Plight of the Peacock
It was a cloudy, gloomy evening when I first saw the peacock.
I was outside, sitting under an aspen tree, bare as bone and as gnarly as a twisted grin. The wind whistled, a low, malevolent song that shook the walls of my small home and rattled the falling leaves of the barren trees around me.
So this was it.
The fall of life. Everything seemed to fail. No birds serenaded the inhabitants of Earth, no rabbits feasted on the dying grass. I had run out of food, out of water, and I awaited death, desperately calling for this to end.
Everything seemed hopeless. Everything was lost, or so I thought at the time. It sure would've been if it wasn't for the peacock.
I still remember the moment when the wind just stopped, a pause from the onslaught of cold and the agonizing whisper of the world.
I was just getting ready to stand and greet the unknown, when I heard a long, graceful cry.
A brilliant blue and green bird flew saintly into sight. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid my eyes upon. It was a peacock, with a deep ocean blue neck, an icecap white spot around each of its earth-brown eyes, and a brilliant wave of leaf green ran from the blue to the start of its tail feathers. Oh, the tail feathers! Millions of them, so plentiful and and every feather sported a deep green, a river hue, and a deep violet, as well as other majestic shades that made me want to weep tears of joy.
I was stunned.
Utterly speechless, I watched as the bird landed in front of me and slowly spread its wings to reveal a brilliant orange and black. I gaped on as the grass turned green, as the tree drew a deep breath and straightened itself up, as flowers grew and burst into bloom. The peacock had returned the beauty of nature. It turned its head and took off, leaving a single tail feather in its place.
I walked over slowly, careful not to crush any of the beautiful flowers now shining in renewed glory. It was a long, emerald feather, shaped in a dainty way. I gently picked it up, and turned it over in my hands. Flexible yet sturdy, lightweight and portable. I quickly realized how useful this was to me.
I still remember how much I loved that feather, how it allowed me to draw gentle plots into my developed soil to delicately place seeds that I grew into my food. The precious jewels borne by my hard work of tending by watering and weeding meant life to me.
I remember, with full clarity, how the peacock had saved me again.
I had just finished harvesting my crops when the wind arrived. It blew as if it were an unstoppable wall of ferocious cold, biting at every living soul. I ran, dropping my only source of food in hope that the demon surrounding me would be lost.
As I reached the door, the wind stopped, leaves froze in midair, and my hair stood on end, like a startled cat. I slowly turned to see the peacock standing by my plants. It cocked its head slowly, as it were questioning me about the wind. I was speechless as the bird turned its head to my poor, wind torn plants. It inhaled, and blew a long, steady breath which seemed to fill all the holes in the leaves, and breathe life back into the plants.
It looked back at me, and then turned its back to one of its feathers, and with one quick move, pulled it out and walked over to where I stood frozen. It dropped the feather at my feet and took off, leaving a lasting calm in my mind, and in my small home.
This feather was a silver hue, a reminder of the monster that had attacked me before. I had no idea what I could use it for until the wind returned. Out of pure reflex, I held the feather up to the sky, and the wind stopped. I was no longer threatened by the beast that howls and throws itself against everything.
I felt invincible until the rains came.
They poured from the clouds with no sign of stopping, as if the sky was mourning the loss of a loved one, and the torrents of tears washed the rabbits from their holes, and lifted my plants out of the soil, exposing their delicate roots. I was starving after the 6th day of rain. Water was plentiful, but the fruits and vegetables I needed were gone. This would not work for much longer. The 7th day brought the thunderstorms.
Every flash of light ripped the sky open, spilling its watery innards on the soaking earth below. Each slash was followed by a howl of pain and rage from the lips of the black beast above.
I could not hold on for much longer.
The sun could never penetrate the clouds, let alone heat the planet. My house was flooded, the water rose 3 ft above the floor, and soaked everything to the bone. I could not sleep, stay warm or eat.
I was utterly doomed.
I was outside, sitting in the pouring rain, relieved that the beast above was silent and calm. Nothing seemed to be happy. All was cold, wet and hungry. Doomed.
I silently hoped that the peacock would come and save me. Just one more time. Just a little more.
As if to answer my prayers, the bird flew into sight, the clouds parting to let sunlight shine on the brilliant jem soaring through the sky.
Time seemed to freeze as the raindrops started to fall in slow motion, slowing finding their way down to earth. The bird flared its wings, and with a wave of blue light, halted the storm. The clouds disintegrated before my eyes, and broad sunlight bombarded the planet as my soil grew less and less waterlogged, until it was just moist. As if from a movie, the water in my house slithered out the door and windows, joining as soon as the serpents could. The behemoth flicked itself upward, coiled, and launched itself into the sky.
My savior stood before me, barely 3 feet tall, yet as brilliant as the sun above it. It dropped a sky blue tail feather at my feet. As I glanced towards the bird's tail feather, the peacock shook itself up, and displayed each and every one of them in front of me. The sun fit perfectly into the largest in the middle, a feather of what appeared to be pure gold. What I had not noticed before was that each feather in front of me was a different shade.
Each a different purpose.
I had realized that with each feather the bird had saved me with was given to me so I could combat the elements. The green for crops, the silver for stopping the wind. The blue for taming rain and storms. An iron feather that turned blocks into the perfect metal for building an indestructible house. My hut was crushed by a rolling boulder that again, a rusty brown feather saved me from. A white feather for protection from the snow, in any form. A black for holding off disease, an orange for taming heat.
What I never noticed was that the bird did not replace the feathers it had given me. I was always asking for a little more. Just a one more time.
Just a little more.
That line has doomed me. I kept asking for the bird's help, and the bird always came.
I asked for so much I had created a rack to hold all of the feathers, hundreds of them, each making my life perfect in a different way. I had started out with nothing, a hut made from dead grass. Now I had a fortress, indestructible, and completely armed against the elements. I had expanded my property so far I had conquered the other civilizations. They dared not rise up against me. I was so drunk on my power. So filled with it, so blinded. I could harness the elements, make them do what I please. I was utterly unstoppable.
I wanted more. I wanted to become a God.
So I asked to control the Sun.
The bird arrived just as I finished my thought, and only then did I see what I had done to it. All of its feathers were dull, their luster drained. The brilliant blue and green hues had faded, and the bird was shedding small feathers. It was falling apart, unable to provide for my greed. Only one tail feather remained; the brilliant gold that the sun fit into.
I wanted that feather desperately.
So I turned to the bird and looked it in its earth brown eye as I did many times before. The bird slowly raised its head, shaking from the effort. It looked so frail, so delicate. Almost as if the one remaining feather was its only source of life. It slowly turned its head to the golden feather, and with several attempts, pulled it free and laid it at my feet. I quickly picked it up and held it as if it was a trophy of my greatest achievement. I barely noticed as my savior sank to its knees, gasping for air. As I turned towards it, all of the my feathers on their racks turned to dust and fell as if they were loose grains of sand in an hourglass. All the bricks I had made my home from turned transparent and slipped from reality. The bird stood up slowly, and walked over to the tree where I first met it. Everything was losing color, the plants wilted and crumbled, the grass grew dry and stiff.
The peacock sat down with a sad thump, and looked at me. All the emotions of sadness, betrayal and loss flooded through me and raced through my veins, pulsing with every beat of my grieving heart as we held our gaze. I felt my eyes well up with tears, and noticed a long, silvery tear slide down the peacock's face. The tree behind it lost its leaves and shriveled back to it former stature.
The peacock stood.
It spread its wings slowly and leapt ungracefully into the dark and foreboding sky. I heard a long, lament escape the bird's beak; a cruel parody of its previous song. A lone ray of sunlight followed it, broadcasting its departure as it flew off into the rolling clouds beyond.
I am left with nothing. So I sit today, at the base of the tree, thinking. Thinking about how cruel I was to that bird. All it did was save me, and I brought complete despair and destruction to it. All it did was save me, and I turned it into a caricature of its former self.
All because of my 'Just a little more. Just one more time'.
Well, there is no more and no more times. I have brought this upon myself, and I can't get out of it. I can't summon the aid of my angel. The sun falls into the grey and dreary mass above, just as it did on the day of the bird's desperate, running plight.
I have never seen the peacock since.
A message from the Author concerning the story.
This is a story inspired by "The Tragedy of the Commons" by Garrett Hardin. I wrote Plight of the Peacock because I was inspired by a drawing of mine that portrays the message Hardin wants the world to understand. He wants us to know that we need to stop consuming our resources. In case you did not notice all the symbolisms, here is a list:
The narrator is mankind.
The peacock is the Earth, blue is oceans, green is land.
The tail feathers all represent resources; metals, wood, water, etc. Some are exaggerated, but the point is conveyed. (I hope.)
The elements of nature are what they represent, as well as the challenges mankind has overcome with the help of their resources.
The tree also represents mankind; it starts out in poor condition, prospers, then shrivels up once the resources are consumed.
What I would like you, dear reader, to take away from this story is the motivation to make a change in the way we are impacting our environment. Change your regular light bulbs to CFLs or LEDs. They save energy and money! Install solar panels, they may be expensive, but they have a short repay. You can even sell the extra energy you generate. Do some basic math to see how much we are using, how greedy we are.
We will not always get just a little more, we won't always get that one more time.
We need to take action and we need to do it now.
Otherwise, our resources will disappear, and we will never see them again.
Thank you for reading.