‘Look out!’ cried the watchful bird, flitting to and fro. ‘You are all in peril, and must jump immediately!’
The other birds glanced up, briefly roused from their slumber, observing the caller in the upper reaches of the tree, squawking down at them with its dire prediction. But they soon went back into their stupor, rhythmically hunting for food, for sustenance.
The watchful bird peered about nervously, knowing the danger was coming, whether the others believed him or not.
‘The great cat!’ he cried to them, raising his voice in the hope that it might better persuade them. ‘It is preparing to pounce!’
Once again, the other birds took only momentary notice of his prophecy, before going back to their work. They had been in slumber for too long now, conditioned only to work and hunt for food, to be capable of easily changing their habits.
‘You must jump!’ the watchful bird insisted, screeching in distress that his warning was falling on deaf ears. ‘You must leap to a higher level, or the great cat will trap you all where you stand!’
This time, the shrillness of the bird’s warning made some of the other birds look up for longer, something in the panicked tone stirring something dormant inside them. Seeing this subtle change, the watchful bird took a deep breath, and opened his beak to deliver his loudest warning yet.
‘You must jump now!’ he cried. ‘You must leap higher, get to a place of greater safety, before the great cat strikes! If you remain where you are, you are doomed!’
At this, several of the birds kept staring at the would-be-protector, rather than instantly resuming their deadening work. Many more remained uninterested, still searching for food, but the watchful bird took heart that his message was finally getting through, at least to some. He opened his beak again.
More than half the birds looked up in alarm, recognising the urgency in the sentry’s voice, the truth of it, the utter terror of the situation they had sleepwalked into. The protector glanced to the bushes in the near-distance. Stared at the eyes within their depths, blazing with hunger and greed. He summoned more air into himself, and screamed out a final plea.
All the birds who had listened in the end spread their wings and leapt from the ground in unison. The great cat sprang from the bushes, propelled by its lust for food. The birds still on the ground were ensnared, trapped beneath its callous claws. At the mercy of its selfish whims until the hour it decided to put them out of their misery.
Above, however, a greater number of birds leapt to their freedom. Airborne and safe. Guided to a higher perch by the one who had been watchful.