She just had to eat her grains, lay an egg every morning, and lift her leg for the collector. But Aurora galumphed from the henhouse every night, flapping loose soft feathers. “You’ll see,” she said. “I’m going to the sky soon.”
“No way,” the pigs said. “Egg hens can’t fly.”
Her predicament began one spring afternoon when the farmer’s wife carried Mama away. Then a pullet, Aurora waddled around the farm searching for Mama.
The pigs eagerly explained that the farmer’s wife plucked out Mama’s feathers, roasted her in a nest of fire, and sliced her into fifty lily pads for a dinner celebration.
“What’s a chellerbation?” Aurora asked. She had yet to outgrow pronunciation difficulties.
“Chellerbation?” The pigs chortled.
Wilma, Mama’s best friend in the henhouse, cut in between Aurora and the pigs in a nick of time. “Pork chops, pork chops,” she squawked.
The pigs stopped chortling and waddled off, hanging their snouts.
None of the hens laughed either. They glanced at each other, sprouted goose pimples under their feathers, and pretended to peck for rice.
“Aurora, your Mama is in the sky now,” Wilma said. “It’s our destiny.”
The next morning, before Aurora could ask Wilma how to join Mama in the sky, the farmer’s wife carried Wilma away.
Since Mama and Wilma’s mysterious departures, Aurora noticed that the farmer’s wife carried hens away regularly and no hen taken ever came back. Aurora tried not to think about what the pigs said about the nest of fire and lily pads. She liked what Wilma said about the sky better and threw her heart into that. So she galumphed with high hopes and loose feathers from the henhouse every night to practice flapping.
I can’t wait, she thought. The sky is my destiny.
Aurora made sure to sit up straight and flashed smiles at the farmer’s wife whenever she came to select a hen. But the farmer’s wife ignored Aurora even though she laid more eggs than the other gals in the henhouse.
The farmer’s wife doesn’t pick me for the sky even though I lay more eggs than everyone, Aurora sniffed. What’s wrong with me?
This frustrating situation repeated over many full moons until, one night, Aurora felt a hot flash as she flapped alone in the moonlit yard.
She didn’t lay an egg the next day.
Or the next.
The farmer’s wife extended both arms. “Come, Aurora,” she said. “It’s time.”
Destiny at last! Excitement tingled up Aurora’s spine, into her heart, up her neck, and exploded in a bouquet of red raspberries on her cheeks.
The farmer’s wife carried Aurora into the house and held her neck down against the flat top of a stump that the farmer had chopped off from a tree trunk. “Aurora,” she cooed, picking up a half-black, half-shiny stick, which flashed like a shooting star. “You’re my sweetie pie forever—”
Aurora’s throat twinkled. “Huh?”
She was beside herself; and over herself too. Below, bright red blood spurted from her headless neck like a garden hose. Her head lay alone off to the right, beak agape.
Chellerbation! Aurora twirled in the air like a ballerina swan. She glided through the ceiling and into the blue sky air. She flapped like a turkey, soared like an eagle, and pirouetted high above the tallest pointy treetop.
Then it was time, time to fly to Mama and Wilma.
Aurora looked down one last time on the reflected light, silver and stark, flitting obliquely over all she had known and nested. Light flitted from every angle over the farmer’s land. It flitted softly upon her henhouse and softly flitted against the pigs’ barnyard. It flitted, too, upon the forest, farther than she could see, beyond even where glass-eyed owls hid inside tree trunks and blinked. It flitted delicately across the crooked crosses on the crook of the forest, on the spears of the broken green gate, and on the big grey statue of a chipped winged angel. Her soul swooned northward as it flitted faintly through the atmosphere and faintly flitted, the lonely rise of a borealis to its time, over all that is timeless and right.
Kenton K. Yee has placed stories in The Los Angeles Review, PANK, Hobart, Word Riot, Monkeybicycle, A cappella Zoo (forthcoming), and Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, among others. A theoretical physicist working in finance, he is in the second year of Stanford’s Online Novel Writing Certificate program.
This story is sponsored by
Jesse Pohlman — author of the Physics Incarnate series, blending sci-fi and suspense as past secrets catch up with physics professor Emmett Eisenberg.