The Harpy

Another seasonal pun posted on the shaggy dog listserv. The author is not known.

A much-maligned character of Greek mythology, a harpy (who is half predatory bird, half woman) was flying cautiously along the precipice of a cliff, wistfully gazing at the yew forests which grew at the foot of the sheer granite.

Her once-remarkable sensory powers were dulled by countless millennia. In her prime, she could clearly visualize the drops of sea foam in the beard of a distant sailor. Now, she disregarded the arrogance of puny men.

Sore and bleary-eyed, she hunted safely inland, picking off young children, stray goats, and an occasional madman who became lost in the forest. She looked for large objects, and those which moved through clearings were the most visible.

Fatigued by her years and with tattered feathers, she knew her end was approaching. But her hunger was merciless, a rhythmic ache. On she flew, back and forth, back and forth, hoping for a flicker of movement in the clearings below.

As the winds shifted, she adjusted course to minimize the effort of her creaking wings. The boughs of the trees below shifted, and she caught a slight movement below at the edge of the yew forest. With hope born of desperation, she wheeled in the air and dove at the source of the movement.

Her stomach and gizzard quivered with anticipation as she closed with the edge of the clearing and heard the voices of young children! Though subject to many laws of nature, she was still akin to Vulcan and the other supernatural beings who had shared her world once. As the creature streaked down on a succulent toddler in the middle of the clearing, she actually glowed bright orange with the heat of intensity. For a moment she became young, vital.

But the cryptic mind was devoid of that quality we call humanity. Hunger was all, and she would feast upon the flesh of young humans. What was the children’s merriment, if not a seasoning for this long-anticipated meal?

At that moment, the wind abruptly shifted again. She headed straight into a massive tree and caromed into the huge bonfire that graced the children’s celebration.

The watchers were aghast, not realizing that they were only prey for the grotesque and wizened creature. Alas, the shouted warnings of the children were too late!

The half-woman, half-bird sheared the tree as if it were an overripe banana and then struck the bonfire with tremendous force! Embers flew like blazing meteors in all directions. A crater yawned beneath the fire as plumes of dust and smoke shot into the air.

A warning, shrieked by a chorus of young voices, was nearly swallowed by the massive explosion that boomed off the stone cliffs and through the trees …

“Harpy! Yew Near!”

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