Thank you to everyone who entered my short story competition. I had some super entries, from a touching one about a mum, to a gripping one about the current pandemic. Then, there were humorous ones that made me laugh out loud, quirky ones that made me smile and several where the writer had thought outside the box.
But, my winner is Darlene Foster for her very atmospheric story, As the Crow Flies. Darlene has a way of taking you right to the scene so you feel as if you’re completely absorbed in the story, from beginning to end. Sit back and enjoy…
As the Crow Flies
I didn’t know what had happened. Not at first. And then I knew.
Crows sprang from the misty marshland like bullets fired from a Winchester rifle. Their sorrowful caws sent shivers through my body. The smell of death rose with their nefarious wings as they vanished into the low-lying, ominous clouds.
I absently followed the familiar path. I could have walked it with my eyes closed like I did when I was a child. When I danced happily along the path, making up stories in my head and believing a handsome prince would come around a corner any minute.
That was before Mother went missing and Father went mad. Before my brothers went to college and my sister moved to the States. I remained on the home farm alone.
Someone had to be there in case Mother returned.
I glanced up at the darkening sky to see the crows swarming and ducked as they whooshed over me. Never before had I seen so many at one time. Trying to recall the collective term for crows, I stooped down again, holding my hands over my head as they zoomed by once more.
The crows flew into the marsh, landing in a cluster. I stared at the black mass with raised eyebrows. A whiff of decay drifted my way. I left the path and crept closer.
Feeling my way in the soggy bog, my heart thundered and my breath caught in my throat. I was never allowed off the path. But the crows summoned me.
They shrieked louder. The dank, fetid smell grew stronger. I drew nearer.
Images of that day flashed before me. Mother at the sink washing the breakfast dishes, so pretty in her red and white checked shirt-waist dress. I shook my head to erase the image. It hurt too much.
“I’m going for a walk,” I had shouted as I skipped out the door.
“Be careful and stay on the path,” Mother warned, as always.
“Don’t worry. I will.”
I got caught in a sudden rain shower and found refuge by a large rock. When I arrived home everyone was waiting for me. Everyone but Mother. My lovely mother who had gone to look for me but never came back.
I squeezed my eyes shut and brushed away a tear. When I opened my eyes, I saw it. A piece of red and white checked cloth in the beak of a snarling crow.
“Where did you get that?” I shouted as I stumbled after the pilferer, my water-laden hiking boots heavy and cumbersome.
I fell face first in the slimy mud and reached for the reeds to hoist myself up. They parted, revealing a myriad of crows. Crows resting on bones. Bones partially covered with a faded, ripped red and white dress.
I choked back a scream.
Then I knew what happened to Mother.
And then I remembered the term.
A murder of crows.
A copy of The Siege will be winging its way to you, Darlene. Thank you so much for your deliciously dark story!