Where do babies come from?
* * 4 * *
The soft familiarity of the clouds comforted Jabiru as they brushed past his feet. The young stork always found the flight home to be much nicer than the decent.
He lingered among the clouds until he had effectively moved from the front of the flock to the very rear, leaving only Half-Wing Harvey behind him. “How you holdin’ up, Harv?” he shouted to the struggling bird.
“Been . . . better,” Harvey panted. “Are we . . . even . . . close yet?”
“We’re almost to the ether.”
“Thank the rocs!” Harvey sighed. “I . . . hate gravity . . . so . . . much.”
Jabiru couldn’t disagree more. Granted, he wasn’t cursed with the same small, feeble wings as Harvey, but he loved gravity. More accurately, he loved the feeling of being completely unbounded by the same force that grounded so many others. Hoping to get one more rush of superiority before entering the ether, the stork closed his wings tight, allowing himself to fall. Just after dropping below Harvey, Jabiru spread his wings, released a burst of ba, and shot back up passed his companion.
“Sh . . . showoff!” Harvey shouted after him, still beating furiously with his deformed wings.
The two reached the ether together and ceased their flapping. Jabiru paused to let Harvey stop and catch his breath before the two proceeded on, propelled by ba alone.
“Well if it isn’t Half-Wing Harvey and his little Jay bird,” said Erlik, a vulture who was also just getting off of a shift. “How were the deliveries today, boys?”
“Just fine,” replied Harvey, much more confident now that gravity was a nonissue. “How was your gathering?”
“Paltry,” Erlik spat. “Humans are getting way too good at not dying.”
“Blame the dog-tars,” said Harvey.
Erlik chuckled. “I hear that.”
“Oh thank the rocs,” said a high pitched but surprisingly loud voice that seemed to come from nowhere in particular. “I was hoping I would find you here.”
Jabiru was looking for the source of the voice when a bright green hummingbird popped into his field of vision. “Oh! Hey, Thoth. I didn’t see you there.”
“No worries,” said Thoth in a distinctly hummingbird accent. “I’m just glad I found you two before you went off shift.”
The color drained out of Harvey’s face. “Don’t tell me.”
“You see,” Thoth continued, “one of the vultures just picked up two souls that were supposed to be delivered this morning, but thanks to those blasted dog-tar things, didn’t make it up here ’til a few minutes ago. And it just so happens that they’re on your routes.” The hummingbird smiled expectantly.
“Clip those stinkin’ dog-tars,” Harvey spat. “Clip ’em all.”
Jabiru sighed. “Where are they?”
Thoth nearly flipped. “I was hoping you’d be up to it.”
Jabiru looked over at Harvey. The poor stork looked exhausted. He clearly had no business making a second trip to the mortal coil that day. “Let me take them both.”
The hummingbird looked shocked. “Excuse me?”
“I’ll take them both.”
“Good luck with that,” laughed Erlik.
Thoth’s feathers darkened. “No, sir. There’s no way you can get to them both in time. No one can fly that fast.”
Jabiru grinned. “Challenge accepted. Give ’em.”
Thoth looked as though he was going to try and argue, but gave up. Everyone there knew Jabiru was too stubborn to change his mind. “Fine. But you don’t deliver them on time, I swear I’ll send you straight to Garuda himself.”
“Understood,” said Jabiru as Thoth reluctantly handed over the souls. The look on Harvey’s face said that he wanted to say something, but the words were simply not forming. “You’re welcome,” said Jabiru. “Just know that you owe me one. I’ll call it in someday.” With a wink and a burst of ba, the stork dropped out of the ether and back into gravity’s pull.
He tucked his wings in tight and dropped faster than he ever had before. He didn’t have time to worry about silly things like safety regulations.
He spread his wings just a few feet above the roof of a building, unleashed a wave of ba that blew at least two people completely off their feet, and passed through the ceiling as easily as he had the clouds. Jabiru found the aura of a human that was close to the shade of one of the souls and followed it down a hallway to one of the rooms. Along the way, he was passed by four humans and two dog-tars who never even noticed he was there. He always found that both lonely and comforting. He was isolated, but safe.
As he entered the room, he quickly located the female and strode toward her, reaching into his pouch and pulling out the souls. He held them up to inspect them against the auras of the two soon-to-be parents. He didn’t want them to end up with the wrong one, after all.
“Alright, Mr. and Mrs. Evans, let’s have a look, shall we?”
The dog-tar seemed to have come out of nowhere. Jabiru leapt out of the way to dodge it and fumbled the two souls. He watched helplessly as they flew through the air, propelled by their own innate ba and the power of gravity, and landed inside the female.
“Oh no,” said Jabiru in horror. “No no no no!”
“Congratulations,” said the dog-tar cheerfully. “It looks as though you’re having twins!”
Jabiru’s beak hit the floor. “Oops.”