Spending time over at Loony Literature's amazingly inspiring blog can only be a good thing. After reading the post on Edgar Allan Poe and 'The Raven', and 'The Raven' being my favourite Poe poem, I decided to have a go at writing a short story with a similar flavour. This is a bit nerve-wracking as its the first time I'm putting a story of mine 'out there' for general perusal ...
December. There are those who despise the month with its unrelenting cold, the too-short days and overlong nights. I do not mind the cold so much, unless it is the kind of cold that penetrates layers of warm clothing … the kind that wraps your head in a tightening vice. But when the sun shines in a cloudless sky, when I feel the crunch of newly fallen snow underfoot, then I revel in the wonderment of the season.
It has been an age since I have felt such wonderment. When did the weather close in, painting the world a cheerless grey? Was it after Kitty rejected my advances? And then my one, dear friend abandons me for warmer climes.
It is not healthy for a young man to spend days and nights closeted in his room, with no company save his sorry mind. I know this, but I cannot face the bleak weather with the sun so rare a visitor, it becomes almost impossible to tell night from day.
What is happening? I have stoked the fire, lit the lamps and still the darkness closes in, like the seclusion that closes around me. “No! Enough. I can bear this no more … Open! Open …” I fling open the shutters and wail my loneliness into the dreary midnight.
My cry turns to horror. I throw up my arms, convinced a thing of evil is before me. With many a flutter, it lands on the window ledge … a bird. It is a crow–no, a raven. I stand, amazement widening my stare. With barely a glance in my direction, this stately bird hops in and glides to perch on the back of my chair. Only then does it turn its head to regard me, most solemnly.
I wave my arms at it. “Go. Leave.”
It opens its beak … and speaks! “Never.”
I fall back against the wall. “What evil is this?” I struggle to form the words.
The bird is silent, pinning me with its unblinking stare. Then slowly, dream-like, it stretches out its wings and raises its head. As water glides off oil, its feathers flow off, to trail down the length of the chair.
I swear my eyes are ready to start from their sockets. The bird is no more. In its place stands a woman with feathers puddled about her bare feet. Boldly, she returns my stare, making no move to cover her pale body.
After an age, I manage to speak. “Are you … bird or … devil?”
“Bird.” Her voice is not the croak of the raven, neither is it as mellifluous as a woman’s.
I turn to the window, breathing deep of the cold air. “I am losing my mind. All these days spent shut in my room–”
“You saved my life once. My mate was shot. My wing injured. Others ignored me. You took me, mended my wing, made me well. Set me free.”
I remembered. My friends laughed at my foolishness but I could not leave so beautiful a creature to such a sad end. I face her again. “That was you?”
She nods; her hair, so black as to be almost purple, falls forward to obscure an eye. “I have watched you. You are kind, gentle … like my mate. I would spend my days with you. I have been given leave. But only if you are happy for me to do so.”
I cannot believe my ears. This exquisite woman … bird–no, woman, standing before me, telling me she wishes to spend her life with me. Me! Weak, bookish, uninteresting … Kitty’s words had been akin to physical blows. I laugh but there is no humour in it. “There is not much call these days for kind, gentle men … madam.”
“Those qualities are important to me, to my kind. I care not for the views of others.”
Still struggling to believe, I approach her, expecting her, at any moment, to disappear. But she remains. My fingers trace the scar on her upper arm; her skin is cold.
“Others have flown before,” I whisper. “You also will leave as my hopes have flown before.”
Her eyes, fathomless black pools into which I would gladly fall, gaze directly into mine. “Never.”
I place my hands on her arms; her eyelids flutter … she trembles. “You are cold.”
“Not where your hands are.”
I remove my robe and place it around her shoulders.
"I will stay with you until the end of my days," she says. "I ask only this - never raise your hand against me, never strike me. My kind do not tolerate cruelty. If you do, I will have to leave you."
Caressing her face, I whisper, "Never."