(Excerpt from the book “Dream (like a poet, fight like a) Tiger” by Selim Yeniceri)
It was a peaceful morning in the Conformity Henhouse. All the chickens were walking around the hen, feeding, piercing their longing and awe-struck eyes at those proud roosters. The most colorful and biggest roosters attentively looked to the most beautiful and youngest chicks. And of course, gossip was never-ending.
All among this peaceful scenery, there was one rooster who was always left alone in a corner, feeding himself desperately on collected, discarded seeds. His name was Oafy. Nobody liked him, and nobody talked to him other than for occasional sneers and disdain. So he stayed away from being in a crowd. He prayed for the day he would pass away so that he could get rid of their impudent laughter and humiliation.
However, that was the day when everything was destined to change. Suddenly, a huge shadow descended from the skies without the slightest clue of origin, landing in front of the open henhouse gate. A comatose silence fell. Nobody dared talk or move, not even the biggest roosters. The uninvited and unexpected guest was a wild eagle! The henhouse crowd knew of this eagle from rumors that were said. He retained bragging rights as the strongest and most merciless bird around all the skies: his name was Stormwing! Nobody from this henhouse had seen him before; to see him meant death!
And now, with his feral eyes, Stormwing looked at them, clearly trying to pick which one to take away and eat!
Stormwing proudly bustled into the henhouse, so confident with his might. All the hens gathered near the henhouse chain-link fence walls at the outer perimeter, fearfully glaring at the glaring, majestic bird.
While looking for the fattest prey among the hens, suddenly his gaze focused on Oafy, and poor Oafy began to shake visibly, thinking his end was near.
“You!” yelled Stormwing. “Come here!”
Under scrutiny of the entire henhouse, Oafy had to reluctantly obey this order, so he inched closer. Soon he reluctantly stood right before the eagle, fixing his eyes on the ground. Eagle looked at him from head to toe, and the look in his eyes changed. It was so obvious that he was hunting, but now he appeared surprised, as if he saw something so weird and completely unexpected.
“What is your name?” the eagle asked Oafy.
“O-Oafy, sir, my sir, dear sir,” answered Oafy.
“What are you doing here?” asked Stormwing.
“Wh-what do you mean, sir?” Oafy asked, confused. “I live here.”
“You live here?” Stormwing shrieked with rage. “What is this? Some kind of sick joke? Or you dare to make fun of me?”
Everybody became even more silent with this explosion, as if it were even possible. Oafy felt he would drop dead while standing!
“N-no, sir! Never! I really live here,” Oafy tried to explain. “I just live along with others here, doing the same things as they do… well, at least… trying to do…”
Stormwing squinted at Oafy first and then very slowly proceeded to look at each chicken, hen and rooster in succession as if it was never-ending. He reeked with displeasure of something that nobody could name! Perplexed and helpless, all the chickens and roosters trembled with fear. He turned his gaze back at Oafy again.
“How did you end up here?” he asked, gently.
“What do you mean, sir?” said Oafy. “I was born and raised here. This is my home.”
“Why do you have such a silly name?”
“My family gave me that name, sir,” replied Oafy, blushing with shame. “Because I… I… I am stupid.”
“Stupid?” asked Stormwing. “How so?”
“Well, as a matter of fact, everything about him is wrong, sir,” answered another rooster, coming closer. He was a very huge one, so confident with his appearance. He had a bright red crest; feathers of multiplicity wonderfully crowned his shoulders. Some of the chicks gasped in awe for his brave approach to the wild eagle; tension awaited the fairly certain fallout.
“And you are?” asked Stormwing, squinting at this rooster.
“My name is Rex, sir,” said the rooster, grinning. “I am the king of this henhouse. And trust me, I will be happy to present you this clumsy idiot as a sacrifice. You would honor us if you take him away, anyway.”
Oafy dropped his gaze to the ground, trembling more visibly.
“Tell me,” said Stormwing, “How clumsy is he? How does he disturb you and yours here?”
“Oh, take a look at him, sir,” said Rex. “He is so ugly and huge. Because of his big and fat body, he crashes things around when he moves. When he tries to spread his wings, there’s no room left for the others in the henhouse. With those huge feet, he often steps over the little ones. With that misshapen beak of his, he can’t even feed properly. There’s no single chicken here that would take him as a husband because instead of colorful feathers and a glorious crest as we all roosters have, he is pitch-black and bald. Please, sir, just have a look at him, and then at me. See the difference for yourself.” And Rex stood upright proudly, showing up at Stormwing. “He’s a pain in the ass to us, but would be a satisfying meal for you, sir.”
Stormwing looked at Oafy, and then back at Rex again.
“You’re right,” he said to Rex. “Very different, indeed.”
Without giving time to anyone to respond, Stormwing started to walk toward Rex with such furious and confident steps that Rex had to coward back. What followed then left everybody, including Oafy, in shock:
“He’s ugly because he doesn’t have colorful feathers and a bright crest like yours, huh?” boomed Stormwing. Rex trembled. He was forced to step back further.
“With that misshapen beak, he can’t feed properly, huh?” asked Stormwing, taking one more step, pushing Rex back even more.
Rex stepped back again and again, trembling, shaking his head… but couldn’t say a responsive word. Finally, there was no more space to move to the rear, and his spine was pressed to the wall.
Stormwing moved his head towards his, looking straight into his eyes with a burning rage from an inch and from the pit of the earth’s core: “Instead of trying to fool me like you fooled others here,” Stormwing hissed, “you filthy rascal, why don’t you tell the truth?”
His back pressed onto the wall, Rex couldn’t move a limb. “Tr-tr-truth, sir?” he stammered with fear.
“With those huge feet, he steps over the little ones,” sarcastically repeated Stormwing. He suddenly reached out, grabbing the rooster’s neck with one of his mighty talons. His voice was even more menacing when he asked to his face: “What do you think those feet are for?”
Rex couldn’t say anything, but gasped loudly.
“Misshapen beak, huh?” asked Stormwing, moving his strong and sharp curved beak towards the rooster’s eye. “What do you think that beak is for?”
Again, there was no answer.
“Look at his body, you fools!” Stormwing screamed with anger, now. “Is this the body of a rooster?”
Everybody looked at Oafy first, and then at the gaping Stormwing.
Through his clenched beak, Stormwing asked Rex, “How dare you call my brother ugly?”
The henhouse collectively recalled that with just a twist of fate, an eagle egg found itself in their henhouse. The eagle was born from that egg, and it was raised among the roosters and chickens. All the henhouse pretended that he was nothing but a loathing and ugly rooster. In this case, another eagle found him, and showed everyone who he was. It would be a tragedy for him to live his entire life and die believing he was a rooster, whereas he was a proud eagle!
Perhaps there were some who were aware about Oafy’s real identity. But they were scared of him, and aimed to disavow or even acknowledge the truth. Instead, they chose to suppress him. Oafy let society determine his identity and place, which was another separate mistake on its own.
After all those years with conditioning to believe he was nothing but an ugly rooster, it wasn’t easy for Oafy to believe he was an eagle. Stormwing took him away, lifted him up to the skies, and let him free-fall! Oafy was scared to death, bustling about at an indiscriminate loss, all while he propelled down into centripetal force. Then, suddenly, he realized he wasn’t a chicken anymore, he was an eagle! He opened his wings and sputtered at first, but in only one instant, he floated!
When he realized he could fly and see so very far with new vision, he began believing in his real identity. Step by step, he developed and strengthened his confidence. One fine day later, he changed his name to ‘Messenger of Freedom.’ His new goal was to search for other eagles trapped in henhouses.
After a while, the real surprise came when some roosters and chickens joined the movement, trying to turn themselves into eagles!
So, what do you do? Do you let others determine your identity, or do you dare to make your own rules in life, discovering the eagle within you?
(Story is an excerpt from the book “Dream (like a poet, fight like a) Tiger” by Selim Yeniceri)
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