As Fala walks along the beach, guided by the rock ptarmigan, he learns three very important things.
The first one is that her name is Aisha, and she lives with her friend in a small rock alcove near the forested area of the island.
The second is that she talks a lot. Words never seem to quite falling from her beak, a steady stream of sounds that don’t have any particular meaning or importance to the task at hand.
And the third most important fact is that she is very, very, very concerned over her friend. In fact, this last one is Aisha’s most frequently broached topic of conversation. She brings it up again as they bleed off of the beach, onto the more solid ground of the island.
“She’s a friendly thing once you get to know her. I know the people around here, they don’t like her lot. But really – really, Tabe is a good one! One of the few good one’s left in this world! There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for me, you know.” Aisha is perched on the top of Fala’s head. Her nails dig uncomfortably into his scalp every time she shifts about. “You’re going to want to go East up here, now. No, no, not this way. East, I said.”
“Left or right,” growls Fala, who’s never had any reason to learn the cardinal directions. “Just tell me which way to turn, ya winged rat!”
“A rude one,” huffs Aisha. “A very rude one! But fine, fine – turn left here, now, and yes, we’re going up into the trees. You can get through trees, can’t you? Oh, of course you can. You’re plenty small enough for that.”
And thus, Fala’s journey continues.
The fog makes Fala’s fur feel damp.
Even in the section of the island with trees, the foliage is sparse and easy to move through. By 1982, the only foliage on the island are the trees planted by American soldiers, which are heaviest near a rather derelict and largely unused chapel. For the most part, it’s the fog that makes it hard to move about, and the uneven footing that the island is known for that exhausts Fala.
Still, he pushes on, guided by Aisha. Abruptly, the rock ptarmigan takes flight. She swoops around Fala’s headand then soars towards a nearby rock cropping. “This way! Tabe is right over here! Oh, Fala, thank you! She needs so much help, and I know that you’re exactly the dog to do this!”
“Och, that’s just because I’m the only dog around,” mutters Fala, but he rolls his eyes and follows the bird all the same.
Katelynn E Koontz – Author