A Thorny Journey | Teen Ink

A Thorny Journey

August 25, 2021
By Hi-I-am-Jason GOLD, Brookline, Massachusetts
Hi-I-am-Jason GOLD, Brookline, Massachusetts
11 articles 0 photos 0 comments

The snowy winds of April echoed throughout the icy terrain. Across the unforgiving land marched a colony of black penguins --- an army of refugees. They waddled across the gruesome, snow-covered tundra, seeking warmer regions of the frozen continent. Courtship inspired their journey to find their beloved counterpart and lay eggs. By June, cute, freshly-hatched chicks appeared. One was called Wilbert.

Wilbert was a healthy chick hatched by a loving couple who swore to raise him safely and properly. He was reassured that his mother was away to feed and would return shortly. Wilbert was proud to be an emperor penguin, a species that is withstanding the worst of two fronts: nature and mankind.

Two months passed before Wilbert took his first real glimpse of the world. He began to wait patiently for his mother to arrive home to embrace her.

However, days passed, and there was no sign. Wilbert’s dad grew more impatient. “Wilbert, I am going to go on an expedition to find mommy, you stay here. I will be back to protect you.” He scuttled away, leaving a bewildered Wilbert amongst a sea of fellow emperors. They looked at Wilbert with pity. The confused and helpless chick chirped with all his might, begging in vain for his dad to return.

The chick felt the malicious chill of the frozen continent for the first time. Just when he was about to give up trying to huddle, he was enveloped into the warm pouch of another mother. She explained that his mother unfortunately had lost her life at sea.

“How did my mother die? Isn’t she doing what penguins have been doing for generations?” Wilbert asked, in utter disbelief.

She sighed, “I don’t know the exact reason either, but recently the water and weather have been getting warmer. Shrimp used to be plentiful, but over-hunting has led to sudden scarcity and it’s hard for us to find food. Your mother died quickly at the mercy of a starving orca.”

Her husband chimed in, “Don’t worry, my wife and I are going to care for you like our own child, who died in an unfortunate fall through melting sea ice. We will protect you.”

Two months passed and Wilbert was strong enough to socialize with the crèche (a group of baby penguins). He was out chatting with his pals when suddenly a startling figure knocked him away from the gathering. It was his mother.

“Quick, with me, go now,” she cried, “Hurry!”

A female came sliding from behind them with a loud maddening shriek, “Give me a brood, an orphan, I must nurture a child!” His mother drove her off with a few well-aimed beak jabs. More mothers came and chased Wilbert throughout the dense colony. As he waddled, he witnessed melting waterfalls cascading down the sides of ice caps and heard the cracks of shattering ice. “All this, caused by the alleged warming waters? What’s the reason?” he thought.

Before he knew it, the mothers had surrounded him and Wilbert struggled under their pressuring weight. Out of the blue, they cried sharply and scuttled away. It was his father! With a few gracious and sharp pecks, he drove them away. His worried mother scuttled over to Wilbert and the poor frightened chick squeezed into her pouch, seeking shelter. The family migrated to the other side of the colony to avoid the chick thieves. Still, something was not right, and the uneasiness in their gut remained.

A faint boom sounded in the distance and the penguins gasped in horror. Suddenly, they heard a loud crack that followed. The ice cap became lethally scarred with monstrous wounds that bled melting water straight into the depths of the sea. A few unfortunate penguin families tumbled down the slippery cliffside, leaving blotches of pink, rosy mist marks along the frozen edge. The crack emerged between Wilbert’s feet and his parents shrieked, “Wilbert! Jump to us!”

Wilbert did his best to slide to his parents as he heard the penguins falling into the abyss scream in terror. Landing backward, he turned around after some comforting words from his parents and sprang instinctively towards his mother. He discovered that nothing remained behind him but a chunk of ice littered with shocked and confused emperors, fated to be imprisoned and starved – a foreseeable tragedy.

Upon witnessing this terrible scene, Wilbert thought to himself, “What did I do that could have resulted in this? What wrong have I done? What brings me to this painful thorny journey?”

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