By Rebecca Dempsey
From atop her hiding place in the old shed, Leah thrilled at the sight of the bird. He was a sign. She brushed the sun bleached wisps of hair from her eyes to watch him circle, until he made a stately landing in the reeds of the far paddock, a waterlogged marshland, yet to be drained. Bird of wisdom and indeed the alphabet, as young as she was, Leah knew nature vindicated her. She held her hand up to her face still clutching a pen, as she squinted into the sun, straining to glimpse how his curved beak prodded the murky shallows of the distant swamp. It seemed a logical leap for Leah to know that from this, she was a writer. A god himself had seen fit to visit his gifts with her ibis that bright spring.
As hallowed as she was, she acknowledged not all abilities are heralded so clearly. With her green eyes Leah saw flashes of a future when Thoth would desert her. Nature may support her now, but there were hints that forces more immense than one fragile child governed the world. Leah stood on the gate, as the Herefords stampeded across the marsh, crushing the prostantheras underfoot as cattle dust and mint odours mixed in a heady rush. In such devastation, Leah also saw a lingering beauty, like when shoots spring from eucalypts after the fires and are made all the greener against the blackened trunks. Leah saw the earth was nothing if not cyclical and so she wrote in hope, because after every blaze there is regrowth.
In town, hedgerows of hawthorn, and mazes of roses and lavender lived by the rules of an ordered society. She could barely breathe, it was so constricted. Wild Leah preferred the farm’s winter flowering wattles, spreading their gold pollen in mosaiced patterns across the grey, uneven paddocks. She too, preferred the wind through old manna gums and the rattling, waving clumps of phalaris grasses, which dwarfed the grazing herds. Here Leah wrote, note pad in her lap, chewing fitfully, a long stem of hay. It was where she waited for the yearly return of her ibis, whose flock grew as numerous as the secret scribbled words across her pages.
One day, she thought, she will be as free as her old Thoth to come and go.
One day, her words would fly from this roost. It was as certain as the seasons.
One day, Leah hoped, she would stand as proud as the strutting ibis, dark against the drying grasses.
She was in exams when the grader rumbled in, bulldozing a deep scar across the sodden soil of the swamp to leach the water away. No soothing words from her parents, no gesture made up for the loss Leah could barely articulate beyond a flood of hot tears that evening.
The home of the ibis was gone.
Thoth wouldn’t return; nor would she.
Smoke feathered the sky that night as flames ate her words.
Rebecca Dempsey is a writer, mainly of short fiction, based in Melbourne, Australia. Recent works have featured in the first edition of Heather, in Deadman’s Tome and The Stray Branch. She has a Masters in creative writing from Deakin University and keeps at blog at writingbec.wordpress.com.