Eryn wiped at the red flecks on the window then paused to focus on the darkness beyond. In the woods past the garden there was movement, a glint in the foliage. Her breath froze. She hadn’t reckoned on a witness. Picking up the knife on the draining board, she thrust it into her cardigan pocket and opened the back door.
The night was cold and still. Eryn wandered out onto the patio. She shone a torch to the corners of the lawn, but nothing. Turning back towards the house, she jumped as a rustle of black descended onto the garden. Swinging the torch around, she saw a raven perched on the fence. Its ebony eyes stared through her but other than a twitch of the head, the bird remained motionless. She rushed to the house where she slid the bolts hard across the wooden door.
At dawn she pulled up the kitchen blind. The air was hazy from the morning sun, white wisps of condensation steamed from the ground. As Eryn turned the tap to fill the kettle, she stalled. There on the fence sat the raven. It stared, not taking its gaze from her as she stirred her tea.
She pulled her dressing gown around her and walked to the door, slowly sliding back each bolt, she had much to do. Reaching for a filled bin bag, she put it outside against the lean-to. The raven gazed at the bag, then at her. It cawed, a screech into the quiet morn, then settled again on its perch. She heaved two more bags outside then closed the door.
Moments later, a second raven sat next to the first. They regarded each other, then the bags, then her. Eryn turned and when she looked again, there were three, four, then more; a black, winged jury lined the fence.
Pulling on her coat, she put up her hood, tensing as she opened the door. She shuffled to the shed at the bottom of the garden, emerging moments later to drag a firepit to the centre of the flagstones. Two more ravens flew down to the opposite fence, then another. Eryn was cornered prey.
She took a bag from beside the door and poured the contents into the metal drum. She took a lighter and the papers smouldered then burned. Eryn watched the flames crackle and grow as the ravens stirred and squawked.
Dragging the heaviest bag over, the ravens fell silent. At the first sight of its contents, the birds swooped around her. Before she could blink, Eryn was beaten to the ground by enormous metallic wings. Curled up in a shell on the ground, she looked through her arms as feather, beak and claw jabbed towards her.
For an hour or more there was screeching, tearing and pulsing from the conspiracy of ravens. Eryn prayed for it to stop, for the purgatory to end. She closed her eyes and her ears until it would all be gone.
From the shrieks, silence resumed; the beaks and claws no longer scratched her skin. She opened her eyes and slowly stood up. The flames had burnt to a whirl of smoke. Black feathers littered the backyard but the bags had gone. Not one shred remained.
Scanning the trees at the back of the house, she saw a glimmer, heard a caw, then a flap of wings.
She watched as the raven flew away. Straightening her coat, she smiled and headed back to the house.
Read more by Joanne Derrick @joannecderrick.