First Place | Flash Fiction Writing Contest XLVII | 2019

NEW MILLENNIUM AWARD FOR FLASH FICTION

Carla Myers of Boalsburg, Pennsylvania for “Seven Ravens”

Myers will receive $1,000, a certificate to mark the success, and publication both online and in print.

Seven Ravens

By Carla Myers

• • • •

She had been warned that ravens were the smartest birds. If you forgot to close your windows, they would line up seven to a sill and watch you from behind black eyes. Each would tip his head to a slightly different time on the clock, working together to see you in kaleidoscope. Click-click-click go the shutters, committing all of your best hiding places to memory. They would stand on your roof, still as onyx, and listen to you think. They would repeat your secrets in the Morse code of birds. Rat-a-tat-tat on the metal roof. Rat-a-tat-tat your smiles are anger. Rat-a-tat-tat you lost something of value. Rat-a-tat-tat your fingers are tired from the endless tying of knots that you do to keep your body within its property lines. So, she closed her windows and drew the curtains and sat perfectly still and silent in the only chair in the only room of her house.

Birds are creatures of the day. At night they must give way and become something else. So just past dusk, after she was sure the last rigid greasy feather had transformed into the moon-shadow of a pole fence or the sound of wind through tall grass, she would slip out of her chair, slip out of her room, slip out of her house and go to talk to the moon. She could only slip.

These are the rules: You can talk to the moon from the top of any mountain and the moon will respond. Not if you are a child though. Children are also creatures of the day and can freely talk with all other day-things like trees and beetles. The moon is only for women who are watched by crows. There are no men.

“The ravens are back,” she said to the moon. The moon reflected and then spoke through the woman’s bones.
“The ravens are back,” said the moon.
“They must leave my thoughts and take their Rat-a-tat-tats.”
“They must leave my thoughts and take their Rat-a-tat-tats,” said the moon.
“We have agreed?” said the woman.
“We have agreed,” said the moon.

The woman slipped home and into her room and into her chair. She took off her clothes and removed the needle she always kept in the life-line of her palm. She threaded it with a long black hair she pulled from her head and began to sew.

At dawn she opened her windows and set out seven small plates, seven small cups and seven small chairs on each windowsill. She lay on her stomach on the cold wooden floor and shrouded herself with the black cape made from her clothing and hair and resolution that she had sewn during the night. She became a shadow and glided along the floor from window to window as gracefully as a sting ray.

When the ravens arrived they each sat in a small chair. They might be the smartest birds, but they still followed societal conventions. They pecked at the empty plates and cups, demanding service. The shadow-woman slid to the window and up the wall to the sill. She watched the birds from behind black eyes. As quick as fright, each of her seven arms shot out from beneath her cape. Each of her seven hands snatched a startled bird around the neck. Each of her seven mouths grew wet with anticipation.

Most of the ravens are gone now and the woman has grown too fat for her chair. Her cape still fits though and glistens with fine black feathers. She still wears it when a raven comes to tea and when she flies to the top of a mountain to talk to the moon and take what is hers by right. Lately she and the moon have found more solutions in each other’s faces. The moon is considering laying out an extravagant feast on a long table with chairs along one side. She will invite six stars to sit along it and then invite the sun itself to sit in the middle. The woman has been told the bluebird is the happiness of all the birds. They keep stopping by to stand one atop another and ring her doorbell. When she answers, they proselytize, their warbles sounding like wobbling saws. “There is nothing to worry about,” they say. “You’re safe, stop overreacting.” “Perhaps,” she says, as she ushers them into the house.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

With a degree in sculpture and a J.D., Carla Myers followed the most logical path to becoming a writer. Her work has been featured in The Gateway Review, Jabberwock Review, Columbia Journal, Patheos, Muse/A, Streetlight, Convivium, Ethel, Panoplyzine, The Fabulist, The Finger and Sonder Review’s The Best Small Fictions Anthology 2019.

“Seven Ravens” © 2018 Carla Myers

This work first appeared in Jabberwock Review.

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5 thoughts on “”

  1. Carolyn Rogers

    Wow! This touches my heart, gets right in there. After a somewhat challenging and depressing season, I am talking with the moon more often and the bluebirds have starting knocking at my door too. Thank you, Carla.

  2. Well — weird. The story throws me into the pre-story. How does this woman know anything about children being day-creatures? Who told her about ravens smartness? Why does she inhabit a house? In fact, why is she a “woman” at all? Interesting to think about, for me.

  3. Wonderful visual storytelling! I’d like some mini chairs of my own for the ravens outside my front door. I wonder if they’d stay for tea? Congratulations on winning the New Millennium Award!

  4. Polly Hansen

    This gets at the dark places that hurt and the triumph that survives. And the creativity, ingenuity and bravery that requires.

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