The morning sun felt wonderful on his feathers. The night had been cold even with his mate perched next to him, mingling her downy warmth with his. Now they preened together, sometimes tending their own feathers, sometimes tending each others'. Soon they would fly to their stream and hunt for fish. It was going to be a good day, like all the other days.
Satisfied, the male kingfisher shifted a bit to try and preen one of his tailfeathers. The sudden pain in his right foot stopped him halfway through the preen, and he blinked in irritation. There it was again, that pain. How had he hurt his foot?
Unlike the previous few times he'd had this thought, this time there was nothing to distract the male kingfisher. His mate, seeing him pause, continued to preen herself, readying her feathers for the day's flying.
Images rose slowly to the surface of the male kingfisher's mind. A pool, not the silver waters of their stream, but round and deep and blue Strange stones everywhere A black shape, the source of his pain. He remembered taking it from his foot Thoughts crowded together, faster and faster, and with them came words.
I had hands?
Faces. Memories of feelings, of friendships, of companions of falling. Of changing.
Completely off-balance by the returning awareness of who he was and what had happened, Malone literally fell out of the tree. His body reacted instinctively, bringing him fluttering to the ground with no injury. His mind, however, continued in chaos.
I just flew? I can fly?
He flapped his wings experimentally, but he, Malone, had no earthly idea how to use them.
Up on the branch, his mate let out a startled, inquisitive call. She was very disturbed to see her mate on the ground, flapping awkwardly.
Malone looked up, both his and the kingfisher's attention caught by the call. The male kingfisher saw his mate. Malone saw That's Veronica! He didn't know how he knew, or how she'd been changed too, but he knew her. He tried to call her name, but the only sounds that emerged were strange, birdlike calls.
I'm a bird!
The female kingfisher called again, and briefly Malone felt the male kingfisher's consciousness rise in response. He - the male kingfisher - wanted to fly to her, to go hunt.
No. He fought the instinct down. I'm Edward Timothy Malone. I'm not a bird!
Except that I am a bird. But I'm still me!
The female kingfisher called for a third time, impatient now, and frightened. The ground was not a safe place. What was her mate doing down there?
She doesn't know. Again, Malone knew it somehow, and he didn't stop to wonder how. She doesn't know she's Veronica. She's lost in being the bird, just as I was. How do I break through to her? It's not like I can talk in words!
An idea came to him suddenly. Or can I?
Carefully, laboriously, he shifted his strange, alien body along the ground. At first he tried to use his feet for what he meant to do, but he quickly realized that in this body, he had a much better tool to hand, as it were. He had to fight to keep focused, as his bird-nature kept fighting this unnatural act. Talk about being a birdbrain
Up on her branch, the female kingfisher watched in increasing consternation as her mate dragged his bill awkwardly across the ground. Was he sick? Why wouldn't he heed her calls? Uncertain, torn between concern for her mate and her fright in his unnatural actions, she fluttered her wings, ready to take flight at a moment's notice. What was he doing?
To her relief, her mate stopped dragging his bill across the ground and looked up at where she sat. He tapped his bill on the ground, dislodging some of the dirt caused by his scratching, then looked up at her again, cocking his head expectantly and giving her an encouraging croon. Confused, but gladdened to see him acting more normally, the female kingfisher whistled her reply and eyed him hopefully.
Something about the scratchings on the ground caught her attention. Her mate had gouged out two lines, lines that intersected at the base, at an angle that somehow resonated something in her memory
A welter of confusing images and thoughts threatened to overwhelm the female kingfisher where she sat. Emotions and faces and knowledge that had no place within a kingfisher's mind flooded through her, dulling her instincts, drowning her self with an alien awareness of another life, another existence. Shrieking in fear, the female kingfisher instinctively fled, flinging herself from her branch for the solace of the skies.
Before he could even think about it, Malone was in the air, flying after her. The male kingfisher would not lose his mate. Mostly submerged in that instinct, the human consciousness within the bird kept from thinking about what he was doing, how he was flying, clinging instead to one thought with each beat of his wings.
Malone. Malone. I'm Malone!