Happy Monday readers! For this evening’s post, I have collaborated with an incredibly talented artist and super sweet person, Lauren Shepherd. I first came across her incredible illustrations on her Instagram page and immediately fell in love. Lauren is a motion graphics designer, illustrator and dachshund mom based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Her work features wildlife, wildflowers and bones and is both romantic and macabre…check her out and I bet you will love her work as much as me! I wrote a short story inspired by her body of work and her unique style and she in turn created these stunning images inspired by my story. I hope you enjoy it! If you are an artist and would like to collaborate, get in touch and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with my latest posts! Happy Reading!
Edwin the Black
Edwin watched the child with curious detachment. They were such odd-looking creatures, all exposed, pink flesh pimpling at the slightest sign of cold. They looked naked. This one was female, and what little fur she possessed was a fiery red, like that of his fox friend Orla. She was called Lana, for that is what the child’s mother had yelled when the imp had wondered too close to the edge of the forest.
Edwin sat above her in his evergreen, only the tuft of red hair visible as she turned in circles over and over until she fell, dizzy and unsteady on her feet. He could not fathom the purpose of such an action, perhaps it was some form of mating ritual? Regardless, the child seemed to have tired of her games, and now lay still amongst the fallen pine needles, the deep red of her hair vivid against the brown, dead forest floor. Within minutes, her breathing steadied and her eyes closed, a peaceful look passing over her freckled face.
Curious as to these large, cumbersome creatures, which had encroached so much into his home, he decided to get a closer look. His black wings reflected the afternoon sun, as he swooped down beside her tiny sleeping form. He landed without making a sound, and all that was audible in that moment was the slow and steady breathing of the fleshy lump which now lay mere feet from him.
He walked slowly around her, his yellow eyes absorbing every detail. He could see she was well fed, her flesh coating every limb in lumpy, pink flesh. Her skin was paler than others he had seen, and her eyelashes were the same red as her hair, thin enough to seem almost transparent in the sun. He knew she was a child, as the adults of her kind towered above her, carrying her here and there and showering praise on her when she did the most rudimentary things. Edwin scoffed a short quiet squawk. He could never understand their pride at their young ones doing, in a year or more, what creatures such as himself did in a matter of weeks, perhaps less. The adults of this species seemed to be very easily pleased.
There was so much about the humans which perplexed and at times, disgusted himself and his kin. They took more than they needed, and often left destruction in their wake, and more than once he had witnessed their kind hurting each other for no discernible reason. Yes, his brothers and he killed, but it was for survival, for food. The humans seemed to them to be so needlessly destructive. Someday, it would surely be their end.
Suddenly, the child shifted, her chubby arm moving towards Edwin, startling him from his quiet contemplation. He jumped backwards without thinking, and without warning, felt a sudden and painful tightness around his left leg. Looking down, he saw a thin wire attached to a wooden stake in the earth, and he knew it was one of the human’s traps. They didn’t hunt like animals, they used tools and weapons. They cheated.
Panic clawed at his flesh just as much as the wire hands, and he began to desperately flap his wings, trying to fly free of the vice like grip he found himself in, but each movement only seemed to tighten its hold on him, and he felt his flesh slice as his blood oozed free. Frantic, he looked around him for something he could use to free himself, and instead saw two large brown eyes staring at him. She was awake, the human child, his desperate squawks of fear and pain had made sure of that. It would only be a moment before she raised a rock above her head and used it to crush his tiny skull. His short life flashed before his eyes, his nest, his Mother and the squirming, fat earth worms she would bring him as a chick. The first time he fell from the nest, fear of death being replaced by the freedom and exhilaration of his first flight. He wished he had mated, settled down and sired some young, but it was too late for regrets now.
The child reached her hand towards him, and even at her young age, he could see how easily they could wrap themselves around his fragile body and simply squeeze. He thought about fighting, about pecking and clawing and spilling a little blood in exchange for his own. But, he knew this would only bring the adults, and they would bring with them an even worse death. He cursed at himself for his stupidity, his arrogance at sitting so close to such a dangerous being, as he felt the hand move around him.
He waited there for the pain, and the darkness that would surely follow, and he waited, and nothing came. When he opened his eyes again, he saw her there still, her eyes wide and curious, studying him as he had studied her. She sat so still, her hands by her side, and in one he realised, sat the stake, the wire noose. Confused, he looked down at his leg to find it free. He was free. She had freed him. But why? Why would such a blundering creature care about some bird which fell prey to its trap? No doubt, he would make a meagre meal, but why trouble herself with helping him when she could have ignored his cries and left him for another predator of these woods?
Some moments passed, the two studying each other, before she smiled at him, her eyes bright and wide. He wished he could have smiled back, but beaks do not allow for such gestures, and so he simply bowed his head and hoped she would understand it as thanks. Then he flew to the highest branch he could reach, thankful his wings were unharmed. He heard a voice yell the child’s name, and she emerged from the trees into the clearing, waddling towards it with eager excitement.
He watched her walk away hand in hand with her mother, and he thought hard about the days events, the information swimming amongst the other information he had collated over his life time. These humans, they were feared, they were violent and destructive, and yet, this one had saved his meagre life for no rhyme or reason. She had showed him kindness and for that, he was filled with an emotion he had never before experienced; something akin to loyalty.
And so, he flew, high above the two red haired creatures, one grown, one young, and followed them home. He would watch the child, and he would protect her as she had protected him. He would be her guardian, for he owed her his life, and all debts in nature must be repaid. He was Edwin the black, and now he was protector of Lana the red.