I took a deep breath and jumped off the cliff. The wind whistled as I descended, whipping my long, dirty hair past my ears. Overhead I could feel the sun beating on my back through the filthy, tattered clothes I wore.
I watched as the trees grew nearer and at seemingly the last possible second, I spread my wings. Just like that my fall stopped and I flew forward. With a small thrust of my wings I lifted myself upwards and propelled myself forwards.
Though the sun felt good and it was good to see, I couldn't help wishing for some cloud cover. I knew my pursuers wouldn't give up so easily as all that. As if reading my mind, a shot rang out, neatly clipping a strand of hair as it passed my face.
I swooped down low, rising quickly again. Hopefully doing so would keep them at bay. I must have traveled out of range, as I didn't hear them fire again.
I let out a breath and wheeled around to look behind me. The smokestacks of the city could be seen, even from this distance, belching their acrid black smoke into the air.
I breathed in deeply the cool, crisp air, glad not to be breathing in the chemical ash of the city. As I steered around, I could see the forest fly by below me. The trees blurred into one long mass as I flew.
A joyous cry escaped my lips as I wheeled around in the sudden freedom. The air tasted sweet on my tongue as I breathed it in. The scent of forest, so different from the unwashed scent of the city, was pleasant, though that could just be the bird in me.
I spotted a glint from the direction I came from, and knew my pursuers still tracked me. They were human, though. And likely unfamiliar as I was in this forest. Added to that, they had a long trek around the cliff, where I could simply fly above.
The machines of the city certainly couldn't have managed such a feat. They knew the laws of the city, far better than any creature. They could enforce them at a moment's notice as well. But they couldn't function outside of the city walls, and they were ponderously slow.
The ones who chased my likely wouldn't catch me if I flew far enough. It's difficult enough to track me, considering I fly, and they were on foot I was certain I could do it, however.
I flew higher, my wings beating on my back. at once, I became aware of a terrible thirst in my throat. The forest concealed all below it as I searched desperately for something to drink. I flew lower and listened for anything that sounded like water of any sort, but to no avail.
I heard it before I saw it. Of course, I did see the monstrous cliffs, taller even than the one I had jumped from stretching from the distance. What I hadn't seen was the waterfall. On top of the plateau, I saw a wide river ending in a tall waterfall. The water cascaded from the top into the valley below, emptying into a river down there.
I landed on top of the cliff, near the river and scooped up a handful of the water, pouring it into my mouth. The sweet water rolled off my tongue and soothed my parched throat. I walked over to the edge of the cliff near the waterfall, and gazed out over the scenic vista.
I could see the forest stretching on over the miles I had traveled. on the distant horizon, the setting sun cast hues of pink and gold across the few clouds in that direction. The only thing I could see that marred the view was that of the city, little but an ugly, brown smudge in the distance.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I looked at it, glad to be away from the violence and gangs of the place. Happy to be free from the noise and pollution the city was home to.
I watched as the sun dipped below the horizon, and felt the temperature drop. I wrapped my arms around myself and shivered as it grew colder. A short search turned up some wood, and in the darkness and cold, I built myself a fire. knowing it was my only protection against the cold, and whatever animals were in the forest, I kept it going as long as I could.
The snap and crackle of the fire combined with the strain of flying for far longer than I had ever managed took its toll on me. I attempted to stay awake as long as I could. Inevitably, I fell asleep.
I awoke beneath a simple wood slat roof in a simple bed. It looked nothing like the stone of the city, but, nonetheless, I was slightly alarmed. A quick glance revealed a window looking out into the woods I had been traveling through.
A quick mental check showed that I still had my clothes on, and for a moment, I felt a brief pang of guilt as I realized my clothes and I were very dirty, and had likely sullied their clean sheets.
An elderly woman walked in and smiled as she saw I was awake. She told me that her husband had found me by the fire I had started, and had carried me inside, knowing nothing about me.
She asked if I would like something to eat, as I hadn't brought anything to carry food, and was as thin as a rail. Upon agreeing, I ate a good bowl of porridge.
She let out a breath as she saw the state of my garments, however, and insisted on making me some new clothes. Her husband was an elderly man as well, though quite gifted. He had somehow made enough equipment to have some basic lights and a stove that cooked things, all powered by a large windmill outside. They still needed wood for some things, but still lived as simply as they could.
They had not liked the city much, and had left years before. They had no children, and nothing tying them down, and so leaving was easy for them. They got a little lonely at times, but were able to live well enough by themselves.
After I ate, the woman took some measurements and made me some new clothes. The man stated that I needed a bath, and led me to a simple bath house. For the first time in years, I was truly clean. Though baths existed in the city, one could not step outside without becoming dirty with all the ash that floated down out of the air. Of course, if you lived on the street as I did, you never got clean. You occasionally scrubbed in dirty water, chemical ash floating in it, and getting on your skin.
The new clothes felt good as I put them on. Of course, I put them to good use, and assisted the elderly couple as I could. Something in me, however, insisted that I move on. I stayed for a couple of days before I grew too restless. I bid them a cheery goodbye and flew off, hoping that wherever I was being driven to was at least as good as the place I left.
I thought for a moment of the people who had disappeared before I left. I pictured they faces, and hoped that they had escaped as I had. I prayed to whatever god would hear me that those like me had learned to fly as I had. I wondered if they had met the same kindly couple I had.
I let out a breath as the cottage faded into the distance. Who knows? perhaps they were being driven by the same primeval force that drove me to the same place.
The trees thinned several miles later, leading into a large plain. In the distance, I could see a small farming settlement sitting on it. I landed some distance away and walked into town. Of course, I drew stares. My kind always did. I was still relatively clean, however, and my clothes in good repair.
I noticed a sign indicating that help was needed with the coming harvest, and spoke with the locals about it. While a little closed, they told me where to go. I could tell right off the bat that the farmer didn't like me or my kind. However, since I was willing to help, he allowed me to do so. I earned a good night's stay and a meal for every night I worked.
The harvest staved off the wanderlust I had been feeling for a while. It was the work, however, that ended first. I was given a small bag of coins, and politely told that while I worked hard, and it was appreciated, I was not welcome there.
I took my queue and flew off again, headed once more to parts unknown.
The trees started up again soon afterwards, and I could feel myself getting closer to my destination. I landed and looked around. The layer of trees seemed thin in comparison to the previous one I had been through. Unexpectedly, I found myself on the edge of another cliff. I sat down on the edge and let out a breath. I gazed for a moment at the sight below me, and wondered where I was.
I jumped as I felt a hand on my back and turned to see a young woman standing behind me. She wore a confused look as she saw my face, and apologized, stating that she was meeting someone here, and they too liked to gaze out over the valley.
I blinked at her, and saw behind her a pair of folded wings. I thought it unusual. People like me weren't all that common in the city, and we all knew one another. Most of us were related in some way as well.
She introduced herself, and I did the same. She stated that I was new around there, and offered to show me around. I nodded, and she led away from the cliff. She told me that she had been born there, and lived her whole life in what she referred to as the nest.
That was where she led me. Rather than thinning out, the trees suddenly stopped. I could see several wooden platforms suspended from trees, some with a sort of light furniture in it, others empty. I gawked at the majestic sight of the birds that traveled around the clearing, and wondered how so many of us had made it here.
I've lived there ever since. She and I became good friends, and our families as well. I married an old friend of mine I used to like a lot as a child, but who disappeared long before I left. The girl and I kept a lot of contact, and our families were good friends. Our children often played together, and we'd share a meal every now and again.
I think back, every now and again, to the time before I had left the city. Coming here changed me for the better, and I couldn't regret it one bit. Learning to fly had been difficult, but I am very glad I did.
In the end, I am happy. What more could I ask for?