- I -
Mother Hen was arrogant and a bigot, recognized by all for her surly temperament. She was nosey and started fights over the smallest things. Disheveled feathers and eyes on fire, her enraged cries drowned out the cacophony of hens and chicks in search of food. In a just world the stupid and wicked should not carry so much weight in society, but the primal force that drives survival is fear, and the other hens were afraid of her. At this moment she was pouring out all her anger against one of her sons. It was horrible how she treated him but the other hens were afraid of her and let her be.
Zaine didn't understand why his mother didn't want him. He did everything just like his siblings. He was neither bigger nor smaller than the other chicks but his mother, when he tried to approach her, threw herself on him screaming. She’d grab him in her beak and tossed him in the air.
Small as he was it hurt when he fell; the earth was carpeted with pieces of coral that cut into his fragile skin. Day after day it was the same. Each time he painfully recovered to join his siblings, and each time his mother attacked him.
The day came that the little chick no longer had the strength to get up. His mother had been particularly fierce and, stunned, he stayed still with his eyes closed. He heard his brothers and sisters. They were already far away.
Zaine thought he was alone in the world. He hadn't noticed a dog living next to the henhouse. Despite his large size, Ram was calm and tolerant. He saw from day one how the mother treated the poor chick. He wanted to intervene sooner but he knew Zaine wouldn't have listened to him because his only goal was to be accepted by his mother. The little one had to realize from his own experience that his mother wanted nothing from him. Ram slowly approached. Zaine, opening his eyes, saw the big dog and cried out. Ram caught him gently in his mouth and put him in a safe place.
For days the chick stood between life and death, eyes closed, while the dog encouraged him to eat by holding his beak open to feed him. Two neighboring cats, the twins Tima and Tomu, had also witnessed the mother's shameful behavior, and agreed to help. Zaine was doing better but he was afraid to come out of his hiding place. If his mother found him she would never let him live, he was sure of that now. He was happy to stay in his hiding place cuddled up to his friends who let him be, but they were worried.
“Why does my mother want nothing to do with me, when she loves my siblings?” he asked the dog.
Ram knew why, but hesitated to tell his little protégé, the reason for the maternal hatred was so stupid. The cats thought, on the contrary, that Zaine must know the truth.
“Alright,” Ram said. “She doesn't like you because you're different.”
“Look at your siblings' feathers, then look at your own feathers,” said Tomu.
Zaine looked and saw that the other chicks were dark red while he was light yellow. He’d never thought of that.
“It’s because of my feathers that she rejects me?” He asked incredulously.
"That's why,” Tima said. A big cockroach suddenly caught her attention and she leapt, her body tense, towards the unfortunate bug.
“I can't change the color of my feathers. I'm still in danger if I stay here.” He had to find a place where he would be accepted, but how? Where to begin? He sought advice from the dog.
“You have to start by getting healthy and overcome your fear.”
Slowly Zaine gathered the courage to go out again, at first with his friends who were keeping guard. Ram taught him to observe details, and the cats taught him how to approach the enemy by dissimulating. As Zaine gained strength he became adept at hiding. Without being seen he would spend hours watching his siblings, and at first he really wanted to be with them. Then he observed his mother and the other hens running frantically without direction, arguing over the slightest things.
“After all, I'm glad I wasn't accepted by this group.”
He felt ready to go but he pushed back the date because he didn't want to leave his friends. Ram told him about a boat about to leave the island, and Zaine knew the time had come. His friends accompanied him to the beach and Zaine found a niche to hide in the boat.
He was heartbroken and scared but it was too late to change his mind.
- II -
A year passed since Zaine's clandestine trip on the boat. Halfway to its destination the ship was caught in a severe storm, and was nearly hit by a wave so high that no one had seen such a sight before. The men desperately tried to keep the boat upright and begged Heaven to save them. At first Zaine was silent for fear of being discovered but finally, terrified, he cried out. It was a sound unlike any other, all of his pain and sorrow came to the surface at that moment.
As if his cries were heard by the gods, the waters suddenly calmed, followed by a silence so profound that the sailors fell to their knees in gratitude, convinced that Zaine was somehow responsible.
At least that's what the crew thought. They were able to continue their journey without the slightest difficulty and their cargo intact, as if the winds had agreed to fill their sails so that the sailors would arrive home in no time. Once on their island they told the story of the little yellow cockerel that stopped the storm. It is possible that they added and embellished the story, and those who heard it also added something to it.
Soon, Zaine was a celebrity.
At first the priests didn't pay attention to the stories but noticed fewer offerings on the temple steps, and had a good idea why. Not for a minute did they think Zaine was a god, but it didn't matter what they thought. The important thing was to control what the devotees believed, and how to exploit those beliefs. Now Zaine was a beautiful rooster with feathers that shone like gold in the sun, people came from far and wide to see him and the priests took him to live in the temple of the palace. He was treated like a deity, and the High Priest gave him the name Golden Rooster.
Twice a day Zaine made an appearance in the central courtyard to be worshiped by the people who brought him food and money offerings. Some held envelopes with prayers in them which they placed on the steps of the temple. A priest received all requests and offerings, promising that the Golden Rooster would intervene. The rest of the day Zaine didn't have much to do, as he was forbidden to leave the palace. At the beginning all the attention and all the luxury were quite pleasant, there were other animals in the temple and the food was delicious, but after a while the monotony became unbearable.
“I left my island and my friends because I didn't want to be different. Here I am even more different, and the dangers in the palace are even more numerous.”
He saw how the priests urged the poor to give more and more offerings, promising that the Golden Rooster would intervene in their requests. His "entourage" were rather his jailers. He had to be cunning to escape, and even if he did manage to flee from the palace how could he hide his plumage once he was out? As a chick it was quite easy to move around and hide.
One night, when he thought everyone was asleep, he got up and went over to the palace window. The road was deserted and he felt terribly lonely. He missed his friends Ram, Tima and Tomu and he wondered if there was a place he would ever feel at home.
“You don't have to look so sad,” said a voice nearby. “There is always an exit, but you have to be ready at all times because opportunities rarely present themselves.”