Little 'Un sat beside the elders, under the two mooned starlit sky.
Sitting so close to the scarlet fire, you'd think her skin would blister, but no. Not her, not them, not ever.
The Fire was the heart of them all, big and small. Even when one was extinguished. It didn't beat, or purr, it flushed red and gold and it went on and on.
The elders surrounded it in ever expanding circle, and she sat in the centre, as close as she could, without sitting atop the flames themselves.
You didn't leave this place. Why would you. If at night, or whenever you closed your eyes, you could be anywhere, unburdened by body and mind. Just tiny fire, soaring soul. Somewhere in less than a second. Why would you tire your fire with body's endless needs.
Visitors were welcomed, their ideas entertained, but the people of this place would make mockeries of them with every sidelong stare and secret smile. Why journey all those miles when the universe was right there, within you.
It seemed an awfully long way to go to find yourself.
Soon the travellers brought with them boxes of light that shone pictures on the wall, paintings that moved and breathed and lived. Looked like they did... When they left, their light boxes were kept. Now the people of Here, all they did was sit. Transfixed. All but for the elders, and Little 'Un. The littlest one.
Perhaps it was good then that they didn't see it coming. Did not believe it would.
They wouldn't have understood... spoiling the sacred with their panic.
Just the very littlest, and the very old, awaiting the foretold.
She could not see the beast but she could smell the smoke. A fine mist kissed her upon her little head, lovingly, tenderly. A timid introduction.
The smoke of a thousand fires. Scented, like spiced wine. Old and weathered and everywhered, yet so sapling fresh and new.
Little 'Un stretched, on tippy toe, arm out as far as it would go. Leaning closer and closer into the fire... and then... the eyes. She saw the eyes. Black beads in the encroaching cloak of smoke, glistening, glimmering with the light of a million lives.
And the families in their small domed homes, still mesmerised as ever, light dancing on their empty walls, they did not see a feather, not a flick, not a lick of the flames.
The elders disappeared in the smoke — and so too did the houses, and the horses, the homesteads and the forests, the rivers, mountains and sky — eyes closed and everywhere.
But somewhere inside this white hot fog, beside the heartfire, close as she could be, was Little 'Un, the littlest one, eye to eye, as if it were here just for her, nose to beak, as it pecked her little cheek.
The Great Bird did not flap, it hovered, brothers with the stars in the sky, feathers the flames that kept the night alive, tendrils tasting the small blue green rock.
Megalithic wings fanned out, groaning thunderously, with the growing darkness of a hundred storms over a hundred valleys, stretched into full magnificence
And enveloped the world.
First it took the sound
And then it took the light
And in the soundless lightless nothingness, took flight.