Above The Village, above the Oaks and the Maples that line The Green, swirls a mass of black feathers, screaming in a language few humans can discern. As the other Villagers sleep, the misty morning light sweeps magenta across the sky, and above the head of a lone figure, mystery circles. Upon awaking to this cacophony, wrapped in awe, coffee in hand, she is the only one to bare witness as one dark shape drops from the murder above, and lands just a few yards away before her on the grass. As she slowly makes her way towards it, her flip flops leave a trail in the wet grass behind her.
One beady eye looks warily her way as she approaches.
“I won’t hurt you; are you hurt? As if you could tell me if you were. I won’t come any closer, I promise.
I don’t know what I can do for you if you are.
Tell ya what, I’ll go sit on this bench, k? I’ll just finish my coffee. Will wait and see.
What the hell did you do to cause such a blawdy uproar though…holy shit batman, or Crow, as it were, but you really pissed off your friends. Know a lot about that, pissing people off. Well, disappointing them more, I guess.“
The swirling, whirling feathers descend, en masse, to the shelter of the ancient Oak. From this perspective they watch on, as this strange human approaches their fallen brethren. Dark curious eyes watch the exchange before them, and a profound silence grows into a mist that slowly begins to build a mote encircling this strange pair, now shroud in a fog of white.
“Its getting cold. Brrrr. Where did this fog come from?” Turning her eyes back towards the small, black shape that rests 5 feet away, she slowly brings her coffee up to her lips and takes one long slow sip, leaning back, closing her eyes, as the strong liquid washes her with a bitter warmth.
When she opens her eyes again, just as the light in the sky begins to rise above the trees, the rooftops washed in the golden light of the sun creating long shadows in the grass, the fog begins to fade, and she finds herself alone upon The Green.
Astonishment sparks in her eyes, as she rises, takes a step towards where the crow had lain, just seconds before; but she is alone. Spinning in a slow circle, one little curl falls from the knotted ginger mass, as she looks up into the Oak, the fog dances across the land, pushing long strands of golden light across the dewy grass that lies at the centre of The Village.
~ * ~
“David, I swear to all that is holy, that’s what happened. Right there across the road on the green, last summer when I was home visiting Uncle Jack and Larry. I wasn’t dreaming either.”
David laughs, shakes his head, and turns back to pouring the Guinness, just as TK showed him. Waiting as the foam dies back, he tops up the thick dark stout. Taking a coaster from the pile, he lays the brew before her…“I believe you, really. A true murder of crows at dawn, but, you must have just nodded off a little, don’t you think? Things just don’t disappear you know, this isn’t some de Lint book.”
Stan and Jerry, sitting at their usual corner, are the only other witness to the tale TK has to tell, and with a look of humour within their eye, say not a word to break this exchange.
Sun filters in through the broken metal blinds, revealing all the flaws and stains of years past. A fine white dust covers the northeast corner of the old pine floor, where new drywall replaces the red velvet wallpaper that once graced this ancient watering hole. Bare bones of studs surround the four on three sides, and the smell of old smoke and grease still permeates the air.
TK raises the dark liquid to her rosy lips, takes a sip…setting the glass down…“I know, I know, completely fantastical, but I can’t get it out of my mind. The poor bird haunts me, and I don’t know why. What happened to them? I really did just lay my head back for, well, hardly a few seconds, and when I looked up…they were all gone. Not even a mark in the wet grass ‘cept my own.”
“Yeah, well, I believe YOU believe it happened.” David smiles at her across the bar, standing between her, and where Stan and Jerry hold the corner, arms crossed against his chest.
TK’s eye squint up and anger boils up into her pupils…thru clenched teeth she begins.. “It did…I…”, she looks away from the three sets of eyes, just as a shadow in black appears, framed in the doorway, the daylight obscuring all but the silhouettes of feathers that dance atop his cane, and dangle from his ears, poking through his dark scraggly hair. He proceeds warily into the bar, his head down, looking up through his long, dark eyelashes at the four pairs of eyes. Lines of gold cascade through the blinds, cutting through his dark cloths, and he stops. Blinks twice, and then proceeds, taking a stool along the Oak bar, just beside TK.
The silence is finally broken, as David says “So, what’ll be, Nat right?”
TK turns from the stranger, to David. Then back to this wild creature that has settled beside her.
The dark stranger turns towards David, nods, his dark eyes look away back to the corner, it is then that she notices the burn scars that line the left side of his face, just partly obscured by the scruffy, long curls that fall across his eyes. As he turns his head towards Stan and Jerry again, who are smiling big grins back at him.
“Shot of Zambooka and a Pint of the house brew, thanks”…says the stranger, in a velvet whisper.
David turns back towards the case of bottles that line the back wall of the bar, grabs the Zambooka off the shelf, pours a shot, and sets it in front of him…then turns back to the row of keg arms on the side, turning his back from him, and smiles sideways, so only TK can see… “so how you liking the bookstore? Jack’s quite the character, eh?” David turns towards TK, cocks his head to one side, smiles a big Cheshire Cat grin…“Nat’s working afternoons now for your Uncle Jack. Dropped in Thursday and found Nat here behind the counter. Quite a shock, no offence intended Nat, but you do cut quite the figure ya know.”
The dark stranger nods his head slowly, pushing a twenty dollar bill across the bar, as David sets his drinks before him… “I imagine I do” is all he says…and then he grabs the Zambooka, swallowing the whole thing in one, then sets the glass down. “Your Jack’s a good man”.
David smiles, eyes twinkling…“Yip, our Jack tis certainly that. Having another TK?”
TK bends her head and grabs her purse from the hook beneath the bar, brushing her ginger locks from her eyes, smiling as she rises…“Nope. Gotta run, things to do.” Turning to Nat beside her…“Hey, you’re welcome to come tonight. Just having a few people over tonight, little home coming thingy…ask David here for the directions. Ciao peeps.”
High above the crossroads that divides The Village into quarters, lining the Old Maple that sits out front of the bar, they watch as she crosses the road, towards those sacred grounds where an old farm house now resides.
They watch as she walks through the space in the cedars, and steps onto the back porch of that old house. And they watch as she unlocks the door to her apartment.
The pine floors creak as she opens the door, bending down now to remove her sandal’s, down below her the old ‘early cave’ dug out basement, something has awoken from the ancient spring, once revered, now lost. As a wisp of air blows across her face, and as the hairs on the back of her neck rise, she rises, and slowly turns towards the screen door, and looks out upon The Green. She can feel their eyes upon her, but there is nothing for her to see.
Shivering, she closes the door.
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