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A Study in Conjecture


Sophie M. Shoesmith

Copyright 2014 Sophie Shoesmith

Chapter 1

Between Boulders, Bears and Black Mountain

The mountain’s history was as black as the granite boulders that were its namesake. Not many that went into Black Mountain National Park came out again. Cattle were frequently ‘lost’. There were only three creatures native to the mountain; two were lizards and one was a snake and none could be found anywhere else in the world. It was as though the mountain were an alien planet unto itself. Even aircraft that flew overhead were not free from the treacherous and untimely wind currents. Previous pilots could only pin the danger to magnetic interference as heinous as that from the Bermuda Triangle. No human aircraft flew near the unusual black scar amongst the surrounding forest of fig trees. Everyone knew it was better not to test the hungry maw of fate. This made it the perfect place for Cato to spread her wings.

Cato had beautiful brown-yellow plumage across the enormous span of her wings. Her feathers shivered in the heat currents that jittered over the mountain. The currents pushed her further up into the sky at times and sucked her back down at others. She kept her talons carefully tucked into a fist to ensure the wild winds didn’t cause her an accidental injury. Her deep blue eyes scanned the rocks below. At 26 years old she had enough experience to know there would be nothing down there; she was simply here to enjoy the ride on the unpredictable winds. But Cato was not a bird. Her vast wingspan did not join onto a feathered back, but rather a smooth expanse of skin covered in a flannelette shirt made to fit around her wings. Her talons were curled into four fists, and each of these joined onto a thin and featherless wrist or ankle. And her deep blue eyes were set into a sharply angled human face framed by feathers matching the colour of her wings. And as the wind abruptly changed its course and sucked Cato down the face broke into an ecstatic scream.

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