Freeing the Soul
Joanne Prokop
Ms. Kelly
Spring 2007

There is a small tribe, in the West of Africa, that believes in the reincarnation of the soul. It is their belief that after death, the soul lives on in the body of another being. This tribe views the human body simply as carrier of one's soul; disposable, and replaceable. The same African tribe believes in the unchanging fate of the soul. What many call destiny, they call doom. An outcome that no matter how hard it fights, no soul can avoid.

I couldn't agree more.

I waited patiently. Almost. My small heart beating in quick motions. This can't be happening. It's all too good to be true. And yet, it is. Happening, that is. It's happening.

I watched, my small white ears twitching. My eyes followed him. Followed him as he walked. From his desk, to the door, to his desk, to the door, which he exited. He exited; now so could I. I scurried towards my prison door, still amazed at my keeper's forgetfulness. Using my paws I swiftly pushed it open.

Tumbling forward I felt a floating sensation. Is this what freedom feels like? I wondered. BAM! Maybe not. Not yet at least. I looked up. I saw my prison atop the bookcase, and I ran. Out the door, through the kitchen, and into the safety of the field outside. I ignored the scream of one of my keepers yelling, "Mouse! Mouse! Help, a mouse!"

This, I conceded was what freedom felt like. I used my nose to smell things I'd never smelt before. I heard the sound of wind across the plane, and the quiet whisper of wildlife around me. I used my paws to run, and my eyes to see the new things that approached. I no longer ran to pass the time. I ran now to discover. I felt my back feet bound off the ground and my tail bounce up and down. Toes, then tail, then toes then tail again.

The dirt between my toes was dry and dusty. It formed a tiny cloud of smoke in my wake. Flashes of golden yellow and beige made my spirits feel high as I scampered across the expanse before me. I felt the warm, comforting sun beat down on my thickly furred back. I laughed towards the sky.

And then I screamed.

The pain, searing and white. I felt my insides break. I was high now. High above my new world of freedom; watching it from the sky. I watched as a single drop of my blood fell down; falling. Falling like the rain I'd watched hit the window beside the bookcase. I felt a pulling then, on a part of me I can not identify. It was pulling me away, and yet, still towards myself. Then everything turned black.

Well trained by now to the feeling of weightlessness, my insides still turned as I flew. A soft, cool breeze slid between my long, delicate feathers, and I concentrated on the various pressures upon my body. The wind pushed up against me just as I was pushed down by an invisible force. I opened my eyes and cawed. The beautiful expanse before me extended in all directions, and I found myself flying in a tight circle trying to see it all at once. My eyes flickered, left and right, and I caught sight of an open branch extending from a lone tree. I swooped down, and landed in an easy motion.

I noticed, then, the small form clutched within my talons. Without a thought, I swallowed the rodent whole. My eyes scanned the ground below me searching for even the slightest movement. I was hungry still, and I felt an great urgency to fulfill that desire.

I liked the life I was now living. I felt powerful. Stretching my wings out, I felt the muscles on my body strain. The feeling gave me such joy that with a high pitched screech I launched myself into the air. I circled the sky, and let myself enjoy the feeling of weightlessness. I let myself be free. I dipped my wings down and up repetitively; counting the strokes as I did so. I let my body be turned by this rhythmic change, and ignored the fact that I didn't have a destination in mind. Up, down, up again, then down.

The feathers against the back of my neck suddenly prickled. I glanced downward, using my wings to steer my body back around over the area I'd just passed. The world below me was dry, there was little living other than the trees and small patches of the field. Food, my body told me, find food and survive. Movement. I dove, my trained talons reaching for the furred creature crossing the open field.

I heard an echoing boom. I missed the squirrel. My wings folded under me, as the weight of my body crushed them against the ground. The cloudless sky above me began to haze. I felt a chill run through my body. It started at my heart and progressed until even the seemingly bald top of my head felt it. Cold.

"Thank god." I heard, before everything went black.

My feet carried me swiftly, and I felt the heavy weight of my recent catch bounce against my back. I ran, as I know I had many times in my life. This time though, I felt a slight fear.

I made it back to my truck, and lifted the lifeless form of the eagle into the open trunk. I watched it, with tearing eyes. The bullet, shot straight through its heart, had done the trick. I used my calloused hands to lift its wings and observe the feathers.

It was wrong, I know. But I had a family to feed, and I know a bird of prey would understand the desperation I had for food. Not that it excused the act or anything even close to the sort. I began removing its feathers.

One by one, I counted. I placed them gently into my pouch, knowing their value would deplete if bent. After the carcass had been cleaned, I placed it in the back of my pick up, hid under a tarp. I walked to the driver's side door, and climbed into the truck. I placed the bundle of feathers on the seat beside me, and began the drive towards the reserve.

I kept glancing at the rear-view mirror. What if someone saw me? What if I got caught? Yet still I drove forward. I filled up for gas twice, before I made the turn towards the reserve. I waited outside the gate, and watched curiously at the young children playing with a soccer ball. A little boy looked up, met my eyes, and smiled. They seemed so innocent, and free. I felt bitter and sad at this. There was much for them to learn about life and making a living. Innocence doesn't get you very far in the real world. I watched them a little longer, while I waited for the gate to be opened.

I walked into the center of the reserve, holding my pouch of feathers close to my side. This is the last time, I told myself. We have enough now, we can survive; I will be free. I watched as the chief slowly walked towards me; his footsteps coming in a rhythmic pounding. I watched his feet move; left, right, left, right, left again now, and stopped.

"I've collected your feathers," I said, opening my pouch to reveal its treasure.

"Where did you get them?" He asked, his words leaving his lips in a deep melodic hum.

"I found the bird near the lake. I assume it to have died of exposure, after trying to catch a fish too large for its size."

"You know this how?" My chief asked, his tone attracting some attention.

"I don't," I reply cautiously. "I only assumed it so."

"Let me have the feathers," he said, reaching out for the pouch.

"My payment first," I replied, meeting his eyes.

As the chief nodded his head, he reached for his belt pocket. I saw movement to my right. No, my mind screamed.

"Killer!" a small voice shouted.

The chief stopped, his hand poised above his purse; above freedom. He met the eyes of the young boy who had only moments earlier smiled at me. Hanging from his hands was the carcass of my bird. Did he know the reality of what he'd done?

I watched the following events in slow motion. Faces turned angry, the bird hung from the young boys hands, swinging gently, left, right, left, right. Left.

Forceful hands held me to the ground. Stupid, clumsy… captive. It was only a bird. We would have been free. I blinked. Once, twice, a third, then a fourth time.

I was escorted to the edge of the reserve. The little boy holding the soccer ball stared on as I was led out towards the open road, my bird no longer within his grasp, but instead that of the man to my right. They left me there with two tribesmen watching me. The little boy stayed inside the reserve, but watched me closely from the other side of the fence. My dead bird now sat at my feet; A wretched reminder of my entrapment.

I stared out towards the road, and after some time I noticed a cloud of dust approach. Moments later my ears echoed the sirens sound as it approached. It came to a stop before us, and within minutes an officer had placed cuffs around my wrists.

"I've nothing wrong!" I declared.

"The bald eagle is a protected animal," he ordered.

Unwilling, yet obedient, I was roughly pushed into the back seat of the car. I stared at the carpeted floor. I began in the corner, and started counting fibres. One, two, three, four. I carried on this way until we reached the police station. It felt as if my body wasn't my own. I walked, yet didn't. I was led into a cell, where my cuffs were removed, and I was locked in.

There is a small tribe, in the West of Africa, that believes in the reincarnation of the soul. It is their belief that after death, the soul lives on in the body of another being. This tribe views the human body simply as carrier of one's soul; disposable, and replaceable. The same African tribe believes in the unchanging fate of the soul. What many call destiny, they call doom. An outcome that no matter how hard it fights, no soul can avoid.

I watched from behind bars as the officers went on with their day. They were completely separate from me. To them, this was a typical day. My being here meant nothing to them, and that knowledge meant nothing to me. I simply watched. I followed them with my eyes from their desk, to the copier, to their desk, to the copier.

They were free.