Sidd’arak Learns to Breathe

One morning, as he sunned himself on his favourite rock, occasionally snapping at the bugs as they crawled along the roots of the mangrove trees, Sidd’arak realized that he was terribly, deathly bored.

And so, as he often did when he was bored, Sidd’arak decided to visit Man’s hut.

Sidd’arak stood, yawned, and spread his black wings until they covered all the sky. Then, with one powerful leap, he jumped into the air and flew over the desert to the oasis where Man had made his home.

He found Man sitting in the shade of a gular tree. His eyes were unfocused, and his palms were resting on his thighs. Sidd’arak landed beside him and folded his many wings behind his back.

“What are you doing?” demanded Sidd’arak with a snap of his beak.

“Just breathing,” said Man. And to demonstrate his technique, Man breathed in through his nose, held the air in his lungs for a moment, then released the air again out through his mouth. His chest rose, his chest fell.

Sidd’arak yawned, scratched at the dirt with his claws and declared: “Breathing is boring!” He hopped up and down on one foot and said, “Forget breathing, entertain me instead!”

“Do you not breathe?” asked Man.

“No! I am no stupid monkey!” Sidd’arak shrieked. “And breathing is dull and boring and so are you!”

“I’m sorry,” said Man, “but I must breathe. Most creatures breathe. In fact, I must say that I am surprised that you do not.”

“Breathing is for dumb animals and I am too smart for that!”

Man lowered his head. “Of course, wise Sidd’arak.”

Sidd’arak felt he was being patronized. “Breathe if you must,” said Sidd’arak, “but don’t do it around me!”

And he stormed away to his mud-pile.

There he fussed and fumed, and did his best to remove all thoughts of Man and his breath from his mind. But, try as he might, he could not shake the discontent, knowing that Man has mastered something he himself had not, boring as it may be.

“Bah!” cried Sidd’arak, “I am better than that simple oaf. I will try this ‘breathing’ for myself!”

He straightened his back and copied Man’s sitting position as best he could.

Then Sidd’arak breathed in. Then Sidd’arak breathed out.

“This,” he thought, “is not so hard. If Man can do it, so can I.”

He tried breathing a few more times. Yes, he was getting the hang of it now, he thought.

“‘Just breathing,’” scoffed Sidd’arak. “There is no ‘just’ about it!”

The next day, at the very crack of dawn, as the sun came over the mountains and the shimmering birds sang in the vines, Sidd’arak returned to Man’s hut to show him his new trick.

“Watch this,” said Sidd’arak, his black beak shining.

And Sidd’arak breathed and Man watched.

“What do you think of that?” Sidd’arak asked when he had finished.

“Yes, very good,” said Man. He clasped his hands together and bowed low to Sidd’arak. “You are a truly powerful creature indeed.”

“Yes, yes, I am the best at everything. It was foolish of you to try to and keep this ‘breathing’ from me. Once again I have shamed you with my superior skill.”

“Fool I be,” said Man. “But tell me,” Man asked, “can you not-breathe?”

Sidd’arak craned his neck and ruffled his feathers. “Not-breathe?” he asked.

“Exactly as it sounds,” replied Man.

“Yes, yes, of course!” Sidd’arak boasted, “for I am the great and clever Sidd’arak, and there is nothing in this world I am not best at.” But when he tried to not-breathe, Sidd’arak realized he had forgotten how.

Sidd’arak choked and gagged and fell to the ground and died.

“You tricked me!” cried Sidd’arak, and he scampered away back to his mud-pile beneath the roots of the mangrove tree.

Man watched as Sidd’arak’s shadow stretched across the painted sands towards the horizon. “That Sidd’arak is a very strange god indeed,” thought Man. Then he lowered himself to the ground, crossed his legs, and placed his hands on his thighs.

And breathed.