A young eagle wakes up, one day, among ducks.
Her name is Nam.
The ducks are all quacking and minding their own businesses. They seem fine, at peace, nobody seems troubled.
They become friends with the eagle. Everyone gets along.
But one day the eagle was dreaming, she was dreaming about being free.
So the eagle asked her close friend, Mr Duckface, about how she can feel free.
Mr Duckface said if she meditates and dreams hard enough, it will come true. And he smiled like a duck and wished her good luck.
Until one day the eagle saw another eagle in the sky, flying, soaring, free… having fun in the air with beautiful wings outstretched. She saw him flying and it was the most incredible thing she ever saw.
Days passed and she saw more birds flying. She knew that was her destiny.
At last, one day she told all her duck friends about her dream of flying. But when she told them, they did not share her happiness. Because as she told them her dream, it made them realize that they cannot fly. They are only ducks, after all.
“It’s dangerous, what if you fall?” said Alice-Duckling
“You’re right. Better be safe. You’re a good friend.” said the eagle
“Aren’t you happy with us? Here? In the duck pond?” said Quackster
“You’re right. How could I leave all of you? You’re a good friend.” said the eagle
“Are you sure you’re worthy of that? Flying is for exceptional birds.” said Quackity
“You’re right. I’m no different than you, after all. I deserve to be here. You’re a good friend” said the eagle.
And the eagle went to sleep that night happy that she has such good friends that care about her.
Soon, the eagle began to love sleeping. She slept all the time, and all she could. Sleeping away each day… even if it means missing out with her good friends.
Even though she loves her friends, she found herself loving her dreams even more. And so… she sleeps…
“Oh I can’t hang out today, I need to sleep”,
“uhhh sorry. I really am. Can we reschedule?”,
“Oh we were supposed to meet today? I totally forgot”
Nobody understood this strange eagle. All the ducks were kind to her but kept their distance to respect her unusual need.
Then one day, when she was dreaming of flying, an eagle in the sky noticed her sleeping. He saw her face with his sharp-sighted eyes… she was the most beautiful creature he eve— ouch!
He was flinging off some other small bird that just bit him. His wing hurt and so he landed. Then she woke up and saw him. She asked “who are you?”
“james”, he said, “I was on my way to protect someone’s nest in the East, when I got into this spat with a crow. And now my wing hurts, ow.”
He squinted in pain and she naturally stepped in, and treated his wing, as she has hundreds of times before with the ducks.
James couldn’t help but stare, he’s seen eagles but none like this before. Why does she hang out among ducks, he wondered, before spouting,
“Hey um, would you like to hang out while I’m here? I’ll be here a while as my wing heals. While I’m grounded, why don’t we hang out by the pond?”
So they did. They went to the pond and talked, and talked. James told Nam about his travels from afar and his dreams of fighting off falcons in the East. And Nam told him about her dreams of being free…. and flying….
“Flying!? What is this a joke?”
Nam tilted her head in shame, as she has with the ducks many times before…
“No, it’s not a joke. I love this dream so much that all I care to do anymore is just sleep. Sleeping is better than being awake.”
“I love my sleep, too, but that isn’t what I mean.”
“oh?”, Nam said curious
“If you want to fly, just do it. Just flap your wings and go!”
“But I can’t.”
James looked at his injured wing, keeping him grounded. Then he looked at Nam’s wings, both perfectly fine…
“And why not?”, he said
“Because I am a duck”
“Are you ducking serious?”
Nam laughed, but she said yeah. She explained to him that ducks can’t fly. They have to be grounded forever. The pond is their home.
“I know what a duck is, Nam, I scare them all the time… you’re not a duck. You’re an eagle”
“You shouldn’t scare ducks”, she said sympathetically
“You shouldn’t think you are one!” he insisted rudely
Days passed and these two eagles played together and talked. As they got to know each other more, James suddenly realized he has more in common with Nam than he presumed; being an oddball himself, it was very hard for him to find other eagles like him.
“My wing is healed. I will go now. It was great meeting you. I hope you find the freedom you keep dreaming of”, James said
“Have fun fighting stuff”, Nam smirked
As James flew off, he felt a yearning in his heart, which he quickly ignored.
Days passed, months passed, and Nam continues sleeping. Her routine of helping the ducks find food in the pond, occasionally hanging out with a select few of them, all before quickly returning to her sleep.
After a year, James returns. He came soaring in the air from over the horizon, straight toward the pond where the ducks live, and nosedived right into the pond– splashing and annoying as many ducks as he could in the process. He quickly popped up out of the water and walked over to Nam.
“Hi Nam!”, He exclaimed with a full faced smile
“You really shouldn’t scare ducks”, she said calmly
Ignoring her, he said “Here, I brought this for you”, and he revealed a very large dead rat in his talons.
“Thanks but I don’t need your food. We have plenty in the pond here.”, she said
“It’s a gift.” he said and casually threw the rat beside her, “It’s from a village really far from here; they have these things called rats and they taste so good. Try it!”
“I don’t need gifts, I don’t deserve them.”, she said, “besides… my boyfriend wouldn’t feel comfortable with me accepting such a large gift from another bird”
“Boyfriend?” Somehow that word struck him like an arrow. James didn’t think he loved her but, strangely, he did not like the way the word sounded on his ears. Keeping peace, however, he said, “share it with him. he’ll love it, too. So, tell me about your year… have you been flying?”
Before she could answer, a green and gray duck walked up with a swagger. The duck looked James up and down and quickly understood he was an eagle…
“Don’t talk to him!” the duck said
“But he’s my friend!” Nam told him
“I don’t care. He’s an eagle; not one of us. They’re dangerous. They just scare us all the time. They fly while we are stuck here on the pond helpless. It’s unfair! And look, he brought you a rat. He thinks he can purchase you like foie gras! Cut him off!”
Nam started crying. “You’re right” she told her boyfriend, and then to James, “I’m sorry we can’t hang out anymore.”
“Are you kidding me. Nam! Don’t go just like that! We barely even talked yet, it’s been so long, do you know I missed you?”, James lashed
“I can’t”, Nam said
“Nam you’re still here in the same pond as before. Nothing has changed. Have you even flown once in all this time?”
“This is my home. I have good friends here.”
“Live your life!”, James exclaimed, “You dream of being free and yet you live basically in a swamp!”
Nam’s boyfriend scoffed at James. And Nam walked off with the duck. And James flew away into the distance.
Two years pass.
James is chilling in a new nest when suddenly the nest started feeling too cramped. Not the type of bird to live in a cage, James yearned for adventure. And that night he had a dream to fly across the entire world; over every land and sea.
“Do you think she still thinks of me?” James asked Ana, his friend, a hummingbird.
James rustled around his his nest, before lazily flopping upside down. Legs up and wings out, perched high up over hills and valleys in a large, vast forest.
The tiny hummingbird thought for a moment before speaking.
“Go find her.”, said Ana
“I can’t. She doesn’t want to see me.”, he said
“How do you know?”
“We had a fight, plus she has a boyfriend, plus I made a total fool of myself. I can’t ever see her again. What am I supposed to do when I fly over her land, fly around? Cry? Die? ughhh!!”, he exclaimed dramatically
James was beginning to realize his friendship with Nam was more than a crush, he was actually in love with her; painfully so.
“Talk to her, just say hi”, the hummingbird hummed, “If she looks unhappy to see you, then just leave.”
Thinking for a moment before speaking. James was beginning to feel relief. The thought of meeting her once more, even just for a moment, made him feel so happy. It was decided.
“You know what. Good idea; I’ll stop and tell her hi. And if she’s unhappy to see me, then I’ll simply say goodbye instead”
James kissed Ana and then he flew off.
And so he flew and flew. Touring every land he could find. Sleeping in the desert one day, and a snowy mountaintop the next, the scenery constantly changing.
But with each new exciting experience, he still longed for her.
One day when perched on a cliff, looking down at a vast valley below, he realized all this fun that he was having — spreading his strong beautiful wings, flying the whole world, free… was not the same alone. It was lonely. Something was missing; and then suddenly he found him self thinking of nothing else but her.
Then came the day, he made it back to her pond.
He nosedived again straight toward the pond, without thinking much for the ducks, before stopping himself last minute. He aborted the dive and landed calmly.
“Where’s Nam?”, James asked
A duck pointed to a gorgeous tree stump with a large hole in it. James approached and of course found Nam sleeping inside.
“Wake up, duck!”, he alarmed
Nam opened her eyes slowly and the blurriness turned and twirled until she could see the face of an eagle. She recognized him immediately.
“oh. hey!” she said passively
“I’ve missed you so much”, James exclaimed brashly
“you too. how long has it been. tell me about your travels”
And so they talked and caught up. James shared his life and all that has happened and changed in the years since they last met. Nam talked about her life, too. However, when she did, James noticed something strange about her stories…. They are all centered around this little pond! Years of time; one small pond.
“Don’t you want to fly?” James interrupted
Nam looked down, apparently sad, and paused before saying, “No…
…and besides. I’m just a duck. I’m not meant for flying”
“Absolute nonsense. Come with me”
“I can’t, I have such a life here”
James looked around at the tiny pond and the arrogant ducks all around it. He’s always hated the ducks for their arrogance.
But eager to be polite and not ruffle the feathers of his friend too much, he relented, “Ok. Sure, I see, you’re right.”
So they hung out for a while.
James had been longing to validate his feelings for Nam. Is it just curiosity, a crush, real love? How is he ever going to find out?
“By the way” James asked, “Can I stay here for a while?”
Nam said sure, and they parted ways for the night.
James moved into the pond. He made friends among the ducks. Even though he hates ducks, he made the most of it and actually managed to have a good time.
“haha I don’t normally hang out with you people. I usually just screw with your heads”
“What?”, said Quackster
“Nothing”, he snipped
Thinking of Nam every day, having fun with these ducks, and staying in one place for a change made James start to really appreciate this pond. It reminded him of when he was a little eaglet, growing up in a different, yet similar place. The meadows and forest that surrounded the pond began looking beautiful to him. He began to wonder, ‘Am I home?’
Some days passed and he wanted nothing more but to spend time with Nam again. But one problem prevented that. She was asleep all the time!
“Hey Nam, wanna hang out and catch fish together?”
“mm. nah. maybe tomorrow”, before she yawned and fell asleep
Day by day, she stayed in the hole in the beautiful tree stump. Still disallowing anyone to come near her. Still making excuses. Still sleeping…..
James grew frustrated. He has questions in his heart and he needs to know the answers. Plus, the ducks have started picking on him. They’ve been plucking his beautiful eagle feathers —- but only the ones that eagles have and ducks don’t. They made fun of the shape of his eagle head. They stole his fish when he wasn’t looking, apparently justifying it because “He’s an eagle, he can get more easily. Us ducks have to work for it”.
James saw Nam fishing. He walked up to her and asked “Tell me, when can we hang out?”
“Tomorrow, when the sun is the highest”, she said
“See you then”, he replied
The night fell and the day followed. James spent all morning looking at the sun climbing the sky, waiting for the moment it hit the highest point.
At last when it did, he approached Nam’s stump; “are you ready?” he called in
“uhhgh”, she replied sleepily, “why don’t you come back tomorrow. I am having the most amazing dream”
“But I have waited all morning, I’m happy to return tomorrow, but wouldn’t you want to at least say hello? How long has it been?”
Feeling annoyed now, Nam snapped “Look I just need my space and sleep. It’s real important to me”,
As she was saying this, she was beginning to lose the memory of her dream that she just woke from… a dream where she was flying… flying particularly high and free…
She continued, “So please, just leave me alone for now”
Nam did not wait for a reply, and turned back to her tree stump, hoping she could fall asleep fast enough to find that dream again…. flying so high and free…
James, offended now, spoke into the dark hole where she slept; he couldn’t see her, but he knew that she could hear him, “Nam, I need to tell you something.”
Nam rolled her eyes, “Make it quick.”
Seeing as he wouldn’t have a chance again for a long time, and crushing under the growing weight on his heart with each passing day, James decided to just start with the truth,
“I love you.”
He paused, but there was no reply, so he continued, “Nam, I have always admired you, ever since you healed my wing three years ago, I remember hearing your stories about how you dreamed of flying. I remember how special it felt to me, because it sounded just like my dream when I was younger. I have thought about you every day. I really like you. Do you know it pains me to see you have such a dream, to be obsessed with this dream, and never see it flourish in reality?”
He frowned. Continuing,
“Nam you’re not a duck. If you want to fly, just spread your wings and do it. Just like I do, see, it’s so much fun. Why ruin your beautiful life with inaction? Come with me!”, he said hopefully.
“I have a boyfriend” she replied calmly, still cloaked by the darkness of the hole in the tree stump.
James stared into the dark hole in the tree stump, focused, and said “Your boyfriend is a duck.”
“I am a duck.” she replied calmly.
“You are not a duck! You are an eagle. Stop dating ducks, they just hold you down while pretending to be our friends”
“Don’t insult my friends!! You don’t know anything!”, she snapped
“I know enough”, James muttered
“How can I have a good relationship with my boyfriend when you keep hitting on me like this?”, she questioned sharply
“I’m not hitting on you, I just want to see you succeed. And frankly,”, James looked around the pond as he spoke, “I believe I am the only one who can help you right now.”
James’s face cringed in disgust as he glanced at all the ducks gaily floating in the pond — flightless.
“Don’t insult my friends! I have such good friends. They do their best.”
“Your friends suck.”, James rudely asserted, “They all see that you are an eagle, plainly, but destroy your confidence in fear that you will fly away from them forever, or bully them like I do. They don’t have your best interests at heart. And somewhere in your heart, you know this is all true. After all, you dream of flying, there is a reason such a dream lands in your head. Do you think a flightless duck ever dreams of flying….. no! This is the dream of an eagle.”
“Do not insult my friends!”, she cried
“Your friends suck!”, he shouted
“I have good friends!”
“Your friends are bad!”
“I never want to see you again!”, Nam finally cried out, “Go away!”
Those words struck straight to the heart of James. And from his heart, to his eagle, hunting spirit; and from his spirit, straight back out to his wings and talons. James was energized, overcome with emotion.
Without saying another word, he flew away… and flew straight for the pond…
At his fastest speed, he dove straight into the water, right under the ducks. Scaring the daylights out of them and sending them scattering. He dove again, and again. And when the ducks tried to run away to safety on land, he chased them down effortlessly and kicked them over with his legs.
“You stupid ducks!”, he shouted as he terrorized them, “Why must you ruin everything good in this world!”
The ducks did not respond, as they were too busy running for cover.
“Typical.”, he muttered, “Won’t even hold a fight. Just cower like the ducks you are”. Eventually, he calmed down and flew away.
The next day, he came back to Nam’s stump, hoping to see her. When he did, she spoke first:
“I can’t even say how furious I am, James. Being a friend doesn’t allow you to terrorize others whom you know nothing about. And you know nothing about the way I feel for the ducks, or how they feel for me. And to think I’m being held down, to think they are bad to me…. gosh I never heard so much bullshit. I’ve been with other birds. I’ve always been the one to cut them off when they trouble me but I’m certainly not being manipulated. You’ve crossed a line there. I forgot nothing. I spent all my time here with the ducks because they’ve proven to be safe friends. But I don’t want to explain anything, because you wouldn’t understand anyway. Don’t even respond, just go away. You went too far this time.”
James didn’t say anything.
“And you shouldn’t scare ducks!” she nipped before turning away and going back into her dark stump.
“Fly, Nam… Forget about me… Just fly.” he whispered to himself, nearly bringing a tear to his eye as he imagined this beautiful eagle living out her entire life without ever once spreading her wings…
“How can I get you to fly?”, he whispered into the futile air
As Nam dreamed that night of flying, James composed an idea. Specifically, he composed a letter…
He then gathered up some food, and offered the food to a carrier pigeon. James told the pigeon, “Please, this is important. Take this letter. Do you see that eagle over there? The one that sleeps? Find whoever out there in the world loves her the most. Search far and wide for the one person who loves her more than any other… and hand them this letter. Please. If you do, I will pay you handsomely. Your family and kids will be fed for a year if you can do this for me.”
The pigeon took the letter and without a moment’s hesitation, flew off into the night.
Inside the the pigeon’s talons, the letter stated:
To the bird who loves Nam the most: Save her. Her life is so beautiful and precious to waste. She sleeps warmly and safely under the kindness of ducks, the sort of kindness where you may never take flight... lest you disturb the sensitivities of the flightless. When the day comes that she is dead, please let her die with her dreams fulfilled. signed, an eagle between love and despair
James stayed back for a moment and wept while looking at the tree stump where Nam slept.
And he flew away forever.
This story is dedicated to a woman I love, who refuses to fly.