by Abby Gayle
Jack finds a parrot at his window, at night. An entry for the Writer's Cramp birthday week
|Jack sat up in his bed. He clutched his blankets in his hands. He stared at the nightlight plugged in across the room, the only minuscule source of light in the room blanketed in darkness.
“Mom?” Jack called out. His voice was barely more than a whisper, but in the quiet night, it sounded much like thunder. “Can I have water?”
“Mom, water! Mom, water!” a faint voice screeched. Jack jumped in his bed. He bit his lip, but, exploding with curiosity at the sound, slipped out of his bed. “Can I have water?” the voice asked.
Jack pinpointed the sound at just outside his window. He unlatched it and slid the window open, the freezing breeze blowing across his bare skin. Jack jumped as a colorful bird hopped onto the windowsill, illuminated only by the spooky moon outside and the blue glow of his nightlight.
“Quite the jumper, aren’t ya?” the parrot shrieked.
“Shh, it’s bedtime,” Jack hissed. “All little kids are spos’ta be asleep.”
“Kids asleep,” it repeated. The parrot cocked its head. “Light in the closet.”
“Evy-thing’s dark,” Jack shook his head. He glanced back into his room. Something inside his closet glowed green. His breath caught in his throat. The bird was right.
The parrot flapped its wings, gliding closer to the closet. Jack followed behind it, inching his way toward the mysterious glow. The bird hopped beside him, and Jack pulled the closet door fully open. Behind the door, a lime green circle hovered just off the floor. Jack stared at it, mesmerized.
“Go in? Go in?” the bird questioned.
“It’s skeery,” Jack replied.
“Follow, follow me,” the parrot said. It hopped toward the floating circle, glanced back at Jack, and flapped its wings, flying through. Jack gasped. The parrot was gone. He touched the green with his fingertips, but its texture was identical to the air around it.
Trembling, Jack stepped one foot into the green circle. He squeezed his eyes closed, taking a deep breath before taking another step in. He opened a single eye and gasped.
A field surrounded him, grass nearly up to his knees. A few trees stood nearby, and he could barely make out a forest far ahead. The parrot, a few steps ahead of him, flew up onto Jack’s shoulder. He shook, staring up at the sky. Three moons floated above him, two silvery-blue, and one red as blood.
“Where are we?” Jack muttered.
“My home planet of Kliep,” a high-pitched voice answered. Jack swung his head around, but he couldn’t see anyone. “My disguise machine went haywire. Turned me into an Earth bird just before I lost contact with my ship. Thank you for bringing me back.”
Jack turned his head to the parrot on his shoulder, his eyes wide as saucers and his jaw nearly brushing against the grass. He stared in disbelief, even still.
“I . . . must be dreaming,” Jack concluded.
“No, this is real,” the parrot said. “I am Feried. I cannot change back into my original form until I find another disguise machine. No one from this planet will believe me. I need you, Jack.”
“B-but I’m just a kid,” Jack shook his head. “I’m only this many years old.” He held up all the fingers on one hand.
“It’s completely safe,” Feried promised.
Jack nodded. “Okay, Fred, I’ll help you. But then you hafta take me home and promise to be my best friend forever, and you hafta visit me sometimes and send me lotsa letters in the mailbox.”
“Alright,” Feried agreed. “We’re really close to my house. It’s just in this tree here.”
Jack followed Feried’s instructions to get into the house in the tree, and the bark slid over to allow them to enter. Jack shook from both the cool air and his frightening circumstances. As soon as he stepped in, the floor fell out from underneath him. Jack screamed, falling faster and further than even the steep slide in the big kids’ playground let him fall. After a moment, he realized that air blowing up at him was slowing his descent. He was barely moving when he touched the ground.
Wherever they had ended up was darker than Jack’s bedroom at night without the nightlight. He trembled, a low, fearful whine coming up from his throat.
“Just walk straight forward,” Feried instructed, ignoring Jack’s shaking. Jack took one step after the other, wishing he had thought to grab a flashlight. He stumbled into something in front of him that felt like a giant plate of jello.
“What have we here?” a deep, nasally voice asked. A torch was lit, illuminating the creature in front of Jack. It was taller than Jack’s dad, and wider as the giant TV in their living room. Its skin didn’t look like jello, aside from the fact that it was purple, but it was as jiggly as if it were.
“And I am Prince Feried of Kliep,” the parrot introduced himself. “I have come for a disguise machine, to change myself out of this disguise.”
The giant beast laughed. “You truly expect me to believe that you are our prince and ruler? No, you are a lunatic. And this alien with you, it must be as crazy as you are. You shall remain locked away until the true prince comes to decide what to do with you.”
As the giant purple monster dragged them away, a tear slid down Jack’s face.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t get you the thingy,” Jack whispered. “But are you still gonna be my friend, Fred?”
“Yes, Jack,” the parrot replied, bobbing its head gently up and down. “And I promise, I’ll get you back to your home, and send you lots of letters. Just let me figure out how to get us out of this.”