Wanna Participate in future 7th Titan contests? Our April prompt, “Fool’s Errand” is up and ready for your submissions on the Contest page. Submit by the due date of March 15th for a chance to win.
Chris, Kurt, and Abigail had a little in house competition to lead the charge. Our January prompt? “The Twa Corbies” image below.
Kurt took first place for our January prompt with his story “Feathers.”
by Kurt Pankau
Nash stared down at the body. No, not the body. His body. He could see the dark circle of the exit wound in the center of his chest. Blood pooled under him, staining the grass. So that’s it, Nash thought. This is the end. I’m dead, then. Nash had heard about out-of-body experiences before, and he assumed that’s what this was. But if his body was broken, what could his soul go back to? Now there was a frightening question. He shuddered, making his feathers bristle.
“Morning.” A crow landed on the branch next to Nash and cawed. “Ooh, good find, mate,” said the crow. “Best get to it before the buzzards get wind. Mind if I share? Plenty for the both of us, right?”
Nash should have been shocked that a crow was talking to him, but he reacted instinctively. “Beg pardon?” he said. The words came out choked and rasping and almost caught in his beak.
The other crow seemed to understand anyway. “Breakfast,” said the crow, nodding down towards the body.
No. Not the body. His body.
Nash looked down at his feet–not the feet of the body, but his own. They were gray spindly little things with elongated toes that wrapped around a naked branch. He noted the slick black tuft of feathers that coated his keeled chest. He stretched out his arms–no, not arms. Wings. He had wings now.
“My God,” he cawed. “I’m a… corbie.”
“And a corbie’s got to eat, don’t it?” asked the other crow. “Now come on then, he looks fresh.”
“He is,” said Nash. I’m a bird. My soul lives on… in a bird. How did this happen? He thought back. He’d been walking through the orchard and come out near a stream. He’d had an argument with his mistress, so he’d come here to clear his head. Then he’d heard a thunderclap, and it was so close it had taken the wind out of him. He’d stumbled. He’d touched a hand to his chest and touched his own blood.
Then he was perched atop a leafless tree, swaying in the late autumn breeze.
“He’s been murdered,” he said.
“Oh, it’s just the two of us,” said the crow. “Hardly a murder. And we haven’t even started yet.”
“What?” Nash cawed.
“Look, I like a good chin-wag much as the next, but I haven’t eaten today, so I’m going to tuck in before the buzzards get here and muscle us out.”
“But I–he–was murdered,” said Nash.
The other crow cocked his head to one side. “I don’t think that word means what you think it means, mate.”
“He was killed!”
“And lucky us, right?” said the crow cheerfully.
“By another human.”
“If you say so.”
“With a gun,” said Nash.
The crow flapped his wings and cried out. “A human with a gun? Blimey, why didn’t you say so, mate?”
“We’ve got to find out who did it,” said Nash.
“You didn’t see?”
“No, I was… I was looking the other way,” said Nash. He stared down at the body. No. Not the body. His body.
But then, it was just a body, wasn’t it? And it did look tasty.
“So, is he close?” asked the other crow.
“The human! The one with the gun!”
“I don’t know,” said Nash. “Probably.”
“Well… I don’t see anyone,” said the crow. “Was it a short gun or a really long one?”
“Hard to say,” said Nash. “I know Callum owned a hunting rifle.”
“Eliza’s husband,” said Nash.
The other crow shook his head. “You’re not making a lick of sense, mate.”
“I mean… his mistress.” He nodded at the body. Yes. The body. The face, once so familiar, was now just a set of unremarkable features. A nose, a mouth, the hint of a moustache…
“Still not making any sense,” said the crow.
“It was loud,” said Nash. “So it was probably close. So it was probably a handgun.”
“Well, that’s a relief,” said the other crow. “Humans can’t hit anything with those small things.”
“No, I suppose not,” said Nash.
He heard a keening screech from above.
“Oh, bloody hell,” said the crow. “I told you the buzzards were coming. I’m going down for a nibble while there’s still something to peck at. Join me if you like. Otherwise, call out if the human with the gun comes back.”
Nash watched the other bird swoop down and land on the body. The bird probed the soft tissues of the lips and nostrils. Nash stared after him with jealousy. He longed to swoop down and fill his belly. The buzzard circling overhead screeched again, striking fear into Nash’s heart.
“Piss off!” shouted the crow up toward the buzzard. Buzzards. There were more of them, now. Nash realized he should eat while he still had the chance.
Eat? What was he saying? What was happening? Nash was fading. Whether he was becoming the stormcrow or just relinquishing control of it, he could not say. It didn’t matter.
“Eyeballs!” shouted the crow from the body. “He’s still got the eyeballs in! They’re the best part! I’ll split ‘em with you!”
Nash shook his head. No, not Nash. He was no longer Nash. Still, he didn’t relish the idea of starting his new life feasting on the old one. Instead, he would fly. He splayed his feathers and leapt into the sky. Away from the body. Away from the friendly crow. Away from the buzzards. Towards the trees. Over the orchard. Past the house in the distance with the flashing blue lights. Where a human in a brown coat was being subdued by two other humans in bright yellow jackets. Where a woman in a white dress sobbed.
He flew East, towards the rising sun. Where he was least likely to have to face the fog of the previous night.