I don’t put disclaimers on my stories. Until today. This story has some things in it that relate to domestic violence that might trigger some people. Do be warned. Thank you.
The Talons Reach
I remember a night like this one, many years ago. The skeletal limbs of the trees were brushing the dark sky in a maniacal dance as the wind blew in small bursts of rage. The gray clouds scuttling in the night as everything was covered in a cold drizzle of rain.
A perfect night for Halloween that was, just like tonight. Exactly like tonight. I was married back then. Married…What a joke. More like imprisoned with a jailer who was both cruel and unrelenting. Cruel in words and deeds and unrelenting in heaping them upon my person.
I still hear his mocking words as he walked out the front door that last night. That Halloween that will be forever remembered as my night of freedom.
“Clean yourself up and straighten the house before I get back. I swear you can do nothing right. My dinner was five minutes late! And it was not hot enough. Why I married such a slovenly, slow, dim-witted and ugly woman as you I will never know. I will be back in a couple of hours and this house better be spotless.”
In silence I watched him as he left, slamming the front door. I heard the lock being turned and a few seconds later his car leaves the driveway. I remember the pain of the punches he left on my body before he left that night. The dinner plate upside down on the floor with the food splattered against the dining room wall. The slow drip of the spilled wine glass laying on its side on the table.
Just another night in my nightmare of a life. If you could call it a life. It was more a slow and agonizing death. As I knew he would kill me one day. He would kill me and somehow blame my death on myself and get away with it.
How I hated him. I hated him with a passion I thought he had beaten out of me. That passion burned bright and fierce that Halloween night as I got up off the floor and slowly walked to the bathroom. I turned on the light and took a good look in the mirror and my hate burned brighter.
As I wiped the drying blood off my face I didn’t shed a tear. Not a one. As the water in the sink turned pink I vowed that it would stop this night. The pain would stop. I would not, could not, take it anymore.
As I made that vow the lights flickered rapidly. I closed my eyes for a moment and then opened them as I heard a screech. It was a long spine-chilling screech like fingernails on a chalkboard in slow motion.
I don’t remember being scared. More curious than scared. I poked my head out the doorway, my pains nearly forgotten for the moment. The lights flickered again. Once. Twice. Thrice. Then I heard scrabbling coming from the living room. Like bird talons against the marble floor.
I walked into the room, not even hesitating. Looking back, I should have been terrified. Yet, I wasn’t. I had been living a life a terror for years, nothing much could compare to that.
I stopped inside the room and watched as an enormous black raven lifted its wings as it took a step towards me. I stood still, letting it approach. How did it get in? Then I felt a breeze and looked to my left and saw the patio doors open with the wind and rain blowing the curtains aside.
I heard that godawful screech again and jerked towards the raven. Its talon had left a long deep groove in the floor in front of it. It’s dark round eyes peered at me as it’s head tilted a bit to the side. I had never seen a raven that big before with eyes that were almost….human. Almost.
Do you know I never said a word? I saw that human-like bird and never said a thing. I just stared at it as it stared back at me. Then I could have sworn it smiled. Indeed, it wasn’t a pleasant smile but it did smile and then it slowly walked to the patio doors and left.
I closed the doors behind it and turned and walked away. I cleaned up the dining room and calmly got myself ready for bed. Then I waited. I waited for my jailer to arrive and I waited for something else. I waited for retribution.
I heard the car arrive in the driveway and I knew he was home. I sat up in bed and my heart began to pound. I listened for the key in the door but the wind decided to pick up just then and all I heard was it howling through the trees.
Then I heard another sound. That scrabbling noise like I heard earlier that night. Even through the wind and the trees, I could hear it. Maybe I was looking for it. That noise of the raven. Maybe that’s why I heard it and not his key.
I knew he would stop in the living room and pour himself a Scotch. He always did. He was a monster but a monster who was a creature of habit.
The small lamp on the nightstand flickered just as I heard the crash of the patio doors opening. I thought I heard an oath quickly cut off just as a loud screeching noise made the hair on my arms stand on end. I knew that sound. The sound of a giant talon against the marble floor of the living room.
Then I heard him scream. A long scream that slowly dwindled down to a low moan. I heard something I never thought I would hear. I heard crying. I heard my jailer crying like a lost child.
I walked to my bedroom door and opened it. I looked down the hallway and listened. Nothing but the crying was heard. The wind had suddenly stopped and so did the rain. I put one slippered foot in front of another and walked to the living room. I was afraid.
I was afraid that my monster would be there and I would be his victim once more. I stepped inside the room and at first saw nothing but the open patio doors. My body stiffened as it heard a now familiar scrabbling noise. As I turned I was able to see him on the floor, sobbing with his hands over his head and curled in a fetal position.
The raven was next to him and staring at me. It’s head tilted once more in that questioning stance, his talons still and silent. His large black eyes watched me as I glanced from it to the man blubbering on the floor. The words coming out of his slobbering mouth not making any sense at all. Just mindless gibberish.
I smiled. I shouldn’t have I know but I did. I smiled at the raven and nodded once. The huge black soulless, almost human eyes just blinked once, twice, thrice and then it lifted it’s wings in one grand gesture and walked out the patio doors.
That was years ago, of course. My jailer is now jailed. Not in prison, oh no, but jailed none the less. I had to commit him to the hospital for the mentally insane in the next town. The poor man thought he was being followed by a giant man-eating raven. He had to be medically institutionalized for his own good.
I visit him every now and then, especially on All Hallows Eve. He seems quite…restless that day.
I also started a group for people who have been abused mentally and physically by their spouses. It’s been active for years now. It’s very successful, although the members insist on staying anonymous. This Halloween I will be helping a very nice woman down the block who moved into the neighborhood a few months ago.
I wonder how her monster feels about ravens?
Happy Halloween everyone!