Flash Fiction: Dead Birds Everywhere; A Murder of Crows; in response to Jennifer Arnett's photo prompt 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.
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.
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.
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 CrowsClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
There are some excellent hubs in response and/or about crows which I’d recommend you read:
Shyron’s poem about a Crow Wake:
John’s (Jodah) response to this challenge:
Chris’ (cam8510) response to this challenge as a part two to John’s:
and his hub on The American Crow:
Here is an article regarding some interesting research into crows: