The following short-story was written Daily Headline writer, Carla Grace. The events described are based off a true story.
It was a scorching hot day during one of Indonesia’s dry seasons. I had just stepped off the plane and I felt like I was walking into an oven. The sunlight was blinding.
I shaded my eyes with my plane-ride reading material, the latest copy of The Smithsonian. I was lucky enough to have landed a job as a journalist for the magazine, and this was my first trip to Southeast Asia.
Although it was tragedy that brought me to the region’s famous “Ring of Fire,” I was excited for the adventure. A Jeep picked up my group and took us on a bumpy ride to our destination. When we finally arrived at the village, my excitement turned into shock. It was as if all the life were sucked dry.
There was no village; there were only ashes. Everything was gray. The only color visible was the blue sky. An imagination was needed to guess at what objects might have been. I took a few quick snap shots from creative angles before we continued the journey on foot.
I had to get the perfect shot. My boss expected an amazing story. But looking around the destruction, I thought, how hard could that be? It would be a sad story—but it would be an incredible one.
Our guides didn’t speak English, but it didn’t seem to be an issue. They handed us ventilated face masks, and we knew what to do. The volcanic ash could be dangerous if inhaled—and it was everywhere. We began our ascent into the mountain. The ground underfoot crumbled as we hiked and loose debris plummeted downhill. We were careful with every step.
The mountain was still, and deadly quiet. We passed blackened trees from a forest fire caused by the volcano. Anything that could have survived the inferno would have needed wings. Walking through the ashes was disorienting. It reminded me of walking through a snowstorm. The non-stop gray and noxious smell made me feel dizzy.
All of the sudden, I stopped dead in my tracks. I saw something peculiar poking out of the field of ashes. As I knelt down to examine the anomaly, I pulled out my hand brush. With careful, slow movements, I brushed a fine layer of gray dust off of the object.
I gasped at my discovery. It was a fully intact skeleton of a large bird. I could tell from the outline of its outstretched wings. It was a very unusual display—the bird was in the form like it would have been, mid-flight. But obviously this bird didn’t make it to the sky. I wondered why it hadn’t flown from the scene.
Then something unfathomable happened. I thought I must be hallucinating from all the toxicity. I heard a series of tiny muffled chirps. Could it really be? With one firm tap from my walking stick, the skeleton crumbled, forming a circle of ashes. In the middle, sat seven tiny chicks, alive and hopping on their tiny talons. She sacrificed herself to save her young. A mother’s love knows no bounds.
The story of the miracle chicks made headlines: The Real Life Phoenix.
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