Flash Fiction: Dead Birds Everywhere; A Murder of Crows; in response to Jennifer Arnett's photo prompt challenge

Source

The Challenge

Jennifer Arnett had a clever idea to set a challenge within the Questions section, to try to pool all the responses together. So my thanks to her because I just can't resist a challenge! Her link is here: http://availiasvision.hubpages.com/question/251645/would-you-like-to-participate-in-a-short-story-challenge#answer780896

I found the photo prompt, above, intriguing and it opened up all sorts of ideas. Responses so far have been brilliantly imaginative. Here's my attempt.


Dead Birds Everywhere; a Murder of Crows

I wandered through the graveyard. Tears coursed my cheeks.

I’d paid my respects to a close family member, left flowers at the headstone. The farther I trudged down the soggy, messy gravel path, the worse I felt.

The funeral of a local man, a down and out, had taken place that morning. He was recognised in the area as Tom Downey, a one-time philanthropist, loved and respected; until his wife died.


Tom's Wife

She was his life. Her beauty had smitten him, no other would ever come a close second. Eyes of deep blue searched his soul, twinkled as the couple loved and laughed together, welled with tears at any sadness. It was her eyes that had drawn him to her, kept him alive, given him joy as he drank in all her beauty.

One night, she was attacked. Her mangled body was found two days later after an extensive search. Identifying her body seared an image on his soul he could not erase. Deep anguish made him ill, he stopped eating, he didn’t know where to go, what to do. Life would never be the same, never give him joy. Why go to work? Why visit friends? Why try to help others? What good was life without her? Empty, dark and bitter thoughts took him to the depths of hell wrapped in that haunting image.


Bitter Penance

Anguish and bitterness turned to anger. He paced the streets, shouting his curses at anyone and everyone. His heart froze without his wife's warmth and love. He cared not how people looked at him, what they said to him. He shunned their sympathy, their offers of help. No one and no thing could save him; he was destined for the landfill of life. Suicide? He hadn’t been there to save her so he didn’t deserve any quick and easy release; he had to pay for his neglect. So did those who’d taken the life out of her.

Living rough was his penance. Rough it was; he refused blankets, refused food other than bread and water. He slept under trees, anywhere with enough ground to place his bag as a pillow and tolerate his dreams. If he was knifed in the back one night, battered to death, frozen on a hard winter’s night, so much the better. He relieved himself in the woods or occasionally in some long-abandoned public toilet.

Prayers were a luxury of the past. Death would be welcomed, hell would be a comfort.


Tom's Revenge

The story was recounted in the local paper that afternoon; former resident so tortured by the death of his wife that he’d lost the will to live. The headline was:

‘Dead birds Everywhere; Tom’s Revenge’

On his dead body, in a pocket, was found his last will and testament. He was to be buried in the clothes he wore. What no one realised was that those clothes were soaked in a poison. The smoke from the crematorium sent up poisonous fumes which killed many of the birds inhabiting the cemetery and the surrounding area, mainly crows. The crows found on the body. The crows who had pecked out the beautiful blue eyes of his bride as she lay in the bushes seeking peace. The crows who had deprived him of one last look at that beauty.


Tears for the Birds

As I wandered along that path, more and more black bodies scattered the ground. My tears were for the birds; also for the death of such a tortured man. The acrid air had dispersed. The mourners were few and had only suffered bad throats, stinging eyes. He’d known what to choose to execute his murder of crows.

In the disused public toilet just outside the cemetery was a door which bore the threat,

“DEAD BIRDS EVERYWHERE”


Copyright annart/AFC 2015


A Murder of Crows

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A Murder of Crows (Author: Jesse Weinstein)A solitary crow Author: O mores, Street photography
A Murder of Crows (Author: Jesse Weinstein)
A Murder of Crows (Author: Jesse Weinstein) | Source
A solitary crow Author: O mores, Street photography
A solitary crow Author: O mores, Street photography | Source

Background

I’ve loved the collective noun ‘a murder of crows’ ever since I came across it a few years ago after I’d read a story with one of my students. It was a tale structured specifically for dyslexic students, one of many published by Barringtonstoke, entitled ‘Crow Girl’. It journeys with a girl who is shy, bullied, frightened but is befriended by a group of crows whom she feeds regularly in the local wood behind her house.

It’s a delightful story, full of advice for a teenage girl on how to stand up for herself, how to retain her individuality, gain respect and thereby gain good friends.

The crows in that story play a positive role so apologies to all good crows everywhere. Their collective label of ‘a murder’ is probably unjust but they do tend to such practices, like magpies, of pecking the eyes of dead animals such as sheep and stealing baby birds from nests. Such is nature. I have to say I don’t like magpies much but I do like crows.


Recommendations

There are some excellent hubs in response and/or about crows which I’d recommend you read:

Shyron’s poem about a Crow Wake:

http://shyroneshenko.hubpages.com/hub/The-Crow-Convention-with-One-Left-in-the-Wake-Poem

John’s (Jodah) response to this challenge:

http://jodah.hubpages.com/hub/DEAD-BIRDS-EVERYWHERE-a-short-story

Chris’ (cam8510) response to this challenge as a part two to John’s:

http://cam8510.hubpages.com/hub/Dead-Birds-Everywhere

and his hub on The American Crow:

http://cam8510.hubpages.com/hub/The-American-Crow


To finish:

Here is an article regarding some interesting research into crows:

http://www.cracked.com/article_19042_6-terrifying-ways-crows-are-way-smarter-than-you-think.html

Birds

Are you fond of birds?

  • Pet birds
  • All wild birds
  • Birds of prey
  • Garden birds
  • Exotic birds
  • All birds
  • No, don't like them at all
See results without voting

More by this Author


Comments 27 comments

annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Flourish, for your great comment. Glad you liked this and thanks for the votes.

Ann


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 20 months ago from USA

Whoa, was this eerie. Such a terrific write, Ann! Bravo! Voted way up and more.


annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England Author

Wow, thank you, Lee, for your kind comment and vote.

Ann


Lee Cloak 20 months ago

A fantastic story, a real pleasure to read, wonderful writing, voted up, thanks, Lee


annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, John. Glad you liked it and that it worked for you. I couldn't resist the 'double entendre'!

I always appreciate you reading my hubs and thanks for the vote.

Ann


Jodah profile image

Jodah 20 months ago from Queensland Australia

This was a very imaginative response to the challenge Ann. I loved it! Your play on a" murder of crows" was perfect and the ending a surprise. Great work once again. Voted up.


annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England Author

I tried to leave a few hints without giving the game away!

I love birds so this wasn't a comfortable story to write; I just loved the play on words.

Thanks again, Maj. Good to see you twice today!

Ann


travmaj profile image

travmaj 20 months ago from australia

A chilling story, felt the anguish of a tortured mind. I didn't expect the ending although, in retrospect you had warned me. Oh dear, feel quite sad, not just for the man and the ongoing tragedy at the loss of his wife but for the birds also. A murder of crows indeed - in a most unusual way.


annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Dora! I wanted a pun on 'murder of crows' and I was thinking about their love of shiny objects etc, so that led me to the slightly macabre slant on the story. Glad it worked for you and thank you so much for your lovely comment.

Ann


MsDora profile image

MsDora 20 months ago from The Caribbean

What an intriguing storyline! Revenge on the birds for destroying the most beautiful past of his wife's features. I admire your creativity.


annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England Author

Hello Eric! I'm glad you enjoyed this and I appreciate your stopping by.

Ann


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 20 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Ann, thank you for this story I enjoyed it very much.


annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England Author

Well, thank you, Perspycacious! Praise indeed. 'Well-crafted' is what I aim for above all. Love the crow pun!

Hopefully the king will be the young one, not the other!

Good to see you here.

Ann


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 20 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

There is little I can add to the kudos your story has already received, except I found it well-crafted and an illuminating insight to your growing capabilities. Really something to crow about!

May the "four and twenty blackbirds" be known to sing your praises before the king (once you have one again, of course.)


annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you very much, Alicia. Glad you enjoyed it.

Ann


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a very interesting and creative response to the challenge, Ann! Thank you for an enjoyable hub.


annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Theresa, for your lovely comments and votes.

No, no-one would wish to experience such a thing.

I thought this was difficult to start with but I left it a while and the idea popped up! I noticed your typo and knew it wasn't really you who wrote it!

So glad you popped by this morning. I think you know how much I appreciate your support, my good friend.

Ann :)


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 20 months ago from southern USA

"Our" meant!


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 20 months ago from southern USA

Dear Ann,

I agree with Frank, in that you have the perfect balance here in getting are blood pumping and yet quite poignant for the birds and the man. I would not want to experience the loss of a loved one in such a manner.

Your stories always please and are so well-crafted. Superb!

Up +++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

As always you have surpassed the challenge!

Peace and blessings


annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Ruby, for such a wonderful compliment! I'm flattered and so glad you liked this.

Ann


always exploring profile image

always exploring 20 months ago from Southern Illinois

This was like reading Poe. I am not kidding! Intriguing, suspenseful , heartfelt and more. I loved it..


annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, bill, for such a great comment. I'm always thrilled when you like what I've written. 'Talented' is such a compliment. I do work to try to improve because I'm never satisfied that it's my best.

You know, I don't see many things in my work that others do see - do you find that? How do we know when the mixture's right before we publish? There's one for your mailbag!

Have a great Tuesday evening, bill!

Ann


billybuc profile image

billybuc 20 months ago from Olympia, WA

Well, we have six chickens and thirty quail, so I guess you know how we feel about birds.

As for this story...you know it's coming...BRILLIANT!

I loved it, woven beautifully, just the right touch of macabre...sad but easy to relate to....you are such a good writer, Ann. It is such a pleasure to read good writing from someone who understands the craft and works to improve at it.

Carry on my talented friend.

Bill


annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England Author

MizBejabbers: I remember hearing about those blackbirds; think there was a documentary about them too with the various theories aired. I'm pleased that this had an impact on you; that's what I like to do!

Sounds like you have a definite response to this challenge then; looking forward to reading it.

Thanks so much for your comment and input. Great to see you today.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England Author

Wow, thanks Frank for such a great comment! 'between adrenaline and flash', I like that. Thanks for the vote too.

Great to see you today.

Ann


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 20 months ago

Your story gave me chills. It was a wonderful presentation of what grief can do to a person. If I accepted this challenge it would have to be a true story about a dead bird mystery that has never been solved. On New Years Day 2011, thousands of blackbirds fell from the sky in Beebe, Arkansas. Every speculator has a theory from kid's fireworks to the supernatural, but none have been proven. So I thought of the blackbirds when I read your story.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 20 months ago from Shelton

Ive read a few of these and found them all well worth the read but this one was fantastic!!! It was a superb balance between adrenaline and flash..voted awesome

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