by Sam Creed
Old fears may come back to you, and it would be wise to follow the advice of the dead.
|The thunder of the midnight storm cracked above the largest tombstone in the Old Saint's Cemetery. A moment later, lightning flashed revealing a woman standing over the tomb.
Cold rain and salty tears streaked down her cheeks, and wet black hair was plastered to the side of her pale white face.
Emmy stared at her mother's grave, crying and sobbing. Through the curtain of rain and the cloud of tears, she read the inscription: "The Raven did it, beware the Raven, Child." Emmy shook her head, wondering at it.
The funeral had taken place when she was only six, but the horror of her mother's death remained in her memory, as strong as though it had happened only the day before.
She had been the one to find her mother's corpse, at midnight, after the bad storm. She thought of it like a story ("Once upon a midnight dreary"), something out of the horror novels she usually avoided.
It had been storming that night, and the thunder was louder than ever. She thought she heard something crash in the house, but she was too scared to get up and see. So she had waited, awake and terrified, for hours in the night, until finally the storm calmed to only the occasional quiet rumble. She had gotten out of bed and felt cold, and somehow, she knew something was wrong. She had run to her mother's room, and seen her mother on the floor beside the bed, blood dripping from deep gouges on her face, one right through her eye. But more blood seeped from deep gouges in her neck and chest, and shards of glass lay all around her.
And perched above her, on the edge of the bed, was a wet, beady eyed raven, blood still dripping down its claws.
Emmy had never been able to even look at a raven after that, and she had developed a strange fear of birds.
She shuddered at the memory and tore her eyes away from the grave as the wind died down and the rain slowly stopped. In the sudden silence, she heard ringing in her ears, a strange sound that made her feel alone. She slowly turned away, toward the mausoleum that marked the path back to the cemetery gate.
A loud crunch of gravel suddenly came out of the darkness, and she jumped in fright. She caught a flicker of movement near the small stone building, and she squinted but saw nothing. Edging a little closer, she saw nothing but shadows ("Darkness there and nothing more") and gloom.
She sighed with relief and stared to walk away, when once more a sound made her heart skip a beat. A fluttering sound came from the mausoleum, the sound of wings, and dark, slender shapes darted around in the opening. She stood in sudden, rebuilt fear as a bird emerged and landed on top of the building. The bird was difficult to see, a shadow against the dark night.But then a shaft of moonlight burst through of the clouds, revealing the creature.
It was a raven, beady-eyed and staring from the tops of the stone structure.
She felt her old fear pierce her heart, and she finally turned to run.
"No! Help me!"
A high pitched voice shrieked, and Emmy stumbled in surprise. It was the voice of a little girl, coming from the mausoleum.
Cursing herself and her fear, she slowly started back to the mausoleum. The raven was just sitting there ("Perched, and sat, and nothing more") and it gave no reason to fear it.
"Come out," Emmy called, her voice shaky. "Come out, and I'll help you."
A loud sob came from within the dark entryway. "No...I-I can't! I can't come out! Please, please come in and help me!"
Biting her lip, she stepped forward and entered the mausoleum, keeping an eye on the bird the entire time.
She gasped in shock as she saw the girl.
The girl wore a white dress, and she sat cross-legged on the damp, cold stone. Black feathers littered her lap. She leaned forward, hands pressed to her eyes, matted black hair hanging in front of her face.
It was a moment before Emmy could speak. "What's wrong?" She asked, as gently as she could manage. She stepped closer to the girl, but then stopped. "How did you get here?"
The girl shook with quiet sobs. "I was always here," she whispered, still not looking up.
Emmy took a deep breath and moved, crouching down beside the girl. "Tell me what's wrong. I can help you. Where are your parents?" The girl seemed to hunch deeper into herself, and rocked slightly.
Something stirred in the back of the chamber, and Emmy noticed two more ravens fluttering about.
Gulping slightly, she tried to convince the girl to stand up. The girl stubbornly refused, and rocked harder. Another rave flew in and landed the doorway, regarding Emmy through its merciless eyes. Emmy took a deep breath and pulled at the girls arm. As she did, her hand brushed something behind the girls shoulder, something soft and silky. Some more black feathers fell to the ground.
The girl made a noise, almost like the squawk of a bird, and pulled away. As she did, she allowed Emmy a tiny glimpse of her face.
Emmy fought back a scream as she saw the dark streaks on the girl's face, but she swallowed her fear and choked out, "Look at me." When the girl only pressed her hands more firmly to her face, she grabbed them and tried to pry them away.
Abruptly, the girl seemed to fling her arms away from herself and revealed her face.
Emmy tried to scream but couldn't, only fell backwards, a squeal erupting as she stared in horror.
The girl had no eyes.
There were ,deep bloody gouges and holes where they should be, and streaks of blood down her face. Her cheeks and chin had been torn at and bloodied so that her face looked like that of a corpse, and nose stuck out of the bloody mess like a bird's beak.
As the girl pushed herself from the ground, Emmy saw that her fingernails were dark with dirt and blood, and sharp like a raven's claws. The girl stood over her, her back slightly hunched, and then two raven-black wings unfurled from her black, framing her in darkness like a Dark Angel.
The monster beat its wings and shrieked, its voice more bird than human, and several ravens appeared from the darkness, descending on Emmy and shrieking, tearing at her with beaks and claws.
Emmy screamed but soon fell silent, and the monster watched the massacre unflinchingly, its wings quivering in the dark night.
As the ravens finished and left the bloody, gouged corpse behind, the monster shuffled forward and hissed, "I am the Raven Child!"
With that it leaped to the dark, open entry, and with one final shriek ("Quoth the raven 'Nevermore'") flew away into the dreary night.