Friday, June 18, 2010

Sampaati's Last Flight (#FridayFlash)

A response to The Economist's Dawn of the Frankenfish article on using genetic engineering to create bigger fish.

Reaching the granite summit of Vicare Ridge, Sampaati searched for his half-brother Jatayu. Yet, the only person on the windswept ridge was Perdix, Vicare Ridge's flight master.

The wind ruffled Sampaati's feathers. "Have you seen Jatayu?"

The flight master's thin smile stretched his face wide giving it a cat-like countenance. "He flew out fifteen fingers ago as the sun passed the zenith." The flight master's nose creased, the smile hid something like the mango notes of chutney hiding the Buht Jolokia pepper's heat.

_Why hadn't Jatayu waited?_ Sampaati grasped the flight master's leather coat lifting him into the air with his arm as he unfolded the wings to counterbalance the weight. "What did you tell him?"

"Nothing," said the flight master.

Sampaati took a step towards the ridge's edge, updrafts causing the flight master's hair to stand on end. "I don't believe you." _Jatayu would've waited for me._

"This is a crime," said the flight master. "You wouldn't." His voice keened with a trace of the high-pitched moan of a cornered cat.

Sampaati leaned forward, the updrafts tickling his feathers.

"Okay, okay. I bragged about the power you'd get flying high. It was nothing. A joke." The flight master choked. "Put me down, please."

Sampaati pulled the flight master towards him and dropped him to fall against the granite. The hot air lifted him upwards as he soared, banking to follow the updraft into the sky. Fifteen fingers was a long time. A scattering of white clouds against the blue sky, the white sun overhead shone down with its heat powering the chlorophyll cells, a sugar-filled power arcing along his wings. Above him, a black lopsided dot silhouetted against the sun, an insane flight. Sampaati swallowed the energy into himself flapping his wings higher and higher feeling the surge of the solar radiation pulse within his veins. Cacophonous laughter drifted down, he could make out Jatayu's white wings now glowing pink on the edges.

"Jatayu, come down. The solar radiation will kill you," shouted Sampaati.

"Look at me," said Jatayu. "The power I'm sucking from the sky. I am a god." Another laugh, this one tasting of the electrical aftertaste of ozone.

"Your wings are about to burn," said Sampaati. His own wings felt hot, the power pulsing faster than his system could consume.

"Oy... the pain," cried Jatayu. Lightning flashed from his skin this time, the bolts as bright as the sun leaving red afterimages tattooed across Sampaati's eyes. The wings tilted into a slow bank spiraling.

Sampaati pumped his wings twice, lifting himself over his half-brother's frame dropping his arms to grasp Jatayu's clavicle, pulling the body underneath, holding Jatayu in his shadow. The hot feathers sizzling as they touched Sampaati's torso. The sun beat down, Sampaati's feathers spontaneously bursting in flames before they were licked away into the wind. Jatayu struggled in Sampaati's grasp but Sampaati held him close.

The ground raced fast to meet Sampaati as the wind whistled through his burnt feather-less wings, while Jatayu hung limp in his arms. They crashed rolling to the ground, a branch tore a gash into Sampaati's cheek, he lost his grip on Jatayu. The rolling subsided, Sampaati lying on his back staring up at the sky. He knew he wouldn't fly again. He turned his head to the side to look at Jatayu lying in the ferns with his chest rising and falling with the strength of his breath. Jatayu would live, that was enough.


  1. I liked this a lot. It reminded me of the flight of Icarus a bit, the way he got high on the feeling and threw caution to the wind.

    If I might make a very slight comment... the 'Oy' in the dialogue threw me a little. It didn't seem to fit with the rest of the dialogue and story. Otherwise, this was absolutely wonderful.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. A sad, cautionary tale of a modern day Icarus. Wonderfully told!

  3. Thank-you Ganymeder & Laura. Thank-you for the comment on Oy, I'll take a look at it.

  4. Nice take on an old tale. :)