It’s Monday again, and that means it’s time for another Monday Mini Mystery!
I didn’t use a single prompt as a jumping-off point for this story. Instead, it is inspired by: the prevalence of all things Anne of Green Gables, this list of mythological creatures, and a Spotify playlist titled “Chilled Classical” (this playlist really is very good for writing, if you like to have background music, especially if you need something to instigate a little suspense and then mellow out afterwards).
This story leans back towards my default of writing children’s literature, but it’s still fun and I believe (nearly) any age can appreciate it. It’s certainly different from “Exploration,” so if you got tired of that, I hope this one is more to your liking.
As always, feel free to send any constructive criticism my way! Creative writing is not my focus, and I know that there are things I would change in anything if I were actually going to publish it, but for a fun blog series, I think the editing I have done is more than sufficient. Still, comments or emails with advice or constructive criticism are welcome!
And so, here is “The Fillamaloo Bird”.
“I’m sorry, you want to look for what?”
“Fillamaloo birds! They build their nests upside down and fly backwards.”
Luna, my best friend for all of my twelve years, has finally, truly and surely, lost her mind.
“Oh, come on Joanna!” she continues when I don’t answer, “The woods on the back of your property are the perfect place to look.” I sigh. Luna reads a lot of fairy tales and fantasy books, so it’s not unusual for her to talk about things which sound like they belong more in a Dr. Seuss rhyme than in real life, but to actually want to find one? That’s new.
“I don’t mind going for a walk,” I consent, “but there are no birds that fly backwards in our woods.”
“How do you know that if you’ve never looked for them?” Luna demands.
“You don’t have to look for something to find it,” I argue, rolling off the sofa I had been laying on and grabbing my coat. “Do you need anything specific to look for this bird?”
“Nope! I’ve got everything in my backpack already,” Luna announces, twirling in a circle to show off her pack. “Really, the only thing we might need is binoculars.”
The sun is high as we head out across the backyard to the woods which cross the border between my family’s property and that of our neighbors. Sunlight fills the sky and falls, unfiltered by clouds, across the trees and distant hills.
Luna skips ahead, nearly racing towards the woods. I love her enthusiasm and talent for finding adventure, but today I would rather enjoy the warmth of the sunshine and a leisurely stroll. I breathe in deep, taking in the rich smell of damp earth and just-fallen leaves. Autumn had crept in gently this year, replacing the brutish heat of summer with comfortably cooler temperatures which are quickly descending farther than I would prefer. Still, I can’t help but channel one of my favorite book characters, Anne Shirley, and whisper “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!”
There are a few paths beaten down through the woods connecting the properties it borders. However, I am not surprised when Luna veers off the established path shortly after entering. Of course, I follow.
“So where do you expect this bird to be?” I ask, not daring to attempt saying the crazy name she called it.
“I have no idea!” she replies with a smile. “Fillamaloo birds build their nests upside down, but still in trees just like most birds. I think they especially like pine trees.”
“They build their nests upside down,” I can’t help myself from saying, “do you mean they do so on the bottom of tree branches, or that they build the nest like a roof over their heads?”
Luna stops walking. “I’m not really sure,” she says, “there weren’t any pictures in the book where I read about them.”
“I don’t guess you know what they look like, then, do you?”
“Well, the book said they have one black wing and one pink wing, and a green neck. If nothing else, it should be difficult to miss a bird flying backwards, or a nest that’s upside down.” She giggles as she finishes saying this, and I can’t help but join in as I imagine a silly bird trying to build its nest on the underside of a tree branch.
Luna starts walking again, and I fall in beside her. For a while, we talk about school and everything else under the sun as we tramp about. Suddenly, Luna grabs my arm and pulls me down behind a bush.
“Sh!” She commands, her eyes wide. For a few breaths I just listen, trying to figure out what she has heard or seen.
“Shhh!” she insists. I tilt my head and listen again. A bird chirps, but it isn’t close enough for us to see it. The wind seems to be picking up, and whistles in the trees.
“Don’t you have the feeling we’re being watched?” Luna whispers. I narrow my eyes at her and consider what she’s said.
“No, I don’t,” I answer firmly, also in a whisper.
“I could swear that something in the trees has been following us,” she continues, “watching from a distance…”
“You’ve read too many stories,” I insist, although I continue to keep my voice quiet as well, “there’s no one out here but us. But even if there were, it would be one of my neighbors, and there is no reason to hide from them.”
“What about the White Lady of the Forest?” Luna asks. I sigh.
“What are you talking about?”
“The lady who got lost out here, back when Oregon was just a territory,” Luna whispers intensely, “Nobody knows why she was walking in the woods by herself, but she was, and she got lost. The woods were a lot bigger then, but they say she’s still trapped in here, wandering around and looking for her family. Have you never heard her wailing at night?”
Living so close to the woods, and decently far from any sort of urban city, does mean that I have heard a lot of strange sounds at night. Sometimes the wind can even sound like someone moaning. I don’t say anything.
“When she appears, you have to run away as fast as possible, because if she catches you you’ll be lost in the forest with her for the rest of your life, withering away until no one can see you no matter how hard they look.” In my head I know that Luna is just telling a story, but I can’t keep my breath from catching and my heart from beating harder.
“That’s just a myth,” I say. Luna purses her lips.
“Everything is just a myth or a story, until it happens to you.” I should roll my eyes at her, but a chill runs down my spine. Something rustles the leaves behind us, and I whirl around, half expecting to see some unearthly woman wandering towards us. Of course, nothing is there, although I could almost swear I catch a glimpse of something white for just a second. I turn back to Luna.
“Stop it. Let’s keep looking for your silly bird,” I say. Somehow, I can’t raise my voice, and my words come out much shakier than I intended. Still, Luna takes a deep breath and nods.
“You’re right. Let’s go.” We stand up and cautiously look around the bush.
“Maybe we should head back to the path,” I suggest. Luna agrees, though I can tell she doesn’t really want to. We don’t talk anymore at this point. I’m sure Luna is listening just as hard as I am for signs of anything unnatural as we make our way back to the path. Luckily, we both know these woods as well as anyplace, so there is no chance we would get lost. Still, with Luna’s story ringing in my head, I am glad to see the dirt path appear. The sun has started to list towards the horizon, causing shadows to begin to stretch, which make everything look just a little bit unusual.
“So,” I say, brightening my tone forcefully, “which way do we go?”
“Umm, I think we should go north,” Luna decides. We haven’t gotten more than a few feet down the trail when Luna stops and again grabs my arm as something moves nearby.
“What was that?” she asks.
“It was a squirrel,” I say, “Or a bird. Something in one of those trees.” I gesture towards the small clump of trees where the rustling sound came from.
“Maybe that’s it! The Fillamaloo!” Luna releases my arm and inches towards the trees. From time to time something seems to hop around, although I can’t tell exactly which tree the sound is coming from, as the wind causes leaves on each tree to move sporadically. Intrigued, I follow Luna at a more cautious distance. Not that I think there really is a Filla-whatever bird, but there apparently is something in the tree, and one of us ought to have the brains to stay back in case it’s dangerous.
“It’s just a sparrow,” Luna says. She starts to turn around, but now it’s my turn to grab her arm, because something large and white just sped across the trail in front of us.
“Did you see that?” I hiss, instinctively inching towards the nearest large tree as if it could hide or protect us.
“What?” Luna asks.
“Something white…it just, it was there and then it was gone,” I can’t quite seem to make my thoughts make sense. Whatever it was had a strangely smooth gait for as quickly as it was moving. Again, something rustles to our right, and we duck behind the tree.
“Let’s follow it,” Luna says, and before I can protest she’s sneaking around the tree towards the sound. I huff but follow, and we hop from bush to bush away from the path and towards the rustling noise. It stops suddenly, but then I look up because the shady tree branches suddenly seem full of noise. A gust of wind rolls through, pulling at my coat and causing an older tree to creak. There are no longer any bird calls, but something is definitely moving in the trees just ahead of us. Then, when it seems like we ought to be close enough to see whatever it is through the sparse branches, it’s moved farther away again. My frustration grows with every jump, but Luna is so intent on tracking whatever this is that I don’t say anything. She moves faster and more boldly, and still the thing remains just out of sight. Finally, we burst through the treeline back into my backyard, and stop short.
Before I can think to stop myself, I burst out laughing. A large, white-and-beige-colored owl floats across the yard toward an outbuilding.
“That’s the bird we’ve been chasing!” I exclaim. I turn to Luna, and after a minute she starts laughing too.
“I thought for sure it was something sinister, always staying just out of reach,” she manages to say between bouts of laughter. I’m too relieved to tease her more.
“I think it’s time for our bird hunting adventure to end,” I say, noticing that the sun is nearly at the horizon. Luna sighs but agrees, and we head inside. The Fillamaloo Bird will have to remain a myth for a while longer.
The Fila-ma-loo Bird comes from American folklore, especially lumberjacks in the Pacific Northwest region. There is not a ton of information on the legend or the bird online, but the Wikipedia article on them seems to be a fair starting place for information.
Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this short story!
Next week will be the sixth and final week of Monday Mini Mysteries. I have so enjoyed writing these little stories, even if they took a lot more time and work than I expected. I may have to bring this series back next year, or find another way to work more creative writing into this blog.
Until the next chapter,