. Not all of these latter wore blue- "Agua!" cried some of the others as stretcher-bearers rushed about trying to treat the fallen of both sides. A fight raged in the distance, but here stood the same man with the same pistol the boy had seen earlier, this time not taking charge but rather trying to take in everything around him on a notepad. Clearly, he was deeply impressed by what he saw, and from time to time as the boy and the Seagull circled above the young man he would lower his notepad and simply shake his head, overcome with the courage he had just seen displayed there.
More strained wingbeats, and...
a place the boy knew. He and the Seagull perched on a windowsill of the halls of Parliament listening to a beautiful resonating voice speaking about the need for new battleships to counter the Kaiser's growing fleet. The gull didn't let the boy listen long though, before taking flight again. This time they didn't go far, and the
was weaker. They had returned to London, but a darker, greyer one than the boy had known was possible. They landed on a different windowsill, and the same man they had been following walked up to a window across the narrow alley and gazed out, the bleakness of the city reflecting in his worried features and seemingly perpetual frown. He was older now, and looked as though he was carrying a terrible load. Finally, he spoke to those in the room behind him.
"It MUST be the Dardanelles! France is a slaughterhouse- a couple of divisions more or less will mean nothing there. But we can use our seapower to confound the Huns, and open a new front. And keep the Russians in the war as well- we can't without them, I fear, unless the Americans come in. And that's far from certain." He paused, and lit a cigar. "Yes. The Dardanelles. I will make my recommendation to the Cabinet tomorrow,"
The Seagull took flight again, and the boy reluctantly followed. He didn't want to leave, as he had just realized that the man they were following looked remarkably like Father...
This time the man was walking down a trenchline with his shoulders bowed, wearing khaki again with none too much gold braid on his shoulders. The boy didn't understand- the young man had just been so important! What had happened? But before he could learn more the air became thick again, and....
... he had returned to Parliament again. The two birds settled on the verge of the busy sidewalk, and the man stomped angrily past, head down and hands thrust deeply into his pockets. Presently a couple of younger dandies followed, laughing airily. "Do you believe it?" the first asked his companion. "More money for warships? Why, the Navy's the biggest, most useless drain on the treasury already. After the last time, we'll never go to war again!"
The second shook his head. "Poor man! I think the Dardanelles broke him- he took the blame for the whole affair, you know. No wonder he's got Germans on the brain..."
When the two had passed on, the gulls took flight again.
This time, they circled over a roaring, excited crowd. An older man with an umbrella and top hat waved a document at the crowd and declared "This means peace in our time!" The crowd roared in unison, and the umbrella waved triumphantly. The man they had been following was nowhere in sight...
London, still. But a far different one. People still bustled about, but the tension hung so thick it was palpable. People didn't smile and talk as they went about their business. Presently, the owner of a news stand turned a knob on a strange-looking box, and the magnificent voice the boy had heard address Parliament once before rang out as if by magic. He couldn't make it all out, but the ending was clear. "...let them say that THIS was their finest hour!"
With those words the old news vendor nodded, and looked more quietly resolute than the boy had ever seen even an Englishman appear before.
They took flight again, and the shifts in location came more quickly, after just glimpses of the world around them. (snap!)
Little packages falling from great mechanical birds, and London in flames below.
Tiny birds chasing and heckling the big ones, only to be chased and heckled themselves in turn.
Birds falling from the sky.
Endless meetings and conferences, with the man often seeming to be the only strong one in the room. The only source of hope.
Huge ships wrestling in the open sea, while the man waited calmly for news that too often was bad.
The man weeping alone, carrying the whole burden for the world, knowing that he dare not rest for a second...
The man again, this time in a truly happy and triumphant mood as he stood on the bridge of a great battleship and sailed blithely through a great convoy of merchantmen, sirens blaring and horns blowing in some kind of odd dih-dih-dih-dah signal while he waved ecstatically, then reversed course and sailed the length of the convoy again and yet again in an orgy of defiance and triumph...
Conferences with a man in a wheelchair and another with a moustache...
A tremendous party as church bells rang, and every man, woman and child in England seemed to take to the streets of London in wild celebration...
Black despair, as he vacated #10 Downing Street with the job unfinished...
And returned later in his old age to see his nation through changes as profound as those of war.
The boy didn't understand any of this, really. Nor was he supposed to. The Seagull knew that sometimes learning was more profound, more subtle than most teachers knew. Carefully, lovingly he guided the boy back to his bed, and returned him to his sleeping self. Pausing at the windowsill, he spoke one last time.
"Sleep well, young Winston." said the Spirit of Freedom. "Truly, you are one of my favorite sons." And with that, he flew off into the lengthening shadows and slowly gathering gloom.
Young Winston finally awoke a short time later, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and looking blurrily about his familiar room. He had had such a dream! Flying machines and strange ships and boxes that talked- what fancifulness! And turning into a bird, too! Smiling shyly, he shrugged it off and, brushing his hair into some kind of order, went looking for company.
Dedicated to the memory of Winston Churchill, 1874-1965
Sea Eagle copyright 1997 by Phil Geusz.
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