Kicking off this year’s Halloween Flash Fiction blog event is prolific romance author, Carrie Ann Ryan. Carrie Ann’s short story, while not romantic, definitely makes the heart race! Inspired by this image…
You’ll see throughout this week that many authors were inspired by this image. Be sure to let each author know what you think of their take on it!!
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Death’s Raven by Carrie Ann Ryan
They say that crows symbolize transformation and change—that they were watchful creatures with a sharp and powerful foresight. They say if you cross a crow, you must be ready for adversity. Those who fear the corvid will tell you that that crow will remember this one moment, all of those moments.
They say that crows mean change. Spiritual, emotional, physical.
But I know that crows mean my Death.
This crow, in particular, meant I needed to travel to the point where Death would find me, or the consequence of hiding from fate would be far worse than my end.
My feet slipped on the wet rock as I ran, water seeping into my shoes thanks to the hole through the bottom of my boot. The hole in my leather pants chafed as blood seeped from the wounds from the claws of the shadow that had attacked when I had first seen the crow.
The shadow had growled and spit venom, a familiar refrain for those from the Underworld. Only I wasn’t from that realm; I’d only been drafted into submission and servitude thanks to a promise made years before I’d been a gleam in my father’s eyes.
The crow cawed again, and I ignored it.
I didn’t have time to focus on the crow. I needed to search.
My breath came in pants, my chest tightening as I reached into my pocket and hunted for the gold that would be my salvation. Or at least would keep the curse at bay until sunrise.
“No,” I gasped, and nearly tripped. My knee wrenched, and I kept going, the footsteps behind me echoing.
The crow cawed again, and I narrowed my eyes at it.
“I have no time for you.”
And the crow just smiled, its gaze knowing.
Death lurked, but they always did, for Death wasn’t but one, but four. And I wouldn’t have enough time to reach the river if Death stalked even more.
I reached into my other pocket, and it came up empty, my skin growing cold.
Death was coming, and I didn’t have my coin.
The river burbled in front of me, and I fell to my knees, rocks stinging into my palms, into the leather itself.
My chest heaved, and I wiped the blood and mud from my eyes, turning to search the rest of my pockets for my coin.
But it wasn’t there.
I knelt at the River Styx, and I did not have my coin.
The crow cawed again, a raven near it.
They say ravens symbolize Death as well, but to me, they were the omen of my fate, whatever it may be. The ravens were those that survived the sun. They were the change in consciousness, the true step in secrets, and transformation.
Neither crow nor raven were evil as men say. They were there for those who needed them, for those who didn’t banish them from their lives as omens of their worst fears.
I stared at the raven and knew it wasn’t the crow that called for my Death, but it was the raven.
He knew—he knew me more than any.
After all, the raven and I had been friends once, but no more.
The betrayal had cut through us both, sending us down this path. And here we were, with no ending.
The crow and the raven stood on two pillars, staring, as Death came for me.
I turned, and Death smiled.
Death was always beautiful. Those that told you otherwise were liars.
Death had perfect teeth, a grin that turned you to sin. Death had piercing eyes, ones that could see directly into your soul as he took it.
And he smiled, his chest not even heaving from the run.
He wasn’t worried about his own mortality.
After all, he was Death.
“I’m never going with you,” I spat, and knew that this was the end. The River Styx lay behind me, Death in front of me, and Charon’s boat would be there at any moment, and I did not have my coins for the ferryman.
There would be no journey from one side of the river to the other.
I would only be held in Death’s embrace, and this would be the end.
I swallowed hard, and Death knelt in front of me, the leather of his pants molding to his body. The sweet smell of woodsmoke and cedar wafted toward me, and I ignored the familiar ache of it.
I had long since lost my daggers, they had both been embedded in Death’s flesh, but he hadn’t cared. He had winced and bled, but Death’s blood did nothing in this realm. I had learned that lesson long ago, but I had forgotten it in my haste to save my life—to save the life of my familiar.
And I had done the latter, but I knew I wasn’t strong enough for the former.
The crow and the raven sounded out their alarm again, and then they flew to either side of me, their talons steeped in my own blood.
And still, Death stared.
“I’m not going with you,” I said again, my voice firm, even though I felt no courage within my body.
“And I never asked you, Evie. And yet you ran. So fearful of me? You run from Death, and yet you run towards the river that’ll take you to my brother’s home.”
“Because I know that Death, I know what awaits me there.” A lie, but one that I wrapped around myself in its innocuous embrace, nonetheless.
This Death tilted his head. “Really? You know. You have so much power in those words, and yet you don’t see the lies of what they are. You go towards my brother’s Death, and you ignore the one right in front of you. So fearful of what you should know, but seem to have forgotten. But I’ll make sure you remember. I have before, and I will again.”
I frowned, confusion ebbing even as a headache came on. “What are you talking about?” I asked.
And Death smiled. “Oh dearest Evie, I do believe it’s time for you to remember. Again.”
And Death knelt forward, placed a kiss on my forehead, and the darkness came.
The crows and the ravens singing the call as I died.
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