This is the story of the day Dove walked into the ocean.
Dove was a simple lady of one year old. Each day she flew from the city to the sea.
Back and forth from the city to the sea she would fly, collecting the crumbs of pretzel with hard salt Vendor Joe would scrape from his warm metal box and on to the curb near Central Park. He did this each day when Sun went to sleep like he was told to, from the voice inside. When Moon awoke Dove flew to the sea and would sit upon the tallest rock and watch Tiny Things With Long Legs march. Tiny Things With Long Legs always walked into the ocean but never back out. Dove was afraid because the water was dark, so dark Moon could not let what was beneath be seen. No matter how Dove turned her head, stamped her feet or cried out to them they did not turn away from their demise. Each Tiny Thing With Long Legs took to the sea like Man in a fight, one fat arm raised, marching until there was nothing left but tiny burping bubbles on the foamy sea.
Sun’s slumber always woke up Moon so Dove was never alone, not even in her nest above the grocery, because sometimes Moon would wake her up with her smile. “That must be how World stays living,” she would think to herself and fluff her feathers. If that did not work to end Moon’s grinning, Dove would tuck her head under her wing. But why did Tiny Things With Long Legs always run into the dark water? Each night would end with thoughts of Tiny Things no matter how many times she tried to send them away. Dove would think of grain, rolling yellow grain Mother used to tell her of when she was Egg, grain that filled your eyes with softness and could tell you the direction of the wind. Dove would fill her mind with these thoughts… but not for long. Just when grain’s smell filled her with joy the stalks grew black and began to spill, with the path of the wind, into shining black water. Tiny Things With Long Legs would descend from the sky around Dove and into the water, pattering, like thick rain.
Dove liked playing games with Sun that Moon would not allow such as “Hide Behind The Peeling Pine,” which was her favorite. Sun would always win because he could wrap around trees and touch her feathers no matter how fast she jumped away. Sun was kind and gave light to all. Sun opened paths with his smile and provided warmth with his fingers. Dove knew Sun had fingers because he touched things like Man could, but Sun’s fingers are much longer because he lives in the sky. When Sun was awake, World was good and happy. Dove liked when things had color. Did Tiny Things With Long Legs have color in the sun? Had they ever seen it? Dove felt the same pain when she thought of Tiny Things as she had when she’d cut her feet on glass three Suns ago. Pain burned and hurt and felt like forever. Dove sat on her pink toes as though it would make the pain in her mind grow tired and sleep. When it did not Dove fluffed her feathers, tucked her head beneath her wing, and thought of grain.
After many long days at the park and much deliberation with an aging Oak leaf, Dove cried out, “Leaf, you’re right. Today I will be brave and see for myself where Tiny Things go!” And with that, Dove flew to the sea.
Moon had been awake four times before Dove had gotten the courage to fly from the city to the sea again. Dove closed her eyes and let the wind guide her in her journey. Sun touched her back as she flew, and she felt safe.
Much time had passed before the voice inside told her to open her eyes again. When Dove looked, she saw the water turning black. Sun was low and now too tired to stroke her feathers any longer. The wind was growing colder and just when the tips of her wings began to shiver, rocks came on to the horizon. Dove flew down and waited at the very edge of the biggest rock. Dove felt her heart pound beneath her bony ribcage, her wings fluttering anxiously as she waited for Tiny Things to come up from the ground. When they did not come fast enough Dove swooped down to the sandy beach, stamping her feet on the pilling ground and waving her wings in the air. Dove called to them, demanded they reveal themselves, and to know what color they were when Sun smiled. Eventually Dove grew exhausted and fell to the sand, her head hung low and tears in her eyes. She fluffed her feathers and looked to Moon.
“Where have Tiny Things With Long Legs gone?”
“Have they only been a dream?” Dove asked aloud.
Moon did not answer. She only smiled.
Dove rose to her feet in a fury at Moon’s lack of compliance and kicked the sand beneath her as hard as she could. It made a strange noise, like when a nut drops from a tree to the ground. A Tiny Thing With Long Legs stood before her, a fat little arm raised, his eyes covered with dirt. Tiny Thing blinked and the dirt fell away. Dove stared into Tiny Thing’s eyes for quite some time but could not speak. Of all the times to be left without speech!
And with that Tiny Thing With Long Legs ran out of patience, turned from Dove, and began to march into the ocean. Dove scrambled to her feet, flapped her wings and called out to him finally:
“Tiny Thing! Why do you go in the dark water?”
Tiny Thing kept marching. The foamy waves lapped at his thin, hard legs. He walked sideways, deeper and deeper. A panic took over Dove as she watched him dip into the water and become black too. Dove took to running, no, leaping, each toe barely scraping the ground as she plunged into the water behind Tiny Thing. Everything around Dove became dark, cold, and moving. She couldn’t take a breath in or out. Soon Moon’s smile began to dim as Dove sank deeper, until there was nothing left but tiny burping bubbles rising to the top of the foamy sea…
Just as Dove began to think of Mother and of grain she felt sharpness on her back. It felt like the glass, which had cut her in Central Park, numb and tingly at first, but growing sharper. Was this what happened when World stopped living? Did everything become pain? The darkness was behind her, as was the cold, and constant moving. Soon Dove could feel Moon smiling at her, brighter and warmer than ever. And there were the rocks, the ones she’d been too impatient to wait upon to see Tiny Things With Long Legs march into the sea, to ask why they would ever go somewhere so dark.
Dove blinked her tiny eyes and crooked her head to the side. The rocks were not in the ocean when she left the shore and the pain in her back was moving. Dove was moving, being carried from the sea by hundreds of Tiny Things With Long Legs. All the Tiny Things passed her over themselves and cast her on to the sand. Dove landed with a thump and fluffed her feathers, her eyes still wide with disbelief. Tiny Things, the thoughts that had plagued her mind, had saved her from the dark. “I understand now,” young Dove spoke as they turned away, marching once again into the foaming sea. “You protect all from the dark. You bring us to the shore when we are too blind to see the Moon’s light any longer. Your purpose, Tiny Things With Long Legs, is to save.”
And all the Tiny Things smiled to themselves from beneath the darkened water, floating as effortlessly as snow inside a globe. “What a silly bird,” they all thought in unison.