Feeling groggy Melina woke up and tensed her whole body a couple of times to chase away the feeling. She went to relieve herself between the soft appendages of the out plant, cleaned herself going through the brush plant, checked the water reservoir and grabbed a net to go out and pick new fruit.
With a few thrusts from her fins she swam quickly around the smaller bushes surrounding her home. Today she wanted the blue bittersweet fruit from the aptly named bubble bush. It drifted further off but she always felt it was worth the trip.
When she saw she was close she heard soft singing. She slowed down for a bit to listen. It wasn’t exactly singing
nor whistling but now she recognised the sounds coming from the large sweepers visiting the area ever so often. She flicked her fins and tail excited to see and hear them again.
The herd swam along the larger bushes catching flocks of insects in their baleen. She watched the light grey animals swim lazily around, the fins along the length of their body waving into their wide tails.
She felt her stomach reminding her of why she came here and swam toward the nearest bubble bush.
The large bush had plenty of fresh blue spheres of juicy goodness and she started picking those that were ripe enough to eat. She’d give each a light squeeze with her fingers to test them, then added them to the net.
She had moved deeper into the bush when she had gathered enough and moved out between the branches when she bumped into something furry letting out a yelp.
A sharp face turned towards her. ‘You really surprised me!’
She smiled apologetic. ‘Sorry, I hadn’t noticed someone else was here.’
He moved aside so she could come forward. ‘I guess it’s partly my own fault. I was focused on the herd.’
He nodded. ‘I’m doing a study on them.’ he said and showed the journal he was holding. ‘I’ve been following them for a while now, studying how they live and migrate around space. When I’m done I hope to be recognised as an expert on them.’
She saw his brown eyes shine as he told her this. ‘So you’re just traveling everywhere too?’
‘Yes. Going from place to place seeing new things almost all the time. Meeting different tribes along the way.’
‘It is. Although I can only take so much stuff with me, making me miss the comforts of home sometimes. Only when they stay for a while like now I can take some rest and do nothing.’
‘How do you know they’ll stay here now?’
He pointed at a couple at the centre of the herd. ‘See them? Watch closely.’
She followed the direction of his arm and found the couple. ‘What should I see?’
He smiled. ‘You’ll find out.’
She watched the couple staying put for a moment, then saw a little grey hump appear behind the front sweeper. It disappeared but another moment later a young sweeper appeared below the adults.
‘A little one!’
‘Born not too long ago.’ he said watching her flip her fins excitingly. ‘It can’t swim for long periods so they often take a break.’
‘Wow. I’ve never seen one before. Only adults.’
She kept an eye on the young one swimming around its parents until her stomach and fins twitched telling her to fill it.
She felt a little awkward as he stifled his laughter.
‘Sorry. That was cute.’ he said. ‘But it’s a good idea. I could use a bite myself.’
‘Would you like to come and eat at my place? I bet you don’t get to eat very well while travelling.’
‘I’d love to, if it’s not bothering you.’
She shook her head. ‘Follow me.’ she said and glided out of the bush.
She looked back and saw him spread two big wings lighter in colour than his brown fur. With one swoop he caught up with her.
‘I don’t have to worry about you keeping up with either me nor them.’
He laughed a little. ‘I wouldn’t have started migrating with them if I couldn’t easily follow them in the first place.’
He looked at how she rotated and bend her body as they moved between the bushes. ‘Then again I feel I can’t quite dance as gracefully as you can.’
She smiled softly. ‘That’s just in our nature.’
Her round home made from slender branches weaved together came into view and she gestured to it. ‘That’s my home.’
‘Nice. And big. Living with your family?’
Her eyes turned a little sad. ‘My parents died a while ago, so I’m alone here.’
‘Sorry to hear that.’
‘Never thought about moving to one of the clusters nearby?’
‘I don’t feel comfortable there.’
‘I see.’ he said and followed her inside.
She hooked her net next to others filled with other fruits, leaves and packages of seeds and dried small animals.
‘You can perch at the wall there if you want to.’
‘Thanks.’ He moved to the thick branch and wrapped his claws around it.
She started selecting ingredients and chopped them up.
‘Anything I can help with?’
‘No need. It’s a simple recipy I learned from my mother.’
Not long after she handed him a leaf package. ‘I hope you like it. It’s one of my favorites.’
‘I’m sure I will.’ he said and took a bite out of it. ‘Mmm..’ he said chewing and nodding. ‘This is good.’
She took her own. ‘There are seeds here which go very well with the local meat.’ she said and started eating hers.
They finished with several bubble fruits and relaxed.
‘I got to learn this. Would make the food much better on the trip.’
‘I would like to see what kind of tasty things there are out there.’
He pondered for a moment. ‘Well, why don’t you? Come with me and who knows what we’ll experience. Besides, I wouldn’t mind having someone around who can make better meals than me.’ he said grinning.
‘Really? I could come along?’
‘If you don’t mind living with a herd.’
She rubbed her frontal fins. ‘I don’t know. Leaving my home?’
‘Think about it. You can always return and in time the herd will come back here anyway, so you can always leave it at that.’
‘Won’t I get in the way or slow you down?’
He flexed his wings and grinned. ‘If you get tired you’ll just have to hold me tight.’
She giggled. ‘You sure you want to have a cold blood against you for so long?’
He smiled at her. ‘Wouldn’t mind that either.’
‘Sure.’ she said looking away. ‘Another species joke.’
She felt one wing wrapping around her and he stroked his fingers along hers. ‘I really wouldn’t mind having you for company.’ he whispered.
She felt his warm touch and her back fins shuddered.
‘I have to get back to my study now. Think about it and if you want to, just come before the herd moves on.’
He gave her a gently nuzzle and she watched him fly away.
The herd was ready to leave again. He could see it in their behaviour and he started packing up his things. He ate another bubble fruit and wished she could come with him. He flexed his wings and flew around fast to relieve his frustration.
When he felt the muscles in his body he relaxed and glided back to the bush where he had left his things. He round
ed it and found her nestled next to his bags.
She smiled as he perched in front of her. ‘I guess I’d like to try this little adventure.’
He took her fingers in his. ‘I’m glad you do.’
The sweepers song changed.
‘Just in time.’ he said and hooked a belt around his waist, attaching his bags to it. ‘This song means they’re going.’
She grabbed her own bag. ‘I’m ready.’
He clutched his fingers in her free ones and together they followed the herd slowly.