He drew near silently, so as not to startle me. The initial, paralyzing fear had long since disappeared and now his visits highlighted my day. A quick kiss, a word of gossip and away he would fly.
The heavy summer air had not yet descended onto the forest floor and his presence brought a unique coolness. My leaves shimmered in greeting at his gallant, hovering bow. Dark feathers shone with glitzy greens and bright blues amidst golden undertones. Amethyst dazzled across his gullet and jeweled eyes glinted like new rain. A soothing sound shadowed him, the hum not from his purple throat, but resonating from invisible wings.
“Good morning Medusa.” His voice rang clear and strong.
“Hello Sunangel, have you come for breakfast? Please stay and chat.” I treasured his visits and yearned for news of the forest around us. Such words rarely reached my rooted home at the foot of a copey tree. The world of the rainforest flittered, stamped and flew past me each day, but not many deemed to speak to a lowly Medusae Orchid.
The fire ants would march past but seldom noticed my fleshy, pale green leaves. No news from them, but no nibbles either. Chattering echoed past the alder saplings as the poison dart frogs splashed in the mud puddles. Their peeps and croaks all sounded alike, to my frustration. Evenings would bring the Cinnamon screech-owl from her nest in the stumps, but she had no interest in the inedible. I was surrounded, yet mostly alone.
Families of wooly monkeys and pygmy marmosets traveled the branches high above me, seeds and fruits spilling behind them to thump and patter the ground. The beat soothed me, but those creatures were much too silly to converse with. Snakes slinked and lizards darted around my leaves, taunting with each touch. Terror gripped with their sinister caress and I held still until their scent disappeared.
I had seen no creature in the cloud forest that rivaled my friend Sunangel. Regal yet unassuming, he soared through the canopy, his flight agile and graceful. The hummingbird held remarkable powerful in his tiny body, but I valued him more for his keen eye. He could recount exciting stories of spectacular hunts and miraculous escapes, his vantage point atop the towering fig trees capturing every action. His descriptions of the blooming heliconia were so vibrant I grew envious. Through his stories I envisioned life beyond my roots and gloried in the vast creation.
“May I say that you look majestic today?” He settled onto a twisted twig.
I would have blushed if I could, pink spreading across my pale violet petals. “I stand taller in the lightened humidity. Have I grown since yesterday?” My valiant stretches were awarded with his tender smile.
“Certainly, you look vigorous.”
“Thank you. Now about your breakfast, please go ahead.” Opening wide, I extended my invitation. With a whirr he hovered above, his tongue working efficiently for his meal. Within seconds he returned to his perch, bowing again with thanks and we both settled down comfortably.
“There is strangeness afoot down the slopes.” His eyes pierced me with wariness. “A cousin of yours has gone from beneath a ficus.”
I twittered, confused. “What do you mean gone? Eaten, trampled, diseased?” All such things were common to my delicately created family.
“No, simply gone - the plant and soil taken away.” The tilt of his head said that he knew more. I waited, the feathered hairs edging my petals held still.
“There is a human smell and tracks in the mud.”
“The Achuar?” My voice was a hopeful whisper. Those humans blended with the forest creatures seamlessly and carried no threat.
His head shook once, decisively. “I have heard of this happening before. Strange scented humans have trampled through and taken singular plants, whole and alive but ripped obscenely from the forest floor. Is there no way you can hide?”
His question seemed strange and I told him so. We both knew that I was not created to hide, but to shout of the beauty of my Maker. No defenses, simply on display for my short lifetime. I could neither complain nor fear - it was as it was.
The air became heavy again and the rain began to fall. We looked at each other, perhaps for the last time and he bowed low before darting away through the trees. I spread my petals wide again, fearless and shining in my corner of the rainforest.
*Author's Note* The Medusae Orchid is found in the montane forests of Ecuador. Orchid smuggling, along with other illegal wildlife trading is a rampant problem throughout South America.
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