Chapter 40: Dodos – extinct or very much alive and a little bit annoying?

The sun shone down on the resting pirates. It was pleasant lying on the rocks with the sound of the waterfall splashing into the lake and a large number of insects chirruping rhythmically in the background.  Harrison Gus dozed next to Captain Greeneye who lay with his hat over his face, snoring loudly.

After a long, restful nap Harrison Gus sat up and looked around. The Captain was still snoozing under his wide-brimmed hat. Cook was sitting on a low flat slab or rock dangling his feet in the water. His huge blue parrot sat on a boulder high above him, shuffling from one foot to another and humming.  TT sat nearby keeping watch.  The other pirates lay or sat here and there, sunning themselves and relaxing, their parrots invariably nearby, in Sir Jones’ case, lying in his master’s lap trying to lift its heavy head to croon as Sir Jones stroked its sparkling white feathers.  But, as usual, its golden beak was too heavy for its little neck to lift for long and it soon gave up and flopped down happily in its masters arms.

The only pirate who didn’t have a parrot was the Captain. His traitorous parrot was being held captive on board the Black Dagger. And Harrison Gus of course, he didn’t have a parrot either, but he was about to get himself one. He was very excited, too excited to sit still any longer.  He stood up and walked across the rocks, hopped down and walked into the cool forest.

He strolled around a bit, keeping close to the lake, and headed slowly round to the big bare rock outcrop on the other side of the lake. Dodo Rock. Very little grew around the base of the rock; nothing at all grew on it, not even in the biggest cracks in the stone, where you might naturally expect a small hardy bush or a tough clump of grass to hang valiantly on and grab whatever little thing of nourishment might accidently land on the little soil they sat in.

The rock was easy to climb and Harrison Gus did it, because it was there and he could. He was hot and puffed by the time he got to the top. He sat and looked down onto the sparkling surface of the lake below and the pirates lying around on the rocks. He lifted his gaze to the horizon, the forest stretching away in all directions, and the dark blue sea beyond. It was beautiful.

Looking at the sea he realised, having not seen it for many days, that he missed it, the sound of waves crashing against the bow, the sea spray in his face, the feel of the undulating waves beneath his feet.  He stretched out his legs.  As he did so there was a loud squawk by his ear, followed almost immediately by another equally loud squawk by his other ear.  He scrambled quickly to his feet, his body flooded with adrenalin.

He looked around. Nothing.

Squawk!

He looked down. There, by his feet, were two quite big birds; they had to be at least a metre high and were rather rotund. They had long fat beaks, the sharp tips a bright yellow, their heads a blue-green, their bodies grey, with little white wings that looked far too small to lift even a much smaller bird.  They looked rather comical.  They looked like… but no. It couldn’t be. Harrison Gus didn’t know his extinct species terribly well, yet he was certain he’d seen pictures of these birds somewhere before.  He couldn’t be exactly sure, but these looked awfully like… dodos… Extinct dodos.

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“Are you dodos?” Harrison Gus asked them without thinking.  But the birds of course merely squawked and pecked the ground near his feet. Their pecking came uncomfortably close to his toes and he shuffled backwards to avoid their massive beaks. They kept waddling towards him. He moved backwards again, but he was running out of room. The rock behind him was starting to curve down and drop away. Where had these birds come from? They clearly couldn’t fly, and surely they couldn’t have climbed up this huge rock!

Harrison Gus looked around, tiptoeing past the birds who proceeded to follow him like two rotund magnets.  He peered over the edges of the rock, behind outcrops and under loose clumps. As he wandered past a large boulder he saw a dark shadow at the far edge.

He walked round the boulder. There was a big hole in the ground.  It looked deep.  Harrison Gus leaned over to peek further in while the birds rustled around behind him.  It was hard to tell but it appeared to travel some distance down before…

Both birds bowled into him from behind.  He yelled and swung his arms in an effort to balance himself but found himself tumbling forwards into the hole.

He slid quickly downwards, bumping painfully against the walls.  Slowly the tunnel grew less steep and his pace slowed a little.  The birds appeared to have jumped in behind him; he heard them scramble and squabble above him.  He carried on falling and sliding.  He was growing more and more certain Dodo Rock had not been this high.  He must be well underground by now.  But then he popped out into the sunshine and landed on a patch of green grass.  Moments later the dodos landed hard against his back, squawking indignantly, while Harrison Gus grunted in pain.

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He looked around.  He was sitting at the edge of a large clearing.  A collection of shapes moved slowly amongst the trees on the other side of the clearing.  He stood up and brushed himself down.  He wandered closer and saw that all the many shapes were dodos, many, many dodos.  How could this be?  A secret little stash of dodos, here, in this hidden valley, in this secluded part of the island, an island far away from anywhere, in the middle of the wide open ocean.

He sat on a rock and watched them for a while.  They were pecking at the ground, at the seeds and roots and fruit that lay there, lifting their heads back now and again to send the food whole down their gullets.  Every now and again, one would get too close to another.  There’d be a little scuffle, some squawking, some pecking, and one or other of them would wander away, nonchalantly, as though they hadn’t just been defeated and sent on their way.

Up above the dodos, in the foliage of the tall trees, Harrison Gus saw small flashes of colour.  Parrots.  They flitted from tree to tree.  They were wild parrots.  The parrots the gang of pirates were on their way to find so that Harrison Gus could choose one of his very own.  They were the wild parrots of the Parrot Forests.

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