Here is the winning entry in our short story competition. It was by A Mulligan.
Swoop the Cockatoo was soaring through the trees, searching for his branch so he could rest after a long day out foraging. He couldn’t wait to see his girlfriend Coco the African Grey and surprise her with his present.
Whilst out in the savannah he had found a gold ring and he was planning to use it to propose to her. They had been together for 5 years, shared a perch for 3 years and were even considering having a chick. He would do anything for her.
They had talked about getting engaged too, but Coco thought Swoop would never get around to it. But now he had the beautiful ring, tonight was the night.
The next day Coco and Swoop set off to celebrate their engagement with a picnic in the forest.
However, after flying for half an hour they still hadn’t reached their favourite spot. They appeared to have gotten lost somewhere.
Swoop and Coco looked around. They had reached an unfamiliar part of the forest. The trees on three sides were a lot higher than they were used to and no sunlight could get through. On the fourth side was a cliff that towered into the sky, even further than the trees.
In various hollows in the cliff were small nests. Although no one was in them at the moment, the flattened branches indicated they have been lived in recently.
Swoop turned to Coco. “Any ideas in where we are?”
Coco shook her head. “I think we should go back that way.” She indicated to her left. “Away from the cliffs.”
Suddenly they heard the distant flapping of wings. Then a bird flew down on them.
He wasn’t a Macaw’s usual colour, even in the fading sunlight Swoop could see this Parrot was mostly black, and the only other colour was on his beak, which was white.
He was three times the size of a normal bird and Towered over Swoop and Coco.
Then tens of other birds appeared behind him.
The big, dark bird leaned down towards Coco and Swoop and spoke with a deep, smokey voice. “Well, well, well…what do we have here?”
“We were just leaving, sorry to intrude.” Swoop stuttered backing away from the strange bird.
“Why the rush! Let me introduce myself, my name is Louie, I run this part of the forest. This is my flock.” Louie smiled as he gestured to the many birds gathered in the trees behind him.
“My name is Coco and this is Swoop. We must be on our way now…” squeaked Coco who was intimidated by Louie and his large flock.
“You’re not going anywhere!” before Louie finished two of the biggest birds in the flock dove down and grabbed Swoop and Coco.
Their razor-sharp talons dug into Coco and Swoop’s skin as they struggled to get free. Their picnic now long forgotten lay all over the ground, knocked over from the struggle. The special juice Coco made for the special occasion trickled past them.
Louie glided gracefully down towards them, a scar down the right side of his face now visible. He leaned down to Swoop, his breath sending shivers down his spine. He stopped struggling and froze.
“Please forgive my friends here, they get a bit…excited…when some fresh meat stumble across our land.” Louie smirked.
“Oh what a beautiful ring you have!” he exclaimed turning to Swoop’s fiancé.
Louie took the shiny, gold ring in his sharp talons and examined it. He seemed to be fascinated by the unique symbols around the inside of the ring.
“So unusual…where did you get such a rare item?” Louie asked while inspecting the symbols.
“You can keep the ring just please, let us go!” Coco begged terrified.
It was getting darker, the birds behind Louie sat quietly watching the scene in front of them unfold. Some looked curious at the strangers, others looked intrigued by Coco’s ring while the rest looked unfazed by the situation.
“Take them away, you know what to do.” Louie commanded not taking his eyes away from the precious ring.
“No! Please!” Swoop begged as the grip from the large bird behind him tightened around his neck.
Suddenly the ring started to glow, it was so bright it lit up the forest. All the birds looked at Louie frightened. Some even flew away from fear of what the ring could do.
Louie let out a chilling scream as he dropped the ring. The second he let go the ring went back to its original form. All the birds looked in horror. Where Louise had stood was now nothing but a scorched mark on the dead grass.
Coco and Swoop looked at each other in complete shock and horror. Swoop looked around and saw that the large flock had the same terrified look on their faces. The large birds behind them had loosened their grip from the shock. Swoop and Coco took their chance and ran.
Swoop picked up the ring as they flew high above the trees leaving the confused flock behind. After they felt they had flown far enough they stopped and perched on a tree.
"What happened...." Coco whispered fear still etched across her face.
"No idea..." replied Swoop examining the ring.
"What are you doing! Why did you pick that cursed ring?!" Coco shouted backing away from Swoop and the ring.
"Someone needs to get rid of it!" he defended. "Come on, let's go throw it off the cliff down by the willow."
They flew in silence, both terrified of what the ring would do on their journey. To their luck they got to their destination with no surprises.
"One the count of three....one, two, three!" Coco said standing next to her Fiancé.
Swoop flung the ring as far away as he could. They pair stood there watching in silence for what felt like hours. Suddenly Swoop turned around and left Coco by herself. Coco stood their confused but didn't move. A few minutes later Swoop appeared again but this time he was carrying something in his talon.
"Since my last engagement ring didn't turn out so well I wanted to give you something extra special!" Swoop said when he joined Coco on the branch.
"I know it's not much and isn't a fancy gold ring but I love you and I want to spend the rest of my days with you..." he blushed as he showed Coco what he was carrying.
In his talon was a ring woven from grass. Coco's eyes teared up as she picked up her new ring and placed it on her ankle.
"It's perfect! So much better than a gold ring!" she exclaimed hugging Swoop.
The couple flew back home to their perch and lived happily together for the rest of their days. They even had a few chicks along the way!
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