Long ago, the phoenix was a real bird, a strong, fiery bird that soared the skies. He called himself Vesta. He could breathe bright golden flames and was draped in an alluring coat of red hot flames. To obtain power, the bird made a pact with his creator, Vulcan. His fire could heal or burn. A small, gentle wisp of fire would heal, while a large spurt of flame would destroy everything in its path. Vesta vowed to humbly assist any bird that needed assistance. If he did not offer his assistance with humility, he would be struck by lightning, face despair, and become a pathetic creature. On earth, Vesta was worshipped as a god and was admired by many, which ultimately got the better of him. He began to regard himself as a god that would surpass his creator and would rule the skies, ignoring Vulcan’s warning.
One day, on a sunny afternoon, as Vesta was performing his daily sweep in his territory, he spotted a robin and a small shiny thing. He let out a loud cry of dominance and then, FWOOSH! swept down and landed gracefully on the ground.
“What are you doing in my territory?” Vesta thundered. His voice was so powerful that the air shook. His very presence heated the air by a thousand degrees.
The small robin cheeped, “M-my friend! She’s hurt! Mister Phoenix, please help her! She needs to be healed right away and your blessing is the only thing that can hel—”
Vesta started laughing softly, which quickly erupted into cackles of pure amusement. The robin looked at the phoenix, shocked.
“Me? The almighty ruler of skies? Help a tiny hummingbird as small as a bud? Hah! I wouldn’t waste my power on something this trivial. Go and find some peasant slop medicine,” exclaimed the phoenix.
The robin was taken aback by the audacity and lack of sympathy the phoenix had. The phoenix snickered one last time and flew away, showering sparks all around him. The robin was so shocked that he nearly forgot about the small hummingbird, which was now passed. The robin hopped over to his dead friend’s body, stifling a sob. He sat down and prayed to Vulcan and wished for his friend’s happiness after being so close to health. While flapping away, Vesta chuckled in his head. I’m a phoenix, for god’s sake. I am not afraid of being struck by a measly lighting bolt.
Vulcan watched furiously as the phoenix laughed and left the little bird to die. He was enraged, for the phoenix had broken their promise. CRASH! Vulcan launched a lightning bolt with shimmering shades of purple at the phoenix. Vesta, who was unknowingly flying about, asserting his dominance, felt the sudden shock of the lightning bolt that struck him.
Vesta pummeled into the ground, losing strength in his wings. He squawked in terror as he frantically attempted to flip over and fly. He was unsuccessful as half of each wing was torn off by the lightning. Vesta’s large body crashed into a flowery field and set it aflame. Vesta felt his strength draining away, leaving him vulnerable to fire. He felt his head burn from his fiery plumage. The flames danced all around his body and scorched the feathers off his legs. Vesta ran around frantically looking for a pool of water.
The phoenix heard the sound of running water and sprinted as fast as he could while howling in pain. Vesta looked at himself through the stream and set out his fiery gold feathers. He looked down at the stream only to be horrified by his reflection.
“AGH! I’M HIDEOUS! MY GOLDEN FEATHERS! MY HEAD AND MY NECK! MY GRACIOUS LEGS!!!” Vesta cried, mortified.
Vesta had become featherless on his head, neck and legs. The ashes from the burnt feathers had coated the rest of his body black. No matter how hard he tried, Vesta couldn’t wash the ashes from his once gold feathers. He tried to breathe fire but to no avail. He realized that he was completely powerless. At that moment, Vesta understood what Vulcan had meant. He had become a hideous, dark creature, a shadow of his former glory.
Vesta wailed, “What have I become?”
A voice rang out in his head.
“You have become a new creature. You will no longer be referred to as the phoenix but as an ostrich. This is your punishment for not complying with the pact and for being too full of yourself. Now, you must live in humility as an ostrich, with nothing to brag about.” The voice in Vesta’s head rang loud and true.
Vesta knew this voice much too well and felt his blood run cold. He wondered how he could live as an ostrich for the rest of his life. Burning with shame, the once graceful phoenix now lives with humility as an ostrich and never believes itself to be higher than other creatures.