Short Stories

The White Peacock

On a small island off the northern coast of Okinawa, there lived a large flock of peacocks. Their plumage was so vibrant and revered that local fishermen would not set foot on the island for fear it would invoke the wrath of their deity. However, from a distance they would paint, sketch, and write poetry and stories about the beautiful birds. The sailors had gained knowledge of the creatures’ name from their trade expeditions to India, and soon the words “peacock” and “peafowl” became an uttered phrase between the men.

Unbeknownst to the humans, the peacocks noticed the actions of the sailors and became amused by their actions of adoration. Soon, they began to purposely make themselves visible so they could immerse themselves in the humans’ awe and praise. They would fluff up their feathers when a sail was visible on the sea and pose in classic peacock elegance, enjoying every minute of attention they received.

Soon, however, spring was upon them, so they slipped back into the shadows of the sakura[1] trees and began to devote themselves to one another; the sole purpose being to reproduce more admirable peacocks and gain more attention from the foolish, colorless zealots that visited day after day without fail. So one by one, the birds chose a mate and created a small, future peacock prima donna.

However, of all the chicks born that season, one stood out among the rest of them. His little baby feathers were white and cottony as snowflakes, and his eyes were like that of a baby doll, small, black, and glassy. His mother and father did not know what to make of this phenomenon; after all, albinism was but a human term. Feeling that their offspring would only dissuade the human masses from their island, they hide their weird chick from the rest of the group and called him by a name they had heard the humans say, Kaiki[2]. They did not know what it meant, but when it was said, the tone was filled with fear or apprehension. Thus, they felt it was fitting.

Nevertheless, Kaiki was a lively bird filled with happiness and innocence, and when he was alone, he would sing out about the pink trees or the glassy sea. Though, his parents discouraged his songs, he snuck away to perform them to no one in particular.

Then one day, his audience came. Attracted by the strange sound, a sailor, who wandered too far to the east side of the island, spotted the weirdest, unique creature his eyes had beheld. It appeared to be a peacock from the appearance of its feathers and body structure, but its pigment was white and its tail feathers flowed lightly through the breeze like mature dandelions. Entranced by the creature he reached for his journal of sketches, but then Kaiki saw him. In embarrassment, the animal fled back into the sakura forest that was now shedding its blossoms.

The next day, Kaiki went back to his choral chatter and the sound brought forth two boats this time. Although afraid, Kaiki’s curiosity guided him to fly toward the boat and land serenely on its mast. The mariners became elated as they collected the fallen feathers that traveled from Kaiki’s back. They pet the remnants as though they were pure silk, and the men stored them inside their books for safekeeping. Kaiki then heard the call of his mother and flew back to the island as the humans surveyed in adulation.

Before long the other peacocks became confused as to why their sailor followers had left them. When a loud obnoxious call of a peacock was heard on the other side of the island, they all went to see what the commotion was about, and there was their congregation flocked around Kaiki as he flew from ship to ship dropping feathers like presents from above.

 The peacocks’ hearts filled with envy, and as this continued, they decided that they would do anything to be as beautiful as Kaiki, no matter what it took.

At first they tried to stick cotton and light leaves on their feathers with mud in an ill attempt to cover their feathers. Then they strutted out, hoping for adoration, but their appearance only confused the sailors. Then one sailor did something they did not expect. He chuckled. Then he laughed and soon the others followed. These simple-minded, insignificant humans were laughing at them, them, their gods! The peacocks were so humiliated, so angry, that they fled back into the forest and swore they would be the most beautiful creatures in this world, and those insolent humans would bow to them.

Their next attempt was to dye the feathers. They crushed almonds, white sakura flowers, and coconut, combined it with the coconut juice and bathed in it for hours. For a while, it seemed to work. They feather did look lighter, and the sailors did seem to like it. However, over time the color started to fade and the teal started coming back. Also, when the feathers got wet, it created an awkward splotched effect. As this happened, the sailors would either stare at them confused or laugh again.

In the midst of all this, Kaiki tried to tell them that he liked their teal feathers, but they blew him off, blinded by anger. Only one peacock, a female called Aomidori[3], seemed to listen; she wanted the white feathers too, but she, also, didn’t find all this effort necessary. So she followed Kaiki and his happiness.

The others, however, called out to a higher being for the white feathers, now desperate. They prayed and prayed. One night a mist covered the island, and the peacocks were shocked when they woke up to a field of white. Yes, their wish was granted, and their feathers were fluffy white and gorgeous like Kaiki’s.

With their desires met, they triumphantly flew before the sailors. They covered the sky with their feathers and rained down the snow-like appendages as the sailors bowed and cried out in worship. The peacocks were so pleased with themselves that they decided they would put on this show forever. So day after day they did just that.

However, eventually the sailors got bored of seeing nothing but the same peacocks over and over again, and they stopped visiting the island on a daily basis. The peacocks were shocked and confused. They didn’t understand why they couldn’t make these fickle humans happy. They were beautiful, why didn’t the humans see it.

In the midst of all this, Kaiki and Aomidori emerged from a length of absence with a peachick… a teal colored peachick along with its albino father and teal mother. They looked at the baby and the mother, and as the family played on the beach, a nearby ship stopped by the beach. They “oohed” and “awed” at the family, and it made sense to the others.             In their desire to have the same beauty as Kaiki, they lost their own beauty, and now, nothing they could do would give them back their striking color. With nothing more they could do, they went out on the beach with Kaiki and his family and played. And for once, they actually felt alive and beautiful, no longer depending on the approval and attention of the nearby sailors.

[1] Sakura- Japanese for “cherry blossom”

[2] Kaiki- Japanese for “strange, wonderful, weird, outrageous”

[3] Aomidori- Japanese for “blue-green”


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