I have never heard a lullaby, never witnessed a mother rock her child to sleep whilst humming a repetitive rhyme. Yet still I am attempting to sing a lullaby to this baby. This type of song feels unnatural to me. My songs are those of passion, of ecstasy and despair, sung in desperation to lure sailors to their deaths. But now I am singing of tranquillity, trying to comfort and calm, rather than provoke frenzy. It is surprisingly difficult. My voice keeps wanting to soar to piercingly high notes, or to crescendo into a screech of battle. Yet I rein myself in, forcing myself to repeat a few notes over and over to create a simple, soothing tune.
Much to my relief, after a few minutes, the baby stops. An expression akin to wonder suffuses its features. It simply stares at me with its large, soulful eyes, mouth slightly ajar. I can still feel my heart pounding fast, the panic and fear of discovery only now beginning to fade. As there is no sign of my sisters; no rush of beating wings; harsh cackling calls; or dark shapes in the sky, I assume we are safe.
I stand, unable to stay crouching over the child any longer without my legs cramping. As I come to my feet, flecks of filth float from my feathers, and I am reminded that I am still covered with the evidence of the slaughter this morning. Now that I have noticed, I seem to feel the dirt clinging to the creases of my body, the dust coating my feathers, and, worst of all, the blood seeping into the pores of my face. After all, I had flown to this secluded rockpool to bathe.
With my eyes fixed firmly on the infant, I begin to move backwards, singing softly to keep it calm. It whimpers a little but does not begin crying again. I take a few more steps backward, till I am standing in the rockpool, submerged to my waist. With joy, I begin to cleanse the accumulated grime from my body, and scrub my face till it begins to feel sore.
I emerge a while later, allowing the last drips of water to stream down my feathers, silver in the moonlight. It felt good to be clean again, my feathers sleek and shiny, my skin smooth, and my talons unstained. It made me feel less monstrous, more human.
The infant is still watching me, curious as any young creature is. I walk slowly over to where it is still lying, bundled up by the young man's body. Very carefully, I reach out towards the baby, ready to pull back at the slightest whimper. I start to sing again, hoping that will help. The baby's gaze no longer focuses on the talons, but on my human face, and to my surprise it remains calm while I lay my talons against its sides. Gently, I lift the baby, swaddling and all, and bring it close to me, nestling it against my feathers.
The baby snuggles closer to me, seeking the warmth of my body. I should not have left it lying on the damp ground for so long, and yet, I had had no idea how cold the tiny thing would get. Indeed, there was a lot I did not know about how to take care of an infant. A lot it seemed that I would have to learn, at least temporarily. Yet one question kept ringing in my head.
What do I do now?
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