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There is a little bird, I don’t remember the name of him, but he skims right over the surface of the ocean. It must be frightening out there, out in the middle of all that nothing, flapping like mad to stay aloft, but maybe he rarely gives it much thought. He’s a nervous little bird, though he mostly tries to direct toward staying in the air, flitting across the undulating surface just below. It’s a dangerous thing being so close to the buoyant barrier, and at times a wave rises up that the bird is unable to avoid. He plunges in and prays to whatever it is a bird prays to, hoping that his momentum will carry him to the other side. Sometimes his momentum is not enough and he must swim. He’s not made to swim, he’s made to fly, but he does it anyways, and despite the awkwardness of it all he’s not half bad, which makes sense, since he’s had to swim many times before. When the bird was a younger bird, he used to fly high. He’d beat his little wings like mad, and rise far above the ocean and its sneaking waves, which seem to smooth into nothing the higher one gets. From such heights the little bird could see it all, the whole world stretching out as far as the eye could see. He’d whisk around in the breezes that blow way up there, and float with the greatest of ease. But the little bird is not meant to fly at such great heights. It’s not natural to expect him to stay so high. Desperately he’d flap, hysterically trying to stay aloft, but his little wings would always begin to shake. Sometimes he’d glide back down, easy as can be, but other times he’d dive on folded wing, and hit the ocean with a small splash, disappearing down into the deeps. Oh what horror going down so deep had wrought. He’d swim like mad in his clumsy way, desperate to resurface, brain screaming its warning over his lack of air. No, the little bird does not fly so high anymore. He’s safer closer to the waves, and besides, all that one sees so high is that the ocean goes on forever. Of course, down by the water does not guarantee safety either. The water is cold, and all that can be seen is the next approaching wave. Who knows how it starts, perhaps the seas grow rougher, the waves higher, and so the bird ends up flying through the waves more than before. Each wave saps more momentum, and it’s only with sudden horrible realization that the bird comprehends that he is no longer flying, but swimming. He is unsure when the transition took place, but he is most definitely in the water more now than he is above it. Each dip goes longer, and ideas like up and down or left and right begin to lose their meaning. His body begins to grow numb. Perhaps it’s not until his brain begins to murmur its warnings about air that he fully realizes his predicament, and by then it’s too late. He’s down below, and no longer sure which way he’s swimming. So he goes on struggling to move forward, unsure if his predicament is getting better or worse. After all, what else can he do? Sometimes you just have to keep swimming, even as you feel less and less connection to the world that you once knew. Still you must keep swimming, because there’s nothing else that you can do.
Anyways, I’ve been thinking about going back on the medication.
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S.W. Campbell was born in Eastern Oregon. He currently resides in Portland where he works as an economist and lives with a house plant named Morton. He has had over forty short stories published in various literary reviews in three countries. If you’d like to read more of his writing, check out his website: www.shawnwcampbell.com.
featured photo by S.W. Campbell