A Given Purpose
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My wings stretch out as I hop off a weak cardboard box; only to fall back to the hard concrete. No matter how many times I flap my wings, or try to soar, it's no use… I’ll still end up on the ground. I dust myself off and walk back to my sad excuse for a tree just to repeat the process: Jumping off the box, flapping my wings, falling, and getting back up.

Could I even be considered a bird? I mean, I can’t even fly anymore. I broke my wing, and it never healed right. I can’t exactly live among my kind. Hell, I’m just a tube with legs and useless feathers.

I get back up and waddle over to the edge of the alleyway, looking left and right for any other birds. Coast clear. Scanning the street I see a blue door. Perfect! I start down the path towards it, picking up speed. The faster I can get in, the faster I can get out. I hop up a few stairs and finally, the faded blue door is in front of me.

On the side railing are some overgrown bushes. I squeeze through the bars and hop up the bush. The railing is cold on my feet, but I’m near the doorknob. Bending my knees I launch myself off of the railing onto the handle. I peek into the keyhole reaching a tallon in. The door swiftly unlocked allowing me to hop on the handle and get inside.

This was a normal routine for me, but recently there hasn’t been much inside. I look around the tattered house. Vases and chairs knocked over, torn up blinds and couches, sun bleached walls and floors. I finished looking around the kitchen, but I didn’t find anything other than old mush. I hear a loud cawing and creaking noise, rushing out of the house, my feathers standing on end.

I make it back to my alleyway before I catch the scent of rain. I walk towards the box, pushing open the deteriorating cardboard with my wing. Stepping into the box I close the door behind me and step into my soft nest.

Something is going on. I haven’t seen a single human around in a while, well, ever since the Blue Moon. It requires me to get back to scrounging for food, and honestly it never used to be hard.

The dumpsters are either empty or full of rotten food that not even rats would eat. Yet there are so many more birds around that I can’t exactly fight or get past, so the dumpsters are my only option.

Actually, that's how my wing broke. I was looking for some seed, and a couple of big pigeons shoved me from a ledge. I landed on my right wing; one sickening crunch later and I never flew again. The wing still aches when it's about to rain.

There are so many more birds around, and the new ones are so dumb. They run in packs and start fights with each other way too often. Although, they may be stupid, but at least they could be considered birds.

There is a slight popping noise on top of my flimsy box. I reach a wing out and push open one of the flaps and stick my head out. Down comes a thick water droplet onto my short beak. It sends a shiver down my feathers. I shake my head and close my box once more.

“I’m going to need to find a new box after this.”

I sigh and put my wings around me and attempt to sleep the storm out. Unfortunately, I’m soon awakened by someone entering my little box. I look up to a seagull closing my soggy cardboard door.

“Excuse me. Who are you?” I jump from my nest.

“Good evening Iris. I'm Dr. Hoygull with the Avian Division.”

“Why do you know my name? Why are you here? What do you want?” My feathers started to stand on end.

“Well, I heard about you from a friend of a friend. Your wing is broken, correct?”

“Why do you want to know?” Snapping back, I outstretch my right wing, bending it a little.

“Oh…” He steps toward me. “Iris, we have a proposition for you. Of course, it's dangerous, but you’ll have food, shelter, and a family.”

“I’m listening.” I tilt my head, eyes trained on his.

“You’re going to have to follow me. I can’t disclose everything here, and it would be best to get back to HQ.”

“Uh, why would I follow you? You’re a random stranger and you just barged into my nest!”

Of course. Maybe this is some crazy dream? I haven’t even heard of this ‘Avian Division’ before. What could I even contribute to a group? Then a weird guy just bursting into my door? What was this? One of those scary human movies?

“Please, the rain seems to have stopped. Please, follow me. We can walk there.”

“How do I know you’re not fucking with me?” I step back.

“Look, we’re desperate, and we need more birds to help. This isn’t a trick, and we really need you,” he says putting his wing over his eyes. My stomach growled, and I shifted to hide my embarrassment.

“Alright. If I help out The Avian Division what do I get?” I squint my eyes, staring daggers.

He sighs “If you come with me I guarantee you will have dinner tonight, even if you don’t join us.”

“Okay… I’ll help you.” I look to the side, still not completely sold on it. Though, I need something to eat tonight.

Dr. Hoygull exits the box and leads me down the alleyway. The route he takes is quite confusing, and seems almost unnecessary. It took about an hour to get to this ‘HQ’. The walk up to this point is uncomfortably quiet.

“Where even are we? You said it was within walking distance!”

“We’re almost there, calm down.” He turns to look at me, before turning back to keep walking.

Within 10 minutes a large structure appears on the horizon. Gates, upon gates, upon gates. It is almost surreal. The walls tower above us and are made of a bleak gray brick. It has to be at least 50,000 square feet, maybe larger!

Dr. Hoygull lifts a key card to the scanner and the gates slowly open.

“We’re not exactly meant to tell people where we are or what we do, so everything said today is completely confidential. Do not tell anyone,” he says before walking into the building.

I hurriedly follow him inside the gates and into the building. I couldn’t believe what I’m seeing. So many birds! There are perches made of wood on the ground, and of plastic on the windows. I stand for a second forgetting where I’m meant to go. I snap out of my daze and continue to follow Dr. Hoygull.

He led me through doors and hallways. Until finally he opens a conference room door with another bird sitting at the mahogany table. Dr. Hoygull gestures for me to sit at one end of the table, and I hop up onto the perch.

“Good evening Iris. Welcome to the Avian Division.”

I tilt my head, blinking in confusion. “Uh, what? I know you said the name before, but what is the Avian Division?"

"We are a group of birds working towards a solution to the current problem," replies a larger gray bird. "Dr. Ash, nice to meet you."

"Uh, Nice to meet you too. But, how am I supposed to help then? I'm not a doctor, I've never even been to school." I shift on the perch.

"We are aware of that Iris, but we believe you could be helpful. We are prepared to make an exception for you to join us here at Eta-4, and furthermore, the Foundation."

"Alright, but why do you want a blue feathered house bird? I'm not exactly special."

Dr. Hoygull slides a clipboard with a rather large stack of papers attached to it. On the top written in bold letters reads ‘Employment Contract.’ My eyes skim the rest of the page.

“We cannot tell you more without you signing. I hope you understand.”

“Alright. How do I sign?” Curiosity has always gotten the better of me. Though, if I can get out of that box, I don’t care what happens.

“Can you write?”

I shake my head, and Dr. Hoygull slides over an ink pad.

“Just give us a footprint.” He smiles.

I press my right foot into the cold black ink pad before pushing it onto the signature line. This may have been a mistake. I feel a heavy stone in my stomach after pushing the clipboard back.

After cleaning off my foot, they go over everything with me. Opening my eyes to horrors I could never imagine. It turns out the humans have turned into birds because of the blue moon, among other things. They’ve been losing members left and right, which is why they are so desperate. They told me about all of these ‘SCPs’ and how they are required to continue to contain them all around the world despite the absence of humans.

“So. What did you need me for?”

“Well, you’re good at puzzles and opening things, correct? Please, follow me.”

I nod. Dr. Ash and Dr. Hoygull get up from the table. I follow them out of the room, and into the foyer of a larger dome-shaped area.

Dr. Ash scans her key card to open the white doors. I look inside of the circular room, it's almost blindingly white. On the side is a control panel, and in the middle is a silver cube on a white pedestal.

“We want you to open that cube.”

“Can we get the cube down?” I tilt my head looking at them.

Dr. Hoygull nods and steps over to the pedestal then pushes a green button on it. The ground makes a whirring noise; the white column descends to the ground just before clicking into place. I step up to the silver cube.

It's so shiny, I can see my reflection. I get distracted for a second. No, I have to keep focus. I try to jump onto the top of the cube, but I only make it halfway. I flap my wings trying one more time to climb on it. Only to slide right back down the side. I walk up to it, looking around the sides.

It is only slightly taller than my old cardboard box, so why couldn’t I get on top of it?

“Well? Can you open it?”

“Maybe? I’ve only ever opened cages and cans before. I’m not sure I can open this…”

Dr. Ash and Dr. Hoygull exchange worried looks. I gulp, feeling a heavy weight on my chest. I take in a deep breath.

“But, uh, I can try.”

I push at the side of it, trying to move the cube off the pedestal, but it is too heavy. It only moves a small bit. Barely enough to count. I take a step back. I spot a latch near the bottom. It looks to be a normal popping one.

Why am I such a weak bird? I am just a parakeet, not as big as Dr. Hoygull and Dr. Ash, but I should be able to move it! How am I meant to open the box? Am I the right bird for this job? What the hell is in that box that made it so big and heavy? They aren’t stupid, they have to have known about this latch.

I press the button on the side of the pedestal causing it to go up again. I feel the jolt of the floor locking into place. That is my cue. I push against the cube again. I nudge it a little bit farther towards the side, but it’s still far away from the edge.

I ram my body against the side once more, closing my eyes and pushing with all my might.

Suddenly, the weight disappears, and I flop onto the platform. There’s the noise of hollow metal hitting the ground. I push the button to go back down to see the top. I hop off the pedestal and walk to what was the top of the cube.

On the top there are two latches like those on a birdcage. I hook my beak under the latch and push it up and over. The same with the other. I move over to the side to push it. Though, that didn’t work. I look around for anything stick like.

“Can I have a stick?”

Dr. Hoygull walks over with a pencil in his beak and gives it to me, before pattering back to his previous position. Pushing the pencil into the gap between the door and the side panel. I wedge it further in until it wouldn’t go in anymore. I pull the pencil out, and the door pops open with the pencils removal.

Moving back to the front, I see three pegs with two nuts on the end of them holding the metal plate into place. I grip one of the nuts with my foot trying to unscrew it. The first of two came off. I go for the next one, but it’s screwed on tightly. I move pegs, successfully getting both nuts off. The next peg was only slightly harder than the last.

I felt as if my body is failing me. A looming fear creeped its way into my mind, then questions flooded past my concentration. If I didn’t do this quickly would they just throw me out? What would they do if I failed? How am I gonna do this? Oh Medila, please help me.

I shook my head, trying to regain control over myself, and came back to the original nut. A little bit of working it and finally, the nut came unscrewed. I pull the bolts out of the box and pull off the inside panel.

Inside, is a glass panel with lines cut into it like a maze. Multiple pins sticking out as well. On the panel is a square, a circle, a triangle, and an octagon both on the other side of the glass and cut into it. I grab one of the pins, moving it to the other side; freeing the circle pin to move. I push the circle pin up and over to the right, then down and to the left.

In the way of the circle pin is the octagon pin. This is tedious. Besides, what did they need so desperately out of this box? I then move the circle back and through the hole. The pin’s lighter than I expected. I put it to the right and work on the octagon pin next.

I somehow managed to push all the pins to the top right side, which is an issue since the square hole is on the left, octagon hole on the bottom right corner, and the triangle hole closer to the middle. I grab the square pin and move it to the middle before pulling it to the top and freeing it. I go back to the triangle and pull it down and to the right. Repeating that pattern until the triangle became free. I place it with the others.

Finally, I am left with the octagon. All I have to do is drag the pin down and to the right a little more. Though, this shape didn’t want to come out! I kept turning it, but the edges kept getting caught on the sides of the hole. It took me a solid minute and a half to get the shape out, but I finally did it.

The glass panel slides right off revealing a circle plate with an odd shape cut into it. Nothing that could be made from the current lineup. Maybe I’ll get lucky? I pick up the triangle and try to shove it into the hole. It didn’t fit, but the triangle pops open and a golden screw fell to the ground.

Picking up the screw; I look at the hole. There wasn’t an obvious place to put the screw, so I set it down. I look at the circle piece and peck at the side trying to get it to open. This one opens and reveals two flat golden pieces, but this one is more of a puzzle piece. I repeat the process for the other two shapes giving me 6 pieces in all.

Am I meant to put these together? Maybe make a key with the pieces?

I shake as I grab one of the pieces and try to shove it into another piece. They don’t go together. Maybe if I put them into the hole where they go it will work? I pick up one of the pieces and push it into the hole, and it clicks into place. I sigh and feel my heart slow. Confidence is definitely a hell of a drug. Picking up other pieces I start shoving them into place.

I got overconfident and went too fast.

I feel my body heat up as I take out the incorrect pieces. My breath quickens, my knees feel weak and I notice that Dr. Hoygull and Dr. Ash turn to each other and start whispering. I slow down in response.

I push the screw into the middle and the door pops open. I’m met with a hissing noise and in front of me are a lot of small seeds, forming almost a mountain against the inside wall of the cube.

I realize how much I am shaking, and my stomach lets out a growl in response. I start pecking at the seed. It tastes so good compared to the rotten dumpster food I had gotten used to. Dr. Hoygull and Dr. Ash turn to each other for a second.

“She could be a liability. I mean, what if that seed was poisoned?”

“We did find her in a decaying cardboard box. This is probably the first meal she's had in awhile,” Dr. Hoygull replies.

They continue talking for a little bit, but it fell on deaf ears. The two doctors turn back to me, satisfied looks on their faces.

“Welcome to Eta-4.”

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