Once upon a midday dreary, amongst the graves, so still and eerie, I suddenly become acutely aware that I wasn’t alone.
The Raven perched atop a crumbling, moss-covered headstone some twenty feet away from me wasn’t just looking in my direction, he was looking at me.
Just why I held my arm aloft, inviting him to spread his wings, take to the air and alight upon it upon it remains a mystery to me, but I did, and he graciously accepted my offer without a trace of hesitation.
His sociable nature seemed to me rather atypical of a wild bird of any species, much less a raven, but as I stared into his eyes, and he back into mine, I knew that this was no ordinary raven. His face was wizened; he knew things. He’d been through some shit.
“Who are you?” I asked him, peering at my twin reflections in the shiny black orbs that captivated me by way of their intelligence and depth.
Now, curiosity has before led me to investigate and verify claims of talking ravens, so I’m aware that they’re capable of reproducing eerily humanlike speech and are oft possessing of impressive critical thinking skills. For birds, that is.
When the raven parted his beak to reply, though, I was scarcely prepared for the coherence and clarity of thought that was to spill forth; a level of sentience heretofore unheard of in the animal kingdom, as far as I was aware.
“Cut the shit,” he said in the most elegant manner in which I could ever have imagined a bird speaking. “You know who I am.”
I pondered this for a moment. “Yes,” I said. “I suppose I do. I just… I didn’t expect you to talk like that, or, you know, at all.”
He scoffed. Scoffed. “Words are tools to be utilized in service of conveying their speaker’s intent. They are also weapons; carefully concealed daggers meant to inflict precision cuts… Or, conversely, nuclear bombs designed to decimate.”
“So true,” I replied, the absurdity of agreeing with a bird not entirely lost on me. “Have I gone crazy, though?”
The raven sighed. “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence. Whether much that is glorious–whether all that is profound–does not spring from disease of thought–from moods of mind exalted at the general intellect.”
“That’s deep,” I said.
“Indeed. Know who said it?”
I shrugged and the raven, quite unexpectedly, pecked me on the head.
“Ow! What was that for?”
“It was me, you fool,” the bird exclaimed, his feathers ruffled in agitation.
“Oh,” I said. “Yeah, I thought it sounded familiar.”
“It’s a very common quote,” the bird continued. “You should read up on my life. We’re a lot alike, you and I. I’ve been watching you.”
I was a bit taken aback by this revelation. “Watching me?”
“Yes,” said the bird. “Watching and listening. Not literally, not in this form, not as a peeping tom perched on your windowsill, peeking through the miniblinds. I’m simply woven into the fabric that makes up our existence, as one day you shall be, as well. I can’t properly articulate the concept so that your simple, corporeal brain will comprehend it, but in short, there is a little bit of me in everything.
“Like a Jedi who has died and become one with the force.”
He pecked me on the head again. “More or less,” he said.
I rubbed the sore spot where the sharp point of his beak had nicked my scalp. “What did I say now?”
“Nothing. That one was just for funsies.”
I was flabbergasted. “‘Funsies? You say ‘funsies?’ And you’ve seen Star Wars?”
The raven sighed again. “My dear boy, I have ‘seen’ everything that exists. All of mankind’s creative output, both before and after my untimely demise, is a part of my consciousness. An overwhelming amount of absolute trash has been foisted upon me throughout the centuries, but works of quality stand out, and I treasure those works when they come into being, for they are rare in occurrence. And as for my usage of contemporary slang, I’d like to respond with a piece of advice: Loosen the fuck up. It’s 2018, not 1818. Quit trying to be so flowery. That’s the chief beef I have with your written works. Trim the fat a little. Pretension doesn’t work in 2018. Not for you, anyway. The words must flow and come across as genuine.9 Use little daggers for precision incisions. Don’t try to be me. Not only will you fail, but you’ll never be taken seriously unless you forge your own identity. My spirit moves through you, inspiring you, as do all of the things that surround us, the sights we drink in with our eyes, the words and sounds that seep into our minds via the ear canal, but be your own thing. Be original.”
“You’ve read my writing?”
This time I saw the peck coming and blocked it with my other arm.
“Don’t ever act surprised that someone has read your work,” he snapped at me. “Act surprised that they haven’t.
I scratched my chin and nodded. “Like you did.”
Somehow, the raven smiled. His facial expression didn’t change one whit, but I could tell. He was smiling.
“Got any Percocets?”
I frowned. “What? No.”
“Oh well. Worth a shot. I’ve developed quite an affinity for the things, you know. Anyway, Make me proud. And don’t ever let the bastards grind you down.”
And with that, he soared upwards into the dismal, overcast sky.
“Nevermore,” I muttered, as I watched him vanish into the clouds.