Starling and Leveret

“Is it true that you once beat Hare in a foot race?  It can’t be true.  But is it true?”

Tortoise sighed.

He continued walking along as the little black bird flapped around him.  She landed on a nearby branch.

“I’ve heard that you’ve seen the world from above as a bird does when she’s flying.  Is that true?  How did you do it?  It can’t be true.  But is it true?”

Tortoise sighed again.  But he also smiled. 

Starling was young and eager.  But she was also persistent.  And she was also perceptive.   She noted the smile on Tortoise’s face.  She understood what it meant.  He had expected her to grow tired of asking him the same questions day after day.  But she had done so for five days now.  Perhaps he would deem her worthy enough to deserve some answers to her questions.

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The island was uninhabited. It had been on the maps for decades, lying somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean below the Pitcairn Islands, but having no name, no accessible valuable resources, or signs of previous habitation, or even signs of pirate visitation. The only visitors over the years had been the occasional research team or wealthy patron looking to buy and develop on the lush but inconveniently located and somewhat small isle. But whom to buy it from? Claims on the island were disputed, but not fiercely. There was no place to land a plane or helicopter. Flyovers showed a mountain range circling the interior of the island, and within that circle, dense canopy under which, no doubt, a rich menagerie of creatures happily lived out their lives without any knowledge of the wider world.

Detra had come a year prior. She’d been warned by her mentors that there was nothing to find on that forsaken island. She’d used money borrowed from a wealthy friend to finance the trip. Her friend and his companion frolicked on the beach for a week, while Detra did as much surveying as she could. She took myriad pictures. She didn’t have an expertise yet. She knew a little about a lot. And she saw birds, insects, and fish that she’d never seen before. They might be new species. They might be known ones. Once, she thought she saw a tortoise basking in the sun beside a pool. It was far away and could have been a trick of the eyes. But on her second-to-last day on the island, she found the strangest land animal she’d ever seen.

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