Dreaming Crow

By on Sep 12, 2011 in Fiction

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Dreaming Crow graphic

Black branches spread above me, etched into evening blue. The winter tree is leafless and gnarled, yet it reaches, stretching up into an endless ache of sky.  Limbs explode into feathers, as crows take flight. Black as the tree, they break from the branches, scattering its silhouette beyond my vision. For a moment I am breathless, full of wonder, caught in the mystery.

The phone rings, and I stir toward waking. Panic stabs through me as I surface. I recoil. No! Don’t make me come back here. It hurts too much. I feel torn open, hollowed out. Please, just let me sleep… let me stay with the crows, following the arc of their flight till there is nothing else.

I hear Casey answer the phone. My conscious mind begins to take over. What if it’s the police? What if they’ve found something? Maybe they have my daughter safe… or just the opposite. What if… The unfinished thought rushes through me with the quicksilver of adrenaline. Caffeine’s got nothing on it. Adrenaline is an electric shock… your finger in the light socket, body carrying maximum voltage. I’ve been there so much lately, my whole system is fried to a crisp.

“Who was it?” I call out, as Casey hangs up the phone.

“The police,” she answers hesitantly, coming to stand in the door of my bedroom. I can tell the news isn’t good. Her face looks strained but not completely shattered. It must not be the worst. Why does she just stare at me?

“Well?” I gasp, fighting nausea.

“They followed both leads,” she says slowly. “They went to his sister’s place in Spokane, and they checked out the friend’s place in Redding. Nothing. No sign of him, or Emma. They said the trail’s getting cold, and he could have taken her anywhere by now. The longer it goes, the less chance there is of… I’m sorry, Rachel… I shouldn’t be saying that. They’re going to keep trying, of course.”

“Of course.” My voice sounds strange, distant, like I’m listening to a recording of it. None of this is real. How many times have I read those words in a book, where the character can’t believe what’s happening, where it all seems like a bad dream? The thing is… that’s exactly how it feels, like I’m disconnected, free floating in a nightmare. I have no control over this.

The world is surreal, broken. Sounds are either muffled or harshly exaggerated. Light is too bright, or sometimes the room seems frighteningly dim. The walls tile around me, and I can’t reign in my thoughts. They run in maddening loops, faster and faster with no escape.

I try to breathe, to calm myself down and thin rationally, but there is this madwoman in my mind, and she just keeps screaming. I feel like I’m coming apart, flinging outwards into a hundred pieces, like the winter tree with the crows exploding from its branches. Only that was cathartic, freeing… and this… this is disintegration, terror. My daughter is out there somewhere, in danger, and I can’t do anything to help her.

I dream about the crows a lot lately. They fly around me, up close, their glossy midnight feathers brushing my arms, my face. One in particular stares at me. It feels like he’s trying to speak to me. He is beautiful, dagger-beaked with obsidian eyes. I’m sure he knows something. He wants to help me. If only I could break out of my human bonds. If only I could join the flock, swoop up with them, cackling and boundless into the air. Brother Crow should show me.

It’s the third week now, though it feels like a year. The police are losing hope. You can hear it in their voices, see the proof in their faces and the way they hold their bodies. They say all the right things, about not giving up, about how the reward may help, about distributing more posters. I listen and nod, but I can tell they are winding down. They think it’s a lost cause. She’s not their daughter, after all. This is not their agony.

I can’t blame them. They’ve done a fine job… very thorough. It’s not their fault, but I find myself hating them sometimes for their failure. I want to lash out, to reverse this slow, suffocating death. I despise useless waiting. There must be something I can do!

At this point I’d be willing to make a deal with the devil, only I don’t believe in him. What do I believe in? Who can I call on in my hour of need? I find myself praying to that nameless power inside of me, that primal thread of fire that runs through all things. Life force… Great Mystery… Ancient Mother help me… help Emma! She is your daughter, too… as I am. Please! I’d give anything!

“Anything?” The question sounds like my own voice, inside my head, only there is a powerful stillness behind it.

“I’d do anything,” I answer, wanting to believe this is more than my imagination.

“Would you be willing to let go of everything familiar, even your fears? Would you be willing to leap into darkness?”

“Yes.” My answer is shaky. I’m not sure what it means. I’m already in darkness, aren’t I?

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Diana A. Green lives in Washington State with her good-natured husband, scholarly son, goofball German Shepherd, and couch potato cat. Until recently Diana worked as a teacher, but she is currently taking time to focus on her lifelong love of writing. This summer she completed a science fiction novel and is now experimenting with short stories. "Dreaming Crow" is her first published fiction.