Henrietta laid her very first egg in the early hours of a chill spring morning.
Like all the hens in her coop, she was confined to a wire cage scarcely big enough to hold her. But unlike the others, her vision was not constrained by her circumstances.
Henrietta could sense the world beyond the cold tin walls of the coop. Her mind reached out to the surrounding fields and woods. She touched the colors of the wildflowers nodding in the breeze. She danced with the butterflies. She laughed along with the bouncing, playful rabbits. And in the flight of her feathered kin, she found the freedom she could never know herself.
But there was nothing in the world she loved more than her first egg. She had sensed it from the moment it sparked to life within her, and though it was no more than a wisp of tissue clinging to the rich, thick yolk, she knew that it was special.
“Don’t get too attached,” clucked the older, wiser hens. “The people will come any minute now to take it away from you.”
“No!” squawked Henrietta. “They can’t. Not this egg. This egg is special!”
But the people did come, and despite her frantic cackling one of them reached into her cage and pulled the egg out from under her warm body.
“Bring it back!” she gabbled. “You can’t take my egg! It’s special!” But the people paid no heed.
“Forget it,” clucked the other hens. “It’s gone now. Nothing you can do.”
But Henrietta knew the egg was still alive. She could sense the tiny flame of its life, even as it was carried further and further away from her.
“It will be all right,” she muttered, trying to calm herself. “It has a shell to protect it. It has yolk to feed on. If the egg stays warm, it can grow and hatch.”
But then something changed, and she felt the egg grow cold. Not merely not-warm, but winter-cold, as though it had been thrust into a snowbank. The flame of life within grew smaller and smaller, until she could no longer feel it—though she could still sense the egg itself.
Henrietta beat her wings against the walls of her cage, desperate to go to the egg, to save it. But she could not free herself. Exhausted, she slumped to the wire floor.
“It could still be all right,” she told herself again. “It has a shell. It has yolk. When the egg warms up, it can grow and hatch.”
All the rest of that long day Henrietta sat unmoving, her mind wholly focused on the cold and seemingly lifeless egg. All that night she maintained her vigil. And in the early morning hours something changed again. The egg began to grow warmer. Joy flared in Henrietta’s feathered breast. Straining her talent to the utmost, she thought she could detect just the barest flicker of life within the egg.
But then a terrible thing happened. Something cracked the egg’s protective shell. Henrietta cried out as the shock of the blow lashed back through her brain. She felt the shell split apart, felt the contents of the egg fall free to land on a hard, metallic surface.
Stunned nearly insensible, she struggled to maintain her bond with the egg. “It still has yolk, it still has yolk,” she muttered to herself in a desperate mantra. And then something sharp and metallic pierced the yolk and smeared it across the surface.
But something else was happening. The broken, violated egg was growing warmer.
“It’s going to live! It’s going to live!” she cried in delirious ecstasy. And then she shrieked as the wisp of tissue still clinging to the ruined yolk was seared and burnt to a crisp.
Henrietta lay dazed and supine in her cage, her bright mind clouded with immeasurable grief. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. The birds and butterflies no longer gave her joy. What was the point of life, if it could be so suddenly and cruelly taken away?
But then she felt it: life stirring within her. Miraculously, she had conceived another egg. She caressed the tiny, vital spark with her mind and thought, “This one will be different. This one is special.”