Where Southern Birds Fly

by Quicksear

7. Confusion

They didn’t hurt me.
This building, this trap, housed two dogs. I was in their home, unwelcomed, untended. They had found me, an invader, and yet they did not hurt me.
When I saw the little one, the puppy, I was terrified. Flight had been the only thought in my mind, and yet I hadn’t been able to move: to make a dash for the door was to hurt the young one, and no part of me was willing to do that. Not even at my lowest would I ever hurt a child.
Then, somehow, he had ended up on my legs, a weightless presence and yet pinning me firmer than chains. His mother saw us then, me hugging her child. I was frozen in terror.

But she didn't hurt me either. In fact, she came to me, comforted and commiserated with me, showed me kindness. She would never hurt me either. She said so.

She didn’t talk like the Tall Ones or I can, she isn’t like us that way. Dogs aren't as smart as we are I don’t think, or at least, they’re smart in a different way. But I could see it in her eyes, big and peaceful, her voice, soft and plaintive, not begging, but sympathetic. Even as I held her child, she trusted me, not even asking so much of me as to trust her back.

For some reason, that made it even easier to do just that.
Tory watched me, and later Charles, the older doctor, as well. They were talking about me, I could hear. Tory in a voice made small with amazement, the older men incredulous. I found it easier to follow what they were saying now than I had earlier. A strange pressure in my head was receding, like a veil being lifted from my senses, or water draining from the world. I was seeing, hearing and feeling in a clarity I’d forgotten I was capable of.
“I’m tellin’ you Doc, she’s smart. She finished that logic test in less than two seconds. Earlier she was having trouble coordinating her limbs alone but now, I...I think her head trauma is receding. She’s improving.”

“Intelligent, yes, but to what degree? The logic test is impressive. I wonder what other tricks she has learnt?”
I bristled at the way they spoke about me, looked at me. ‘I’ve learnt this cool trick where you end up on the floor while I kick you in the face. Want me to show you? Keep talking about me like I’m not here and I just might.’ I growled a little and tried to move, but Jessie was under my wing, her son Max on my back. He was more comfortable there. So I stayed put and glared at them til they stopped talking about me.

“Heh, sorry. Should we get out of your hair for the evening?” Tory had said it jokingly. He nearly choked on his own tongue when I nodded.

Charles watched me, inspected me. His expression, frozen, confused, curious.
“I see we are out of our depth. I...apologize for that. Is there anything else you can tell us?”
He hadn’t expected me to do anything, he wouldn’t let himself believe that. I did, though. My neck. I touched my good hoof to both the little tubes in my throat, hoping he would understand. I shuffled slightly. The bandages were itching, too. The Doctor noticed.
“You have gone through a lot this evening. Maybe we should check you one last time. May I?”
I nodded. I let him. Tory did something, ran out the room. Charles meanwhile cooed for the dogs. Jessie whined a little, but stood regardless. Max followed his mother. I was at once relieved and lonely. Charles sat next to me. His hands were shaking. From the other room, I heard a bang and a clatter, and then Tory returned with a bowl and some rags.
“Sorry Doc. I’ve been a bit ditzy today. This is...crazy.”
I didn’t hear anything else.

Charles and Tory were talking, sometimes to me, but I was gone. I was under the bright sun, feeling the breeze, the grass, more real than the concrete and steel I recalled. I was looking up a hillside, growling playfully, chasing a butterfly with more colours than I’d ever imagined. I heard chirping in the grass, a songbird singing in the tree ahead, and the soft voice of the young mare sitting there, waving to me happily.
“Over here!”

I waved back, grinning, the butterfly forgotten. Her vibrant orange mane and green eyes filled me with contentedness as I trotted up to her side. I sat down and ruffled my wings, looking up into the bright sky. I took a deep breath of the clean, perfect air as the pony beside me smiled and said;

“Hello, Ditzy.”

The two humans were staring at me blankly with the remains of my bandages in their hands as I tried again, with a little more success.


They didn’t stay long after that.


“Doc, please Doc, tell me you heard that. You heard that, right?” Tory clattered through the kitchen, fumbling bowls needlessly over the countertop just to keep busy as he waited for Charles to say something, anything to make sense of the situation.
Charles just frowned and looked at the biology guide under his nose
Tory stared hopefully at the older man for a few more seconds, then back down at the bowls, trying to get them to fit together with fumbling fingers. No matter what he did, they wouldn’t stack; he’d forgotten to take out the old gauze and bandaging they’d just taken off of the alien in the living room.

“Ditzy…” Charles muttered, paging through the book.
“Oh c’mon, Doc!” Tory shouted, loud enough to scare Jessie out from under the table. Max squeaked in fear. A bump and a rattle was heard in the next room. Tory looked up with all with the alertness of adrenaline before turning slowly back to Charles, eyes still wide as saucers. “Please, just tell me what’s going on. Just tell me what to do here.”

“She shouldn’t have been able to vocalize yet,” Charles muttered, showing no indication of hearing Tory at all, “her neck, throat and vocal chords should be a wreck. How on earth did she heal so quickly?”
“Er, Doc? Are you missing something?” Tory raised an eyebrow, forgetting his own panic for a moment, “For instance, the obvious intelligence, ALIEN intelligence we just witnessed?!”
“Yes, yes,” Charles muttered, placing the book open on the counter. His lips twisted up in a mild smirk as he said patronizingly, “Come on Tory, are you really that surprised?” He reached into the mess of bowls and wet bandages and pulled out a ruffled grey feather that had come loose from the pegasus' wing, “By this point I’m half expecting her to take off, pull a loop de loop and start yodeling, even though everything I know tells me anything of the sort is completely impossible. Either way, she can obviously understand us, and maybe even speak herself, if she wasn’t just parroting you. Either way, that discovery will have to wait for the morning.”
Tory sighed and watched Charles idly spinning the feather between his fingers, then snorted in frustration and slammed his hand down on the counter with a thud. Both he and Charles jumped as a loud bang and the shattering of glass echoed out in time with Tory’s strike. He blinked and looked at his hand flat on the table. “Did I do that?” Then Jessie started barking, and they heard a pained scream.
Charles blinked dully for a moment, but Tory was on his feet and out the door before the final tinkling shards hit the floor. Charles heard the intern storm into the living room, then silence. He cautiously decided to investigate as well. He dropped the feather into the book and slammed it shut before following into the living room.
Tory was inspecting the battered half of a brick he’d picked up off the floor from amongst the shattered remains of his front window, but Charles quickly searched for the grey and golden head of their guest; he found the flicking grey ears poking up just behind the couch, followed by one golden-rimmed eye.
“Nothing to fear,” Charles cooed, “They’re gone now.”
The creature remained hidden, just some ears, an eye and a wisp of mane, but she gave a barely perceptible nod. Tory swore softly under his breath and spun away as he pieced together the obvious, “Dammit…Sir, that proves it; those gangsters from the dog-fighting ring are after our little Pegasus too. I saw her beat the crap out of a guy in the street earlier; I think he was trying to catch her, from what I heard.”
Charles’ mouth was frozen open, but that light, soft voice was certainly not his. Both men stared sharply at the alien behind the couch. She ducked down abashedly.
 Charles ventured in a voice smooth as silk, “Is that your name, little one?”
Tory blinked and looked at Charles. Charles blinked and looked at the brick, then joined Tory at the window with a thin smile. “Tory, do you know anywhere we could go for a few days? We need to keep, uh, Ditzy here safe, and lay low for a little while, so that we can observe her in a controlled environment.”
The pegasus made a small mewling noise of affront, and Tory chuckled dryly while he inspected the broken window, “If she survived fighting in a pitbull ring for a few weeks, beat the two of us up while sedated, and went on to overpower a henchman in the street, I think she can look after herself if she needs to. But yeah, if…if she keeps on going how she’s going, then I wanna watch too. I mean, her rate of healing, her physiology, her intelligence, everything! She’s…just remarkable.”
While Tory babbled and started picking up shards of glass from the floor, Charles looked beyond, into the portion of the front walk lit up by the porch light, at the other half of the brick beside a little pool of blood, and he suddenly realized that the pained scream they’d heard earlier had definitely not come from the pegasus.
Charles’ smile tightened as he turned and made for the kitchen, “Remarkable indeed. Come, let’s hole up in the bedrooms for the night, we can plan further in the morning where we’re going to run to.”
“But Doc,” Tory paused and looked for a bin before shrugging and tossing the broken glass out the broken window before continuing, “What about your parole?”
Charles winked back at the younger vet, “Who do you think I’m running from? I’m already in breach, The Man will have to take me in for processing and other bureaucracy I, quite frankly, just don’t have time for. Come along all, time for some sleep, I think.”
A sudden ‘meep’ sound interrupted, and both men turned with raised eyebrows to see the pegasus still peeking out from behind the couch. Charles could see it in that one giant golden eye; she was too nervous to follow, but too scared to stay in the room alone. Ironic, since she’d just beaned an intruder with half a brick with only one eye open.
“Would you like to come with us?” Charles asked, “You’ll be safer.”
The pegasus didn’t move.
“You can help look after Max?” Tory suggested, “Th-the puppy?”
Charles grinned as the pegasus took a slow step forward. He clapped and stepped back into the hall, saying, “Wonderful, now the bedrooms are right down the hall, right Tory?”
“Uh, yeah, yours is the second door on the right, and Jessie and Max can stay with…Ditzy in the office downstairs, that okay, Doc?” Tory offered. The pegasus nodded with a faint but unmistakable smile, but Tory noticed the absence of the voice he was actually expecting, “Doc?”

It was a hoarse voice, shocked and tired and confused, that answered, “Tory. Remember when you asked me to make sense of the situation? Return the favour, if you please.”
“What?” Tory walked through to Charles’ side, the pegasus following just behind, “What are you talking about Char- Whoa…”
Charles and Tory stood in the kitchen doorway, looking between an empty space on the countertop and a book floating about two meters above the ground, a single grey feather stuck between its pages.