Monday, March 17, 2008

The Asha Chronicles--Part 13

Below, my ravenous reader, lies Part 13 of the Asha Chronicles. This story is based on a picture I've had for 14 years that just needed it's 15 minutes of fame and obligatory 1000 words. Now, I'm pretty sure there is way more than 1000 words below and I also know I'll leave this episode up for about 4 days before uploading the next adventure, so my above discription may be a tad inaccurate. What's not inaccurate, however is that you'll need at least one box of tissue at your side, ready and waiting, when you read this story. If you've ever been owned by a critter, dog, cat, bird, lizard, etc, well, just read on.......
At the end of this little story is a very special the story and the picture will take on a whole new meaning.......

The Asha Chronicles Part 13
Ease Their Pain
Timothy Graham and Julie Stilwell
March 4, 2008

Asa again woke from a fitful sleep.
It was that dream again, the same one that had been haunting her for the last two weeks. The image of the two cockatiels with their backs to her and their wings spreading over each other’s shoulders in a loving embrace had become seared in her mind.
But why was the same dream coming to her every night? And why these two birds? She did not recognize either one of them but still they kept coming back to her night after night. She thought about trying to awaken her Granny but then she heard a noise to her right and she turned. There she saw the vision of another cockatiel with its wings outstretched to her in supplication.
“Help them! Help them please!” the spectral bird whispered.
That was quite enough for Asa as she immediately fell off her perch and landed at the bottom of her cage with a resounding ‘thud!’ That was enough to awaken every other bird in the house and the resulting chaos ended any chances for bird or human to get more sleep that night.
The next day Asa emailed her friend and fellow member of the Feathered Friends Asha in Georgia. Asa tried to explain what had been happening but, not truly believing it had really happened, had a hard time getting the point across to her friend.
“You must have come across some bad pellets,” Asha said in an effort to calm her friend. “We’ve all had some of these visions in the past when we were on a mission. We’ve seen Rosalie and others who have passed over the Rainbow Bridge. Maybe it is something like that.”
“Yes, but we knew who they were and we know why they were contacting us,” said Asa. “I don’t recognize any of these birds and have no idea why they would be trying to contact me.”
Later that day Asa was engaged in her favorite activity-chewing one of her toys into sawdust-when she heard a rustling behind her. She turned and there was the astral vision from the previous night.
“Help them! You have to help them! You are their only hope!” the vision said plaintively and disappeared as quickly as it had come.
Asa shook her head and tried to gather her thoughts.
“This is totally crazy,” she said to herself. “Maybe Granny can help.”
Asa waddled into her Granny’s work room and climbed up on her shoulder. Her granny was busy sewing a shopping sack for her online business but she was never too busy to pay attention to Asa.
“Beep!” said Asa. “Beep, beep!”
“I sure wish I knew what you were trying to say,” said Granny. “Do you want to help me sew?”
Asa jumped down to the floor in disgust. “Humans!’ she said to herself. “They can’t understand anything!”
As she waddled from the room she turned and saw the vision again, this time hanging in the air behind her Granny.
“Help them!” the astral cockatiel said. “Help Cherry and Ralph!”
Playing a hunch, Asa waddled back to her Granny and climbed back onto her shoulder.
“Beep!” she said. “Beep! Cherry! Ralph!”
“What did you say?” her Granny said as she dropped her half-finished grocery bag. “What did you say?”
Asa kept quiet because she knew that her Granny’s chain of thought would eventually travel to where she wanted it to.
“I could have sworn you said Cherry and Ralph,” she said quietly. “I’m sure I imagined it, but still, let me tell you about those two. Ralph was still around when you were hatched in 2001 but you never knew the whole story. Cherry and Ralph were two of the most beautiful ‘tiels you have ever seen. Cherry Lace came to me back in 1993. It was obvious that she was lonely and needed a friend so we found Sir Ralph D’Artagnan about six months later. They immediately bonded and were the most loving couple you have ever seen.
“I remember how they would sit on their perch with their wings around each other’s shoulders just like a pair of human lovers,” Granny said. “Wait a second! I think I still have a copy of that picture I took one time.”
Asa’s granny went to a nearby sideboard and began rummaging in several boxes before finally shouting “Here it is! I found it” She brought it over and showed it to Asa who came close to having a fatal heart attack. It was the dream she had been having. The two birds with their wings wrapped around each other’s shoulders. The same dream that had been haunting her for weeks.
Granny showed Asa another photograph. “And this is their only fledgling. His name was Diamond Sunshine.”
This one did not catch Asa as nearly by surprise. She was pretty much ready for anything by now. Of course, it was the bird from her astral visions.
“Diamond Sunshine was hatched in 1996 and his mother died soon after due to a genetic defect in her pancreas,” Granny said wistfully. “The same defect took Diamond Sunshine in 2000. As you know, Ralph lasted until 2005 and he finally passed due to old age and a broken heart. He never got over losing his Cherry Lace and their son. If humans would only love each other as much as those two birds did…..” Granny stopped and gazed at the two photographs.
“So many memories and so many missing friends,” she said as she dabbed a tear from her cheek with a handkerchief. “The only thing that helps me is knowing that they are happy together on the Rainbow Bridge.”
Granny left the room leaving Asa alone with the photos. She was totally unsurprised when the vision of Diamond Sunshine appeared as soon as granny was gone.
“I guess you know the story now,” Diamond said to Asa.
“Yes, but why are you here? I thought you all would be happy together over the Bridge. Why are you here keeping me awake at night?” Asa asked.
“That is the problem!” Diamond said. “We are not all happy together. Mom and I have been there waiting for Dad to show up but he never has. We’ve waited there for three years for him and there has been no sign. We need for you to find out what happened and bring him to his rightful place on the Rainbow Bridge.”
“You want me to find out what happened to the spirit of your father and return it to the Rainbow Bridge” Asa asked in shock.
“Exactly,” said Diamond Sunshine. “I don’t know how long mother can go without him. She is the only bird up there who is plucking their feathers. Everyone tries to raise her spirits, but nothing helps. She has to have Ralph.
“Will you please help us?” Diamond asked tearfully.
“Sure I will,” said Asa. “I’ll just call up a little help and we’ll get right on it. I can’t guarantee anything though, we’ve never tried anything like this before.”
Thank you Asa,” Diamond said as his spectral vision began to fade. “Thank you for both of us.”
Asa immediately got onto the internet and left word for the other three members of the Feathered Friends. They emailed back that they were on their way and by the following afternoon all four were perched on a tree limb outside Asa’s house. It took a while, but Asa was finally able to tell her story. And it took even longer for the others to believe what they were hearing.
As usual, Asha was the resident skeptic.
“OK, I have to apologize here, but my Dad raised me to take everything with a grain of salt,” the Amazon said. “I don’t really think I believed this Rainbow Bridge business until I actually went there, but my understanding was that the spirits of all companion animals went there to await the arrival of their humans.”
“That’s right,” said BabyGirl. “When they get there they are cured of any disease or health problems they might have had here on Earth. It is a wonderful place of fresh air, good food, and lots of fun!”
BabyGirl was nothing if not an enthusiastic young Amazon.
“So why wouldn’t Ralph have gone to the Bridge?” asked Cecil. “Do they have a different place for bad birdies to go to? Maybe Ralph was a bad birdie?”
“I don’t know the answers to any of those questions except the one about Ralph. I knew him for four years and he was a good bird,” Asa said. “Our problem here is that we don’t have enough information.”
“Well, that means we need to get some information and there is only one place we can find it,” said Asha. “We’ve got to go to the Rainbow Bridge.”
“How do we do that?” Cecil asked. “Kill ourselves?”
“No,” Asha said with a smile. “We need a guide. And I know just the bird for the job.”
Asha waddled to the computer and sent out an email to an African Grey friend of hers named Buddy. He soon emailed back and said he was on his way.
“Buddy is quite the traveler,” Asha told the other three as they munched on fruit and veggies provided by Asa’s granny. Granny seemed not the least disturbed or surprised by the sudden appearance of the extra birds. She and Asa seemed to have a psychic connection at some levels.
“Buddy has actually been to the Rainbow Bridge as a visitor,” said Asha. “He was given a tour of the place by Rosalie. I was hoping that he would be able to get us up there and show us around and maybe introduce us to someone who could answer our questions.”
After a restful sleep Buddy showed up the next morning and agreed to help out the Feathered Friends.
“Rosalie said that I was welcome to come back any time,” Buddy said. “I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me bringing you all along since you and she are friends.”
Buddy waddled off a few feet away from the others and appeared to concentrate on something far away. A few seconds later all five could see a vision of their old friend Rosalie.
“Buddy, good to see you again,” Rosalie said in her rich, melodious voice. “I see you are with my friends the Feathered Friends. What can I do for you?”
“We would like to visit the Rainbow Bridge,” said Buddy. “They wanted to ask some questions about the place and I agreed to show them around.”
“You are all more than welcome,” said Rosalie. “We are all in your debt. Anything we can do, you only need ask.”
Suddenly the five felt a breath of wind and then a flash of light and they were standing on a wide expanse of grass. As far as they could see birds and other animals were flying, walking, running, and crawling to their heart’s content. There were many small ponds of cool, fresh water scattered everywhere along with piles of food of all description. In the distance they could see a bridge which literally shown with all the colors of the rainbow.
The five found that their hearts were in their throats and an indescribable joy was in their hearts. Asha was the first to break the silence.
“How did you ever find the strength to go home after being up here,” she asked with a noticeable catch in her throat.
“It was hard,” Buddy said. “It was very hard. “It was only the love of my Mom and my flockmates that allowed me to go home. We need to start walking towards the bridge. If I understand what you have told me, it is there that you will find the answers you seek.”
The walk was a long one but none of the five grew tired or bored of the journey. Sometimes they flew for a stretch, but seemingly by an unspoken agreement they mostly walked in an effort to extend the time they would spend in this place.
About halfway to the bridge they heard a loud barking and saw a beautiful young Collie approach.
“Are you Asha?” the dog asked.
“Yes, I am,” she replied. “Who are you?”
“You do not know me but I have a message for you to deliver if you could,” the dog said. “My name is Lucy and would you please tell your Dad that I miss him and I will be here to see him when he has to make the journey.”
The dog then turned and ran away across the grass.
Shortly afterwards they saw a large African Grey parrot fly up to meet them. He seemed familiar, but none of them recognized him.
“I can understand that you do not recognize me,” the Grey said with a laugh. “The last time you saw me I wasn’t in good shape. I’m Sammy.”
The Four then immediately recognized the bird that had been killed by its evil owner a few months back. The Feathered Friends had tried to rehabilitate Sammy’s owner but were finally forced to take the ultimate revenge against him for his crimes.
“I just wanted to thank you for what you did,” Sammy said. “Too many of the animals up here arrived the same way I did, suffering at the hands of an evil human. I am one of the few who can say that my passing was avenged and for that I will be eternally grateful to you. Now I can fly free!”
Along the remainder of their walk each bird would share similar experiences as dogs, cats, or birds would come up and ask them to remember them to their current companions. By the time they reached the bridge all five were choked with emotion and perched on a large rock to get their bearings.
After a few minutes Rosalie flew up and asked what questions they had. Asa explained their mission and said they needed to speak to someone who could explain what had happened to the spirit of Ralph.
“That is a difficult question that I would have no answer for,” said Rosalie with a shake of her majestic head. “It sounds like you need to speak to the High Spirit.”
“How do we find him?” asked Asa.
“Oh, you do not find the High Spirit,” laughed Rosalie. “Just walk over the Bridge and if he wishes to speak to you, He will find you.”
The five walked over the bridge and down the other side. They walked down a tree-lined path into a small grotto centered around a small pond. Perched on the lower branch of a majestic Maple tree they saw a large owl.
“We meet again I see,” the owl said. “You four are very persistent creatures. What do you require of me now?”
“Why, you are Oppenheimer!” said Cecil. “This is wonderful. We haven’t seen you since we helped out Sammy. Are you here to help us find the High Spirit?”
“Cecil,” Asa said in a hushed tone. “I have the felling we just found the High Spirit.”
“Indeed you have,” the owl said.
“That’s cool,” said BabyGirl. “The High Spirit is a bird just like us!”
“It isn’t that simple,” said Oppenheimer. “If you were dogs you would see a Saint Bernard. If you were cats you would see a wise Siamese. Each species has their own conception of the High Spirit. I understand you have questions. Feel free to ask.”
Oppenheimer spread his massive wings and glided down to perch on the rock wall of the pond as Asa explained the problem. When she finished Oppenheimer looked at her for a couple of minutes before speaking.
“I have no idea why Ralph is not here,” he finally said. “He should be here, of that I have no doubt. But I have not the power to snap my talons and produce his spirit; that is reserved for those even more powerful than I. All I can say is that there is a place for the spirits of the good and a place for those who are bad. And there is a place in between. Sometimes spirits go there while a decision is being made on their worthiness. Sometimes they go there by error. My guess is that Ralph is there, waiting.”
“How do we get him here?” asked Asa.
“You will have to go and find him and bring him back with you,” said Oppenheimer. “But let me warn you, it will be no journey for the faint of heart. And only one of you can go. I have the power to send you there, but I cannot help you once you leave here. Choose wisely.”
The owl glided back to the tree limb and turned his head as if in sleep. But they could feel his powerful eyes on them every second.
“Well this is a toughy,” said Asha. “I suppose this is a job for Ninja Bird! Ain’t nothing stood up to these talons yet!”
“Thank you dear friend,” said Asa. “But this is flock business. It’s my duty.” She turned her head up towards the owl. “Send me on Oppenheimer.”
“As you wish,” he said and Asa suddenly disappeared.
When he vision cleared she found herself in the middle of a barren and parched landscape. The ground was the shade of bricks and the sky the shade of blood. Asa felt a fear in her she had never felt before. But she also felt something else, a feeling that tugged her towards the north. Asa alternately flew and walked north for what seemed like weeks and months. She drank from brackish pools that she would have turned her beak up to on Earth but which she welcomed deliriously here. She ate bugs that were small enough to choke down her throat while others she avoided altogether in fear they would eat her. She finally arrived at a huge castle guarded by an enormous moat filled with beasts out of a fever dream. She looked up at the drawbridge and rested for a while.
Suddenly a voice spoke out.
“Who seeks the spirits of those abandoned?” the voice trumpeted.
“I do,” said Asa. “I seek the spirit of Sir Ralph D’Artagnan.”
“Enter,” the voice spoke as the drawbridge fell. Asa walked across and into a massive courtyard. When she reached the center of the courtyard she noticed that the walls were ringed by huge beasts with huge teeth and huger claws. She swallowed hard but still stood as tall as she could.
“Is this some jest?” boomed the voice from a window in the courtyard wall. “A tiny bird has come to challenge my control over the spirits of the abandoned?”
“This spirit is not abandoned,” Asa shouted. “I have come for it and am ready to die in the attempt.”
Asa looked up and saw what appeared to be a bear more than ten feet tall with blue fur. He was clad in some kind of weird leather clothing and he was staring directly at Asa.
“You realize I could have you killed in less time than it takes to draw a breath?” the bear asked.
“Yes, I do,” said Asa.
“And you still contest my hold over the spirit of this Ralph?” he said.
“Yes, I do,” Asa repeated.
“Bah!” the bear shouted. “This Ralph is as much trouble as you are. There is something about you birds, can’t stand you. Here, take him and never darken my door again.”
Asa saw Ralph flutter out of the window and alight beside her.
“Hello young Asa,” Ralph said with a smile. “It has indeed been a while.”
Suddenly the landscape changed and the two were back in the grotto beyond the Rainbow Bridge.
“Congratulations,” boomed the voice of Oppenheimer. “A lost spirit has been found and returned to those who loved him.”
Asa and Ralph looked up and walking towards them were Cherry Lace and Diamond Sunshine. The welcomes were long and tear-filled but a few minutes later the five friends found themselves together under one of the large Maples.
“Quick work Asa,” said Asha. “You couldn’t have been gone more than a minute.”
“A minute?” said Asa. “It took a month if it took a second. I hope I never have to do anything like that again.”
Oh Asa!” boomed the voice of Oppenheimer. “Before you go there are some others you need to see.”
Asa turned and saw walking towards her Precious, her little sister, and her parents Rowena Rose and R.B. Bird. Asa broke down in tears as she tried to wrap all three in her wings.
“And I call myself a Ninja Bird,” Asha said as she shook her head.

(Cherry Lace and Ralph in their lovers embrace)

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