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The Nightingale- Extraxt

A door swung open and in swept a lady, regal and elegant. She looked around the Room. Despite her age, which clung to her, displaying itself through her dark, ebony, parchment like skin and etching itself across her face like a pen across that parchment, I knew that in her youth she must have been a great beauty.


Our eyes met and she smiled at me. "I am the consort Obumgina. In my 14th year I defied my brother and father, and so they chose to punish me, and in this very chamber they threw a rock against my skull, seeking to kill me, and leaving me for dead. Through the open window you see to your right, a nightingale flew. It built its nest in my hair, still sticky with blood, and on the fourth day, when I woke from my concussion, it's eggs were hatching. It fed me through its own mouth, alongside its own chicks, until I had the strength once again to rise.


I fled, I fled my father, following my feathery savoir to the depths of the forests of firelia. I lived amongst the birds, but as the chicks grew and began to take their first tentative flaps into the world of flying, I knew our time was coming to a close. Soon they would take to the skies and migrate for the winter and, no matter how light my spirits, I had no wings to carry me with them.


And so began the search for civilization. I remember my mother's words "if you need to find people, follow the water" and so I did. A small creek was bubbling, a thin stream of blue trickling away into the dense greens of the undergrowth. I followed it until it widened, branching off into another small stream to the left, and a wider one to the right, within which small fish wriggled and bounced, occasionally breaking the still, unmoving surface. I stepped inside, the water reached my knees and was coolly inviting. Even now all these years later I still remember how my skin tickled as the small fish nibbled the dead skin of my toes and ankles."


Obumgina's eyes fluttered and closed, and I noticed, amongst the lines of age etched across her face, a deeper, darker, thicker line along her forehead, a gouge into which her skin seemed to sink. Not a wrinkle, but a deep and prominent scar.


"For 3 days I walked, always choosing the wider stream, watching as the creek became a river, feeding on the berries and worms, tiring with every step. And on the 3rd day, on the river bank I came across a stump. The stump was jagged, sticking out of the ground at an angle as though reaching towards the lights of an unseen star, bending like a flower under the forces of nature. It's wood was raw, rotting in the centre; you could see into the hearts of its empty twisted belly. Small thorns jutted out from one of its sections and moss grew over its back like fur. At regular intervals, deep slashes, too straight to be made by nature, sunk into its surface at perfect angles. These slashes, deep and uniform, were man made, the work of an axe. I knew I must be nearing civilisation.


I entered one of the grooves with my tired fingers, slender like my mother's, and traced my way along the edges of the crevice. It narrowed and widened such that my finger moved through in leaps and bounds, catching occasionally where the gap was too narrow for even my slender digits. I leant in and smelled the musty bark, the scent harkened back to the twigs the Nightingale had so lovingly sewn into my ebony coils of thick afro hair, and beneath the stump which jutted out from the ground like a prescient tombstone, I collapsed."