It's that time again. My favorite day, the first Sunday of the month, which I have declared Free Short Story Sunday! This is where I'll publish a short story of mine to thank all of you for registering on my webpage and supporting The Blood Prophecy Series. Some of the short stories will be horror and some won't. Hope you enjoy this month's story, Raven Magic, with an alternative ending from the original found in DISTRACTIONS II - RUNNERS. Edited by the talented Liane Larocque. A great collection of stories by amazing writers, worth checking out, available on Amazon.
Today's story takes place at the intersection of reality and dreams, and it's at this crossroad that life's deepest lessons are learned.
Happy Fourth of July!
Author of The Blood Prophecy Series, “Inferno of Secrets”
In the past, I only noticed the ravens in the fall. But it was spring, and they were everywhere. Cawing overhead, yelling some unknown warning of something I had no understanding of. It would only be in time they told me what they wanted me to learn, but even then, I didn’t quite understand what that danger truly was. Only they knew, and as hard as they tried to make me understand, I always felt just on the edge of figuring it out. I didn’t know then that the only way I’d find out what they meant was to walk into the fire of my fear and let it burn me to the ground.
It was the early morning of April 30th, just as the sun began to warm the morning dew that covered the grass, I was still in my bed with a hangover from the night before. The wine I drank was the only way I could find any sleep at all. My eyes didn’t want to open, even if I knew I should. Facing another day without my lover seemed a monumental task, and sleeping away the withdrawal seemed more appealing than fighting through another day of refrain. The spring days had warmed early this year, and I had left my bedroom window open for the night. The cool breeze somehow eased the anxiety that pumped through me with every pounding of my pulse. I was caught between life and wanting to exist, not here, yet not gone. A strange place of unrelenting limbo that made life an unbearable need to pass through or give up, even though the choice never truly felt like mine.
What now? Where do I go from here? Why are those damn crows screaming at me from the air? What do they know? Why should I care? Why won’t they leave me alone? The questions haunted me, but then again, it seemed those same questions kept me from letting it all go. And even if I could let it go, what would that mean? Then again, would I even care? Something inside of me must, for I still fight through each day as if on some unknown quest that my insides simply would not let rest. I wanted to run. Get away from the stress, but there seemed no escape no matter how much I drank. I thought about going back to my lover, forgiving his betrayals. I knew that would only leave me weak, but at least that way, I might be able to sleep. Maybe the haunting nightmares would go away, and there’d be some peace in my head. The price, though, was still higher than I wanted to pay, my heart and soul I’d be giving away. The fog over my thoughts rested on me like a wet wool blanket, heavy and relentless that whichever way I chose would be the end of my being. There was no relief whichever way I went. The need to drown in alcohol kept my feet from ever feeling the ground. I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t move forward. Stuck in this place of heartbroken grief, which I had no understanding of how to escape.
And still, the damn crows screamed at me from the trees. Outside my window, they yelled at me. I knew they were trying to tell me something I just didn’t understand. All I knew was the madness that came from their screeching was my only friend, and if I didn’t decipher what they commanded, I’d be stuck here in this limbo forever, trying to make sense of their plan. Maybe that was the point. Maybe it was all just for that? Maybe the searching to understand was the only reason to get up? But I’m tired, not sure if I can go on. Even though the thought of ending without the answer seemed more unbearable than the fight to press on, why were the crows so adamant about cawing at me to figure out what they wanted me to know? What difference would it make, I wondered. What if what they wanted me to know was no help at all, but still, I couldn’t stop wondering why they constantly were yelling at me.
The curtains blew in as the spring wind grew stronger. I lay in my bed, trying not to wonder. Why can’t I let go? Why can’t I ignore the damn calls and move on with my life? I knew there was an answer if I could just figure it out. All I knew for certain was they wanted me to know.
They cawed at me in relentless attempts, making it impossible to ignore. I wanted to run, to escape their taunts, leave my past behind like a long-lost ghost. But then, a large crow landed on the windowsill and screeched even louder still, frantic to make me listen to the message I so did not want to hear. I closed my eyes, trying not to listen to the big fellow, but he only screamed louder, so there was no way to shut it out. “What do you want?” I screamed back at it, but its cries kept going, filled with relentless intent. “Leave me be! Let me alone! Why do you taunt me?” But the great black bird kept up its scrawling, flapping its wings in distress, and kept going. My frustration reaching its limit, I grabbed my diary from the nightstand and threw it at the window in hopes the damn bird would fly off into the future, but the diary only hit the wall, and the bird became angrier and screamed all the more.
I closed my eyes and pulled my blankets up high, covering my head, and praying to die. But death did not come, that peace wasn’t yet for me, and without trying, I slipped off into a dream. My last bastard lover, who hurt me, entered my room, refusing to leave no matter how much I yelled at him to be gone. He simply refused to go, which agitated me even more until I finally reached for my phone for the police to run him off and let me be free. But the phone could not be dialed, and my fingers would not work. The phone book I searched for the number of the police fell to the floor, and nothing I did would work at all. Damn this man for crushing my pride with his cheating and crushing my dreams with his lies. I wanted to kill him. I wanted him dead. Why won’t he stop haunting my dreams no matter how much I scream? He stood in the room now covered in black and blue bruises and told me he was sick to break down my defenses. My heart ached, wanting to help him even though I knew he was only trying to break me. He lied all the time, and I knew this was just one more. He wanted me to let go of my resolve no matter how much I fought for control. I picked up the phone book that had fallen to the floor and threw it at him in hopes he would finally go. The book hit him dead on, and he vanished into thin air, and the crow at my window cawed all the more.
I woke with a start and sat up straight, the blanket at my chin, and my heart did race. For now, the bastard was gone, but the next time I slept, I knew he’d be back as well as the crows with their mournful cries in the day. I knew the cycle would continue until I could understand what the crows were trying to tell me. Perhaps that was what the crows meant—I needed to release this man from my heart. Easier said than done since this man had been with me for way too long. As hard as I tried to run or make him leave my dreams once and for all, I couldn’t find the strength to let him go. I understood that there was nowhere to run but to cover my ears from what the crows continued to scream. The single crow was joined by more until the window ledge was covered in a murder of screaming crows. The crows were real, but my bastard lover had been long gone and now only lived inside of my head.
It was after a long time of listening to the screeching crows that I hurried downstairs to get away from the noise, but they only screamed louder wherever I went, making it impossible to block out their taunts. It was then that I realized that running would do no good. I’d have to stand and fight if I ever hoped to have a peaceful night and prayed that perhaps then, the crows would depart. My anger rose inside me with white-hot fury, and I picked up a large kitchen knife and ran back to my room to confront the crows that had gathered on the windowsill. I slashed at them over and over as they flapped up in the air and came back again. I fought for what seemed like hours with not a single drop of blood from the now angry murder of crows, but they still wouldn’t leave and settled back on the windowsill, waiting for me. The knife fell from my hand to the floor as I fell to my knees and pleaded with them to go. But they only waited, screeching all the more. I only wished I knew what for.
With my hands over my face, I began to sob when I heard something hard drop at my feet. I looked up as one of the largest crows swooped down and picked up the object, and instead of flying off with it, the massive bird brought it over to me. The object in its mouth shimmered in the dim morning light as it came close and waited for me. I held out my hand, not knowing why, when the huge crow dropped the object into my hand. A small solid gold heart lay in my palm, and the murder began to scream. It was at that moment I understood. The way out was to fill my heart with love. It was only love that could conquer anger and fear. As soon as the thought filled my mind, the room grew quiet, and the crows disappeared. It became clear that it wasn’t murder I needed to embrace but only love that could free me from this dark and sad place.