A Flighty Peace
By Filomena Baker
The leader of an ancient tribe, tired of her war-ridden world, ignores the battle that looms behind her. But the death of her lover forces her to commit one final flight for peace.
A bird squawks above a woman, and she startles from where she gazes at a cliff’s edge, head turning to find a weapon to throw at the bird. But then she pauses, and instead waves her hand, a sense of ease flowing.
It squawks once and then it’s gone.
She gets to her feet, staring out at the horizon one last time until her head snaps up, remembering the battle. Rushing to scramble up a nearby boulder, she looks at the battle that’s taking place along the cliff’s length miles away. She mutters a curse to a god she wishes she had believed in more as she watches.
Her mind wanders watching the repetitive motion of stabbing weapons and blood splattering over and over and over.
Her partner throws hands and pushes for war around the table in the tent as she herself calls for peace. Her own defiant posture as she refuses to fight, her partner grasping at her hand, begging her to follow them.
“You’re our leader, you have to come.” She refuses—would rather stare at the sky than watch more people die. “Then you abandon us,” they spit at her. Walk.
I don’t need you, her own thoughts ringing in the memory, this fighting will mean nothing with or without me.
And then her breath catches and her mind pulls away from her memories. Far away, her partner is pinned to the ground. They resist, spitting in their killer’s face. And only when the axe finally falls do they widen their eyes and scream for her.
She vomits on the stone beside her.
A shaky breath; several nods of the head; a howl of pain. She leaps off the rock and starts to run, and run, and run—until she’s panting and staring at the blood, mangled faces, split heads, and torn open bodies.
The swinging metals of death are not the easiest to deflect—her arms get skidded by a flying blade, but she only stops when she’s close to the edge, hovering over a broken body. The single seed armband wrapped around their bicep—she’d given it to them—is the only indicator of her partner, their face is cleaved in half. She grasps at the edge of their mangled face, but just the sight of her traitorous skin against her love nauseates her.
She remembers the last time she saw her partner: longing in their eyes. She stands resolute against the horizon. They plead. She laughs at them for their stupidity. They grasp her hand. She slaps their face. They walk away. She sits on the edge, dangling her legs over the jutting rocks below.
She yanks her hands away, sobbing, unable to bear the shame. She doesn’t deserve for her hands to be so soft now when they hadn’t been before. To mourn. But she wishes she did.
She hiccups, looking around, and laughs with tears. No one approaches her. If anyone would just kill her, the head of the hawk, there would be no beak to eat the carcass. So easy.
She looks over at the cliff’s edge, a squawk in the distance.
She glances down at their corpse, and fury rises at herself and everyone around them. She would end the fight. Her partner would be avenged. And she would be free.
She grabs the spear in her dead partner’s hand and steals the gaze from her opponent’s enemies—her allies. She nods to one man silently. He juts his chin over to the middle of the battle. Smiling, she fights through the swarm of living and dead, proud that she musters the courage to do what her partner had died for—finally ending it.
She grabs hold of the leader of the enemy tribe from behind, and holds the spear up to their throat. He gasps and she snarls. The warriors around them stop, watching with wide eyes.
She glances at the cliff’s edge. So far away but she can almost feel the breeze.
“Come close, and I kill him!” she shouts. Some look on with pride—her own tribesmen—and others cast upturned brows and snarls. The smell of piss permeates the air. She hates everyone around her.
Still holding the knife up to his throat, she shuffles the leader through the crowd, which parts like fire sizzling on leaves. No one attacks her from behind—though it’d be easy—but her own blood rushes in her ears.
The fellow leader meets her gaze; a question. She nods. He stares. He laughs at the sky.
At the edge, the horizon looms. A bird circles above her. It squawks, and swoops down to the shores below—
And she follows, tipping them both over the edge. As they scream, as the air rushes past their ears, as they hold on tight to one another, she knows he feels the same as she does.
The fighting above stops—perhaps indefinitely, perhaps not. Some drop their weapons as they stare. Some sob.
And then something swoops through the air—two birds, flying right from where the tribes leaders had fallen. They fly through the air together, and everyone watching falls to the floor in awe.
This is the founding story for a religion in the novel I am writing. The idea is that this supposed miracle that the tribesman saw becomes legend and later a myth, eventually becoming the focus of a religion in the present day of the book.
I needed to represent the idea of freedom, the consequences of war, an individual’s exhaustion for fighting and death and the ties that bind people.
Filomena Baker is a novice writer who started writing at a young age (usually about mermaids going grocery shopping!). She loves to read all types of books, quality ranging from great to mediocre. Once, she got an award from her middle school for reading too much and for getting away with it. She's lived in the Bronx her entire life, but her family hails from Venezuela. She spends most of her time listening to music and obsessing over superfluous things. She is currently a junior in high school.