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I Duel Metallic Ravens

July 8th, 2004

Gramma lived in the norwood house that over time and by virtue of the ridiculously malicious supernatural presences that had taken root there had become a ramshackle, thirteen story haunted mansion.

My children were stolen. Three of them, all nearly infants. Everyone else picked up and fled the house, piled into the volvo with me in the back and tore away down the rutted roads as fast as they could go. But I climbed out. Kidnapped, I shouted. I don’t know if they heard. I didn’t care. I ran back to the house, fighting my way through encroaching brambles, rose bushes, backyards. People didn’t live in this neighborhood anymore. I was surprised our car had made it up the drive.

My best friend from childhood, whose name was also Mike, and who had fallen into a series of mysterious derangements about which no one ever spoke, still dwelt in the house, high, high above everyone else, in a locked room where no one but grandma ever ventured. But the haunting was growing worse, and I was the only one willing to do anything about it. I knew he understood what was going on. And I wanted to see him. It had been so long. He had been my best friend once. Everyone protested, grandma, the children, but I insisted. She agreed, but warned me not to go too close or raise my voice, or even meet his eyes for too long. She said the best way to talk to him was with an occasional gesture of submissive friendship, reaching out with a bent hand, like a dog with a wounded paw.

We climbed the rickety rotted cluttered stairs, and unlocked the door to his room. He was in there, in a red shirt. He was completely bald. I fancied his hair had fallen out from fright–but his face was utterly unmarked, like that of Schmendrick the Magician. Whatever had happened to him, whatever had possessed him, it had preserved him externally. But his motions were spasmodic, palsied, like those of a Hodgkin’s victim. And when I saw him, I knew that what had taken place in his past must have included murder.

He spoke to us, told us about the malice.

He came to warn us of it. I stopped being afraid of him.

The stairwells crumbled beneath us as we descended. Children clung desperate to beams that hadn’t quite rotted. Others plummeted, and I could only pray that something had broken their fall. I too would have fallen, but suddenly I recalled I could fly. I burst out through a dusty window, and found the pressure of the malice fall away from me with the touch of fresh air. They only had power over the house itself.

Two enormous, glossy-winged black ravens with hooked yellow beaks were fluttering around the house, clinging to trees and power lines and diving at dead bodies on the street. I challenged them, and they turned to enormous pale bald men in long, cellophane-black cloaks and dove at me, cursing me. I fought with them, as I had fought them before, and watched them turn to water beneath my grasp.

But I knew they weren’t destroyed, only defeated.

I flew back inside and tried to save those who had been trapped up near Mike’s floor. They were in awe of me. I told them I had always been able to fly–in dreams.

In dreams!

I sank to the ground. In dreams, I said to myself, I can do more than fly.

I went into the house, and began to change it with my will. I concentrated on a time-blackened section of wall paneling. It shifted under my gaze. The mildew disappeared, and the beautiful dark wood reemerged, with blue-green trim. I walked through the house, altering it around me, like Murdock in dark city, fabricating past that had not been.

Cacti grew from shelves that appeared in the walls. Mosaics of grandmotherly concepts reformed out of debris: hope, love, grace. The kitchen became a place of organic wonders, full of the smell of baking. Grandma was pulling a tray of muffins from the oven. She offered me one. It was warm and soft.

The light from the windows was blinding bright, and as my eyes focused I realized it was the white wall of my bedroom washed with morning.

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