I appoligise for the really, really bad pun in the title. I
groan every time I look at it and wonder how I even dared to contemplate
it as a proper title. Then I wonder how I decided to actually use it, but
its too late because there it is, hopefully not too many people loath it
as much as I do :}
James looked over the book, then down at the long feather held in his hand. He could hardly believe what he was reading. James was a man of science, but, like a lot of people he had always dreamed of becoming something else. For him, it was to become an eagle and soar through the skies. With the majority of people, that urge slowly fades over time, but with James, it had grown. His friends said he was obsessed with birds. His favourite were the birds of prey, particularly the eagles. Usually it was the Aquila audax, also known as the Wedge Tail Eagle that caught his imagination, but he was liable to swap species depending on his mood. A few weeks before his grandmother had died, aged 98, and being the only one available, it fell upon him to clear her house to get it ready for sale. It was not a task he was looking forward to. He got on quite well with his grandmother and the idea of poking around in her personal belongings was not high on his list of things to do. However, he found the easiest thing was to heave everything into one of the large cardboard moving boxes and let someone else deal with it later. That was how he packed up most of the house. Kitchen, bedroom, lounge. Anything that could be either packed or thrown out was. Soon the place was filled with cardboard boxes, stacked to the ceiling. Then he remembered the attic. He had never been up there, but remember her talking about it years ago. Deciding to be thorough he began studying the ceiling trying to figure out how to get in. Eventually he found the man hole cover, cunningly concealed in the hall cupboard. There was a small ring, obviously meant to be pulled down. He looked around and spied a pole with a hook on the end and put two and two together. The entire trapdoor folded down exposing a step ladder which slid down, almost knocking him out in the process. Dodging that, he made his way up the rickety stairs and peered into the space beneath the roof before giving a groan. It was packed with stuff, it would take him days to move it all. He spied a string hanging from the ceiling and pulled it. Blinding light from the 40 watt bulb illuminating more junk hiding in the corners. As he thought it did take him ages to shift it all. Most of it was family heirlooms and went into the "to keep" pile some of it looked interesting and went into the "my stuff" pile. One of the things he found was a chest. It was only small, about eighteen inches long, twelve wide and about the same high, but it was made out of some strange yellow wood. It also had ornate iron work curling around it and was fastened shut with a big brass padlock. James had to keep it for himself. Later, when he had finished all the packing he ended up with the box in his room. The lock was old and lasted a few moments with his skeleton key... also known as bolt cutters. Inside was a virtual treasure-trove of strange bottles, boxes and things. The strong smell of spices immediately wafted through his nostrils and he looked a little dumbstruck at his find. Tucked in a pocket in the lid was a rather thick book. He picked it up and flipped through the pages. It was hand written in a spidery script on thick parchment type paper. It was in the style of old English, but once he got his eye in he found it was quite easy to read. He trembled with excitement when he realised he had stumbled upon some long dead ancestor's spell casting box. The book contained the spells while the box contained the ingredients. James tried not to giggle at the thought of what mere words on paper would do, but then the business side of his mind flipped through to how much this would be worth to a collector. Then he accidentally found the page which mentioned transformations. Now James was a man of science, but tucked away somewhere deep within him was a lingering sliver of hope that such things were possible. It was this sliver which caused him to read the page carefully. That sewed a seed of doubt into his mind and after a while the seed had grown until he found himself sitting on the floor with the feather and the book in front of him. The spell itself was simple. Say the words, wave part of the animal around in the defined pattern in the air, then stick the animal part onto the matching part of your body and you would transform. That was the theory anyway. James had spent the better part of a week practising the movements and the words separately, tonight was when he would join the two. He began slowly, his lips stumbling over the unfamiliar syllables, slowly increasing in tempo until he culminated in a crashing crescendo. One hand slapping the feather down hard on his other arm. He held his breath... waiting... Nothing happened. After five minutes he began to feel like a bit of a fool. He removed his hand. To his amazement the feather stayed there, but then he remembered the blob of blu-tak which use to hold the feather onto the wall. That took away the last of the magic for him. He grumbled, then crawled into bed, quickly falling into a deep slumber. James woke late in the morning, not unusual for him and rolled out of bed. Landing awkwardly he stumbled towards the bathroom. His sleep filled mind was having the usual problems of coming to grips with waking fully and it seemed he had slept funny as his body was filled with small aches and pains. He passed in front of the full length mirror in the hall and gave a cry of surprise. What looked back at him was not him. It was brown for one thing and covered with feathers. He moved his head, watching his reflection mirror his movements. He leant forward, his arms pulled up words his sides and his entire body was covered in tawny coloured feathers. Even as he watched they continued to lengthen, his body being pulled down even more. James was unsure how much time passed. It could have been seconds or maybe hours. His teeth pushed out, then seemed to melt forming a sickle-like beak and he toes stretched, yellow scales spreading across them. Long feathers began to sprout from the base of his spine and the back of his arms, joining the single feather that remained near one shoulder. Eventually the changing seemed to stop, but James continued to peer at his reflection in the mirror. He knew exactly what he was. A wedge-tailed eagle. The spell worked, just like it was suppose to. Well, not exactly, a normal wedge-tail was big, but he was huge. He stood almost as high as he did when he was human. That would mean his wing span would be massive. Experimentally he tried to spread out his wings. That failed miserably. The tips getting caught in his other feathers and the first twinge of doubt spreading through his mind. He turned to walk into the lounge and promptly fell on his neck, he feet suddenly much longer and unwieldy than before. The doubt began to turn to panic. Using his wickedly shark beak he pulled himself along the floorboards, desperate to reach the spell book. Eventually he completed the distance and cocked his head to peer at the page and gave a squawk of dismay. There were words on the page, but they made no sense. He looked around, spying a can of coke on the table. He recognised the red and white can immediately, but it was covered in meaningless squiggles. A glimpse of a magazine told him the same thing. There were letters, he knew what they were, but he could not identify them, let along tell their meaning. He gave a primal screech, half in frustration, half in terror. An hour or so later the animal control officer arrived. He met the policeman at the door. "What you got?" asked Larry, an officer for five years. "A bird," replied the policeman. "A very big bird." "Ahhh," nodded Larry. "I'll get the net." He returned a few moments later with a mist net on a long pole. "Not big enough," muttered the cop. "Not big enough?" repeated Larry. "Just how big is this thing?" "Big," came back the answer. The policeman lead the other man inside, explaining what had happened. "The neighbours heard some weird noises and thought someone was breaking in, so they called us. We heard some movement inside and broke down the door and found this." He gestured across to the corner of the room. There James stood, peering back with his eagle eyes, listening intelligently to the group of people who were talking some strange language and pointing at him. He may not have been able to understand them, but their meaning was clear. "Holy shit!" exclaimed Larry. "That thing is huge." In all his years of looking after animals he had never seen anything vaguely like that. There was a massive eagle crouched in the corner. It was the size of a small horse and even though it was frightened, it still managed to portray a sense of regality. "This could take some planning..." he murmured to himself. "Have any idea how it got here?" "I have no idea," came the reply. "The guy who lives here, a Mr James Taylor, lives by himself. We're trying to track him down now. From all the posters, books and pictures we think he's a bit of a bird nut, but I doubt he caught this thing by himself. The strange thing is all the doors and windows were locked form the inside. Its like the bird locked itself in." "Maybe it ate him," thought Larry to himself as he formulated a plan. "Mind if I ask you and your men to volunteer?" he asked the cop. "Be my guest, but we're not going anywhere near that beak," came the reply. It took a bit of skill, lots of luck and a large number of bruises, but they finally managed to get the bird under control. Once that had succeeded putting a sack over its head it calmed down quite a bit. The other ropes and restraints were not really needed. For lack of other places to take it they drove it to the nearest wildlife sanctuary. A rambling place spread over 250 acres deep in natural bush. They were more than happy to take the gigantic beast. The other people who were more than interested were the scientists. They came from all over the world to stare at the massive avian. Tests were run, but all they established was James was a fit, healthy and perfectly normal female wedge-tail eagle except she was just very big. James on her part was quite content on the sanctuary. The staff were patient with her and her human past became distant memories as the skills of the eagle were slowly taught to her. She was not aware of her change of sex, the strong urges that occurred during the shorter months just seemed to be a natural thing. The staff use to spend a lot of time studying her. One of the most common things they said was how she looked so intelligent and at times they could almost swear she was trying to communicate, but all they heard were bestial squawks and cries. Of course, the they were ecstatic when she began to build a nest on the top of the water tank. By this stage her flying had improved, but she still got around most of the time with short ungainly hops, but staff had noticed she loved to stand on top of the ute as it drove around the property, wings outstretched as the wind caressed her body. When the egg arrived staff immediately cordoned off the area, but it became clear the watermelon sized sphere was sterile. James looked distraught for the first few days, but as time passed she seemed not to mind and barely noticed when staff discretely removed the egg. One day James was enjoying her usual perch on the back of the truck during the afternoon feed run when she spread her wings, pushed off with her legs and launched herself into space. The worked jammed on the breaks as the huge bird dipped before them, the powered up into the air, long wings steadily beating as she disappeared into the sunset. That was the last the sanctuary saw of her for a while. They kept a look out for her and tracked the reports of missing sheep and cattle but it was not until almost a year later that she reappeared. Suddenly one day she was back. Perched on the water tank rearranging her nest... and this time there was a tiny looking male with her...