I’d have never thought it possible: to be scared and cold and hungry and alone; to realize you’re scared, cold, hungry and alone; to still somehow be unaware of the enormity of it all. Only when you’re safe again do you comprehend how much peril you faced.
It began yesterday afternoon. Something about the shadows as we started into the house terrified me, and I flew blindly away. Pushed by the tumult of my fear, I whizzed through the yard and across a field. When I finally tired, I found myself in an alien place, unlike anywhere I’d ever been. There were huge ferns and tree branches every which way and giant stickery bushes. And somehow I’d crossed water, water that gushed and roared, but not loudly enough to drown out all the chirking, chee-cheeing of the wild things hiding around me.
I live with my aunties, and they were calling me. “Heena, Heena, where are you,” they called.
“Here. Here,” I shouted.
They heard me, but they couldn’t see me. I was too hidden in those bushes. They are elderly, these aunties, and not graceful at all. They stumbled over the rough ground. They tripped on vines. They got close and then farther away and then close again.
“Here. Here,” I kept shouting. And then I quit shouting, because there were scary creatures everywhere. I wanted to be found, but not by those strange things in the woods.
And the aunties went away. I ran along the riverbank and found a spot that seemed safe, a little cave-like place formed by fallen trees and collapsing banks. I crouched there.
One auntie returned. She called for me some more, and I called back. Then some other, strange voice was calling. She called my name, but I didn’t know that voice, and it scared me. It seemed little different than the wild voices I heard in the bushes. Still I called a few times. And the strange voice and auntie’s voice called to each other, one on each side of the river. And between them, they figured I was calling from there, near the water, and not from the big trees rising up the hill beyond the river.
But it was the strange voice that came near. I just didn’t know that voice. And so I ducked back in my hole. I stayed very quiet, and I didn’t move.
They went away and I was alone again. Except for the noisy creatures and the loud river.
It got late. The sky lost its brilliance and then covered its face with clouds. I shivered in despair in my little hidey hole.
The aunties returned. They bashed about in the brush. I answered back when they called despite all their distressing noise. But they didn’t come. “Come to us,” they called.
“Here. Here,” I called back. Couldn’t they understand I was stuck? A river roared before me and a bank rose behind. The ground was slick and scary underfoot. “Here. Here,” I shrilled as loudly as I could.
But they went away again. All the light disappeared then, and all warmth. A terrible racket arose farther down the river. A gazillion frogs, I learned later.
I was so hungry. So cold. Then wetness oozed from the sky, catching on branches and landing on me in big drops. I huddled far back in my little cave. Night lasted forever.
At last light returned. And an auntie. She called and called. I answered and answered.
“Come to me,” she said. “I can’t get through these trees and stickers and branches everywhere. And I can’t see you.”
Well I couldn’t come to her. I was stuck. I inched alongside the river to try to find a way to her. Nothing. I went the other way. No way out. I called and called. The wetness came again from the skies, but she stayed for a long time. She couldn’t get to me, though, and I couldn’t get to her.
Again she left. Again I huddled. Again she returned. She was riding on a noisy machine, and she went crashing into the bushes in it, in several places up and down the river. She parked, far away from my spot and came walking. She was on my side of the river!
But she had made so much noise on that machine. And now she was making more, bashing through the brush, cutting things with some little clippers and then breaking through more stuff, some of it really big. And she stomped and crashed.
Finally she stopped. She called to me. If she’d known which way to stretch her arm, she could have touched me. But would those big bashing feet hurt me? Would hands that broke through brush break me, too? I held my silence.
She left yet again, she and her noise and her machine.
The day dragged on. It only got wetter and dimmer. Darkness neared. Could I survive another night? Could I live through the cold? Through wild night-creatures reemerging?
Another stranger arrived, calling my name. She brought some of my familiar things with her, but she was looking in all the wrong places. And she brought dogs! I really hunkered down.
Then the auntie came again on her machine. She called. I answered. I had to take the chance, because the night lurked.
The stranger came to my side of the river, where Auntie had been earlier. And ohmygawd. The dogs jumped everywhere. One of them barked in my direction. Then they both were right there! They bounded toward me! They jumped right in my face!
I flew in fear, just like the first time, blindly, anywhere. And I found myself in the river. I can’t swim. The current pulled, dragging me away.
But the stranger yelled at the dogs, and they quit pursuing me. And she jumped in the water and grabbed me up.
I didn’t know if I was safe. But it sure felt a lot safer than a minute earlier. And a lot warmer: she had bundled me into her jacket, and I leaned into her warm chest.
And then there was Auntie! I was safe! The stranger still held me, but Auntie’s voice calmed me. And in a flash we were home. In the house, in warmth. Next thing you know, Auntie was holding me and talking to me and feeding me.
“No more adventures like that!” Auntie said. “We almost lost you.”
I agreed. No more adventures. I have no experience in such wild things. After all, I’m only seven months old.
My name is Heena, and I’m a gray cockatiel. And I’m secure in my little basket in my cage.