A/N: This is a little one-shot that came to me yesterday afternoon, and my fingers pretty much developed a mind of their own from then on.
And yeah, I know I basically copied the movie word-for-word, but I couldn't think of how to better create the body of the story. :-/ Call me lazy and a cheating loser, but I feel the stuff I elaborated on that was not in the movie makes up for it.
And plus, no one has ever modified this scene before, so I get massive originality points, right? That in itself should redeem this story.
Well, I'll spare you any more idle chat. If you read 'till the end, PLEASE REVIEW. Much thanks to those who do. Reviewing is way easier than reading this entire fic, is it not?
I was still a bit riled up metabolism-wise from the monkey fight, but I willed myself to relax after Kipo dropped Jewel and I onto the roof of the tram.
"Thank you!" I shouted to the fluffy pink spoonbill.
"Anytime!" he called back, then executed a loop in the air and flew away.
"That's what I'm talkin' bout!" cried Pedro as he, Nico, and Rafael touched down in front of us.
"Man, we threw down!" I said excitedly, my chest puffing up and down.
"Yeah we threw down!" Jewel added, nudging me and shooting me a cheerful look.
"You guys were like fire and ice!" Rafael declared.
"Thunder and lightning!" Nico continued.
"Hip and hop!" Pedro intoned.
To wrap it all up, I called upon an analogy I inherited back in Moose Lake: "Cheese and sprinkles!"
The rest of the birds around me fell into an awkward silence.
A puzzled frown formed on my face, and a small spark of shame ignited within me.
"It's a Minnesota thing," I put in, hoping my explanation was satisfactory. I quickly found out it was, as my newfound friends let out short bursts of genuine laughter.
Rafael smiled and said, "See, nothing you say makes any sense!"
"Well, I'll try to work on that, then," I said with a mellow chuckle.
Jewel gazed at me and said, "I wouldn't mind if you didn't. I think it's kind of cute."
Her innocent defense of my sayings warmed my heart, but slightly confused me as well.
"Really? You think so?"
"Thanks, Jewel," I said smoothly.
"No problem, Blu."
I stared into her eyes for a few seconds after, tilted about ten degrees to the left of the vertical, and I couldn't help but smile.
Does she… like me? Does she think of me as more than a friend, even though we've only been chained together for over a day? I have some feelings toward her, but how can I turn them into words if I don't know how she feels back?
As my mind swirled with these tough questions, the tram rounded a bend and gave a small jump. It was enough to jar my eyes away from hers, however, and I couldn't seek her gaze again.
"Hey, lovebirds! Come to the front, so that you can watch the scenery!"
Perked up by Rafael's voice, I raised my head in the direction of the noise. Jewel was already walking towards the head of the tram, where the canary, cardinal, and toucan were perched, all staring at either me, or Jewel.
The beautiful female paused in her journey and turned halfway around. She fixed her dazzling teal left eye on me and asked, "Coming, Blu?"
"Oh, yeah, I'm coming."
I jogged up to her left side and walked with her to the tram's head, skirting around the large metal apparatus that pulled power from the overhead lines.
The trio of birds flapped into the air as we approached, settling down halfway along the tram's length. I could hear their claws clicking as they touched the steel power transfer box.
When we got to our destination, Jewel crossed in front of me and plunked herself down on the curved rim, about six inches to my left. I did the same, my tail projecting out behind me, my feet dangling over the edge.
The deep oranges and gentle pinks of the light borne from the setting sun streamed through the trees on either side of the tracks, mingling splendidly with the countless bright green leaves all around. Fluffy golden clouds crawled across the azure sky above, steered and shepherded by the gentle breeze that Mother Nature was blowing.
The chain linking my left foot to Jewel's right jingled every so often as the tram motored along, but not so frequently as to annoy us.
When I glanced over at my female companion, I was awed and humbled by how peaceful and attractive she was.
She had her eyes closed and her neck stretched, subjecting herself to the cool atmosphere and calming rocking of the vehicle below. Her head feathers danced slowly in the breeze, little cerulean strips of living cloth that were supremely dainty and pretty. Her chest rose and fell in a reserved rhythm, splaying out her plumage until I could see the fine feathers that composed it. My gaze ultimately fell to her wings and tail, the individual feathers long, sleek, and rippling in good health.
All told, I was so captivated by her posture and features, my eyes were riveted to her. I could not look away, as if I was staring at Venus herself as she rose from the sea.
Oh my gosh... she really is pretty! What I would give just to be able to say that to her! But I'd probably wimp out and embarrass myself. Oh man, this is much harder than I thought it would be…
Seconds later, she opened her eyes, derailing my train of thought. Not wanting to be caught staring, I subtly averted my eyes and stared at the polished tracks down below.
A shrill rush of air cut the silence shortly after as I heard Rafael whisper "Pssst!" from behind me.
I rotated my head ninety degrees to look at him, and he made a motion with his ebony wings. Apparently, he wanted me to scoot closer to Jewel.
Seeing the confident grin on his face injected me with enthusiasm.
"Don't worry, I got it," I replied in a half-whisper.
Jewel's right eye studied me as my words evaporated into nothingness, but beyond that she did not react. When her gaze left me, I used my wings to carefully lift myself.
I performed a sliding hop and moved my lower body in Jewel's direction, the linking chain jangling as I did so. My pupils shrank as I realized I had completed the maneuver without incident.
Ruefully, I faced away from Jewel and leaned over, extending my left wing. As nonchalantly as possible, I tried to drape it around her, my eyes darting to her as the seconds ticked by.
My wing was so close I could sense the heat flowing from her body, and I tensed in anxious excitement.
At the last possible moment, she saw my pointy primaries creeping around and shot me an intensely sly look. I jerked my wing away and slapped it to the top of my head, my anxiety twisting into shame and desperation. I began to weakly fan myself, hoping that Jewel would buy my hastily-fabricated excuse.
"Ooh! Is it hot? I-I think I'm sw-sweating. I didn't even think that was biologically possible, and yet, look!"
I shot my left wing up into the air, exposing the sticky underside covered with clear fluid.
Jewel shrank back a bit and let out a disturbed, "Oh, wow."
My insides burning with regret at my flub, I switched my gaze to the bloom-covered trees along the right border of the tracks. I didn't have the heart to face Jewel again, and the eye-pleasing scenery did completely nothing in returning my former optimism.
What a terrible screw-up! I told myself. Smooth move, Tyler Blu Gunderson. I bet Jewel thinks I'm a mood-killing nerd bird now…
I released a petulant sigh so laden with displeasure that it carried all of my breath with it. I sucked some oxygen back in, unable to turn my head and see how badly Jewel had taken it.
I soon heard what sounded like Pedro rapping a catchy tune, followed by contrasting remarks from Rafael and Nico. After a short spell of more silence, a stream of pure whistles resonated in my ears, and I had a hunch they were coming out of Nico's tiny canary lungs.
I heard the swoosh of heavy wing-beats pass over me, and I saw Rafael soar ahead of the tram and burrow into the flower-adorned trees. It wasn't until countless drifts of rose-hued petals rained down that I realized what he was doing.
The tram began to ascend up a shallow incline on the side of a hill, and Rafael soon vanished among the trees up ahead.
Nico's mature voice continued the chant, growing louder and louder until the striking canary popped up in front of Jewel and I.
"…in the moonlight, when I saw your face…"
As he spiraled up into the petal-clogged sky, Jewel's relaxed voice proclaimed, "Wow… what a beautiful sunset…"
"Yeah," I responded simply, trying to sound convincing.
My head swiveled to the right as I heard Rafael's restrained voice call to me, and I saw him gliding next to the tram.
"Pssst. Blu, down here. Just tell her 'you have beautiful eyes.' "
Nodding my head, I replied sternly, "That's good! Great idea."
I bent my neck like a snake's and trained my left eye on Jewel, narrowing it smugly.
"I have beautiful eyes."
At the end of my confession, I stretched my neck in her direction and opened my eyes as wide as they could go for emphasis.
Jewel seemed hugely unimpressed and a bit overwhelmed.
"Uh yeah, okay, sure, they're-they're nice…"
Her eyes equaled mine in how open they were, and she faced forwards with a stark expression on her face.
"No," Rafael deadpanned, "her eyes, her eyes!"
"Oh, right, yeah," I quipped mutely.
Focusing my attention on Jewel, I corrected, "Your eyes, your eyes are great, not mine. I mean, you know, mine are okay, but yours, I bet you can see right through them."
A ghost of a smile manifested on her succulent face, but she none-too-secretly replaced it with that flat expression and looked away from me.
My own confident smile waned as I shot a "help me out here" stare at Rafael.
"Blu, just tell her how you feel," he instructed.
I donned a mask of apprehension and asked, "Jewel?"
"Yeah?" she responded in a pillow-soft voice.
"I've been wanting to tell you that I… that I…"
What happened next was something I never imagined would occur in a thousand years. My voice cut off sharply as something pliable and bitter lodged itself in my throat. I instinctively began to choke and gasp for air, squirming away from Jewel in the process.
Jewel, I know I've been acting like a fool recently, but I need a little help here! I yelled silently.
In the midst of my gagging fit, I heard her declare, "Oh how sweet, you're getting choked up."
That statement was quickly tailed by another that better suited my pained situation: "Oh, oh, you're choking!"
I felt something wrap around my ribs as she said, "Uh, okay, alright..."
A mix of great relief and sharp pain ensued as she constricted my stomach in short bursts.
"Huh! Huh! Huh! C'mon, you gotta move with me, stay with me Blu!"
Restricted to mental speech as she administered the Heimlich to me – perhaps rougher than the books advised – I thought, Hurry up, Jewel. I'm getting lightheaded here! I won't last much longer in the conscious state!
"Huh! C'mon, one more, one more time!"
As Jewel belted out those final three strained words, the offending petal was buoyed up my airway and ejected from my beak. It splatted on the tram's hard surface a few inches away, and my spastic coughs devolved into elongated wheezes.
I couldn't pick up any noises save for the sound of my pulse pounding in my ears, but I swore I heard Rafael mutter despondently, "Yep, that's my boy."
A near-perfect bomb whistle and a trademark explosion sounded, probably Nico's.
Jewel released her mighty hold, and I toppled onto my chest, delirious.
"Blu, are you okay? Can you breathe better now? Did I hurt you at all?"
"Y-yeah," I grunted. "Th-thanks for the… the help, Jewel. And no, I'm f-fine. Well, mostly f-fine…"
She ran in front of me and eased me to my feet, nothing but concern apparent in her stunning eyes.
"I think you need to rest now. You look like you're about to pass out."
Gee, you think? I thought suddenly. Oh stop it, Blu! She practically saved your life! I chided myself.
I settled down on my stomach where I stood, ever grateful to her for rescuing me, but deeply perturbed by the fact that the mood had been ruined beyond repair.
"Are you sure you're okay?" she asked again.
"Yes, Jewel, I-I promise."
"What were you going to say before the… accident?"
Oh, nothing much, except that you're very pretty and I like you! Would you be my girlfriend?
Of course, that's not what came out of my beak.
"Um… nothing. Nevermind. Just forget about it. It wasn't important, really."
"Okay then," she replied, seemingly reassured. "I'll be sitting over here, then…"
She moved out of wing-reach and sat down in her former spot, eying me scrupulously every minute or so. Rafael, Nico, and Pedro fluttered in behind me, the toucan patting me on my back.
"Hey, don't worry amigo. You'll get another shot at her."
"Yeah, you'll really be rollin' with that hot-wing in no time!" Pedro added so quietly that Jewel could not hear.
I inhaled an aching breath and retorted in a hot whisper, "Yeah right. Once this chain comes off, she'll open those gorgeous wings and fly back to the jungle. How am I supposed to follow her then? Just forget it, guys. It's too late…"
The trio of birds did not respond, and Rafael's wing slid off my back.
More scratching echoed as they moved away, and I hung my head out of exhaustion and shame. A plethora of sad and remorseful thoughts came pouring into my brain, all concerning my failure to come on properly to Jewel and uncover her hidden feelings towards me.
I had also let down my friends, who had tried so hard up to this point to get us together. The choking incident may not have been my fault, but I still felt as torn-up as ever. It was useless to hope, as I had so rudely learned.
Hope just instills your belief in something and builds your happiness to a crescendo, and then steals it all away like a phantom thief. All I was at that point was a hopeless male, the window of opportunity slamming shut on me as soon as I tried to pass through.
I spent the rest of the ride in frozen silence.
Being as I had shut my eyes in my own despair, the lurch of the tram as it stopped served to open them. As I studied the beige stonework framing the entrance to the building ahead of me, I grew mildly happy at the thought that the chain strapped to my foot would be coming off.
At that moment, Linda's hazy image crept into my brain, and my happiness increased a hundred-fold. I would lose contact with Jewel, but in exchange, I would eventually meet up with the human I had known and loved beyond measure ever since I was a chick.
Jewel was a nice, independent girl, and I wasn't worth preventing her from living out her days in the jungle, her home. I wanted to be with her, don't get me wrong, but she needed to be free and be herself. It was clear which future was more important than the other.
I truly belonged with Linda, and flightless or not, I was going to find her.
As my emotions flowered in expectant joy, I waved my wing at Jewel and said, "Come on, let's get down and meet this Luiz."
"Right behind you, Blu."
Making my way to the right side of the tram, I looked down and saw a series of metal projections I could use as beak and footholds. In a series of short, steady drops, I fell down the side and onto the cobblestone street. Jewel landed next to me, and the tram chugged away.
Nico and Pedro glided down and sat on the ground as Rafael descended and hovered above them.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Luiz's garage!"
The upbeat toucan flew through a hole in a set of bars above the door, and the samba duo imitated him.
As Jewel and I neared the cracked-open metal doors, I motioned for her to proceed first.
"After you," I said kindly.
"No no no, you first."
"No, please, I insist."
Much to my amusement and embarrassment, we both stepped into the narrow gap simultaneously.
Our skulls knocked together – not painfully, mind you – and we both emitted chuckles and clipped apologies. Jewel took point and strode inside a few paces ahead, and as I stared at her lovely back, I put aside my own grievances.
If anything, I should be happy for her, the one who could fly and go wherever her heart desired. Me, I was a domesticated pet, and maybe it was better I remain behind a set of walls bordered by a ceiling and a floor.
"Guess this is it," she stated.
"Uh, yeah, quite an adventure."
"End of the line," she added.
"Ahh yes," I replied in acknowledgement.
She nudged my shoulder pointedly with her wing and said, "Guess things like this don't happen in Tiny-Sota."
Perplexed, I repeated, "Tiny-Sota? Oh, wait, Mini-Sota?"
"Yeah," she replied, amused at her own error.
"Oh, that's very good. That's very funny, actually."
"Luiz!" Rafael's grainy voice called. "Are you here? Luiz? Hey buddy, I've got some friends I want you to meet!"
The party of three ornate birds neared a rusted, oil-stained, seafoam-green truck, and then stopped.
Claws of fear gripped me as the hood flew open, releasing a barking tan-and-white dog, who promptly charged at us.
All three of them rocketed into the air, Nico and Pedro screaming in terror beforehand.
Since Jewel and I were earthbound, we literally turned tail and scurried away from the ferocious canine.
"Inside, outside! Inside, outside!" we both chanted, though it didn't help us move any faster due to our shared panic.
In less than one second, I was stopped dead by a powerful blow to my back and could not break free of the ensuing pressure. I could feel the dog's heart thudding against my spine, but that was far less disconcerting than what I saw.
Wiggling just above my left eye was a clear globule of saliva, a veritable swimming pool of all kinds of bacteria.
Jewel whimpered in fear, as did I, and I closed my eye so that the disgusting drool wouldn't touch it directly. The fiendish dog made a sickening slurping noise, and then laughed amicably.
"Ha ha ha! I got yous good!"
I opened my eye and tilted my head to survey my attacker, and Jewel did the same.
"Huh?" Jewel questioned.
"What?" I quipped.
"I coulda ripped your throats out, but I didn't!" The dog licked his chin and added ponderously, "But I coulda…"
Rafael's voice proved to be our saving grace: "Hey hey, Luiz, stop scaring my friends."
The lumbering animal stepped away and greeted, "Hey, Ralfy, come here! Where ya been? You look good!"
Jewel and I twisted and got back on our feet, at which point she said, "W-w-w-wait. Luiz… is a bulldog?"
He flashed Jewel an angry glare and asked, "You got somethin' against dogs?"
She wiped her chest dramatically and countered, "I do when they're drooling on me."
Luiz hung his head low, his stubby ears drooping from the hurtful answer.
"It's a medical condition…"
Rafael tried to remedy his friend's feelings: "No no, hey amigo, we really need you."
Luiz pointed a large paw at Jewel.
"She's mean, bro…"
"Luiz, come on, please, please…" Rafael said, then hopped over to the notorious chain between me and Jewel. Holding it up pointedly with his wing, he said, "We need your help."
Coming to his senses, Luiz treaded closer.
"Hmmm," he muttered, his eyes glued to the chain, "I think I know what to do."
Under the bold canine's guidance, we were ushered across the grimy space until we reached the underside of a large steel table.
"C'mere, you two. Stand right here," the bulldog ordered, pointing at a yellow square embedded in the floor.
Jewel and I complied, piling the chain between us as the bulldog stalked away. Jewel and I shared nervous glances as we heard Luiz grunt and slap something with his paw.
The square beneath our feet began to whirr in an alto tone as we rose upwards. The edge of the table slid down to us, or so it seemed. The whirring dwindled as our platform sat flush with the table's edge, coming to a precise stop.
We stepped off, and my eyes nearly popped from my sockets as I beheld the deadly object half-entombed in the steel over two feet away. A highly-polished saw with dozens of curved teeth pointed straight for us sat there, silent but evil.
I half-expected it to break free and slice us into ribbons, spinning out of control as it did so.
My beak fell open under no control of my own, and I presumed Jewel's had as well.
He can't… he can't be serious! Forget about freedom. Our lives are on the line! Is this even worth it?
The platform whirred twice more, and soon Luiz was sitting right next to us. An olive welder's mask was somehow strapped to his oversized skull.
"Uh, are you sure this is safe?" I asked, staring past Jewel, my beak curled into a frown.
"Oh sure, there's nothin' to it!" he replied, sounding as if this was a routine operation he had performed many times previously.
He threw the welder's mask down over his face and warned, "Now, if something goes wrong, scream really loud, 'cause I can't hear too good with this thing on!"
Oh geez… he really is serious! If I make it out of this alive, I don't know what I'll do…
"Hey Ralfy, get the switch please!"
My gaze shot to the toucan on the far wall, standing next to a red-handled bar.
"Don't worry, he's a professional!" the toucan assuaged. Rafael heaved the switch down with his wings, and the menacing tool roared to life.
The metal floor quaked unendingly beneath us, sending my heart racing.
"Now try not to move. I can't really see outta this thing eitha!"
Luiz used his bulk to slide us across the table, my feet useless in resisting his strength. I protested nonstop as Jewel flapped her wings to try and stall the canine, to no effect.
Closer and closer we slid, the saw buzzing like a mechanical hornet's nest.
Eventually, I felt my belly feathers rustle as the air from the revolving tool buffeted them at high speed.
Please, Jewel, fly and get me outta here! Get some real use out of those wings!
I shut my eyes as tightly as possible, awaiting the feel of me being tugged into the air and out of harm's way.
Something entirely different happened, something infinitely more dreadful…
As Luiz shoved the frenzied macaws toward the saw, a wad of clear drool slipped from his maw and stained the metal. Due to the temporary blindness the welding mask afflicted him with, he was unaware of the slippery pool that lay directly in his path.
His right foot lost all traction as it greeted the translucent fluid, folding backwards rapidly. His left foot instinctively tried to make up for his unbalanced body – which thrust both macaws away in the process – and surged forwards.
Little did he know, Jewel's tail was not in the clear.
The bulldog's paw smashed her feathers and pinned her to the spot, while Blu's momentum kept him skidding. Moments later, the hungry teeth of the saw bit the only thing available to them: the links of the chain.
A horrendous shrieking erupted, causing all but Luiz to flinch. The links being too thick to sever, the silver binding became entrenched between the teeth and wound around the saw like a yo-yo string.
The blade of doom came to an abrupt stop as the chain was jammed into the groove in the table, the electric motor screaming as it tried to get the blade moving.
A pair of dull thuds were immediately drowned out by a pair of screams that could shatter glass: "RAFAEL! LUIZ HELP!"
They came from Blu and Jewel.
Pedro and Nico hollered, "Oh no! Hurry amigo! That is so not good!"
The toucan struggled to move the switch, but it was so rarely used, the pivot points were caked with grease. Rafael moaned with the effort, but it remained lodged at the halfway point. Pedro and Nico rushed over to assist, but their minimal fortitude was of no use.
Luiz stripped off his mask to see what went wrong, and his heart leapt into his throat.
Both macaws were strapped like prisoners to the sides of the motionless saw by the taut metal rope, Blu on the right, Jewel on the left.
The female's back was pressed up against the blade's surface, her wings half-extended and her chest compressed visibly. One of her feet was being extended to the maximum, but the buckle encircling her ankle was too narrow to be removed.
The male was worse off, for his neck and stomach were butted up against the side of the blade, trapped under the chain's crushing grip. On top of that, the foot with the shackle was stationed dangerously close to the gap in the table.
Luiz couldn't bear to think of what would happen if the chain gave way.
"Oh no! I'm comin', you two! I'll get yous' outta there! Just hold still!"
Luiz scampered over to the less-restrained Jewel – who was unable to breathe properly – and used his angled teeth to tug at the chain.
I gotta loosen this thing, or she gonna suffocate… or worse… the bulldog thought.
If it wasn't for the cold material flattening my throat, I would have been able to yell my head off.
I could feel the blade trembling via my bones, accompanied by the never-ending hum of the overworked motor inside the housing. A slight tugging manifested every few seconds, and I linked it to Luiz trying to free Jewel on the other side.
"Luiz… y-you need to h-hurry! I can't b-breathe!"
The pain shooting down my neck was nauseating, and the weak heaving of my oxygen-craving chest made it even worse. On Luiz's third tug, I felt the pressure reduce slightly, and I seized the opportunity to inhale somewhat deeper.
In the wake of that rush of oxygen, my intelligent brain put two and two together.
"Luiz… quit pulling… on the chain! Pull on Jewel… instead! If you give it… too much slack… the saw will… spin again!"
"What?" he asked, and tugged again.
I felt my body slip, and my shackled foot came into contact with the groove that held the tool. That very same blade turned minutely at the same time.
"You move the switch yet, guys? Jewel's still stuck, but one of her wings is out!"
"No!" Rafael shouted. "It won't MOVE!"
"Alright, gotcha! Imma keep workin'!"
Why won't he listen? I'm going to get sliced into pieces! Oh God… this can't be happening to me!
Disobeying my drive to squirm free – as I knew I couldn't – I remained there as the dog toiled away.
A fourth tug, and then a fifth, and I heard Jewel cry out in dreadful ecstasy: "Luiz, my wings are out! One more pull!"
Just then my foot twisted painfully and was forced into the gap. The saw lurched through a ten degree turn.
"AHHHH! Damn it, Luiz! Stop, or I'm gonna DIE!"
Either he didn't hear me – which was possible due to the insane cacophony of noise – or he was too dedicated to freeing Jewel to quit – which was also possible.
I detected one more yank, and my pupils shrank in fear as the underside of the base of my tail brushed against the prickly teeth. I was being hauled downwards and forwards at the same time.
My foot was irreversibly pinned inside the table, twisted at an extreme angle, and the pain was excruciating.
My heart beat once in elation as I heard Jewel exclaim, "Luiz, I'm free! But my foot's still stuck!"
Now I had a shot at getting that dog to get me out before the saw went wild.
"Luiz, I'm still… trapped here! Jewel! I need your help!"
"I'm comin', Blu!" the dog yelled.
"Me too!" Jewel added.
I felt Luiz take two steps, and then stumble.
"Yaaah!" he shouted, and then a leaden thump rattled my ears.
"Luiz, are you okay? Get up, man!"
A flurry of wing-flaps seemed to indicate that Nico, Pedro, and Rafael were gliding down to tend to Luiz, who I imagined had slipped in his own drool – again – and plummeted from the table.
Jewel plodded over to me with bottomless worry and dread in her wide-open eyes.
"Blu, what do I do? How can I help you?" she pleaded.
"Grab… my neck… and pull me out! But my foot… you have to get that… free…. first!"
She gave a sharp nod and bent down to grab hold of my leg.
The blade spun another ten degrees, lifting my head up while pushing my lower body down. My foot suddenly went limp, but the pain did not decrease one iota.
I was certain it was broken.
"Forget about… my foot! Grab my scruff… like a mother does… to her chick!"
She dashed over to my head and pinched my neck.
"Ow!" I squawked as a spike of agony struck my spine.
Jewel twisted my skin and took one step backwards, and then another.
The motor's pitch dropped.
I was wrenched from her grasp.
The lower one third of my body exploded in a miasma of pain as if it had been lit on fire…
Due to the combined effect of the blade's strain on the links, Luiz's slack-giving battle, and Jewel's disturbances, the chain could take no more. In the dark interior of the machine, the links that grated against the lowest teeth of the saw bent and pulled apart.
The angry motor kicked the saw into overdrive, sending the two portions whipping around as they emerged from the depths, shooting them off like whips. Jewel was nailed squarely in the nape by her end, catapulting the female head-over-tail to the floor below.
Her section of the chain trailed along behind her.
Blu's, however, was sucked around before being spat out, dragging him at angle in front of the teeth. From his throat came a short scream, and then nothing.
There was a sick shredding din as flesh met steel, the latter eating into his mortal body in an instant.
Blu's flesh-and-bone composition was no match for the vile wheel, which had been orbiting at twice its normal velocity. The motor had dialed back the speed in roughly six seconds, but that was more than enough time for the teeth to inflict grotesque damage to the macaw.
They burrowed past his plumage, past his skin, past his organs, and past his spine, before clawing their way out in reverse order.
Shredded navy feathers, blood, bits of multicolored tissue, and small chunks of bone shot up into the air like a geyser. Those same remnants of Blu then rained down like demonic confetti, decorating the area around the saw and the grease-blotched terrain even father below.
The feathers hung in the air, while the blood pattered for a short time on the ground. Bone and organ slices littered the steel expanse, too heavy to have traveled far.
As if the motor had somehow realized its foul deed was done, it overheated and died. Clouds of smoke billowed from the gap where the saw lay, rising undeterred to the ceiling and spreading out into a sooty mat.
The carnage finally over, an ominous silence swallowed the garage. Luiz, having been helped to his feet by the three party-loving birds, hustled to lower the platform so that he could mount the table. The others hopped and bounced over to Jewel, who was wide awake and sobbing.
Her wings were pressed to the back of her neck, her primaries stained crimson.
"Jewel, you okay? Get up, girl," Nico intoned.
"Does it… look like I'm okay? My neck… oh man it hurts!"
Nico gulped, and Pedro asked, "Can we see, Jewel?"
Tenderly, he used his stubby wing to pull one of hers away.
Nico hopped away in shock, while Pedro quickly averted his eyes.
Only Rafael possessed the stomach to assess the severity of the wound.
A strip of skin about one inch long had been gouged out, but not deep enough to reveal her neck bones. Blood collected in the oval-shaped basin and spilled over the edges, gathering into a pool upon meeting the ground.
"It's bad… isn't it?" the immobilized female moaned.
"Yeah, Jewel, it's pretty bad. We have to get you to the jungle and throw some leaves on that! Your wings are the only thing that will slow the bleeding for now."
He replaced her displaced wing, and she winced as it contacted the gash.
"Blu… where's Blu? Is he… alright? Why can't I… hear him?"
As of yet, none of them had heard any words from him, and seeds of dread took root in their souls.
"Outta the way, Ralfy! Blu's still up there! Gosh, I hope he alright!"
The platform rose upwards a modest pace, and Luiz performed an awkward jump and clambered onto it.
The silence thickened as the platform stopped moving, and then a hoarse moan rattled the stale air: "L-Luiz? Help m-me…"
"Blu… no… no!"
Luiz whimpered like an abused puppy and bounded off the mechanism, running like a rabid dog to the entrance, and beyond. A trail of tears marked his getaway path.
Rafael faced the canary and cardinal, nodding ever so slightly. The two males spiraled up and went into a hover.
Nico made retching sounds and fled the garage.
Pedro squeaked out the words: "Blu… oh my God. We… we gon' miss you…"
He himself bolted, his eyes veiled in tears.
"Rafael? Before we go… I have to see Blu. Can you… take me up there?"
"Jewel, I don't… I don't think you want to see-"
"Please… I have to check… on him… please."
Sighing in immense regret, he secured Jewel's bloody wings in his claws and hoisted her dead weight off the dirty earth. She screamed in agony as her neck bent and stretched the gouge, and then screeched again as Rafael placed her down on the cold steel.
The toucan expected the worst, but this was beyond imagining.
He broke down on the spot and zoomed out, leaving Jewel alone with Blu.
The ache in my neck was so astounding, I nearly passed out. Ironically, the fire I felt when Rafael picked me up and then set me down kept me conscious. I forced myself to stand on my feet, trying my hardest not to turn my head.
But when I saw Blu, the very life was sucked out of my muscles.
Small piles of feathers lay all around, mixed with pink pieces of skin and white chips of bone. I stood in a small lake of blood, so much blood, and I burst into tears as I realized why: Blu's body had been torn into two uneven chunks and left belly-down.
Everything from his head to his upper waist lay to the left of the toothed wheel, while his lower waist, feet, and tail lay on the right. One of his feet was badly twisted, pressed against the metal at a grim angle.
Not that it mattered anymore.
Most of his organs spilled from his upper half, spreading out in front of the teeth in a horrendous pile. Both ends of his severed spine stuck out from either half, jagged and rough. The blood flowed out nonstop, and as I stood there, frozen, I felt it surround my feet and warm them.
"J-Jewel… my legs… I can't f-feel my legs. I can't g-get up…"
His head rested on its right side, his left eye doused with tears and darting in all directions.
"Blu… you've been… I don't think…"
I lacked the ability to even tell him what had happened, to tell him that he was doomed. I could not physically manage it.
I approached his head, and his upper half started trembling, as if he was chilled.
"Jewel… help me… help m-me up…"
I shut my eyes to hold back my tears, but they just poured out even faster.
"I can't Blu… they're not… oh Deus… why? Why?"
I shouted as loud as I could, asking the same question over and over again.
"Why did this… have to happen? Why did we… have to come here? Please… tell me why…"
Here he was, the bird I had ever harbored feelings for, shredded beyond repair.
Here he was, the nerd-bird who had tried so hard to make our trials as easy as possible, dying in plain sight.
Here he was, the bird who had danced with me in the club and ignited the fires of romance in me, bleeding out as time passed.
If only I hadn't been so blind, so judgmental, so needy, maybe I would have noticed that he was a cut above the rest.
From the time we met in that mean human's aviary to our awkward trip here, and all the ups and downs in the middle, I knew that he was a special male.
At first it wasn't so obvious, but the way he tried to woo me on the tram meant that he was interested in me, though he never was able to say it.
Maybe he was lacking in courage, or maybe I treated him so rudely that that prevented him from revealing his feelings to me.
Only now did I realize how bad he must have felt.
I knew without a doubt that he liked me romantically, and I also knew that I liked him back in the same manner. Neither of us loved each other, of that I'm sure, but we might have gotten to that level one day. And heck, we probably would have been able to cross "save the species" off of our to-do list in life.
But now, Blu was broken, bleeding, and dying, and it was too late for any of that.
I blinked open my blurred eyes as Blu's breathing changed.
It had started out slow and deep; now he inhaled quickly, then released it all in a drawn-out sigh.
He was still trembling.
Somehow, he managed to lift his head a few inches into the air, so that he could look me dead-on with both hazel eyes.
"J-Jewel… I think… I think I'm… not going to be here… much longer. I feel tired… so tired…"
Without hesitation, I leaned over without bending my neck and planted a kiss on his temple. He sucked in a rapid breath and flashed a shaky smile.
"I… like you Blu. You're special to me. If you only would have asked… I would have been your… girlfriend. If only the future had been different…"
Blu's smile morphed into a curved frown, and his eyes threatened to roll back in his head.
He blinked and pulled them back to me.
"So do I, Jewel. But I never…"
His head slipped back down, and his eyes drew half-closed.
"I never had the chance… to say it right. But now I do. Jewel… I… I…"
He used up the last of his breath to speak, and he sucked in a rushed breath. But he fell silent, not a word slipping from his beak, and he stopped shivering.
When he exhaled this time, his eyes closed the rest of the way.
He did not breathe again.
"Blu… no. Don't die. Please… don't die. No! NO!"
I was overwhelmed by sorrow and hopelessness, and my legs folded beneath me. My skull clicked against the metal, and a massive wave of pain erupted from my neck.
The combination of that agony and the trauma of seeing Blu fade away in full view was too much for me to bear. My tears streamed from my eyes as they began to slide shut, blood and water swirling together in a relaxed dance.
The last threads of my consciousness slipped away, my hold on them useless. My eyes slid shut, and I passed into a deep sleep.
Blu… I'll miss you… and I'll never forget you. We had something between us… but it left with you… and it's gone. It's gone… forever...
Blu was dead, his corpse just a hollow shell of tissue and bone.
He didn't have enough time to profess his feelings before death's cruel hands stole his spirit.
Endless variations of that same truth spun around and around inside my brain while I slept.
If only my sleep could reach as deeply as Blu's.
That nerdy, flightless pet I had come to enjoy being around would never breathe again, talk again, feel again, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do to change that.
I don't have a clue how long I hid behind my eyelids, but when I woke up, I groggily realized I wasn't in the smelly garage of death anymore. There was green here, there, and everywhere, but the lack of light made it hard to see much more detail than that.
I was in the jungle, the wild place I called home, though I didn't know exactly where.
Rafael loomed over me, his beak bent into a solid frown.
"Rafael… Blu… he's…"
"I am so sorry, Jewel. I never meant… for this to happen. I never meant to… lead him to his death..."
The sound of leaf litter being kicked around caught my attention, and I saw Nico and Pedro hop over to me from the corner of my eye.
"Hey guys…" I greeted pitifully.
"Blu was gonna be your love-hawk… and now he… he gone…" Pedro whimpered.
Nico fought to support his rotund buddy, but the strain was evident in his legs.
The haze in my vision cleared slightly, and I felt the cool touch of what I thought was a leaf stuck to the back of my neck. My wound didn't hurt so much, but the lasting memory of Blu's passing stung me more than ever.
And that infernal chain, the one that had injured my neck in the first place, was still shackled to my foot.
"Blu… where is he? I have to say… goodbye."
"He's over there. Luiz… carried him here. We're not that far… into the jungle. Luiz hasn't buried him yet."
"Get me up…" I moaned.
Rafael used those strong wings of his to prop me up on my feet. My neck gave a small spurt of pain, but it was bearable. As far as I could tell, the bleeding had stopped.
Rafael served as my cane and my guide, walking me over to Blu's body, which had been hastily put back together. A thick fern frond lay over his belly – he was now lying on his back, his wings folded against his sides – to cover up the massive rip.
To his left lay a perfectly dug-out pit, and a mound of dark brown earth to the left of that. Luiz lay on his stomach at the head of the pit, his gaze avoiding Blu at all costs.
"Let go… Rafael. I'm okay now."
Hesitantly, the toucan released me and stepped back.
I wobbled, still very dizzy, but regained my balance before I could fall over.
That last foot or so I covered to be near Blu was the hardest walk in my life, and I nearly retreated more than once.
But for Blu's sake, I trudged on, the fluid returning to my eyes. I neared him on his right side, my eyes darting to his pristine face.
I reached out to stroke it.
He's so cold… so lifeless… I thought sadly.
"Blu… I hope that… wherever you are… you're happy. Maybe… when I'm old and gray… I'll leave this world… and find you again. I guess this is goodbye… my faithful companion…"
Ignoring the dull throb behind my head, I bent over and kissed his forehead. I was kissing a corpse, but I could care less.
A few of my tears plopped onto his chest, staining them with an even darker shade of blue.
"Luiz… you can bury him now. Give him the peace… he deserves."
Luiz nodded silently and pounded over to him, his footsteps slow and heavy. When he secured Blu's upper half by his neck and dragged him to the edge of the grave, the frond fell away.
I whirled around to avoid subjecting myself to that disgusting sight.
I heard nothing save for my own ragged breathing and Luiz's stony pacing.
Nico, Pedro, and Rafael surrounded me while Luiz worked, patting me all over and cooing tender words. Those words and gestures did nothing to lift my spirits.
The pacing eventually turned into scratching after a minute or so, which lasted for three more minutes. And then, silence.
"Jewel… he's buried. What you gonna do now?"
I broke away gently from my still-living friends and faced Luiz, who sat next to a dark rectangle of earth. I knew Blu was sleeping somewhere below, never to be disturbed again by us mortals, and in the arms of the angels.
"Thanks, Luiz. I know it must have been hell for you to carry him, and for what it's worth, I'm sorry."
"Nah, it's… it's okay, yo. I had do to it… 'cause he was a nice guy. And I think… I'm the one… who killed 'em. I mean… I had to use the saw…"
At this, Luiz hid his face in his paws and cried.
"It's not your fault. You didn't know it wouldn't cut the chain…"
He didn't respond beyond bawling some more.
"Jewel, I have to get back to Eva. It's late, and she's probably worried sick about me. I apologize for your loss, and I hope you find the strength to move on. We'll keep in touch, alright?"
"Alright. And thanks for everything. As for moving on, I'll… I'll do my best…"
"Sounds good. See you around, then."
Rafael departed on those night-black wings of his, becoming one with the dark sky above.
"Pedro and I gonna bounce too, Jewel. I think a good night's rest will help us… feel better. Unless you want us to stay."
I shot them an agonized glance, tinged with encouragement.
"No, I won't stop you from leaving. It's alright. This grave… will always be here for you to visit."
Pedro sniffled and said, "I guess you're right. That Blu was a real sweet dude. You two woulda been… great together. I'm so sorry, Jewel…"
The cardinal took his leave.
Nico stayed long enough to say, "I'm sorry too, Jewel."
He flitted off after his buddy, the foliage hiding them from view in a matter of seconds.
I strode over to the grave, imagining Blu reclined under the dirt like a navy doll. I then looked down and saw the chain, dull in the starlight.
I remember having threatened earlier that day to chew my own leg off, but now I didn't have the heart to do so. No, I vowed then and there to leave that chain on for the rest of my days, a perpetual reminder of the goofy male that used to be attached to the other end.
It was pretty long and annoying now, and I would at least find some way to shorten it that didn't involve getting myself killed.
But on my ankle it would stay, until I was in Blu's position.
I shed a few more tears, searched around the area for a gift as special as he was, seized it, and returned to the grave. As close to the middle of the grave as I could estimate, I scooped out a tiny pit and stuck my gift there, stem down.
Its pink face stared up at me, and I swore it was crying out of those long, thin eyes in its center. I shed one final tear on my offering, then took to the sky.
The leaf on my neck came loose and slid off, but I didn't turn back to retrieve it.
Blu would never be with me again in the flesh, but at least a memory of him would always be hugging my ankle. I looked forward to the day when I turned cold and still, just so that I could fly up into the clouds and see those hazel irises of his.
And once that day arrived, I knew that he and I would never be apart. We would be chained-together-birds for eternity, and I wouldn't want it any other way.
Down below, seconds after the heartbroken female's retreat, a bloodstained item tumbled through the still air. Its landing spot was a rectangle of tightly packed earth.
A few inches above that leaf lay Jewel's gift: a glorious orchid tinged a sweet shade of pink.
A single drop of liquid, full of star-shine, lay on one of the petals.
Well, well, what did you all think?
I've never used the review arrow before, so I'll give it a shot and see if it works...