This story is available as a printed book or ebook in various stores online, but my plan is to post a chapter (or part of a chapter) every Sunday. If you’d like to have an idea what my writing is like, here’s the opportunity to sample it, and if you don’t want to buy the book, but still want to read the story, here you can read it for free over the course of the next 40 or so weeks.
Fly Like a Penguin, Volume 1
The Long Way Home
Just a small ray of sun from the East broke through the gray clouds covering the Falkland Islands as Cliffider and Cliffidee jumped from rock to rock up the cliff from the ocean to their home. They were penguins, Rockhopper penguins.
Their life, up to this time, had been spent doing the usual penguiny sorts of things, such as raising a number of little ones from the egg to maturity. As the time now drew near for another one to enter their world, they couldn’t have imagined how their lives and that of their whole colony could change. Life had been as it was for as long as they could remember, and it seemed it had been that way for their parents and grandparents.
But on this morning, something felt different, and they didn’t know why. After finishing their breakfast in the ocean, they were on their way to visit Cliffking. He was a very old and wise penguin who was considered a patriarch of their colony. Some, however, thought he was strange.
As they drew nearer to the top of the cliff the sound of the many Rockhoppers in their colony drew louder. It sounded like they were all talking at once. They could hear playful shouting, arguing, singing, and just regular conversation. It didn’t seem unusual to Cliffidee and Cliffider. That’s just the way it was, and always had been, just like the constant crashing of the waves on the rocks below them.
Finally, after reaching the cliff’s summit, they hopped and waddled through the multitudes of their folk and came out on the other side. Climbing uphill for a while, they came to the little rock cave where Cliffking usually stayed. It was a quieter place where he could think.
“Welcome, good friends,” he said. “How was the krill?” (Krill is a favorite food of penguins. It is a tiny shrimp-like creature that is very abundant in these southern waters. To us it may sound like swill, but to them it is just swell.)
“Just swell,” answered Cliffider. “I would have brought you some, but I didn’t have a good way of carrying it up the cliff.”
“That’s okay. I have plenty—all I need. So, what’s on your mind today?”
Cliffidee answered, “We came to see what’s on your mind. We have an uneasy feeling that something is about to change for us all. We were directed to come to you, because you have been given some wisdom about it. You have a message for us, don’t you?”
“Well, you know I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but the one who directed you to come here is the one who speaks to me, and what he speaks is the truth, whether we like it or not.”
“What has he told you?” asked Cliffider.
“I know my days are getting short, and soon I must lay myself down before our Creator. Soon after that a time of trouble will come to our peaceful islands. Do you see those birds up there?”
They looked up to see the brown gull-like birds flying over the colony with watchful eyes. “The caracaras?”
Cliffking continued, “They are, as you know, our natural enemies, but not that big of a concern to us. They’re mainly a nuisance, trying to steal our eggs and looking for opportunities to take away the weak or young ones among us. But a time is coming when they will become a terrible enemy. They will increase in number, attack us, and carry many of us away.”
“How do you know these things?” asked Cliffider.
“Well, son, I’ve hopped along on the rocks of these islands and swum the ocean around us for many years. All along I’ve been with the one who knows. He has shown me some things because I listened to him.”
“How long will this attack go on?”
“Until the one comes who will lead us in victory.”
“Who will that be?”
Then Cliffking stood up straight, lifted up his right wing, and his voice, saying,
When the trouble comes from the skies
He of yellow crest and eyes
Swims from the north.
He will suddenly come forth
With his mate by his side
And a seal as his ride.
Soon the flying ones will flee
And the Falklands become free.
“Hey, not bad!” said Cliffider to his mate out of the corner of his beak, “and such an old fellow, too.”
“Ay, what’s’at? If I was a bit younger, I would have heard that!” said Cliffking. “You think poetry is only for the young? I was composing it before you were an egg, and I was already old then!”
Cliffider laughed, “Sorry about that, old-timer, but I think you were born old.” Then he grew more serious and said, “Are you saying the one who will lead us to victory will be a yellow-eyed Rockhopper? We all have beady red eyes beneath our yellow crest feathers!”
Cliffking answered, “Many things are possible that we wouldn’t expect, but perhaps there is a Yellow-eyed penguin from New Zealand in his family line.”
Cliffidee asked, “Is there anything we can do to prepare for those days?”
“The most important thing is to remember the one who made us and to keep looking to him for wisdom and help.”
Cliffider and Cliffidee visited with Cliffking until late afternoon and then returned to their place in the colony. One of their neighbors asked, “What did old Methuselah have to say today?”
Cliffidee related the prophecies of the old penguin. Some laughed, some listened, and some said, “We’ll see.”
Others said, “Things have always been as they are. Why should it change?” But the prophecies remained in their minds.
In the days that followed, Cliffider and Cliffidee spent more time outside the colony in lonely places, listening and calling for help. One morning they each knew they were given a command, a message from their maker.
That hour they left their secure home on the rock and dove into the sea, heading south.