Her wings were still heavy and beat slowly. They didn’t want to follow her will, but she made them, an inch at a time, and suddenly she realized she was at the top of the grand vista that was Rwenzori looking down on a completely new horizon.
The sun began to descend behind her, deepening the gloom that lay over the valley. The trees were dense and a deep nightmare green shooting out tentacles of foliage and a branch-work of sharp fences. There were small shapes darting through these branches with frenzied accuracy.
Beyond it all, however, Zuzu could see an immensity of something that looked like perhaps it could be the sea. The jungle went on for a great distance, she could tell, but beyond it was like nothing she had seen before. Not forest, or brush or sloping sand. That has to be it, Zuzu thought. It just has to be. So she zoomed forward once more, determined.
The tree branches swayed with menace. Anything could be hidden within the depths of that shade. Zuzu couldn’t help herself from thinking of all the things that could be hiding in there. Birds and lizards, and lions! And the further across the expanse she flew the worse she feared the unseen things below. Any moment now, she thought, something will get me. Just as these words formed themselves completely in her mind a black shape came streaking past her.
Zuzu stopped, her breath shallow and short. She hovered, waiting to see if the coast was clear (completely unaware of the irony of that particular phrase given her single minded goal). Then it, the thing, crossed behind her. She could feel the breeze pass behind, faster than she could ever imagine. Suddenly all around her were others, fluttering in desperation so thick that not even a scream could be heard.
Lost and confused, she ducked under a leaf and watched as a mass of other flying insects flurried around the tops of the trees. There was just enough light to see the carnage. As the other flying bugs zoomed back and forth in panic, swooping black bats would swing down from the sky above, swallowing groups of them, as many as twenty at time. Many tried to dive for cover, but failed, disoriented by the failing light and the waving branches.
Zuzu knew that if she waited there, beneath the leaf, one of these bats would find her. She had to find a way to escape the net of bats thrown around them. Taking a deep breath, and closing her eyes, knowing that no matter what she did there was a chance, a solid chance that she was a goner anyway. So she flew.
She sped away in a straight line across the tree tops, never pausing for even an instant and finally reached the edge of the killing fields where the air was free. Zuzu thought about looking back at the melee behind her, but upon reflection, knew the sight would never leave her if she did. There were only so many things she could see in her life, she thought, and I need to save room for the best of them all. So she sped away, to seek the golden moment of the sunrise over the ocean.
The dark sky hid most of the rest of her journey, though the sight of the moon surprised and delighted her and the glimmering stars made her giggle as if they told the funniest jokes. Slowly it all dawned on her, the sun and the realization that this was the end of her life. Soon, the sun would rise in full and she would be gone. It would all be over.
Even as she rushed ahead, she could feel herself flagging for the second time. It was as if gravity had grown jealous and were trying to pull her down before she could reach her goal. But she refused to give up now. Just a few more flaps of her wings were left to her. Just a few more breaths and she was running out of time.
The darkness was leaving and Zuzu almost wished it wouldn’t leave. If it would just stay a few more moments she could have one last adventure. But, looking around, there was nothing else around, no one, no thing, to keep her from the last leg of her journey. There was no ocean either, just the familiar dry sand, running in smooth ripples.
Then, straight ahead the sun rose in full and reached out to embrace the sky with its scorching touch. As it did the ground seemed to fall away to something new. Zuzu noticed it move and wave beneath her. It shimmered and glowed, reflecting the sky and the sun and even, Zuzu could see, herself, floating above it; the ocean.
With her last breath, she sank to meet it, growing closer to the golden surface and the black speck in the water that was her.