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As he journeyed north, he saw signs of The Old Hag. She had seemingly left in a hurry but he was careful not to catch up with her.

They did not get on.

And she would, no doubt, sulk for a while before returning, angry and cold.

Yet, people in every town were beginning to smile again in the secure knowledge of her temporary absence. It made him tingle all over. It was all so heart-stoppingly beautiful. So full of promise, undulating and teasing.

He would soon be home.

The town of his birth beckoned over the rolling hills that tumbled after each other, ever green and lush in his eyes.

‘Eden, my Eden. My Chilterns.’

He called out in joy, making the two men look up at him. They were rolling the cricket pitch near the village green and the whole world felt at peace once more. There were cows and flowers and washing lines, bicycles and sun hats and bees, people cleaning windows and planting seeds and drinking outside pubs.

The checklist of towns and villages en route shortened. He wanted to get there before dusk, so he could marvel at the town in fading sunlight.

Finally, here was Beaconsfield. Soon, Amersham. Then down, down into Chesham. His beloved Chesham. For generations his family had been born here, raising young and leaving for other lands far away, but always, always coming back home.

Announcing his arrival, at the top of his excited voice, he flew round the town, spying favourite haunts, grabbing snacks on the move, loving his life. He noted a few changes, some new buildings and the like, but marvelled at the feel of the place, the smell of safety and the soothing sounds. The clock in the market square chimed the hour.

It wasn’t long before the sun set and all grew dark. He didn’t stop, though, spending the night gliding over the fields and ponds, dozing on the wing, sighing with relief of a long and dangerous quest successfully completed. ‘Tomorrow, I will find a mate. We will nest and very soon we will be feeding our chicks, preparing them for the long flight to Africa.’

All swifts, like him, annually achieve this inconceivable feat.

The speeding sickles in the sky.

(First published in The Chesham Writers' Group's short-story collection Metroland Miscellany 2 - Seasons, autumn 2015)


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