photo by Ben C
It was late by the time Raven crawled into bed, alone. Ranger was away at one of his environmental management conferences. It surprised her how much she was enjoying the solitude. Distance did make the heart grow fonder, or at least it provided the breathing space for it. With a satisfied sigh, Raven buried her head deeper into her pillow. For a brief moment she contemplated getting out of bed to shut the window. The wind which had begun as a soft purr had now worked its way into a frenzied howl. It carried with it the scent of the wilderness, that dry volatile perfume of the Australian bush. Raven let the sounds and smells lull her into sleep.
Sometime later that night, she awoke with a start. Something had pulled her from her slumber. A noise perhaps, or a feeling of being watched. She tried to move, but her limbs felt heavy and insubstantial. She fought the feeling and managed to turn her head slightly towards the window. Moonlight filtered through the curtains, casting shadows in the room. She didn't notice him at first; the shadow man, standing beside the bed, silently watching her. When she did finally see him, Raven felt no fear, only a sense of sadness. It was a strange kind of sadness - like a borrowed emotion - someone else's grief. He smelt of ashes and silt, reminding her of the dam below the house. She watched him for a while till sleep finally claimed her once again.
Raven's internal alarm clock went off at the usual time of 6.30 am. She got out of bed and headed to the kitchen to make herself the requisite cup of lemon myrtle tea. She loved this morning ritual. Tea cup in hand, she headed out to the back porch to sit and watch the sun rise over the horizon. She missed Ranger. She loved dragging him out of bed every morning. She'd often bribed him with breakfast in bed, food was one of the few reasons he'd even consider opening his eyes at this 'ungodly hour'.
Despite the soothing cup of tea, she was feeling anxious and on edge. Something important had occurred last night but the memory remained tantalizingly elusive. It was her day off today, so she decided to catch up on her reading in bed. Besides in her current state, she wasn't up to appreciating the view. She walked back into the kitchen and made herself another cup of tea before heading to the bedroom. Once she'd settled herself comfortably in bed, she opened her book and began to read. Five minutes later, she gave up. She couldn't concentrate. She'd give Ranger a surprise wake up call instead, she decided. Reaching blindly over to his side of the bed, she made several attempts to find the phone through the chaotic mess on his bedside table.
"Shit," she cried, as an awkwardly balanced pile of books tumbled to the floor. She rolled to his side of the bed, and flopping her torso over the edge she started to gather the books from the floor. Her hand stopped in mid action as something caught her eye. There was a set of muddy footprints on the carpet. She hauled the rest of her body out of bed, and bent down to inspect the prints. The mud was fresh and a silty brown colour. It looked like it had come from the dam.
A memory of darkness and sorrow stirred at the edges of her mind. She stood motionless, staring without seeing at the window, trying to chase the memory to the surface. An image of shadows in the dark started to form, then realisation struck with a loud bang. Time moved slowly as Raven watched the crow fly towards the closed window, like metal drawn to a magnet. With a deadly bang its body slammed into the window. Raven could only stare helplessly as the body dropped lifelessly to the ground.
Time moved forward again. Now she remembered the sad apparition in the dark. The shadow who watched her while she slept. She also remembered that the window was open last night, she hadn't bothered to shut it this morning.