In the Halloween spirit, I have pleaded with my good friend Michael to tell us a scary story. If you ever have some time to kill, you need to check out his linked blogs. He's got stories, poems, music, pictures, all kinds of stuff. Hopefully, by this time next year his book "Eyes" will be in print and we will all have a copy. I'll be sure and let you know when it comes out. Here you go, my halloween treat for you:
The harvest moon suspended low in the night sky threw a weak and hoary light across the docile farmland casting three long shadows that moved slowly across the valley. The humid air did little to revive the desiccated fields of long grass, toasted gold and brown by the merciless heat of a long summer. Clumps of bushes clung to the long lines of worn down fence posts marking obvious borderlines and rural truck paths made for those whom to a great extent are too timorous to cross open pastures. Below, nocturnal creatures stirred at the remote grumbling of dark thunderheads approaching from the north.
A large flock of recently fleeced sheep was settled in one corner of a dark meadow. They appeared lifeless from above except for the occasional twitch of an ear or shake of a lamb’s tale too nervous to be still for long even in sleep. Several heads arose in unison as the three shadows passed overhead, anxious noses pointed upward to the sky.
Bleating in terror at the sudden presence of the dark creatures above, the sheep panicked rushing to the far end of the meadow and pressed in a huddled noisy mass against the far fence. With no more warning than the briefest shadows that woke the sheep a huge blue crack of ozone loaded lightning struck the ground where the sheep once rested in a searing flash of light like that of a Polaroid flash from Gods own camera immortalizing the moment followed instantly by the bellow of a thunderclap and the release of a torrent of icy rain.
Aside from the low passing swoop that frightened the sleeping sheep, three blackbirds flying in the night showed no interest in the flock below and continued their flight southeast into the morning light rising above the small western ranches of Ten Sleep nestled at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains. A rustic but whitewashed and scrubbed modern community uncontaminated but for the long history of death and destruction of various Indian tribes, settlers, cattlemen and sheepherders long buried beneath the hard unforgiving soil.
As the storm broke over Ten Sleep in the late Wyoming afternoon, three fat ravens found shelter inside a vacant screened porch. Their shadows cast long lengthy blades of darkness across the front porch itself. Michael immediately noticed their large shiny dark bodies and black carbon beaks huddled in the corner by a dusty red terracotta pot filled with Autumn Joy Sedum and Gerber Daisies when he went to secure the swinging porch door. He wasn’t about to try to move them, and shuddered at the thought. He had this thing about birds, he’d always been frightened by them. Some childhood trauma he supposed as his mind flashed briefly to a dark ominous room with blood weeping red down antiseptic walls and spreading across the distant ceiling. He was almost glad he couldn’t remember what was lurking deep in the seedy recesses of his mind and often felt that every writer should have some deep dark secret buried in their past. Janet would deal with the foreboding birds. He felt a pang of guilt as he eyed the gloomy creatures. Janet would be tired after working a double shift at the hospital. Chasing birds off the porch as well as hosing off the mountains of droppings that would, no doubt be present would not be readily appreciated. Still, his ornithophobia prevented Michael from doing anything more than making a hasty but guilt-ridden retreat. “I guess you guys can stay there ‘til Janet gets home.” He spoke out loud.
The somber intruding birds fixed him with black beady eyes, responding with gentle calls of “quink plink pink” providing Michael with a sense they’d acknowledged and understood every word he’d said. He returned to the breakfast nook and his laptop as the shivering willies continued their uncontrollable shudders down his back.
Gizmo lay sprawled out on the morning table as if she’d been there all day. Michael played with the idea of tossing the plump, gray fur ball onto the back porch with the unwelcome guests but images of the resulting grotesque scene made him shy away from the thought. He didn’t really want harm to come to the birds, Michael just didn’t want them lurking around his home. He made a cup of coffee and settled down at the table with his computer. The cat barely gave him a glance. Her tail thumped every so often to show her opinion of having to share the table as he began to type. … and when Unatiponi the mouse-wife bested Kokyangwuti the spider woman, she was granted a spirit box named Hakidonmuya which means ‘time of the waiting moon’ contained within were three raven spirits; Taluta the ‘blood red’ spirit of death, Aiyana; ‘ever blooming’ the spirit of life and Angwunasomtaqa the crow mother spirit. Every year on the eve of the Harvest moon Unatiponi the mouse wife opens the spirit box and releases three ravens into the world and they have but ten short days to perform three tasks of unnamed charity and return to their spirit box lest the world and all it holds should perish. It is this researcher’s opinion…
The sliding glass door on Michael’s right looked out onto the porch but the unwelcome guests’ resting spot was not visible from where he sat. It gave him the willies. He didn’t like looking at them all oily slick from rain, foreboding messengers of some unknown evil certainly, but he was not at all comfortable in not knowing what they were up too either.
Lightning flashed, the lights blinked and a crash of thunder rattled the doors and windows. Michael jumped and so did Gizmo. She turned toward Michael and backed her ears. “It wasn’t me,” Michael denied. Gizmo thumped her tail in answer. A shadow slid by the sliding glass doors. Both Michael and Gizmo swiveled their heads to see. Nothing moved on the porch. Michael lowered his notebook’s screen. Gizmo rose, dropped to the floor with a soft thud and approached the glass cautiously.
Suddenly, a mass of black feathers flung itself against the door, deep red plumes shone in a flash of lightning from beneath the wings. Both Michael and Gizmo started. The crow fell backwards, regained its feet and rushed the glass again. Gizmo responded this time, leaping against the glass from her side. The crow backed off. It turned its head from side to side fixing one eye at a time on the door, as if it were assessing its strength. Then it turned and squawked harshly. The other two crows drifted out of the shadows. They both took a good look, too. Gizmo sank back, pretending to wash a paw, while keeping an eye on developments. Michael sat paralyzed in his chair. It sees its reflection, he thought. Or it sees me…
All three birds approached the door. Gizmo paused, suspending her paw washing. Michael began to sweat as he focused on the activity behind the glass. The lead crow pecked the pane gently. The glass did not respond. The crow made a whistling noise then began to strike the pane as hard as it could. The other two turned their heads up and cawed, “Gartock! Garrouk! Gatouk!” Gizmo retreated, frightened by the noise. Michael felt the hair on the back of his neck rise. It almost sounded like “Get out! Get out! Get out!” Get up and get the hell out of here this is so wrong he told himself, but his feet wouldn’t move.
Lightning flashed again, the lights flickered off and the loud crash of thunder drowned out the bird’s pounding for a second. When the rolling sound stopped the birds were quiet. Michael swallowed. “Steady,” he muttered out loud. “They can’t have gotten in.” A sudden barrage of tapping gave away the crow’s location. The lights came on, revealing all three crows busy pounding on the glass. Gizmo had deserted his sentry post. “Stop it!” Michael shouted, as the lead crow took to the air, throwing himself against the glass. The resulting thuds were terrifying. It didn’t take long for the other crows to follow suit. Michael forced himself to stand. “Stop it!” he shouted a second time pressing his hands over his ears. The lead bird was starting to bleed. Its blood smeared bright crimson across the pale glass. Michael took a step back. The crows doubled their efforts. Loose feathers began to drift to the floor. With a loud pop, the glass cracked. Michael was startled and staggered forward. “Stop!” He cried out a third time and laid a trembling hand against the glass door just as the kitchen ceiling gave way. Chunks of tile and water soaked plaster pummeled down on the chair he’d been sitting in. The enormous glass ceiling light hit the laptop and exploded sending shrapnel flying everywhere. A broken, sharply jagged wooden beam stabbed into the floor behind the chair where he’d briefly stood.
Michael stared at the destruction. He glanced down at himself. A fine muddy white powder covered his clothes and bits of glass had scratched the back of his arms. Glancing behind him, he saw that the crows had settled down. They didn’t look so good.
Michael took one last look at the kitchen and then slid the glass door open. He edged his way cautiously past the birds, out through the screen door and around to the workshop located behind the freestanding garage. Fishing in his pocket he produced a key to let himself in. He located some towels and quickly emptied a crate of odds and ends onto the floor. Returning to the porch by way of the screen door, Michael carefully lifted each motionless bird into the box. With his skin crawling, he hoisted the box and made a run for it down the street until he came upon an older ranch style home, painted a soft yellow with white wooden trim around the windows and passed through a gate between a pristine white picket fence as he raced to the front door. The elderly lady at the door welcomed him, clucking sympathetically at the box and its content.
“I hope you can help them Mrs. Macawee, I know you raise parakeets.”
“Oh, dear me I think so.”
“Would it be okay if I use your phone. The kitchen ceiling fell in,” he told her. “I just want to call the insurance company.”
“Of course,” she gasped. “Your arms, were you hurt?”
“No,” he said calmly as he reached for the receiver, “I was saved just before it happened.” “Saved? By who?” Mrs. Macawee asked.“A little bird told me.” He replied. Ten days later, the very same day Mrs. Macawee released three miraculously recovered black ravens into the Ten Sleep morning she received a telegram telling of her distant uncle who passed away leaving his sizable Muna estate as well as his considerable fortune to his only surviving heir. She was named the sole executer to the Muna estate, Muna meaning ‘overflowing springs’ the home to Muna Pura- Natural Sparkling Water the favorite choice of bottled water among famous athletes and stars the world over.
On the tenth night of the tenth day three dark shapes grew as they approached the ancient spirit box. The world sighed a sigh of relief for another year.