24. The taming power of the small
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
A sparrow landed on the cloud. I had been sitting on the cloud for several hours, and I was surprised to see that a bird could do the same as me. The privilege of sitting on a cloud is reserved for a very few people. It took me many months of reading obscure esoteric books to understand the art of sitting on a cloud; I did not think a mere animal could do the same. Yet here he was; a small sparrow sitting on a cloud, taking a rest on his long journey across the continent. The cloud continued its progress over neatly demarcated farmland. Squares upon squares that fed the great cities to the east. I came from the great cities, of course. How could I not? How could I learn magic without access to a great library? I had left the city to sit on a cloud, though, naturally, my body remained on my bed in my room. I could still feel the breeze from the open window. On the cloud itself, I had very little sensation: there are limits to travel of this kind.
The sparrow hopped about the cloud, occasionally looking at me in an intelligent way. Eventually, I reached out and touched it. The bird let me stroke him. He hopped into my hand and I held him up to the Sun. We people who travel by cloud must stick together; not everyone can travel by cloud, it is an acquired skill. Birds, it seems, are better people than some people who claim the title from birth. There are many conditions like this.
The bird told me about his adventures. He had lived, for a while, in a castle in the middle of Europe. He lived with a king and a queen and, at night, he advised the queen in her sleep by singing in her ear. She replied in her sleep, so, through dream talk, the sparrow influenced the fate of a kingdom and policies that changed the shape of the continent. He thought that he made a good statesman, though nobody would ever pin a medal on him. It was during this time that he had ascended in nature and gained access to the clouds. He told me how he had left Europe behind on a cloud, and come straight across the Atlantic Ocean. Sometimes, the clouds would evaporate beneath him and he had to hop over to another sky pillow.
I told him about how I had acquired my powers. The nights of reading and the spells, and how this exertion had changed me. He listened, head cocked at one angle. “I know I am different from the others now,” I said. “I can never go back and be the same, having seen what I have seen.” I told him about my journeys, I told him about the towers and the cities and the wars. He hopped about with real excitement at this. He understood my predicament, for we were both travellers.
“And what will you do in this great continent of America?” I asked the little bird. At this, he skipped about in my hand very excitedly. He had plans to reform the entire continent; he thought he would fly in through a White House window and direct the entire enterprise of state. “The problem with Americans,” he said, “is that you have lost the art of dreams.” He seemed sad at this. He had known how to influence people before, but now he was not so certain. The New World had robbed him of something, and he was not sure that he would ever get it back.
“I am dreaming, little bird,” I said, “and you are influencing my dream.” He skipped in my hand a little at this. “I will come with you,” he said. “I will come back to the big city.” At this, I awoke on my bed. Rain was falling through the window, but the little sparrow was nowhere to be seen.