52 Crows Week 22

Black Feathers


The boy's feet pounded the limestone path that led to the woods. Glittering dust rose up behind him.

When the trees bowed over him, blotting out the sunlight, he stopped and nestled into the folds of a thick beech trunk.

A racket broke out above him. Twigs showered his feet as though the branches were scrapping. Twig after twig fell down, until he looked up.

He saw a ruckus of flapping black wings and tangled beaks.

And then he saw, tumbling, spinning towards him, a bundle of black feathers.

He caught it, cradled it in his hands.

He felt a heartbeat in his palms.

He gathered the feathers against his own heart, and they drummed together as he walked swiftly home.

'It's still a baby,' said his mother. 'A raven chick. It will need special care.'

The boy carried the chick up to his room.


The chick needed to survive.

The boy needed to learn.

So he learned.

He made a nest out of an old hat, and dug worms from the garden.

The raven survived.


It grew sleek and glossy.

One day it climbed to the edge of the hat nest and beat its bright wings.

'What is your name?' asked the boy.

'Agata,' she replied.

He reached out his hand to her and she hopped on. Her claws pricked his skin. She climbed up to his shoulder, and he loved the warm shuffle of her feathers against his cheek. When he blinked she pecked his eye; she had to.

And then she flew.

Round and round the bedroom: wardrobe, door, window, wall.

Wardrobe, door, window, wall.

That was her world.

She flew around her world six times a day, then sixty.

Her wings knocked the ceiling bulb. A globe of yellow light swung back and forth across the boy's face as he watched her.


'You have to let her go,' said his mother.

'No,' said the boy.


Agata left the nest and chose a perch on the wardrobe.

As she flew around the room sixty times a day she saw a blur of red berries in grey fog, saw winter twigs blacken, and snow begin to fall.

And then she saw the yellows, blues, and greens of spring.

Agata collected the boy's colouring pencils, and wove them into a nest.

She sat, and waited. She watched the boy.


'You can't keep her here any longer,' said his mother. 'It's unkind.'

She put her arm around his shoulders. 'Let's take her outside.'

The boy held out his hand. Agata's claws drew bright pinpricks of blood from his skin. She hopped to his shoulder. She shuffled her warm feathers against his cheek. She ran her beak through his hair.

In the garden she fixed her eye on his, then stretched out her wings and lifted away. The sky was a cool pale blue, and Agata became a diminishing dot of black in it.

The boy tried not to cry, but a single tear fell.

As he turned and ran inside his mother picked it up. The tear had become a black feather.


The boy cried all night and woke to a pillow full of black feathers.

He gathered them to his heart. He felt them drum to his beat. Life stirred in his hands.

It was Agata.

She had come back.


Every day she flew.

Wardrobe, door, window, wall.

Sixty times a day.

She sat in her rainbow nest of pencils, and waited.


'You shouldn't stay here,' he said. 'It's not right.'

He held out his hand.


Outside she fixed him that look in her eye, stretched her wings, and flew.

He watched her, a diminishing black dot in the infinite blue.

A raven.

Wild and free.


He smiled.


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