Dreaming Crow

By on Sep 12, 2011 in Fiction

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Dreaming Crow graphic

Now I see them when I’m awake. Not actual, flesh-and-blood crows, but the ones from my dream. I feel them around me. Their sharp black silhouettes are imprinted in my vision. I sense wings sometimes, instead of arms, hanging from my sides, and I want to lift them in flight. The flock are calling me to join them, to leave the branch clutched beneath me, and trust the wind.

My sister is worried about me. No surprise there. Emma disappears, along with her mentally unstable, drug-addled father, and now I’m having some sort of breakdown… or at least that’s how Casey sees it. She doesn’t understand about the crows. She thinks I’ve flipped out.

I try to explain that I’m not crazy, that the crows are guiding me, that they mean something, but she gives a fretful sigh and shoves the bottle of Xanax at me. It slides across the kitchen table, orange plastic catching the afternoon sun. The little wink at me.

“You’re exhausted,” she says. “Just take a couple. You know you felt better when you took them, before.”

“I felt dopey,” I answer, shaking my head. “I felt like I was bundled in cotton wool and nothing mattered. I couldn’t even dream.”

“And wasn’t that a relief?”

“Maybe… but it’s all wrong. I can’t hide from this. Emma’s out there somewhere, and anything could be happening to her! I can’t help her if I’m too numb to feel anything.”

“You have to take care of yourself, Rachel. There’s nothing you can do to find Emma right now. You just have to wait, and let the police work.”

“I’m not so sure about that. My dreams… they’re… I know it’s not just my imagination. It’s real.”

My sister raises her eyebrows and looks away, diplomatically silent. She’s remembering the conversation we’ve just had… about the crows. Casey’s scared. I’ve always been a little odd, “fanciful” our mother called it, but now I’m acting really weird. It looks to Casey like I’ve finally gone over the edge. Maybe I have, but somehow it feels like my best hope. I have to believe.

I stand in a winter field, under the broad limbs of a tree, drawn sharp against the late light. Tall grasses are gold. The sky is silver, and the branches are jet-black, heavy with crows. Their harsh caws are loud in the air. There must be hundreds of them.

My heart races, as I reach up, stretching my fingers. They are still just arms, no wings, but I want so badly to fly, to answer the call. “Please! Help me! I don’t know how to do this.”

Crows burst into the air, swirling down to me, landing, covering me in black. They are a feathered cloak draping my shoulders. They are warm and rustling, lifting me. I can feel their feet pricking through my clothes like thorns.

For a moment I am very afraid. What if Casey is right, and I’m having stress-related hallucinations? Maybe this is a psychotic episode and not a magical vision at all. Do I even believe in magic? What if the birds turn on me, pecking me to shreds?

But I’m already in shreds. I’m going crazy one day at a time, waiting for word of Emma… powerless. What have I got to lose? If I can help her, no matter what that means, I have to try. With a deep breath, I push beyond the fear. I must be open, willing. Trust… I repeat the word like a mantra. Trust. There is nothing else. Trust.

I leap upwards with the crows, and suddenly I am high in the tree, gripping a perch with small, dark talons. I am crow sized, and my bones feel light and hollow. I am covered in plumage. Energy courses through me as my wings itch for flight. Brother Crow hops down the branch towards me, his head tilted, his eyes bright.

“You are ready.” Again it is my own voice, speaking inside my head, but it is also him. He bobs on his spindly legs. “Come. I will show you.”

We take off, ascending quickly, then racing southwards, like arrows shot from a bow. This is not regular flying. I’ve watched enough birds to know that. We are covering distance faster than any airplane, faster than a rocket. The air is a tunnel around us, as we speed along. It feels like a slide at the water park, like laying head first, belly down, and shooting along the smooth plastic curves… scary but exhilarating.

At last the ride is over. Brother Crow slows, and I slow behind him. He circles easily down, fluttering to land on a chain-link fence. I look around, baffled. Where are we?

“Pay attention. Notice.”

I swivel my crow head, seeing with round, black eyes. We are at the edge of a parking lot, near a nondescript two-story motel. I can hear the sound of cars in the distance… an interstate, maybe? Things begin to click. A highway… a motel. Of course!

With growing excitement I fly to where I can see a sign. Red letters on a tan rectangle announce The Phoenix Inn and Suites. Phoenix? This doesn’t look like Arizona. I fly towards the sound of rushing wheels and pavement. There is the interstate, and there also is a sign for “Medford, six more miles.” Medford… Oregon. It must be. The landscape looks right. I’ve been through the area before.

I rush past each window in the motel, cursing the ones with drapes closed. She must be here! Why else would Brother Crow lead me to this place? I shiver in my bird skin and fly around the building again, looking harder, praying for a glimpse of Emma’s oval face, her ears sticking out through a curtain of sable hair.

Then I see them in the parking lot. I want to shout, but only a croaking caw comes from my throat. My ex-husband pulls into a parking space, gets out, and walks to the motel office, leaving Emma alone in the car. I should peck his eyes out, but anger is not my primary emotion.

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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.