Was Michael feeling guilty, making his dreams turn into nightmares?
Yes, a flock of crows is called a murder. Go figure! But it's one of the definitions of "murder."
Michael yawned as he walked through his shop’s door. “I need to wake up.” Rubbing the nape of his neck, he grimaced.
He entered his office to make a pot of coffee, then sat back in his chair, thinking about the absurdity of the dream, but wondered how his mind came up with such a scenario. Filling his cup to the brim, he sipped his coffee while walking over to his crow exhibit. He counted them just to ease his mind. Good, there’s eleven!
He stood back to admire his collection, enjoying his artful display of the bird's different poses. Wait a minute…The crows are not in their correct poses! How can that be? Chills crawled down his spine as he checked out each bird, noticing they were staring— Straight at ME! Michael froze, and whispered. "Is my dream coming true?"
“I’m just imagining things, get a grip, Michael!” He scolded.
He walked back to his office, his hand shook as he poured himself another cup of coffee. "What's on my schedule today? Oh, that's right, my twelfth crow is arriving today.” He whispered, thinking it was too quiet in the shop. Many of his customers wondered how much he wanted for his tree of crows, but he always told them the tree wasn't for sale. "Hmmm, I may reconsider their offer after the dream I had last night?"
He poured a second cup of coffee, and walked around the shop, inspecting each and every article on the shelves. He wanted to make sure everything was in their proper places before he left on his fishing trip with his best friend, Dean.
His huge collection of great artwork of canvases, wall prints, abstracts, some scenic landscapes of beaches, mountains, and skylines which he picked up on his travels. He was very proud of this collection along with the selection of books that were best sellers. The odds and ends he found at auctions, flea markets, and rummage sales were a draw for people to come in and look around. It was a small shop, located in the business district of San Diego, and was fast becoming a lucrative business.
The bell rang above the door, alerting Michael a customer came into the shop. He hurried to the front of the store, and walked behind the counter that housed showy pieces of jewelry. It also served as his checkout counter. Customers couldn’t resist looking at the exquisite pieces as they checked out their purchases.
He looked up and smiled at the man who walked over to him. “Hi Sam, let’s see him.” Michael opened the box that Samuel Banks set on the counter, and studied the crow’s expression. “Hmm… He looks angry?”
“Wouldn’t you, after being chased by some crazy people only to be stuffed and put on a fake tree?” Sam asked. “Yup, this one was a hard catch! I believe he's a leader of crows, and my team barely got out of there without being attacked by his friends. They say a crow never forgets, well, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t believe this saying, and stay ever visual on what’s going on around me.”
“I know the saying. Here’s your payment for a job well done, and thank you.” Michael closed his cash register, shaking Sam’s hand.
Samuel walked out the door as Dean came in. “Holy cow, Michael, not another one.” He stared at the crow on the counter. “Wow, this one gives me the creeps! I don’t know why, but there’s something about this crow you shouldn't have messed with.”
“I needed one more crow to finish the exhibit.” They both stared at the stuffed crow.
“But this one looks as if he's out for revenge." Dean said.
“Don’t worry, he’s dead and stuffed, and can’t do anyone any harm.” Michael picked up the crow and walked over to the tree, tucked him in place on the very top branch, and stood back to admire the completed exhibit. “He’s now top crow of this bunch. That should make him happy!”
“Ready to go?” Dean shook his head at his friend's grim humor.
“You bet! I have everything in my Chevy Blazer that I need. Millie offered to watch the store while I'm gone. She knows what to do; besides, she's helped me before.”
“Okay then, let’s go hook that trout, a Walleye, maybe even a salmon, I don't care. My appetite's all set for a fish dinner.”
“What I can’t wait for is your open fire cooking!” Michael held the door for Dean, and Millie walked in.
She took the key Michael held out for her. “You both have fun now, don’t worry about a thing, everything will be taken care of until you get back.”
“Thank you, Millie.” Michael waved as he drove off.
“I checked the weather report for Lake of the Woods, and it’s clear sailing, no rain in sight. Fish, here we come!” Dean smiled.
They arrived at the resort, and checked into their cabin. “There’s nothing better than the comforts of home when I go fishing. I love the great outdoors, but not enough to pitch a tent.” Michael laughed.
“Agreed! I don’t feel safe in a tent, heard too many bear attacks out here.” Dean’s nose crinkled.
They put their bags inside the cabin, and gathered together their fishing gear. They walked over to their rented boat that was waiting for them, climbed in, and cruised out to their favorite spot. They put walleye lure on the hook, and cast their lines out. It wasn’t long before they got their first bite, and by mid-afternoon they caught their limit.
“Let’s go back and fry these babies up.” Michael said as he started the outboard motor.
When they reached shore, their hunger pangs were making themselves known. Michael cleaned the fish as Dean started the fire to fry their catch, and before long, they were eating tender filets, loving every bite. They sat back and rested a bit before cleaning up.
They doused the fire, cleaned the rest of the fish, and put them on ice in the cooler before heading back to the cabin. Michael’s phone rang just as he walked through the door. It was Millie.
“Michael, there’s something weird that I found outside your shop, in the alley. You know the cat I always feed, the little stray, Bella, well ... I went outside to feed her, but all I saw was this pile of crow feathers.” Millie said.
“What! Did you look under the feathers?” Michael asked, dreading the answer.
"Yes, and I found Bella's body. If this is what crows do to an innocent little kitty, you better watch yourself at the fishing resort." Millie said, "I think you ticked off the crows.”
"Get out of there, Millie," Michael advised, and began pacing. "Lock up the store, so no one else stumbles in unaware of the danger."
"Okay, I will," Millie said. Michael put his phone in his pocket, deep in thought.
“Earth to Michael, is everything okay?” Dean asked.
“No, I think my nightmare is coming true.” Michael looked over at Dean, his eyes wide in shock.
“What nightmare?” Dean stared at his friend.
“That my crows came alive, and went on a murdering spree.” Michael scrubbed his hand down his face, as if he wanted to get rid of the images floating around in his mind.
Dean laughed out loud. “Michael, how can that be, they’re stuffed!”
“I know that, but this morning, I looked at the tree of crows, and they weren’t in their usual poses. Then on top of that, they seemed to be staring straight at me, hatred in their eyes.” Michael shivered.
“What did Millie say that's got you so upset?”
“That she found the stray cat she loves covered with crow feathers, deader than a doornail. She fed that cat her table scraps every day."
“Creepy!” Dean shook his head. “Maybe this is the crows calling card to watch out."
“Cripes, I hope not! This is all my fault, I wanted the tree of crows, and now look what happened.” Michael put his head in his hands. “You know, I don’t feel like fishing anymore. How about you?”
“Let’s put it this way, if the crows are on the attack, I don’t want to be in the middle of the lake when they do.” Dean said. “Crows have a great memory! I read somewhere that they remember faces, plan things out, and will conspire with each other on those who did them harm.”
Michael gave Dean a half-smile. “Great! Shall we go back, we caught our limit of walleye for today.”
“We’ll come back another time if we’re still alive.” Dean said. “I'll go get our bags. Good thing we didn’t unpack yet! I'll give the cabin key back to the owner, and explain that our leaving has nothing to do with his resort.”
They separated. Dean took care of the cabin while Michael packed up the truck. He looked up at the sky, wishing he could stay, but what Millie just found, he had to get back to take care of whatever was going on.”
It was around five o’clock before they climbed in the truck to drive home. They were silent, deep in thought all the way home. Michael thought he'd check out the cat first.
They reached their home town just as the sun went down, so Michael decided to drive to his house. He drove up the driveway, and stopped. Everything looked okay, checking around as he climbed out of the truck. Dean came around, his flashlight lit up the dusky night.
“Do crows fly at night?” Dean asked.
“Hmmm… I really don’t know.” Michael fished out his house keys, and opened his door to his cozy ranch home He turned on the light, and entered, alert to any surprises that might come their way.
Everything looked normal, so they unpacked the truck, brought the cooler in. Dean decided to stay overnight, and they would package the fish tomorrow.
Walking into the shop the next day, Michael noticed crow feathers everywhere, even a huge pile behind the counter. Curious, he uncovered them just to find Millie's body underneath. "Oh no! Not Mille, she was innocent of all my wheeling dealings. She didn't deserve this fate." Michael broke down and wept.
In a broken voice, he turned to Dean. "Call 911. I'm to blame for her death, so you better get out of here before this happens to you."
"I'm not leaving you alone with these crows. We need to gather together plenty of ammunition..."
"How are we going to kill these crows, there could be millions of them."
"Well, I'm not going down without a fight. Are you with me or not?"
"I'm with you." Michael sighed. He walked back to the crow tree, and saw they were all there, but... their bills were bloody!
"I'm taking this tree of crows down to the basement, and burn it. It looks as if these are the ones who's doing this."
Dean stared at the crows, their bloody beaks brought chills to his bones. "Let me do it, I'll burn it."
"These are my crows! I'm the one at fault here, so would you please go." He walked down the basement steps holding the tree away from him, and tossed it into the furnace. It started a fire the minute he threw a match in. Watching the tree of crows burn to ashes, he breathed a sigh of relief, and ran back up the stairs.
Dean was talking with the police. "This is how we found her when we walked into the shop this morning with black feathers on top, hiding her body."
"What's with all the black feathers?" One officer asked, looking around the store.
Michael walked up, and looked around. "They look like crow feathers to me."
The officers nodded, and called the coroner.
Afterwards, Dean and Michael sat down at the table, pouring themselves a cup of coffee, and tried to make sense on what was going on. They later cleaned the shop, burned the feathers, and it was mid-afternoon before Dean called it a day and drove home.
The next morning, Michael heard about Sam, who had met the same fate as Millie. In the days that followed, Sam's crew soon followed. Wondering if the crows left him for last, Michael closed up his shop early, and drove home, opened a bottle of beer, and waited to see what happen. He leaned back to rest his eyes. A noise made him look up, and he spotted his twelve crows coming in through the front door. Because he burned them, they were now ghostly in appearance, and sat staring at him, making him uncomfortable. They mysteriously disappeared once again, and he sat back in the easy chair, thinking about his nightmare.
He awoke to a scratching noise in his chimney. He called Dean. "The crows are coming for me, I just want you to know I willed the shop to you. Remember me..."
Dean heard a horrifying scream that went on and on. "Michael... Michael..." He couldn't listen anymore and ended the connection.
Dean ran outside, got in his car, and drove over to Michael's home. He opened the door, but knew in his heart it was too late. He walked into the living room, and spotted his friend in his favorite chair, covered with bloody crow feathers. Sadness clouded Dean's features as he dialed 911.