It was a very beautiful bird, maligned though its name and presence so commonly was. Upon the small solitary beach that laid hidden between the coarse colored cut cliff edges it had rested in the dark certainty of approaching death. If there had been more time it would have found a safer place to die, for even here in the pale skies of off season it knew people would come.
It was a young male seagull, its watertight wings of stone grey pale still vibrant against the salt white of its breast. Amongst its community it had been the most beautiful gull in the sky, a seagull that flew in motions of majesty, though to blank human eyes it looked no different to other seagulls.
It had experienced something, something akin to love, something strange and rare that was as unexpected as it was uncommon.
Along the sands the couple walked, their footsteps leaving concave shapes upon the damp sand. They had been talking, their words like patterns against the wind as time had become encapsulated in their faces. Suddenly she'd stopped walking “look” she said pointing to the gull. The man looked at the bird as it lay tragically upon the dryer sand just beyond them.
He felt a sadness within to see such a suffering seagull, its neck was twisted and soft sounds of hurt spilled from its beak onto the sand. They stood in silence for some seconds looking at the bird.
The gull could see them, it knew that people would come, that they would stare.
The man knelt down close to the bird in the sand. ‘It’s dying’ he said and the woman made a soft sound of concern as the gull tried to walk away from them but could only sway it’s head drunkenly from side to side. It spread its wings and they touched the sand as it tried to balance itself from its disorientating movements.
Suddenly a small white terrier ran towards the gull and tried to bite a wing. ‘Martin’ screamed the woman as the dog raced forward and the gull began to panic in a stricken fashion and fell on the wet sand near where the waves reached.
‘Martin’ said the woman again, ‘you silly dog, leave that bird alone’ and the dog looked at her with its tongue hanging out and a mischievous expression its tiny face.
The man had stood up and now faced the gull again, he seemed quite sad and concerned, as though the gull was a symbolic piece of this beach which he had come to know and love, this beautiful beach that stretched out into the horizons of the Atlantic Ocean. The gull was a traveller as he had once been, its wings were its transport, its hope. But now it could not use its wings because it could not hold its head up properly.
It laid tragically on the wet sand, the waves began to dislodge it and drag it back into the water.
‘I think its neck is broken’ he said to the woman as they stood together. She took his hand in hers. ‘I wonder what happened to it’ she said.
In her peripheral vision she could see the dog approaching and she left the man to admonish her pet and reattach it to the lead she had in her coat pocket.
The gull could see the shape of the man out of its half closed eyes, it felt the cold water rushing over its body and it felt the sensation of falling. The man watched the gull willing it to get better, to get up and fly away. He envisioned the bird in its blue skies, and he tried to imagine what had brought this once noble looking creature to its knees. The gull raised its head and stared at him, he somehow felt that it was trying to communicate with him.
In his mind he asked ‘what happened to you?’
It had fallen to be here, it had fallen from love. The young gull had followed the trajectory of a lone sea eagle in flight, a bird of which it had not seen before. In the sky they had met, the gull circling and the eagle hovering high above the beach. Briefly they had touched wings and the gull had experienced a feeling of such grace that it knew not what had happened, only that it wished to remain close to the eagle and to not return to the community of bickering sea gulls of which it was from.
The eagle had flown inland and the gull had followed, above the high buildings and apartment blocks and the long lines of black roads they had danced together in a strange and random companionship until the gull had experienced the sense of love, it flew high, higher than it ever had and the eagle shrieked in happy laughter as it led the way. Then as they arced back over the sea they had plummeted downwards, so fast that the gull had lost its vision and as the water approached it had turned to follow the eagle but had collided with some of the outcropping Cliffside and in that instant it had ended.
As the gull tumbled down into the saltwater the eagle had perched on the rocks and watched it. It uttered a cry several times as the gull laid in the water and began the process of dying. Then after the night had come the eagle flew away passing over the young gull as it lay helpless in the white edges of the cold Atlantic waves
But it was a warm feeling in the gull that had kept it alive for so long, it was the small heart that kept beating from the memory of the eagle. It had lived, it had found something far beyond its own constraints, it had found the transient mystery of the sense of love. It had followed that mysterious sensation and in the very act of following it had somehow brought it to the edges of death. The new day had come and the gulls’ heart beat faintly with just the memory it remembered and recognized forever. ‘I am dying’ thought the gull, ‘but I have lived, ever so briefly I have…’
The man watched the waves come in and take the bird. In the distance he could hear the dog barking and the voice of the woman he loved.
‘Goodbye young gull’ he said as the water covered the bird and it was swept into the swathes of liquid space.
The gull saw the man and cried one last time, but it did not cry to the man but to the eagle that it had loved and would always love. Then as the cold water filled its small lungs it felt only darkness and it was gone.
The man walked across the beach to where the woman waited for him. ‘Martin has been told off for being such a rascal’ she said.
He smiled at her and stroked the small dog.
‘Has the bird died?’ she asked looking into his eyes with concern.
‘Yes’ he said as he took her hand and they began to walk towards the small sea side cafe where they would drink hot coffee. It was still cold though the sun was high in the sky. In many ways it had been a perfect winter morning until he had seen the gull and he had remembered.
He squeezed her hand, ‘Did I ever tell you that you are the best thing that ever happened to me’ he said.
She laughed ‘where did that come from?’ she said, and she squeezed his hand as a response.
He laughed with her but his eyes were lost in the old distant memories of the past, for he had once been that young gull, and he knew now that the gull had not died from a broken neck at all.
It had died from a broken heart.