Welcome author Laura Bickle, who took my challenge of studying this picture and writing a short tale about it. Keep going to read about her books Embers and Sparks!
Let’s see how she did!
by Laura Bickle
The ravens always spoke to me.
I listened to their cawing outside my bedroom window when I was a child, chattering in their own hoarse language. As I grew older, I always remembered to feed them whatever stale scraps we had left in the kitchen. My father called them ‘gossip birds’ – news traveled fast in their community, and they often knew things we didn’t.
I wondered if some of the old rumors my father told me were true, if they could be taught to speak the human language. I was determined to try, nattering at them incessantly as I doled out crumbs of bread. They would flutter and call to me, but only in their own words. I couldn’t tell what they said, but I could always tell if they were frightened or happy, by the volume and pitch of their cries. Sometimes, they would leave me beautiful glossy feathers as gifts, in return.
I remember when a black swarm of them came down on the neighbor’s fields one summer, devouring his wheat. My neighbor carried his gun out to the field to shoot them. I cringed, watching him go, wondering how many ravens would have to die before he’d feel his crop was safe.
It only took one.
I heard the loud crack of a shot, and then the shadow cloud of ravens took to the air, cawing. They left in a cacophonous, seething mass of wings, rattling into the grey sky. After they went away, I found their shiny black feathers for weeks, perched in the wheat like dark flowers.
They never came back to my neighbor’s field. Not a single one. Not for generations. They whispered of the danger among themselves, muttering over their eggs, and never returned. That place was forever marked as a wicked place for them. I have never seen one alight in that field, to this day.
It came as no surprise to me, then, that the ravens knew when the end of the world came.
I woke up one morning to a terrible sound, the same hoarse bird-shouting I’d heard in the fields. I looked up to the sky, saw great murders of them blotting out the sun. They were moving from north to south, like black ink in water.
I knew that something was wrong. These wise birds knew something I didn’t.
I picked up my skirts and ran into the house, my heart pounding with the certainty that something terrible was coming.