There was once a traveling circus: a line of colorful wagons drawn by stocky horses. There were trapeze artists and bareback riders, but the star of the show was the Eagle Boy. He had been stolen from his village when he was three years old and had been an eagle ever since. He was given a pair of wings made of wax and feathers, held together by a leather harness that looped around his body and attached with brass buckles. He had been taught to make a great show of his wings and leap from a tower over an abyss of fire to a platform on the other side.
Since it was impossible for a boy to leap that far, the audience was always on the edge of their seats. But at the last second a trained eagle always rescued him, grabbing the harness with his talons and circling dramatically as the crowd cheered, eventually delivering the boy to the platform unharmed. This went on for ten years as both the boy and the eagle grew older. But while the boy was growing taller and stronger with each passing year, the eagle was growing weaker with age.
One night the boy was asleep in his wagon. He dreamed, or was it a dream, that the eagle came to speak to him about important matters. He explained why his wagon had no bars like those of the other animals, which was something the boy had always wondered about. “The other animals hate men and would go back to their old ways if they could,” the eagle began. “The elephant and zebra would wander and graze. The lion and tiger would hunt. The bear would sleep. The monkey would steal. But I admire the ways of men. It is my destiny to be among them and teach them to fly.”
“I have loved the part I’ve played in our drama, and would go on doing it forever if I could. But every day I grow weaker and one day soon I won’t be able to bring you across the abyss of fire. Then I’ll let go of your harness and as I do, I’ll give you my power of flight. You will be transformed into an eagle, just as I was when I was a boy of 13. You will be able to save yourself and fly for many seasons. When you become old and weak, you must pass the gift on to someone else.”
“But what will become of you?” the boy asked, distressed, because he loved the eagle.
“I will dive to my death in the flames. In time you will do the same.”
“No, no!” the boy cried. “As soon as I am able to fly I will carry you with me to the other side. Even if you can’t fly you can still travel with us in your wagon, offer me advice and observe the people.”
“Who wants to be a walking eagle?” he asked. “After the glories of seeing the panorama of the earth, flying up to observe and coming back to report to the Ringmaster what’s around the bend. I have been respected here. I don’t think I could adjust to being carted around like a clown.”
The eagle paused for a moment as the boy began to cry, but he knew he must disclose the rest of his instructions. “These mysterious ways are both a blessing and a curse. Soon after I am gone, they will bring you a young boy and they will teach him to make a great show of his wings. You will play my part rescuing him at every performance, and take on other duties involving your ability to be a messenger between the Ringmaster and Heaven. In time this day will come for you too, but don’t be sad. My visit here has been a wonderful experience and I will never forget it. I know you will feel the same.”
“No,” the boy replied. “I’ll just fly away. If I’m not here they won’t steal another boy and this way of life will come to an end.”
“Is that what you really want?” asked the eagle. “Would you deny someone else the excitement of a life like yours? This boy they will steal … if you are gone he will live his life in the fields, plowing in the spring, harvesting in the fall. He will never learn to fly. And what of you? You can seek the company of eagles who did not start their lives as boys, but you will find them dull. You are not a child born of an egg, but you are a boy destined to become an eagle.”
When the boy woke the next morning, he went to the eagle’s wagon. But he was just perched on his branch, silent, tilting his head and furling his wings like an ordinary bird. Where was the magical creature of his dream? The boy tried to put the whole experience out of his mind, but a few weeks later, everything came to pass, just as the eagle had predicted.
The boy who was now an eagle sat in the wagon without any bars, but felt like a prisoner. He spread his wings and circled above the wagons and the bonfire in the middle of the camp. He knew that soon they would choose a boy for him to rescue, learn to love, and that he must begin a new life of great responsibility. Suddenly, he felt unequal to the task and began climbing into the night sky. When he finally looked back, the campfire shone like a star from the dark landscape of the countryside. He rested on a stiff current of cold air and tried to decide what to do.
Would he go back to the circus and fulfill his destiny, or make a run for the flames of the Sun?
Marki Parker has written stories and poem since childhood and especially enjoys reading and writing about spiritual themes.