At the end of July I drove up to Pulgio, where my great grandfather had lived. The trees were as thick and green as in storybooks, the forest floor soft with moss, the air misty and cool. The entire village came out of their houses, most of them weary-eyed. "Hello," I said in their language, and their chests relaxed. I held out a photograph of my great grandfather's face. I was prepared to explain myself, but they understood right away. They pointed up the sloped landscape to a red stone house. It was the only one left unlit. I had brought matches; inside, I struck one, and navigated by its light until a lamp came into sight. By lamplight, I saw the layers of dust coating it all, and the lack of footprints. They had not disturbed anything inside, though it had been uninhabited for years.
They stood in the doorway behind me. "You can have it all," one of the elders said. "What was his is now yours."
"I'll only take a few things," I said. "I just came up here to see it, mostly."
"Take a few now," the elder said, speaking slowly to make sure I could understand the dialect. "And next time you come, you'll take a few more."
I noticed, then, the birds by their feet, multicolored and curious. I vaguely remembered a story from my childhood, but I could not remember how it ended.
Another one of the elders scooped up a bird, and held it out. "For you," he said.
"I can't possibly..." I refused, but by the end of the day I was driving back home with the bird in a box, a row of air holes punched in the side. Its wings quietly fluttered against the cardboard. "It will be happy with you," they'd explained, before I left. "But if you don't like it, just set it free. Do it on a clear night, and it will be fine. It will come back to us. You might think it's too far, but it knows the way home."
Fiction Friday is an outlet for experimentation while I slowly work on becoming a novelist. Read the rest of the stories here...