V’x lept into the air, flapping her one good wing, wrenching out of the grey’s grasp. “No!” she cried. She turned, rushing for the door. The greys scattered. Only I remained, blocking her path. I grabbed at her feathers as she rushed by. The chair that I sat in spun and fell, but I kept my grip on V’x.
“Stop! Vix! Stop!” I shouted, struggling to get my face free of her plumage.
“No. No-no!” V’x struggled, trilling and calling out. Abruptly she stopped and began to wail.
I pulled myself toward her, holding her close. “Vix,” I whispered. “Vix. What is it? Who is that.”
“No,” whistled V’x. “No. It can’t be.”
Her eyes cleared and she looked at me. “W’x’tl.” She bawled again.
I felt a touch, and was overwhelmed by the sense of fear. The grey was leaning over me again. “Just wait,” I muttered.
‘We have made mistakes.’
“A lot of people have made mistakes.”
‘This one still lives. This one has hurt others. This one we tried to talk to, but could not.’
I buried my face in V’x’s feathers, despite knowing the allergic reaction that was sure to follow. “What do I tell her?”
‘We want to help them. We have done it wrong.’
“Let them go home,” I said. “Just send them home.”
‘There is no home.’
“Let them go back.” I struggled to roll and look the grey in the eye. “Let them choose their fate.”
‘There aren’t many choices.’
“Explain to them.”
‘We cannot do this. It is so difficult.’
“Then tell me, and I will explain.” I propped myself up on an elbow. “But take us back.”
The grey was uncomfortable. It removed its hand. I snatched it back.
“What aren’t you telling me?”
‘This one is ill and dying. They’re all dying. Going back might kill them.’
“That doesn’t make sense.”
‘We’ve made mistakes.’
“What kind of mistakes?” I demanded.
‘This one is ill. And sad. Let it share the company of the other.’
‘It hurts us. Help us.’
V’x had fallen silent. She lifted her head and gazed blankly at the grey. “What?” she trilled.
I flopped back down and blinked up at V’x. “I don’t know Vix.”
Her eyes shifted to the motionless V’rak’l in the cage. “Is she alive?” she peeped.
“Yes. You want to go to her?”
“I think so.” V’x regained her footing, all the while eying the grey suspiciously. She looked down at me. “I hurt you.”
“Help me up.” I reaching an arm toward her.
V’x quickly righted my chair and lifted me back into the seat, still watching the grey warily. “Will it let me?”
“Go talk to Waxtel,” I said. “I got this under control.”
V’x turned cautiously and walked slowly toward the cage. The Vr’ak’l within didn’t move. V’x pressed her feathers down over her body. “W’x’tl?” she warbled.
There was no response.
“W’x’tl?” V’x chirped at W’x’tl as she hopped closer. “W’x’tl?”
W’x’tl’s feathers shifted. One eye opened slightly. It was glassed over and hazy. It closed again. A slight hiss escaped from W’x’tl’s beak.
V’x continued to warble and chirp. She fluffed her feathers and bounced in front of W’x’tl.
W’x’tl turned her head away, hissing louder.
V’x carried on, becoming louder and more energized.
Suddenly, W’x’tl cried out, feathers raised, wings, tattered and bare of feathers, spread. V’x fell silent, under the torrent of W’x’tl howls and caws.
As abruptly as she had started, W’x’tl stopped. She tucked her beak beneath a ragged wing and sighed. V’x sat outside the cage in silence at first, then quietly trilling a soft song.
The grey touched me. “I don’t know either,” I said. “But I need you to tell me what happened.”
Read Chapter 37.
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