Flying With the Angels
Copyright (C) 2018 Ashlyn Nafina
Summary: A swan mythology by way of an “ugly” duckling story.
Notes: I’ve always had a fascination with mythology and big stories, and I enjoy writing mythic stories myself. I had a friend who was very much into swans, so I wrote this story while thinking of her.
Timeline note: This story was actually written around 2011 or so, but it’s never actually seen the light of day. So I’m going to go ahead and leave the date for this post as today, to avoid confusion about what’s new on the site.
Once upon a time (as all good stories begin), there was a duck. She was not just any duck; for this duck wished to fly higher and higher, and higher still — so high that she could loop around the moon and reach the stars.
Teana, for that was her name, was unusual in some other ways; and that is the true start of the most interesting part of her story, and the beginning of ours.
“What interesting feathers you have,” her friends would say.
“They’re not like any I’ve seen,” they said.
Teana took it in stride (or, shall we say, in paddle); she knew they weren’t trying to make her feel alone. But the thought of her uniqueness made her lonely, sometimes.
“It looks a little like that,” one of her friends said one day, gesturing upward with his bill.
The idea took root in Teana’s mind, and then her soul. Such a small thing wouldn’t seem like the catalyst that would change a young duck’s mind forever, but such small things never do seem that way when they’re happening.
From that day forward, Teana looked up at the sky with wonder and felt that, surely, her kin must reside up there, for their feathers painted the sky with their beautiful light, a beautiful light that her own feathers must surely one day grow into. From that day forward, Teana stretched and stretched, flying as high as she dared.
She soared and soared until the air was thin, and her poor lungs were pained in trying to breathe. She lifted herself up until the land was just a hint of shapes far below, and gliding down was nearly as much trouble as having gone up. She flew toward the kin in the sky, hoping they would reach down and help her up.
One fine day, her friends looked at her, then looked again.
“Teana! You’ve changed!” they said.
“Of course I have,” she said wryly. “We’ve all changed. That’s what aging is about.”
“No, you’ve changed more than us. Bring your gaze downward for a moment and look in the water!”
Teana was not expecting any revelation; perhaps simply a spotted version of her friends’ growing forms. But she was in for a surprise.
“It must be from all your stretching and stretching to the sky...” one of them whispered in wonder.
Her neck had grown long; her wings were wide and mighty. When she cried aloud, it was not the same cry of her friends: wak, wak, wak. It had taken on an ethereal quality that somehow felt more right in the sky.
Teana had become the first goose.
She didn’t stop her explorations, of course. No, she could fly even farther and even higher than all the other ducks. Her muscles had worked and worked, and Teana had become something new and amazing.
She soared and soared, and cried her new cry. She flapped and flapped, and raised herself up, ever so slowly. And she was just a little bit closer to her kin in the sky.
One night, as she was turning great wheels in that high above, when she once again could barely breathe, even with her big, strong lungs, one of her wing tips touched the moonlight. A warm sensation spread down her feathers, through her wing, her shoulder, her breast, all through her body. At first, she was disturbed by this, thinking that something was wrong; but she soon shivered with the beauty of its feeling.
When she landed again, among her childhood friends, they gasped again. For Teana had once again been changed.
“What is it, my friends?” she asked; for they were circling around her slowly in the water, saying: wak, wak, wak!
“You’ve changed again, Teana,” one replied, gesturing at the water with a wing.
She looked down and gasped, herself, for her feathers had turned pearly white all over; her neck was longer than ever, and her wings were a glory to behold.
Teana had become the first swan.
She didn’t stop her explorations, of course. No, she could fly even farther and even higher than any goose. Her muscles had worked and worked, and Teana had become something new and amazing, once again.
Teana was flying high, so very, very high, one night. Her pearly feathers shone in the moonlight and the starlight. The shine became more and more intense as she flew higher and higher. It felt to her as if she were not high above the world below any more, but below a world higher still.
Suddenly, she felt a lift on her wings. A lift that was not simply an air current or the graceful flapping of her wings. Then she realized what it was: gravity itself was lessening.
For she was floating up and away, into the stars.
Her black eyes gazed into those stars as she cried out, “My sisters! My brothers! I am coming at last.”
Teana had become an angel, flying among the stars.
“And there she is, to this day,” Grandfather Swan said to the little cygnet as he gestured upward with a wing at the constellation Cygnus.
“Wow, really?” the fuzzy little one said as she splish-splashed with her feet.
“Really, really,” Grandfather replied, nodding his head happily and putting a wing gently over the cygnet. “She flies over the heavens, calling out to us silently to remind us what we are to become one day. Such words are beyond sound; and that’s why we’re called mute swans.”