Appointed is today’s #writephoto prompt, courtesy of Sue Vincent. This crow sitting on top of a tree reminded me of something I wrote several years ago to the title Crow of Nine-World, but that is no longer on the blog, so I can’t send you to read it. I’ll just say it’s in the first of my Collections of Short Stories that I hope to get out in May… already two months later than the first target I set for it. It might be called Critters and Crises, which I think is a better title than Menagerie Miscellany, but it could still change!
This is a relatively short flash fiction – about 650 words. Having lost my mojo as reported last week, I had a series of more interesting dreams at the weekend, and woke up with this one yesterday. Good thing I keep my iPad by my bed!
Appointed to the Nine-World
The mist swirled about him. The crow clung to his perch with as much strength as he could summon. It wasn’t much. He couldn’t remember how he had got here. He’d been in a wood yard, scrapping with a rat who had caught him under a pile of garbage. He shouldn’t have gone in after the shrew, but he had.
Where was he, and how?
“You are in Nine-World.”
The voice seemed to echo through the void, to settle in his aural cavities. Silky, threatening, but somehow he trusted it.
“What is nine-world?”
“It is the place all creatures come when they have used eight of their lives. Most need time to contemplate.”
“Consider the lives they have experienced; prepare for one more—or not.”
“Why would anyone not prepare for one more?”
The silence seemed to echo through the mist. Should he answer his own question? Was it unanswerable?
He fluffed his feathers, losing one or two in the process. Time to preen.
The mist was clearing, of that he was certain. There was a sense of woodland, of sky unencumbered by the tall towers of men. Thinking of his old sky, he was struck by the silence. Always there had been hubbub, sometimes a low background hum of the city asleep, but more often the full-on clamour of street noise and people.
The nest high up on the building, safe enough, but vulnerable to aerial predators like the peregrine. His terror at the claws gripping him had been matched only by the dizzying height and speed he’d been swept through the air.
The drop into the fountain, and the human who had rescued him, and fed him till he fledged.
The battle with the other crows for acceptance now he was tainted by humans.
The freezing nights that first winter when staying alive meant scavenging frozen bodies, huddled around the air vents that had failed when the lights went out everywhere.
Three successive years of fights to the death to win and keep his partner.
And the wire in the pile of garbage that had trapped his foot and brought him to this place.
He lifted his foot and examined it. Healed, almost without a trace of the mangled, deformed thing it had been. The crow put it down on the branch and rejoiced in the strength of gripping. He was alive! He was renewed!
The mist cleared, but the landscape had changed. Sandy cliffs and dry gulches now replaced green forest. He eyed the ground. A movement here and there, a lizard perhaps.
The voice returned. “I will take you on the tour. Here, those who need warmth and space.”
The scene shifted. He fluttered as the branch disappeared, but found the wind underneath his wings. “Here, for those who need the calm of the eternal ocean.”
Now they were over a land of snow and ice. “Here for those who need high, frozen spaces.”
“And here, for those in need of plenty.” The branch was secure beneath his feet again, and he looked out on green trees, and verdant grass dotted with bushes.
“I like it here.”
“I thought you might. To you no choice is given.”
The crow looked at the mouse on the branch opposite, who appeared to have done all the speaking. It spoke again. “My time as guardian is done. I appoint you as my successor. You will help those who find themselves here, bewildered. Most will go back for their final life. Some will choose to stay here, to add their energy to this world. In time you will appoint your own successor.”
The crow put his head on one side, regarding the mouse. A sense of purpose, of duty, seemed to flow from the mouse into the whole of his being, then centred somewhere behind his breastbone. He nodded.
“I am the crow of Nine-world.”
The mouse disappeared.
© J M Pett 2021