Edgar and I

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.

17 thoughts on “Edgar and I

  1. I hadn’t really thought of it like that, the way I connected to it was more his approach. How his manic highs brought about bursts of creativity, drawing upon his depressive phases for inspiration. I do that. I call it “baking.” I don’t have anything RIGHT NOW, but I have an idea, so I pop it in the oven and let it bake for awhile. A couple weeks later: DING. That’s often how I write stuff. I’ll have several ideas baking and then I hit this manic phase where I’m just, you know, nuts, crying all the time and lashing out at strangers, then quickly doing a 180 and babbling frantically about everything in my head to anyone who will listen. Then I go back to brooding.

  2. Well maybe the similarity in method leads to a similarity in result? I don’t know. I probably wouldn’t have thought of it before, but I kind of see a connection now.

  3. This is the best thing I’ve read in a while. So good, I’m reading it again. (And why does the raven have a British accent, I’d like to to know??? At least, he does in MY mind.)
    More. I must have more.

  4. Thanks! I wrote “elegant” and you read “British” because that’s the accent that you think of as most elegant. That’s really interesting to me because it demonstrates how differently things are perceived from one person to the next. I was going to describe in detail what his voice sounded like, but decided to leave it ambiguous and let the reader’s imagination do the rest. I really like the idea of a story looking and sounding completely different in someone else’s head when they’re reading it than it did in mine when I was writing it. It’s a concept I’m playing with a lot, lately.
    The idea for this story came to me during the probable peak of a particularly intense manic phase I’ve been going through lately. I’m essentially coming down from being batshit crazy for a solid week, prone to wild, sudden mood swings, mind always racing, either with euphoria or panic that eventually exhausts to to the point that I just crash into the bleakest depths of depression my sick mind has ever known. I scream at the sky and ask whoever is out there why they put me here to suffer like this.
    And that doesn’t even begin to describe the white-hot rage that people continue to activate when they enter my headspace and flick it on like a light switch. Disrespectful strangers and people I already hate anyway but normally tolerate piss me off to the point I’ll get angry simply because I don’t like their fucking faces. 😂. My response is usually fairly even-tempered, but when I’m in that state, I’m much more prone to flipping out and getting all Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction on a motherfucker.
    In the midst of all of this, my OCD symptoms of checking things are off the charts. I’ll spend half an hour trying to leave the house, only to have to go back inside to make sure I unplugged this, or turned that off, or closed this, or whatever. I’m a fucking spaz.
    During times like this, though, I might write up to five or more hours a day. I can’t stop myself, it’s a compulsion. When I’m doing something that isn’t writing, I’m thinking about writing and constantly taking my phone out of my pocket to “jot down” a note about something I want to write about.
    I haven’t really just “relaxed” much and I haven’t slept much, either, but the other day I watched a documentary about Edgar Allen Poe and the following quote, which I’ve since looked up and read in context, stood out to me:

    “There are epochs when any kind of mental exercise is torture, and when nothing yields me pleasure but solitary communion with the “mountains & the woods” — the “altars” of Byron. I have thus rambled and dreamed away whole months, and awake, at last, to a sort of mania for composition. Then I scribble all day, and read all night, so long as the disease endures.”

    Wow, I thought. That’s me. He let his mental illness and his ego fuel take a creative driver’s seat on the road to success. His suffering was our gain, as the things he’s written will never be forgotten.
    And that’s all I want. I’ve only begun writing again as of this year, after decades inactivity. I haven’t TRIED until now.
    I take Poe’s life story both as inspiration and cautionary tale. In other words, I want to make at least a small fraction of his impact on the world, but I don’t want to let my demons pull me under as they did him. I want to keep them on a leash like snarling dogs, released for attack at MY discretion. I need the constant and occasionally unbearable pain of existing inside of this fucked up head to all be worth something someday. It HAS to be.
    Anyway, I was sharing some crackers with some big black birds outside the other day and between that and the Poe thing, out came this story.

  5. Patrick. I feel you. Totally. I, too, am very OCD right now and it took one ‘little’ thing to set me off. Generally I don’t fight it too much because frankly it’s just who I am. But I also don’t want it to consume me.

    Interesting, too, perhaps, that I am currently doing a beta-read for an author and it is book about (and from the perspective of) E.A. Poe. So, I too have been immersed in his thoughts and mania. In fact, I had to put the book down as I felt compelled to get on WP and read here and almost immediately cane across your post, which I felt, in the moment, was fortuitous. It was what I needed to read. This spoke to me and indeed was upon my mind as I awoke again.

    I look forward, quite sincerely, to much more from you. Don’t stop! (And PS: I’m almost always available for conversation should you be in the early hours and unable to sleep or articulate.)

  6. Wow, thanks, it almost backs up the Bird’s claims of being omnipresent. What I really aimed for with this was to make the writing from my point of view have a “whiff” of his writing style, whereas the Poe(as the raven) is thoroughly modernized at this point. He sees the big picture, how things evolve, how things are tied together, how we think we can never be as important as people who died centuries ago. He’s essentially telling me to write my OWN classics and not judge them against a standard, or adhere to the “rules” of writing. Classics are classics because they defied convention. That’s what I’m trying to work my way towards. Getting what I want but doing it my way.

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