The Crow of Nine-World is no longer on this blog, since he’s in one of my flash fiction collections–Critters and Crises, probably. Although there are two stories about him… I wonder what the other one is called? Oh yes. Anyway, this week’s fabulous photo by Rebecca Douglass is the #writephoto prompt from KL Caley at New2Writing.com. I looked at it, and had an idea. And then the idea kept coming and tapping me on the shoulder until I wrote it. It’s 660 words.

The Crow and his Guest

The Crow of Nine-world peered over his guest’s shoulder.

“You see what I mean?”

“Yes indeed. And it showed up…when?”

“Two days ago. At first I thought it was just a puddle. We’d had our first rain in years, which was good for the trees. They do well on our natural reserves of course.”

“Of course. And you didn’t realise until…?”

“Until the pride of lions walked up to it, got lapping, and fell in.”

“All of them?”

The Crow nodded. Even a black face with ruffled feathers can look glum.

His companion straightened up. “Well, ordinarily, I’d say it was an optical illusion. But falling in, well…”

“Exactly. I mean, optical illusions are two a penny. Falling in, that’s not something you see every day, even here.”

“Why me?”

“Well, you’re the famous Sir Woebegone. If anyone can make sense of it, you can. What do I do with it? I mean, it’s not drying up, it’s in the middle of the roadway, and it’s a hazard to life and limb.”

“Um, pardon me if I seem dense, but aren’t you all here because you’re…”

“On our last life, so we stay safe here forever. This isn’t safe. It could snuff any of us out in an instant.”

“Oh, I see. I misunderstood. I thought you were here permanently. Am I safe here?”

“Yes. You’re in the ‘just visiting’ part.”

Sir Woebegone stepped back, reaching for his sword. As always, the scabbard was empty, but it was his custom when unsure of the situation. 

It seemed that the Crow might be over-reacting. I mean, why not just put a fence around it, and a notice saying ‘Hole for Looking Into—Dangerous.’ Or just ‘Men at Work,’ which meant exactly the same thing. He made the suggestion.

“Well, I could, but it would be a last resort. I mean, what if it spread?”

“What do you really want me to do?” Sir Woebegone was beginning to think the Crow was not wanting advice.

“Er, well, you have certain powers… I wondered if you could… if you could just…”

“What?” Woebegone was not generally known for his patience.

Crow shuffled his feet and spoke in a strange squeaky voice: “Go through and take a look?”

Woebegone sighed. He paced around the portal, if that was what it was, to view from the other side. Still blue sky and trees, but more sky.

“What difference would it make, knowing where it led? Hmm?”

“You could bring the lions back with you,” the Crow wheedled.

“I can just see me carrying a whole pride of lions through,” Woebegone muttered, mostly to himself, but added “has anything else gone through?”

“Not to my knowledge.”

“Anyone else’s knowledge?”

Crow shuffled his feet again. Woebegone realised this was embarrassment.

“Look, just tell me: how many people do you think are down there?”

“Three lions, seven kangaroos, a tigger, and seven swans.”

“I suppose some of them bounced and the rest went a-swimming?”

“Something like that.”

Woebegone sighed. He looked around him, touched his scabbard, and jumped into the puddle.

After half an hour, Crow started worrying. Where had Woebegone gone? He knew how to get back. Surely he wasn’t stuck somewhere? What should he do?

Several other inhabitants came up to look at the puddle. Crow shooed them away and went to get his ‘Construction site—keep out’ sign. Then he realised that would not do, since many animals had arrived after ignoring just such a sign.  He took Woebegone’s advice and did a new one saying ‘Men at Work.’

It kept everyone away, just as it always did.

Woebegone spent several days enjoying his holiday, playing cards with Tigger, and football with the lions, and floating down the river with the swans. After a while, he reluctantly left them in peace. It was far too nice a place for any of them to abandon it and return to Nine-world.

© J M Pett 2021

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The Crow and his Guest – Portal | #writephoto Flash Fiction
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