THE RED CROW by Jon Thomas

I stared out my bedroom window, watching the falling raindrops slide down the fogged up glass. I loved the rain, aside from the splitting headache I usually got from it. Something about the change in barometric pressure. I’m still not quite sure what it is, but it is without fail. Every time it rains, I get a headache. Still, though, the rain relaxes me. The sound of raindrops tapping on my window and falling against the roof of my house really puts me at ease. 

It was like any other rainy Seattle day, which doesn’t say much because it rains every freaking day in Seattle, but I digress. The gloomy clouds created an overcast in the sky. The perfect weather for napping, so that’s just what I did. I laid in bed, tossing and turning, fighting my usual rain induced headache until finally I drifted off. 

A loud, incessant tapping stirred me from my sleep. Angry, I shot my head up, flinging my already messy hair around my head even more. I looked around my bedroom, confused at the tapping sound. It wasn’t a tapping sound from rain. No, this was loud. Like someone had a stick and they were tapping a loose pane of glass with it. 

As I came out of my stupor, I turned my gaze toward the window. I noticed a red shape outside, tapping over and over again, rapidly. I slowly emerged from my bed and darted across my room to my window. Tapping against the glass was a relatively long, narrow bird beak. I wiped the fog from my window and what I saw had me awestruck. 

There, sitting on the ledge of my window, in the pouring rain, was a large, bright red crow. As we made eye contact, I noticed a look of either confusion or curiosity cross its face. It turned its head sideways, the way a dog does when it is generally curious, and stared at me for a moment.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A crimson crow sat in front of me, staring through beady black eyes into my window and right at me. I guess I should mention that I’m a little bit of a bird nerd. During the summer time, I do some bird watching from time to time. In all my years of being a hobby bird watcher, I have never seen anything like this. 

Crows come in one colour, black. There is no variation, they don’t have patterns, they are strictly black. Some people call them black birds for that reason alone. There was no doubt in my mind, though. This was a crow, and this crow was blood red. I bolted to my desk to get my phone so I could take a picture of the rare specimen, but upon my return, the crow was gone. 

“Damn!” I yelled, frustrated that I wasn’t able to get the picture. “I hope it comes back.”

Little did I know, I would regret saying those words. In hindsight, I wish that bird had never returned. That bird ruined my life and is the reason I’m writing this from prison. I’m getting ahead of myself, though.

The rest of the lazy weekend went by quickly, with no sign of the bird. I awoke Monday morning, grabbed my usual coffee, Americano with cream and sugar, and headed to work. I worked at a large corporation, the name of which is irrelevant. I worked in accounting, processing payments received and forwarding invoices for outstanding debts to our accounts payable department. It’s boring, I know. 

My cubicle sat in a corner, butted up to a window that overlooked the Metropolitan area. I was doing my usual, boring paperwork. My eyes were glued to my computer when I began to hear a tapping. I immediately spun around in my swivelling office chair to see that beautiful red crow. 

“No way,” I said aloud, staring at the bird. 

I slowly pulled my phone from my pocket, keeping my eyes fixed on the anomaly in front of me. I swiped the camera app open and, just as I was about to take a picture, I noticed the bird open its mouth. 

I expected the thick glass to block any noise from entering into the room. I expected to hear a faint squeak come from outside. I expected anything before what happened next. 

The bird appeared to inhale, taking a large breath. Then, it let out a loud, deafening guttural laugh. The sound was not something that would come from a bird. The sound was barely something that would come from a man. Not only that, it pierced my ears through the thick glass. I quickly spun in my chair, expecting to see someone behind me laughing but there was nothing. No one in sight. 

I began to feel faint. My vision became spotty until there was nothing but blackness. The sensation of falling in circles overcame me. I became extremely dizzy and suddenly I felt the ground sneak up on me. 

When I opened my eyes, I was met with a terrible sight. A surreal landscape of endless sand dunes surrounded me. The sand itself was bright pink and it smelled of sulphur. The sky appeared yellow and the air humid. Really humid. 

I looked around, confused at the dreamscape surrounding me. 

“What the hell?” I said to myself. 

My voice echoed throughout the landscape. Clouds spelled out my words in the sky as they escaped my mouth. I looked up to see giant orange clouds formed into the words “What the hell?” 

I began to panic. My feet began to sink into the pink sand and I felt my breath continue to escape me. I began screaming. Calling for help.

“Help me!” I shouted. My words continued forming in giant orange clouds above my head. “Anyone! Please!” 

My body began to shake uncontrollably and I felt something wet touch my face. I was slung out of the sand and brought back into reality, quickly. 

“Candace!” I heard being shouted from around me. “Candace, wake up!” 

I opened my eyes to see a large group of co-workers surrounding me. I was in my cubicle. My face was wet. 

“What happened?” I asked, dazed.

My head throbbed. I glanced outside and noticed it was raining. 

“We came because you shouted for help!” Brian, my boss, said, exasperated. “We found you passed out on the ground. Are you okay?”

I nodded as I slowly sat up, waving the mass of people away. 

“Yeah, I’m fine. Must be low blood sugar,” I said, trying to find any excuse to avoid what happened next. 

“Okay. Well, official company policy says that we need to call an ambulance,” Brian said, jumping to his feet and pulling out his cell phone. 

“Brian, ple—” I was cut off. 

“Candace, this is non-negotiable.” He placed his cell phone up to his ear and walked away from the cubicle. 

After a while, the ambulance arrived. They said that the episode was a small seizure and asked that I go to the hospital for a CT scan, to ensure everything was right in my brain. Brian stood by the whole time, giving me no opportunity to refuse any type of treatment. I reluctantly was taken to the hospital. 

“So, Miss Rhodes, how are you feeling?” the doctor asked, examining a clipboard. 

If I were being completely honest, I was feeling rather uncomfortable. I was completely naked, aside from a sheer hospital gown with no back, and I had just been, basically, forced to go to the hospital against my own will. 

“Fine,” I replied. 

“Have you any history of seizures?” the doctor asked, flipping through his assortment of medical reports on his clipboard. 

“No, this would be my first one.” I looked down, noticing his shoes. 

Don’t doctors usually wear comfortable sneakers? I thought. 

The doctor must have seen me staring because he quickly explained himself. 

“They were a gift,” he said, lifting his foot in the air. A gator, or snake, skin loafer sat on his foot. It was hideous. “They’re actually much more comfortable than they look.” He gave a light, albeit forced, chuckle before moving on. “Alright, your CT came back normal and I don’t see any reason for you to be admitted.”

I gave an audible sigh of relief. 

“However,” he continued. “Seizures can have delayed psychological effects. I am going to recommend you see a psychologist, or psychiatrist, for the next few weeks. It’s just a precaution, and hopefully nothing will come of it, but we can never be too sure.”

He walked toward the door and pulled it open, turning in his tracks. 

“Go ahead and get dressed. Once you’re done, see Janet at the front desk. She will take care of your out-processing, give you that referral for a psych and take care of your work note.”

As he left and the door slammed behind him, I felt my blood begin to boil. The last thing I needed to do was see a shrink. I was fine, I felt fine. It was just a freak occurrence. Something in the back of my mind told me otherwise, though. All I could see was that bird opening its mouth and spewing out that horrible laughter. It didn’t make sense. Maybe I did need a shrink. 

I got my note from Janet and headed back to work. Immediately, upon my arrival, I was called into Brian’s office. 

“So,” he started, clapping his hands together. “What did the doctor say?” 

I handed him the note. “He wants me to see a shrink,” I said blandly.

He read the note for a moment, before handing it back to me. How he could understand anything that was written on that note was beyond me. Doctor’s handwriting is impossible. He told me to take the rest of the day, paid, and find a psychologist. I resisted at first, but he persisted. 

I stood waiting for the bus, browsing the internet, searching for local psychologists. The bus arrived shortly after and I boarded. I sat towards the back and continued browsing the web. Then I heard something next to me. It sounded like flapping of some sort. I averted my gaze from my phone and saw something that sent chills down my spine. 

In the seat next to me was a large, red crow. It stood on the seat, flapping its wings and lightly hopping around. I felt the blood leave my face as the bird stopped moving and slowly turned its head toward me. It stared for a moment before slowly opening its beak. I felt tears well up in my eyes and quickly put my hands over my ears. 

What came next was both expected and unexpected. The bird let out a blood curdling laugh. A maniacal belly laugh, as if it just revealed a sinister plot to Batman. I screamed loudly, but the people around me didn’t acknowledge. People on buses act like weirdos all the time, this was no different. They probably thought I was on something. 

The room began to spin and once again I felt a strong sensation, as if I was falling. I awoke abruptly, smashing into the bright pink, sulphuric smelling sand. I jumped up, flinging sand in every direction, and quickly began yelling. 

“Help!” I shouted. As the words left my mouth they were, once again, painted in bright orange clouds among the dull yellow sky. “Please, someone!” The echo was unbearable.

The sand began to swallow me once again. This time, there was no one to wake me up. The sand sucked me under. I felt my chest collapsing, I couldn’t catch my breath. I began to suffocate and then, I was awake. 

It was dark outside, and a small Asian man stood in front of me, kicking my leg. 

“Hey,” he yelled, “last stop. Gotta go!”

I looked around for a moment, confused. Had I been on that bus all day? I left work at 2 in the afternoon and it was dark now.

I looked at the driver and felt my blood begin to boil. My face heated up as anger clouded my mind. I blacked out. When I came to, I was standing over the small man’s lifeless corpse. People stood outside of the bus, staring in shock and screaming. I looked at my hands, unsure of what was going on or where I was. I was holding something. It was flat and squishy. It felt moist. A closer look revealed to me that it was the bus driver’s face. I had torn it clean off.

The police arrived, taking me away. The evidence against me was excruciating. The video surveillance on the bus showed me stand up and attack that man, viciously tearing his face from his body. It was a quick trial. The jury had no trouble reaching a verdict and now, as I said before, I’m writing this from the Washington Corrections Centre for Women. 

I wish I knew what that bird did to me, what it meant. I still black out sometimes and when I come to, I’ve done something heinous. I found a shank, carved out of a toothbrush, under my mattress last week. It was covered in dried blood… not my own. Cliché, I know, but it’s the truth. 

I’ve seen that crow a few times since I’ve been here, I think it likes me now. It hasn’t let out that unnerving laugh, nor has it sent me back to that terrifying hellscape.

Although I do return there sometimes, when I dream. It’s always the same. I’m drowning in a sea of pink sand, unable to dig my way up.

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