Francois was the most flamboyant flamingo in all the land. His bright pink plume would ruffle the feathers of the other flamingos, and catch the eye of other wandering birds nearby. He loved to create a stir and always danced the tallest and liveliest of tangoes. Even when it was time to fly, he would fly in front, ahead of the flock or not at all. He worked hard to be the pinkest of all, and his secret was to feed as much as he could, and preen more than any bird would. For his beauty was more important than they! That’s what he thought anyway…

One day, after eating as much as he could fit, and dancing as much as he could flit, Francois decided to take a well deserved rest. He lowered his long, nimble neck and lifted his long, graceful leg and tucked both appendages into his pink body. After a pleasant dream of courting a group of lady flamingos, he awoke to see that indeed, his dream would come true.

A new flock was arriving and creating quite the stir amongst the other birds. Immediately, Francois stood tall, keeping his leg tucked in high and raised his beak towards the sky. He looked around, pink and proud, and was prepared to welcome any compliment or advance from the new flock, but after a few long moments, not one bird had approached him. 

Miffed, Francois peered down without moving his head, to see that the new flock had noticed another instead. A flamingo whom looked quite debonaire, and to Francois’ dismay, had dramatic flair.

Francois lowered his beak down low, and lowered his graceful leg in tow, and decided to do what he did best..Tango! He strut back and forth past the flock, and even let out a few loud squawks, but to no avail. What Francois hadn’t realised, was this soave newcomer had indeed noticed Francois’ fancy footwork through the flurry of pink feathers around him. The two dandy birds locked eyes and sneered, and just as Francois had sashayed into a spin, he noticed the imposter standing next to him.

They were quickly joined by the other dancing birds and locked into a ceremonial foxtrot, with heads in the air and feet fluttering everywhere. The imposter kept one beady eye on Francois and when he found a gap amongst the long, pink necks, he leant in to whisper “Do you want to be a pink as me?”

Insulted, Francois looked the other way but soon glanced over again to meet a smarmy smile staring back at him. The imposter leant in and whispered “Any time my friend, any time, your pink could look as pink as mine!” 

After the birds had completed their dance, Francois decided to follow the imposter and challenge his audacity. He sidled up the bird and nipped his back feathers before addressing him abruptly.

“What do you want here? Why have you come?”

“I’ve come to get pinker, I’ve come to have fun!” the imposter replied.

“Pinker you say? How could you do that? Come! Let us walk and have a good chat” said Francois in his most charming tone.

“I love to be pink. And bright pink, how kitsch! And the person to help me, is a secret small witch..” the imposter replied.

“Secret small watch? What is her name? Could she make me pinker too, as bright pink as say, you?” 

“Well of course she could friend! She is the great Zimbabaloo!”

Francois thought hard for he had never heard of a great, small witch named Zimbabaloo. 

“Where does she dwell, this Zimbabaloo? And when you go see her, may I come along too?” Francois asked with his most persuasive smile.

“Why of course you can friend! Let us just go! We’ll be SO pink tonight, we’ll put on a good show!” said the imposter with a glint in his eye.

Won over, Francois wasted no time. He pushed through the flock without any care, and before the new bird could speak, he’d flown up through the air. The imposter joined him and they flew for a few miles, and as they flew they conversed politely with smiles.

Finally they had reached the strangest of lands, where water had started to snake through the sands. As they looked down below, a huge lake shone bright red. Redder than rubies and blood! its been said.

“She’s there! Standing by that tree down below. But before we fly down, there’s something that you should know..” 

“Yeees?” Francois asked suspiciously.

“Zimbabaloo’s rules are as simple as day. Only one at a time may have their say, so I will let you go first as you are my new friend. It’s my pleasure to allow you to first to descend.”

Francois waited for nothing and flew down towards the twisted, dead tree that emerged from the lake. A small, peculiar looking woman stood there, floating just above the water, suspended in mid-air. She had dull, greying skin and wore a kaftan in red. She had spiked-out black hair and dark eyes that looked dead.

“Zimbabaloo! The pleasure is all mine. I’ve been told you can make me look much more sublime! I’d like to pinker than any bird one could see, for no other bird should be pinker than me.”

“I see. Are you not already the pinkest of all? You dance gracefully, you’re charming, and you stand very tall…” replied Zimbabaloo with a frown.

“I do indeed, and yes the pinkest I am. But to be perfectly honest, I don’t give a damn! I want to be better, to be pinker than ever. Do you think that I’m greedy? Don’t you think that I’m clever? asked Francois defensively.

“You are!” said the witch. “But you think the wrong way! I just thought you should know that, I just thought I should say..” Zimbabaloo added flatly.

“Well you’ve said.” said Francois. “But do you think that I care! Now let’s make me pinker, more than him flying up there!

“You would be better on the inside, if you weren’t obsessed with pink! You could be brighter, and much kinder, if you would just let yourself think..I can help you with one side, that’s all I can do. Brighter outside or inside? It’s up to you…” the witch said with a shrug.

Francois couldn’t wait to be better than best, but thought carefully to himself, could this be a test?

“If you don’t focus on the inside, you’ll live a life that is lost. Your fear of losing will control you, and more than PINK it will cost!” added Zimbabaloo.

“I just want to be pinkest! Inside’s too much work. Just make me look dandy.. ” Francois said with a smirk.

Zimbabaloo smiled slyly and flashed a wide grin. “Then why don’t come with me, follow me in….” 

The little witch turned around and started to sink slowly into the lake, as if she was treading stairs just below the surface. Francois raised up from the branch and flew to land right behind her, and quickly discovered this was no ordinary water. He noticed his legs were turning much more pink, but also more heavy, causing Francois to sink! His body felt rigid, and then the pink turned to grey. He became a stone statue, with nothing more left to say.

The lake had left him petrified, in his body and soul. He’d never be pink again, and danced his last tango.

 

Fin.