1 Feb 2018 – The Message

Scott Summers365 Stories, Magical Realism


Photo by Darkness on Unsplash

The raven had a message.  It sat like a statue upon an old fence post despite the pouring rain, patiently waiting.  The dirt path where the children usually walked was flooded in this weather, but that didn’t seem to bother the raven.  It sat there all the same, unyielding in the despicable weather.

Jordy saw the bird first.  He gripped at Sienna’s coat sleeve as they walked down the main road toward the schoolhouse.

“Look,” he shouted to her as the storm whipped around them.  “A messenger.”

His sister, nearly a decade senior, looked down at him then about-faced toward the fencing and the bird seated there.  Jordy could see her figuring on how she’d get out to it.  Someone had to.  Messages didn’t come down from on high very often, and they always carried dark news.

“You wait here,” Sienna told him.  “I’ll go out and pay respects.”

She dug a bronze coin out of her pocket, a token of gratitude for the messenger to carry back to the heavens.  Jordy doubted she felt very gracious at all as she gripped him by the shoulder, planted his feet firmly on the asphalt and looked him in the eye.

“Don’t move,” she said again.

Jordy nodded.

She turned from him and started out toward the bird.  Instead of taking the waterlogged path, Sienna high-stepped through the tall grass beside the fencing, using each post as a means to navigate toward the messenger.  She kept her hands away from the barbed wire between the posts and made steady progress toward the raven perched in the distance.

Jordy watched with growing anxiety.  Sienna despised the outdoors, especially on rainy days when the whipping wind and cloudy sky stole all beauty from the world.  Today, she hadn’t even wanted to leave her bed and likely wouldn’t have if their father hadn’t threatened to throw her out of her bedsheets.

He’d never understood why she hated the rain so much.

“Bad things happen on rainy days,” she told him when he asked.  “A prophet told me a long time ago that I’d see death in the rain.”

Jordy eyed the raven and wondered if this was what the prophet had been talking about.  A chill settled in the pit of his stomach.  What if the raven was here for her?  To tell her that father had died suddenly or that their mother, away on a business trip, wouldn’t be coming home?  Jordy could almost feel the tears welling up in his eyes as his mind filled will a thousand questions.

But he forced those questions down.  With each step, Sienna drew closer to the truth — and Jordy would hear it soon enough.  He watched her half-leap over a small bush, then stumble forward and fall.  He wanted to cry out, but Sienna poked her head out of the grass a moment later and climbed to her feet.

The raven waited.

It ruffled its feathers when she approached, then let out a squawk so loud that even Jordy heard it despite the rain.  He leaned in close, trying to catch an earful.  He could hear something else, a mechanical roar coming out of the storm, but he pushed it to the back of his mind while he tried to catch a sliver of the raven’s words.

The roar grew louder.

Jordy listened harder.

Suddenly, Sienna spun.  She waved at Jordy, throwing her arms about wildly.  But Jordy waited, just as she’d told him to do.

Jordy never saw the truck that hit him.  The right fender materialized out of the rainstorm and crushed the life out of him while Sienna watched.  One minute, he was standing on the rainy road.  The next, he was floating above it, up and up and up toward an unending sky.

Below, he spied a beautiful white bird perched beside his sister.  It tilted its head toward him and took flight, wings flapping as it climbed toward him.  It turned a circle around his body and cried out to him, beckoning him to follow.  Jordy twisted, willed himself forward, and chased the bird toward the afterlife.