The Elders; A Creation Myth of String and Feathers

Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 55

Photo by Evie S. on Unsplash

The elders had made the birds. They had traveled from inconceivably great distances through space and time to return to Gaia. With their careful plans and almost joyful, patient experimenting, they created the birds. Human creation myths consistently get that wrong. The evolutionists were and have always got that bit right. People weren’t first, they were last.

In the beginning, were the elders, standing at the gloriously empty canvas of Gaia, ready to create again.


None of these elders were present for the last creation cycle. None of them lived that long, their lives were billions of times longer than the sixty or seventy revolutions around the sun that humans will later, much later, call an average lifespan.

The elders didn’t measure time (or their lives) by how many revolutions Gaia had made around Sol. The elders measured their lives by the birth, expansion, rise, and fall of solar systems.

Yet the elders truly understood impermanence.

They lived long, patient lives. Creating a new earth. Each time the system would shrink back and return to the void, Gaia would reform somewhere else. Some place unknowable. So before the elders could begin reshaping Gaia into earth, they had to find her again. This usually took a long time to do.


Then, when the elders rediscovered Gaia, creation could begin anew.


And it always began the same – with the birds.

There was the string also, but that always came later. Much, much later. At first, it was just the birds, lots and lots of birds. Tall birds, short birds, fat birds, skinny birds. The sky was awash in birds excitedly defying gravity as they flapped, flew, soared, glided, riding the thermal currents upwards and downward. Some days the sun’s rays would barely reach the earth’s surface, that was how thick the sky was with birds.

The original birds regularly shed and regrew feathers much more quickly than the birds that would develop by the time humans arrived.

As time passed, the winds would blow the feathers across all corners of the planet. There were mountains of them in low, wind-sheltered depressions. At higher or flatter places, there were fewer feathers, but even there, the feathers were deep enough to reclaim and bury even the largest of birds when their flying time was no more.

Through it all, the elders watched and waited.

Sometimes they would smile at each other as if to say, ‘Things are progressing nicely this cycle,’ or perhaps, ‘Soon it will be the time of the string.’

They usually received the latter with a bit of melancholia.

Once the elders introduced string into the ecosystem of birds and feathers, their work was done. And they would, in a short billion or two years, leave earth again.

None of the elders understood where the string came from. They were a race of beings that reveled in and celebrated magic. The pinnacle expression of their magic was the ball of string.

The string had always been. There was a spool of string, not much larger than an average-sized bird.

The spool would diminish in size to that of a small bird’s egg, but by the next morning, the ball of string would be restored.


The elders would start with the feather mountains. They would patiently wrap each mountain with miles and miles of the string.

As they created the birds, the elders more closely resembled modern-day human scientists. They were methodical, precise, disciplined.

But, when the time of the string arrived, the elders were more like artists. They would spool excess piles of string here, leave lazy patternless loops of it there, lay straight sections between the mountains of decaying bird feathers. The string was continuous across all of Gaia; it wound itself around through, under the feathers, it spanned across the oceans, touching the feathers that floated there on the water’s surface.

The string was one; it was continuous; it had a single beginning and ending, but no elder ever remembered where the endpoints were. That was not their concern.

The string found the feathers, summoned them to it with the wind. It would capture them, entwine itself in and around them.

Eventually, Gaia’s entire outer surface was blanketed under the feather-laden string.

Then the string would begin spontaneously breaking into pieces. The magic of creation would continue as the elders watched with approval and wonder.

The longer lengths of string would begin shaping themselves through the magic and science the elders had wrought and brought to Gaia. They would become the larger creatures that roamed upon the earth.  

The smaller bits of string and feather grew into the smaller creatures and animals.

The elders watched it until they sensed the humans would arrive soon. That was their cue to leave.

They had been on Gaia for billions of revolutions around the sun. They had created another chapter in which life could unfold. Some of that life would be long, some short. Some of it would be good and sweet, other parts of it evil or sour. None of that was the concern of the elders.


The elders tended to the feathers and the string. Then they watched as their creation became life.

They left Gaia, which had become earth by that point. But their descendants would return to Gaia when the time of the next chapter came.

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