The Black Cloak Of Its Wings
By Dan Soule
Vapours gyred on the surface of the hot chocolate, twirling into nothing before their eyes. Mary watched her beautiful boy blow the ghosts away. Henry’s hair was too long, feathering his face with curls Mary couldn’t bear to cut. The cooled surface of his hot chocolate formed a membranous skin, trapping heat like a lingering memory held in the warmth of a loving mind.
This was their Friday after school treat. The coffee was Italian like the owners. The hot chocolate was thick and rich. And they loved children here, making jokes with the little ones and ruffling their hair. When all was finished, and the bill paid, the son of the family, a middle-aged man with gel in his hair, would produce a lollipop as if by magic from behind a child’s ear. Henry had gotten too old for it, but he always took the lollipop, sucking it all the way home while he talked with his mouthful.
Mary loved it here. It was nothing special or expensive, just familiar. Cups chinked together. A machine producing coffee burred. Voices of patrons hummed somewhere beyond the bubble of their table, which was barely big enough for two seats beside the window. Mary gazed out to a small paved square. A busy main road lay beyond where vehicles blundering past seemed far too big, far too fast and in far too much of a hurry. The thin veil of glass that cocooned them inside, away from the hubbub beyond, felt barely strong enough and yet it held against the chaos.
Beneath the line of her eye, a pigeon pecked dumbly at imperceptible scraps. It waddled lost in ignorance from one moment to the next, like a billion others of its kin. Coming across a discarded paper coffee cup, it began to forage inside, the nub of its head disappearing. Mary was smiling at the idea of a pigeon wired out of its tiny brain on caffeine, when a cloak of black feathers descended on the pigeon’s back.
The crow was twice the pigeon’s size. It pinned the frenzy of flapping wings with wraithish talons, while its stygian eyes blinked calmly, surveying the surroundings. Perceiving no threat, the crow set to its purpose. The pigeon flailed ineffectually against the sustained violence of penetrating slashes from the blade of the crow’s beak. On and on. Over and Over. Exposing the forbidden pink of flesh, yellow of fat, blue of veins. When the pigeon fell limp, the crow took a break from its butchery, scarlet dripping from its face. All was still. Time moved as slowly as falling drops of viscus blood until, dumbly remembering it was alive, the pigeon struggled for the last of its life. The crow tilted its head to inspect the pathetic floundering, before pistoning its beak into the living corpse over and over with calm fury, until the struggling ceased.
Padding from the back of the dead bird, the crow placed a claw on the carcass’s head. And with a deliberate design Mary could not divine, it tore each wing, the plump legs and finally the dumb head from the lifeless body. Once the dismembering was complete, blood and feathers scattered everywhere, the crow looked around with staccato turns of its head. Its obsidian gaze met Mary’s with no recognition. She was another object in a world of irrelevant things. Jerking back to the dead carcass, the crow buried its face deep into the soft cavity of the pigeon, routing until it found what it wanted. It ripped free the heart, holding the small dripping organ in its beak, purple and glistening. The crow threw back its head, tossing the heart into the air. The heart fell alone, broken and disconnected. A free fall spin through nothingness until it found the something of annihilation. The crow’s beak snapped shut, chomping with lurches of its neck. Its gullet undulated, swallowing the organ whole.
A breeze blew across the concrete slabs, scattering feathers in dancing eddies, that disappeared into nothing. The crow looked skyward, spread the black cloak of its wings and took flight.
Mary turned speechless back to her coffee. The middle-aged son of the owners approached her table.
“Can I take the hot chocolate away, madam?”
Mary looked at the cold cup of hot chocolate sitting in front of the empty chair opposite. A stale membrane had formed on its cold surface.
“No, it’s fine. Thank you. Just leave it there.”
The waiter smiled wanly, with a gentle nod at the memory of a boy, who came here every Friday with his mother after school to drink hot chocolate. He had not seen the boy for several years, but the mother still came every week and ordered for two.
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You can find out more about Daniel by visiting his official website www.dansoule.com