Just below him, dwarf shrubs speckle the mountainside, and lower to sea level grow understated pines. Below twelve-hundred metres, deciduous trees dominate the rocky terrain. Silhouettes of this vegetation are all that he can see, but the beauty of the Alps in a sparkling afternoon sunshine is also emblazoned in his memory.
More than a routine, it has become a lifestyle, day after day sitting on this lush, grassy cliff on the edge of the alpine tundra, watching the same sun rise high into the vast cobalt sky, following the same currents through the wide riverbed down below him. He has come to know the flora and fauna with intimacy, even down to the nest of an Alpine Accentor built into a rock crevice one hundred meters to his right, and the small glacier buttercup growing at his feet.
But everything has changed.
He stretches out on the grass, legs dangling over the cliff and arms spread out at his side, inhaling what, in all probability, will be his last breaths of fresh air, his last breaths of freedom, his last breaths of the world he has come to love with passion equal to that of his own life.
The blood seeping from the wound in his wing holds a coppery odour. He might tend to it if it were not in such an out of reach place, but it lies somewhere near his spine. Though by now he is more than accustomed to this environment, it still holds its dangers, and in spite of his age, he is not without fault. In the dim morning light, he slipped on the dewy grass, landing on a jagged rock, thus the laceration. Though he expects the injury is superficial and not enough to end his life, he would welcome a fatal wound. It would be a better destiny than what he is about to be thrust into.
With a heavy heart, he watches the sun peek at last over the mountains, and he lifts his arm to shield his eyes from the intense rays of light. Despite the stabbing pain in his back, he jumps to his feet. The soft blades of grass caress the skin between his toes, such a pleasure that he may never again feel. Wrought with angst, he leans back and screams, frightening the mother Alpine Accentor off her eggs.
Taking flight will be painful in his condition, but he is unable to dwell here, avoid life and its responsibilities, obligations, any longer. He is already weary of the task to come, but a change of scenery might be revitalizing. He is not positive of to what end his journey will take him, but he is under no illusions that the end will not involve death.
He catches the breeze under the feathers of his wings, leans forwards, and closes his eyes. Gravity drags him towards the river below and he feels the air, as smooth as silk, kiss every skin cell of his body. Seconds later, he opens his eyes and glides back up into the sky.