The Ravens (Short Story)
It was a stark, chilly night. My family and I were pulling up to the driveway with leaves tumbling ahead of us, illuminated by the headlights.
As the car's roar came to a hiatus, we stepped out into a fog as thick as sheets. I could hardly see a few feet ahead of me. When the headlights of the car turned off, I looked at the roof to see a flock of ravens. A lone raven who just flew in, joining them. It cawed at me on its landing.
I shook my head and continued on into the house. Our Halloween decorations were still in full effect. Though I no longer felt like celebrating. We only left the patch with one pumpkin they forced us to share because the rest were rotten to the core. Just like this holiday was, and my heart felt as if someone stabbed it with a razor encased in a candy bar.
As I climbed the stairs to the porch, one raven landed on the railing. I turned to it as it stated right through me, as if I was translucent, like a ghost. Ironically, I dressed up as a skeleton, one step away from being one, so I gave it a little scare in return for this rotten celebration.
“ Boo! ”
It cawed and flapped its wings as if giving some sort of omen. Then promptly flew away as if nothing had ever happened. I lower my arms and head as I walk inside the front door after my father unlocks it.
“ Maybe next year bud. ”
He shuts the door behind me as I make my way into the living room, shoving my hands into my pockets. I start up the stairs.
” Hey bud, want to carve that pumpkin? ”
“ I’m not in the mood. ”
I somberly climb the rest of the staircase and turn right to head to my room. The corridor leading to it seems to be narrower. I pay it no mind as I slam shut my door with a skeleton dancing painting in front of it.
I fall face-first into my bed and hear knocking from behind.
” Go away! ”
The shadows of feet below my doorframe disappear and I can hear his creaking footsteps as he walks away.
I hear another rap, this time as the window.
“ Go away! ”
However, I turn to see no shadows of feet under my doorway. I sit up and turn to see a crow at my window rapping. I slide off my bed and walk over to it. By the time I arrive to open it, it caws once, then flies away. Then I hear screaming from below.
” Ahhhh! ”
I sprint towards my door and swing it open, and rush down the stairs. I am met by the wide-open front door. Some leaves fall inside and I round the corner to see my parents in the kitchen with my little sister and her pumpkin.
“ Oh my God! ”
Exclaims my mother, starting at the contents of the pumpkin.
“ What? ”
“ This one is rotten too.”
I saunter on over and step up on the stool to see what is inside. As I lean my head over I look inside the pumpkin to see a multitude of centipedes crawling in a perfect circle, in synchronicity.
I fall off the stool, almost into the counter if my father was not there to catch me.
“ Woah, buddies. Scary, huh? ”
” Yeah. ”
He sets me down on my feet.
“We were about to smash it if you want to join us. Get your anger out, haha.”
I pull down my skeleton shirt.
“ Yeah… sounds great. ”
We head outside, my father carrying the heavy pumpkin in his hands. Once we are outside, we walk over to my father’s woodpile on the side of the house. I grab a stump and set it in front of him, and he sets the pumpkin on it.
I grab the ax leaning against the house and take a swing at it, instead of puncturing the ground. Causing dirt and grass to fly up. I push my long hair back.
“ Haha, sorry. ”
“ You’re good, let me show you how to do it. ”
I struggle to lift the ax out of the ground so my father lifts it up with me.
“ Ready? ”
” Yeah. ”
We raise the ax over my head and swing down. My father sliding my hands down as it comes down, and it heads dead center of the pumpkin.
“ How’s that for carving a pumpkin? ”
“ Its great! ”
I pull the ax out and take another swing. When the pumpkin was nothing but pulp. My mother took out her Polaroid and took a picture of me as I took the ax out of the pumpkin.
“ Ah, that’s going on the memory board.”
Just then, a crow swoops down and lands on what remains of the pumpkin.
“ Caw! ”
I lift the ax, ready to swing again until my father grabs the ax.
“ Easy there, tiger. He is just as scared of you as you are of him. ”
My father takes the axe out of hands and sets it aside the house. The crow caws again and flies away.
“ Why is that hard to believe? ”
I walk off to the house. After I take one step on the poach my mother yells out.
“ Wait! ”
I pause and look at her.
“ Don’t you want to see the memory board? For old times' sake. ”
I step off the steps it responding with a creak.
“ Sure, why not. ”
I walk to my mother and we walk in as a family. We walk past the living room into the dining room where my mother has a collage all laid off of photos from all the Halloweens prior.
As I inspect all the photos, some from the pumpkin patch, some with my grandmother with chocolate dripping down my face. Others trick or treating in front of strangers' houses. Them covering their faces to conceal their identities.
My mom pins the photo from today up and writes a date on it in permeate marker. I look at it once again.
“ Um Mom… who’s that? ”
I point to the picture as it continued to develop.
“ What do you mean, sweetie? It’s just us. ”
“ No Mom, there. ”
I put my finger on a black spot that is slowly developing. After a moment, you can see a dark figure standing above the pumpkin. His face is white, and he has an elongated chin with a menacing grin. His legs were dissipating. His eyes, those are eyes I could never forget. Were shallow holes where eyes should have belonged.
“ What is that? ”
My mom undoes the pin and takes the picture off the wall. She waves it around once or twice then puts it back on the wall, pinning it in place.
“ Must be some sort of blur. ”
“ No way, that’s a blur. ”
I back up and run into the table. My mother looks at me with a perturbed look.
“ Careful honey. ”
I shimmy off to the side.
“ I… I, think I’m going to go back to my room. ”
“ Honey, look. ”
She points to another photo and I approach with my eyes closed. This was all too much to bear for a fourteen-year-old. I open my eyes and look at where she is pointing.
It is the trick to treating photo from 2018 of me and my sister, who was dressed up as a princess, as she is every year. Walking on the street with wide grins. Showcasing my missing tooth that year, standing right in front of my mother’s camera. The flash blinding me.
I look behind us in a bush to find the same man staring at us from between bushes.
“ Mommy… I’m scared. ”
My mother picks my daughter up from off the counter and takes her to her room.
“ Joe, look. ”
My father points to the party from 2016 at my grandmother's house. She is passed out in her floral master chair. Standing aside her, hiding in the shadows of the nook, is the white-faced man.
“ I don’t remember seeing him at the party. "
My Dad squints his eyes at the picture.
“ Dad… ”
I point to the pumpkin patch photo from ‘15. Hiding in the entryway to the corn maze is the man. I turn to my father.
“ Dad… who is that? ”
“ I have no clue. But he has been in every photo your mother has taken. Maybe her cam is busted... Or maybe she’s just pranking us and got one of those gag cameras. Woooah. ”
My father waves his fingers at me, and I roll my eyes.
“ Whatever it is, whatever he is… I don’t want any part of it. ”
I back up and walk off to my room while my father pulls down another photo to inspect it. I see him wave it around in the light before he is out of sight.
Once I am back upstairs, I head to my room once more, stopping at the door. I hear crying arising from my mother’s room. So I decide to go check it out. No one but me gets to be sad on this bad Halloween.
I walk over to her room, and once I arrive, I lean against the doorframe, peering inside. She is starting at a scrapbook of her deceased father. I tiptoe into their room, but she notices me, whipping the tears from her eyes.
“ Oh, hey sweetie.”
I wall into the room with my hands in my pockets, and she hugs me where I stand.
“ What's wrong, mom? Oh, nothing sweetie. You just remind me of my dad. He loved carving pumpkins too. ”
I say no more and hug her, presuming this is what she needed the most. She cries on my shoulder for a moment, and I slink off to my room without inspecting her scrapbook.
Once I am back in my room, I shut my door and turn to see the same raven at my window. I walk over to open it, but it opens without another word from the raven.
I poke my head out and look to either side to see nothing. I look down in the driveway to see a running car. I am deeply confused, so I dip my head back in and shut the window.
I head downstairs, open the door and head out to see the stark silhouette of a man in the car, illuminated by the headlights. I slowly approach the car and the headlights turn off and I am left in the darkness. I crouch and head over to the car.
I rest in front of the car, taking in a breath, trying to catch my own. Once I have recovered, I sneak aside the car that I can only sense through touch as my hand slides over its sleek surface. When I am directly below the window, I pop up to see my father smoking a cigarette in the driver's seat. He turns to look towards me, but I duck down in time to avoid his gaze.
I crawl to the front of the car and crawl over to the porch before getting up to go inside. Once inside, I heat the laundry churning in the basement. I slowly travel down the stairs, creaking with every step. When I reach the bottom, I see a flickering light above the washing machine and creep towards it.
When I am in front of it, I reach out my hand to open. Upon opening it, the cycle stops and I reach inside to find pumpkin guts. As if that was the worst part, I felt around some more to find something fleshy. I pull out that very something to find the corpse of a raven that I lift out of the washer, dropping upon seeing it. Its guts have been spilled and now are bleeding out on the tile floor below me.
Instead of cleaning up the mess, I sprint upstairs to my room. Slamming the door behind me. I look to my window to see my friend is no longer there. As suspected, he was a transient that was caught up in a storm. Neither he nor I could have suspected.
I walk over to my bed and literally pass out, falling face-first on my bed. This time, falling right to sleep, I pull the blanket over me that feels more like a shield at this hour, over my head even so it can hide me from any horror that lay outside.
It took some time, but after a while I finally fall asleep. That night... I had nightmares worse than ever before.
I dreamed I was walking in a dark void with water on the floor as I trudged through. With my shoes drenched, I heard a caw in the distance. I run faster and faster. Until it met me with the body of something disturbing.
In the distance, I saw a man lying in the water. I sprinted through it, getting my Vans drenched. By the time I reached it, it was already too late. His body was being feasted on by a flock of ravens. It was none other than my father...
I slowly stepped backwards, the splashing announcing my presence to the ravens, who would soon look for another meal. The sploshing grew so loud one cocked its head as it lifted a piece of muscle, stretching in its beak.
With its pitch-black eyes seeing me as another meal, I turned and sprinted in the opposite direction. I looked back to see the crow flap its wins and prepare for takeoff. I sprinted as fast as I could, but I seemed to get nowhere. The water was holding me back, and the crows were right behind me. I turned when one cawed and saw the flock was on my trail.
“ Ahhhhh! ”
I continued running and screaming, but got nowhere. One crow landed on my shoulder and took a bite from my neck that spewed out blood. I covered it and inspected my bloody hand. The other crows soon after arrived, landing on all parts of my body, taking bites.
“ Ahhh! ”
I woke up, jolting up in my bed screaming my head off. I heard knocking at my door, expecting my father to wake me from school.
However, I turned to the left to see it was still pitch black outside. I leaned over to see my clock read 3 o'clock. I gasped and set it down. At that point, I was no longer in control of my breath or my body’s preparation. I already woke in a pool of sweat.
The banging on my door only grew louder. I hid under my covers with it pitched up on my head like a tent. Suddenly, the door burst open. Wood shards flying to either side. I jumped to the left side of my bed and crawled underneath.
I saw a pair of feet standing in the doorframe. Or were they, that were almost translucent, as was the rest of its lower leg. I covered my mouth to suppress my heavy breathing. As my sweat fell to the hardwood floor, I imagined it making a loud sploshing sound.
It felt as if my worst fears came true. As if the assailant had super hearing. Because as soon as it fell from my chin and splashed on the floor. The figure stopped.
A single tear fell from my eye. A tear I could never get back like all the times I did not show proper appreciation for my family.
Suddenly, the assailant bends over and looks under the bed. His mouth opening wider than the screams. The edges of his mouth stitched together like he just undid the part in the middle. He appeared to be a malignant scarecrow. His shrill made my ears literally bleed as I crawled to the opposite end of the bed.
Before I could reach it, I felt something grab my leg. There was no escape now, despite my nails scratching into the floorboards as he dragged me away into the darkness.
“ Noooo! ”