All characters are fictitious
In a small rugged nest on the biggest branch of the willow tree by the river, there lived a family of sparrows. Papa and Mama Sparrow flew around all day trying to look for food while their three daughters stayed at home. The two younger daughters were twins and made a mess the entire day their parents weren't home. It was the eldest daughter who had to look after her siblings. She fed them, bathed them in the puddle near the tree and kept an eye out while the parents were away. She was the perfect daughter. She never broke the rules, never raised her voice or revolted against them. Not even in her mind.
But she was never rewarded for her obedience. A few days after Papa and Mama Sparrow settled in this tree, a couple nearby lost their baby sparrow. The baby had gone on to play in the evening, never to return. Since then, Mama Sparrow was very specific about what her elder daughter was allowed to do. Going out and seeing the world wasn't one of those things.
While her younger siblings slept in the afternoon, the eldest one stared at the bright blue sky. She wanted to touch the chunks of cloud with her beak, feel the ray of sun against her cheek and the winds against her feathers. For once, she wanted to breathe in the air that did not smell like this willow tree. Hundreds of afternoons passed with the same train of thought. The dreams she weaved of the open world became too heavy for her mind to carry any longer. One afternoon while her siblings were deep asleep, she left.
She flew and flew towards the horizon until the sun set and she could no longer see it. When she turned back, the winter evening mist blocked her path and she could no longer recognise her way back. She sat on the branch of a mango tree and started crying. At that moment, she felt like she could give up on everything to get back to that musty old willow tree.
Suddenly, she heard chirping nearby. She recognised her father's voice right away. On their way back, Papa Sparrow didn't utter a single word. She could sense disappointment in the air around her. She wanted to beg her father to howl at her, punish her or even leave her stranded in the middle of nowhere. She could take anything but that loud piercing silence.
The silence lasted for two more days until one dawn, her mother came by her bed and asked her to start packing. Mama Sparrow looked happy while telling her that the three of them would be going on a trip. She didn't question her Mama's sudden happiness since it was the first time in two days someone in her family spoke to her and she couldn't risk losing this moment. The couple left their two younger daughters to the neighbour and left with their eldest daughter.
The three of them flew through the dark dense forest on the other side of the river. The sky over their heads was completely covered by the thick layers of branches and leaves with spots of sunlight covering the muddy terrain like prints on a cheetah. After an hour of flying, Papa Sparrow finally settled on a branch of a big banyan tree. "He told me to wait here for a while", said Papa, as the three of them sat on the branch.
Suddenly, a giant shadow covered up the ground beneath their feet. When she looked up, she couldn't see the face of the figure until it came closer and sat on the edge of the branch they were sitting on. With black feathers and sharp nails, the vulture had its entire body covered in blood. One of its eyeballs was popping out of the socket with the pupil still moving, investigating every single inch of the Daughter Sparrow's tiny body. Saliva kept dripping off its tongue as its warm breath created a smelly gust of wind in the tree.
"Papa, take me home", said the daughter in a voice too weak to scream, "I'll never go out again, I promise. Just take me home this once and I'll never even look outside."
As the daughter faced back, she saw her parents take a few steps backwards with smiles on their faces. "It's time, my dear", said Mama with a smile, "You've grown! It's a huge honour for our family that he chose you to devour."
The Daughter Sparrow stared at her smiling parents. As she took a step back in disbelief, something snapped beneath her feet. It was a rotten skeleton. The bones still had some of its portions unchewed, just enough for it to retain the structure of a sparrow. As the warm smelly wind above her head kept getting stronger, she could feel the vulture step in closer. She closed her eyes, hoping that the darkness takes over her entire soul and she goes numb before the vulture could lay a finger on her.
Papa and Mama Sparrow stared with smiles on their faces as the vulture devoured their daughter.
"Daughters are meant to be given away, Mama! At least the eldest one's sorted out", sighed Papa Sparrow. "Two more to go and then we can die in peace."
Hasib Ur Rashid Ifti is a writer who is currently studying at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. Reach him out at [email protected].