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Akela by Ryan Uytdewilligen
I don’t recall how or where I was conceived. And I thank the universe for it. I believe everyone on this green earth feels the same way; otherwise we’d have far too many tortured souls for society to function. I never knew my father anyway. There was never even a mention of him existing in all my sweet years of life. My mother was a bit of a different story. She was always a mystery to me. I never knew her either, and yet, the very first memories I do possess are suffocating darkness and the one and only desire to find her.
I wasn’t first or second or even the third one out. And I thank the universe for that fact too. From way down at the bottom of the crowded sandy pit, I could see flickering streams of light. They would suddenly pop into view, only to vanish within seconds when my face was pressed down into wet slime and pulsating eggshell. I’d turn and gasp, searching for a free space to take a fresh gulp of air. But there were just so many of us scrambling for the unknown that comfort was not in the cards.
I had never crawled before and neither had they. Flippers flapped for the first time, clumsily whacking and smacking without any hint of guilt. I’ll admit I had the damnedest time getting going. Sure, since I was at the smack bottom I had the support of mushy sand and shell to press against as a launching point. But just imagine for a moment, if you will, that you have never taken a single step before. You wouldn’t know what amount of force to press your flipper at or even how far ahead to put it really. It was tough; especially when everyone else used me as their launching point.
I sincerely hope the pioneers of that hatch soaked up the gentle rays of the sun while they had the chance. That would be the only minute of their lives, so hopefully they got what they wanted out of it. I tell you whoever invented this method of birth was a complete and utter buffoon. The ground to cover seemed so much farther than it actually was. For newborn flippers, it might as well have been a race across Death Valley.
Slipping and sliding about, not having a single idea what direction you were going…nowadays, odds are a pestering human child spots you and runs over ready to grab and poke. And though Mama says, “No no, don’t hurt the poor babies,” she pulls out her phone and clicks away like some maddening paparazzi. Crowds draw and click and flash, never seeing us beyond a thin, blinding screen. Uncoordinated toddlers make the wrong step (which at that point in my life I could sympathize with) and unwittingly smush our kin under their feet. But for the most part, everybody makes it. Nowadays there’s usually some team of humans assigned to guide us to safety. Which isn’t a bad thing, don’t get me wrong! It’s just that in my day, this particular day, there were gulls.
Oh, they didn’t even have a chance, my poor brothers and sisters. One gull happened to be pleasantly perched on a branch, staring at the bobbing waves, until out of the corner of his eye he spotted the smorgasbord of a lifetime. It just started as one—this little, self-riotous monster didn’t even tell his flock about the big score. He wanted us all to himself. And that’s when I popped my little head out into fresh, sunny skies. …
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