Unlikely Companions

by Andrea Goyan

I was old and tired the day I caught Anerix, the fox. Only months remained in my life cycle, and he was to be a last meal. One more attempt to quell the gnawing hunger before returning home to build my pyre and begin anew.

It isn’t easy, dying over and over again.

Resurrected from the ashes,” humans say, like that’s awesome. Like rebirth alleviates or balances the excruciating pain associated with my death.

Consumed in flames.

My feathers on fire.

Skin a billion particles of pain.

Every time, I swear I won’t scream, but I do. My last sound ripped from the depths of my soul. When I rise from the soot moments later, the grime of my old body covers my new feathers in filth. And though I remember everything I’ve learned during all my lives, the new body has no follow-through, no muscle memory. It’s like having a manual, but one written in an unknown language. Even my bone marrow ached when I contemplated the road ahead.

So, I looked forward to the simple pleasure of filling my belly.

Carrying my prey, I landed on a promontory high above the Arabian Sea where the salt air made promises the clouds could not keep. Rain, rain, they whispered. But the sky remained bone dry. Anerix’s ears twitched. “I’ve studied your dilemma. I see a way out.”

I held the fox against the rock cliff with one great taloned foot and opened my maw to rip his throat and stop his feeble utterances.

“I know a way to end your life for good.”

This creature hit upon my deepest desire. I closed my beak.

He gasped for air against my crushing hold and said, “To stop your suffering.”

Of course, he made this claim under duress, looking for a way to save his skin. Blood stained his ruddy fur where my talons pierced his flesh. I could kill him with minimal pressure. But there was fire in his gaze. The sparkles looked like dancing embers from the sun. I loosened my grip.

“The winds,” he said. “They speak of change.”

“What they speak of is rain,” I said. “The weather perpetually changes.”

Anerix sighed. “And yet you cannot.”

I tightened my talons again. “I cannot.”

“Let me live, and I will take your place on the pyre.”

“Silly mammal. It doesn’t work that way. You cannot cheat the Gods.”

He smiled, revealing his sharp canines. I marveled at his surety and fearlessness.

“How do you know?” he said.

I paused. Anerix proposed the impossible, but his boldness was seductive.

“I don’t,” I said, releasing him.

I doubted his offering would change anything, but since eating him would only temporarily sate my hunger, I decided to take him with me. If nothing else, he’d make my ending different. So, I wetted his wounds with a single tear and watched them heal. Anerix didn’t cringe as I took him once again into my clutch, and he jabbered along our journey like he hadn’t a care in the world.


I prepared my nest atop the Sun Temple, Anerix by my side. He helped gather the twigs and herbs.

“Why spice? Why not something delicious, like fresh eggs?” he asked. “What’s so special about the Sun Temple? Couldn’t you die anywhere?”

His endless questions made the burdensome task less arduous.

I knew the time approached when my skin tingled, and my blood ran hot inside me. I set Anerix inside the bowl-shaped death trap where the scent of cinnamon and myrrh perfumed my plumes and scented his fur. As the sun ignited the fuel we’d collected, I raised my wings to leave, but my tail feathers caught a spark.

We died together; our parts entwined, all writhing fur, feather, flesh, and bone, consumed as one.


I am a year old again. When I close my eyes, I see Anerix, his fur aflame. When I open them, he sits beside me, his pink tongue lolling as he pants. He suffers from perpetual heat. It’s a side effect of the flames, the price of his immortality.

“Maybe we should move to a cooler climate,” he says. “Or live by the water. Anywhere other than the desert would be good.”

He chatters on. His chipper voice a constant in my world. Anerix couldn’t change my fate, but he changed his.

And I no longer face eternity alone.

Andrea is happy she’s not immortal because she wouldn’t like paying bills forever. That said, she’s reached an age where making a deal with the devil for more time has crossed her mind.
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