Her name was Eidolon. She worked at the toy store in the airport lobby. Her face was round, and her eyes were large and liquid like the eyes of a newborn. She looked so dainty and delicate that she was often mistaken for a mannequin or a doll. Indeed, she was more comfortable among the toys in the store than in the world of men around her.
One day, a strange little man appeared at the airport. His name was Morpheus. Nobody knew where he came from, nor they cared. The world never cares about strange little men who come out of nowhere. His face was round too, like Eidolon’s. He was small and looked angelic, much like Eidolon. Like a cherub enjoying his own company, he sat alone at a bench in the garden before the arrival terminal, among the blooms of geraniums, zinnias, and marigolds. He came every day at the same time and sat at the same place on the bench beside the blooms. He was always busy with himself and engrossed in certain activities that he did alone. People who passed by hardly gave much thought to Morpheus for they considered him either a moron or a madman.
Eidolon saw him from the toy store and wondered if he was one of her toys that had mysteriously come to life. She wanted to meet him, make friends with him. After a few days, she decided to talk to the strange man and went to the bench where he was seated.
“Can I sit here?” she asked. He nodded his head.
“What are you doing? I see you sitting here every day.”
“I look at the burds. I count the burds. So many big burds in the sky. I like to watch them fly.” He had a soft childlike voice and the way he pronounced the words had a decidedly childish streak in them.
She burst out laughing when she heard him referring to the aeroplanes as birds. But her laughter was a child’s innocent laughter, not the derisive, mocking laughter of an adult. Soon she was engrossed in counting the aeroplanes herself with the strange little man.
“After the sun open his eye, I count twenty burds. Some small, some big. I like the ninth burd, he is small and round like me. I wait for that burd.”
She looked at him, and both grinned. A happy, joyous grin it was and it instantly deepened their budding friendship.
Then he said, “Ninth burd has many blu futhers, two red wings, and yello tail. He has two large round eyes on his small face. He look very pritty flying in the sky. He very pritty, he make me very happy. Just like you.”
At that, she hugged him playfully like children do. And the little man started shaking with laughter as though her hug had tickled his whole body.
He was able to stop laughing only after she had removed her arms around him. Then he asked her, “How many burds you count?”
She told him she had counted only two birds yet. He replied, “You miss one more, that black burd high up there.” He pointed his tiny but plump fingers at an eagle that was soaring in the distance.
Eidolon gazed at the eagle for some time. Then she replied, “That bird is my friend. His name is Eagle. I worry about him. I fear he might get hit by the big birds and die.” She was suddenly sad and miserable at the thought of the possibility of the eagle getting injured by an aeroplane.
At that moment, Morpheus held her hand and told her about another black bird he had once counted.
“They tell me his name is Kro. One day he is flying in the sky. I am happy watching him. Then one big burd come and pass by. I think he just touch him. But my friend Kro who make me so happy, fall down from the sky. My friend Kro not fly again. I think the big burd steal from my Kro friend. Big burd is not good. Big burd is bad.”
At this, he burst into tears and wept like a child who had slipped and fallen while playing. He cried loudly, and long, as though the pain from the fall, the wounds from the slipping were so deep and hurtful. Eidolon put her arms around his shoulders and held him tightly as he cried, his tears flowing down his face that rested on her trembling bosom.
In a short time, a few people had gathered around the odd-looking couple that looked like grown-up children who, by some mysterious phenomenon, had failed to transform into adults. Some even laughed at the peculiar scene before them, but some tried to comfort them.
After a while, Morpheus stopped crying and sat quietly. Eidolon sat next to him in silence. The people who had gathered left, now that the crying had stopped.
“We miss many big burds. Let us count them again. See there flies my twenty-forth burd.” Morpheus broke the silence between them.
For the next hour or so, both were busy counting the birds aka aeroplanes, in the sky. After an hour had passed by, Eidolon suddenly remembered the toy shop, that she had to go back to work. At that thought, her face turned pale, but she knew she had to leave. Soon the new friends parted and resolved to meet the following day and continue their odd but enjoyable activity of counting aeroplanes.
The next day Morpheus was seated at the same place and time as usual. As soon as she saw him, Eidolon quickly made her way towards him. They were soon engrossed in counting the aeroplanes, and just like old friends they talked and laughed, and laughed and talked, whiling away the hours in each other’s company.
By and by, Eidolon asked him where he lived and what he did other than counting the birds. Morpheus proceeded to tell her the story of his life. A story told in his own peculiar child-like manner.
“I am always in the Awwfunage before I come to the park. There are many like me in that place. We use to play together, just like you and me. But after the sun close and open his eye many times, they are big, and I stay small.” He paused, as though he was thinking.
“When they are big, we also play. All the big boys like me. They use to touch my face, and press just like you do when you put your arms around me. Only you have two hands. Once I count, there are twenty hands on my face. At first, I am happy, but then it cause me pain. It hurts so much. My eyes are full of water. They make me cry, not like you. You make me laugh. They are like big burds. They steal, I can not fly with them. With you I fly, you are like black burd. You make me happy, even when you make me cry. I like you.”
Morpheus looked at her and grinned like he did the previous day. Eidolon was very touched by his story, and she gave him a quick hug.
He continued, “I leave Awwfunage. I don’t like there. I live in park. With my friends Meow, Bowow, and Coocoo. After the sun open his eye, they go away to play. And I come here to count and play with you. After the sun close his eye, they are back in the park. I leave you and go. They like me just like you do.”
Eidolon squeezed his hands, and both burst into laughter. They laughed because they were happy together. Eidolon thought one of her toys had come to life in Morpheus, and she was greatly happy to be with him. Morpheus thought she was another wonderful creature like Meow, Bowow, and Coocoo, the only difference being that he could talk to her, and she could talk to him, and so he was greatly happy.
The next day Eidolon brought some apples and grapes for her friend. After they had spent some time counting the birds aka aeroplanes, she gave him the apples and grapes. He insisted that for every bite he had, she should have an equal bite. Together they sat sharing their food and gazing at the aeroplanes, and they were immensely happy.
After they had feasted on the fruits, in equal measure as Morpheus had insisted, he told Eidolon another story from his life.
“When I am at the Awwfunage, the big boys give me broun pooddung to eat. They tell me it has notrushun, that it is good for my body. But it is not good. Your red and green froots are very good. I think they have notrushun.” Eidolon told him that she did not know what broun pooddung was, that she had not eaten any in her life.
Hearing this Morpheus said, “I show you broun pooddung. Broun pooddung is everywhere. But I don’t like giving you broun pooddung. It hurts me to give you broun pooddung.”
He then got down from his seat and took a heap of mud from the ground beside him and held it before her. “This is broun pooddung. But I don’t want to give you broun pooddung.” He started crying and stopped only after Eidolon had hugged him tightly and consoled him.
After that, they got engrossed in counting aeroplanes, and both rejoiced in each other’s company.
So passed many days, with Morpheus coming to the same place at the same time, and Eidolon always making time for him from her work at the store, and together they were happily counting the aeroplanes lost in their own little blissful world.
One day when they were busy counting, Morpheus asked Eidolon, “How many you count till now?”
She replied, “Fifteen big burds.”
“No not just now, but after we meet. So many times the sun open his eye and close his eye. Count all counts and tell me how many big burds you count,” he rejoined.
Eidolon apologized to him for not keeping continuous count since the first day they met.
“Do not be sad. I count one four six two big and black burds after we become friends. I give you half my count, friends share everything in half.” He grinned again, and she smiled at him with a face beaming with joy.
After that Morpheus told Eidolon that he wished he could fly. “I want to fly. Be like the black burds. Not the big burds. They can hurt, but the black burds don’t.”
Suddenly Eidolon had an idea. She would buy him a ticket for a ride in the aeroplane so that her friend would experience the joy of flight. Even though the ticket would cost much, she did not mind because she loved her friend dearly.
The following day, she surprised him by showing the ticket and revealing her plan.
“You think that with the ticket, I can fly like the burds?” he asked her.
“Yes, dear Morpheus, you can! Won’t it be so wonderful to fly with your friends in the sky?” And she grinned at him, and Morpheus grinned back, and together they were so happy they got up from the seats and started dancing like little children do in the rain, with great laughter and delight.
The very next day, Morpheus was ready for the trip and Eidolon walked with him to the departure terminal where they parted with tears and laughter, and promised to continue their counting once he returned from his flight with his friends in the sky.
The scene at the departure terminal was astonishing as the other passengers watched the two child-like grown-ups with their delightful friendship and contagious emotion bid goodbyes.
Next morning, busy at the store thinking of her dear friend Morpheus, she was amazed to see his picture on a newspaper at the bookstore across her. She quickly rushed to the stand to read the news. Her initial amazement gave way to shock as she read through the lines.
‘Strange looking crazy man opens the door of the Airbird 066 heading to the city of Krakona in mid-flight and jumps to death. Before jumping, he was heard telling the people who had rushed to prevent him from leaping that he wanted to fly with his friends, the black birds. His body was found later in the fields. He appears to have no relatives or friends, and his body was cremated this morning at the nearest town’s electric crematorium.’
Dumbfounded by what she had read and refusing to accept the unexpected death of her friend, she rushed to the place where they used to sit and count the birds aka aeroplanes. In her heart, she wanted to believe Morpheus was sitting there, waiting for her as usual. For a brief moment, she even imagined Morpheus flying through the skies and landing safely at their regular meeting place. Hastily she dismissed the fantastic thought and hoped for some miracle to happen, and that Morpheus would be sitting and waiting for her.
Needless to say, she found the place empty and Morpheus was not there. It was then that sitting down at their usual place, the tragedy of the truth of her friend’s misadventurous death dawned fully on her. As she relentlessly cried, she trembled with the sudden realization that in some weird manner she had sent her dear friend to his early, although foolish, demise. In her innocence and love for her equally naive and innocent friend, she had caused the untimely and unfortunate end of not only their friendship but also his life.
Eidolon sat on the familiar seat and wept with all the indescribable sorrow in her heart. People gathered around her in large numbers, just to gaze at a young woman, so delicate and childlike, weeping with such terrible force. But the world that failed to understand her joy was unable to comprehend her sorrow either.
Morpheus lay in a field with an ecstatic look on his face. He was still alive for a few minutes after he had hit the ground. An old farmer approached the strange man who fell from the skies and bent over him. Morpheus, as he took his last breath, told the farmer, “Please tell Eidolon that I can fly, I fly with my black burd friends. I am very happy she let me fly. I think I don’t need big burd to fly back to her. I can fly now!”
With those last words, Morpheus passed away. His face had a remarkable glow of rapturous repose. The old farmer informed the authorities of the body that fell from the skies. But he could not convey to them the message of Morpheus to Eidolon, for he was deaf.