Who was it that originally sang that song, “The First Cut Is The Deepest?” because I know it was not Rod Stewart? Hmph; can’t be bothered to remember right now. Sold millions of copies, that song. Really popular back in the days.
Lies, all lies.
My first cut was a shallow one; I watched the skin break open, my heart racing as I watched the blood rise to the surface.
Anna, that had been her name. They say you always remember your first. They got that one right.
I’d been in Secondary School then; a lanky, thirteen-year-old black teenager. No friends, but I didn’t mind. Just the usual ‘Hello’ and ‘Hi’, mixing up only when I needed to. I did my best not stand out as a loner, or to get too attached; I aimed at being forgettable.
My only companion was the crow.
I never realized it had followed me; never deemed it possible. I’d given up all hope.
It was night, and I’d been sleeping when it appeared, or I called it. Don’t know which. Most likely, in my loneliness my soul sought for a familiar soul.
Something woke me up, and I opened my eyes in the moonlight streaming into my room through the open curtains. I checked my bedside clock; 1:15 am. I’d been asleep for a little over three hours. I lay in bed, wondering what had woken me up when I heard it again; an insistent tap-tap-tap on my window. I turned my head to look, and I was faced with the beady, one-eyed stare of the crow. I blinked my eyes in confusion; it was real. I sat up, heart thudding. I felt a familiar heat in my hands and stared at my palms. The runes were back; they glowed a dull, pulsing red in the darkness. I closed my hands into fists, opened them again. Still there. I felt a tingle race up my spine to my head, lighting up my brain. I was filled with barely controlled energy and excitement. I got off my bed and placed my palms on the cold glass; I felt the heartbeat of the crow. I opened my window, and it flew in and settled on my shoulder. It spoke to me without words, and I knew what I had to do.
Letting it fly outside, I changed into something warmer, took my jacket with me, and then crept downstairs as quietly as I could. Wore my trainers, took the house keys, opened the door and stepped out, shutting the door behind me as silently as possible. Immediately I stepped out from beneath the awning, the crow alighted on my right shoulder, and I walked with it down my driveway to the road. The streetlights were on, but the road was empty save for parked cars. A light breeze blew a paper bag down the road. I looked up at the sky; dark clouds had covered the moon. The night seemed denser, thicker.
I turned to look at the crow. “What now?”
A tightening in the air; I smelled the ozone, and then it was as if my whole body was on fire. I felt the mind of the crow, and I sought it in the darkness, latching unto it with a hunger that surpassed anything I had ever experienced. The moment we connected, I was lost. I sensed its…vastness, its knowledge, and then, I knew its name.
“Show me,” I said, and then my sight switched to something akin to tunnel-vision, only this time seen through a red haze.
And then I saw the line.
It was a ragged, pulsing black line that seemed to run forever. It started in front of me and ran off to my left on the sidewalk. I turned and followed it, oblivious to the night. I stuffed my hands in my jacket pockets when it got too cold, not bothering about where I was going; I don’t think I was thinking of anything then. I followed it until it turned left onto a road. I read the sign; Bernfidditch road. I continued, walking past houses on either side of the road until the line took me past the last house. It rounded another curve and went on till there were no more houses to be seen. Left, and then right in front of me was a one-storey building. The line disappeared under the front door, the crow flew away, and everything returned to normal, or as normal as it could be, because what was normal about a thirteen-year-old boy standing in front of an abandoned house on a lonely street in the middle of the night?
The lawn was overgrown, with grass pushing through the concrete driveway. The windows were shuttered except for one directly above me on the first floor. I looked at it, wondering what lay within the house; why it was so special that the crow had brought me here.
And then a figure stepped into view in the window.
He wore a white, long-sleeved shirt and a black hat, from what I could see. He carried a black walking stick with some sort of metal knob for a head that caught the moonlight. In the darkness, I couldn’t see his eyes, but I remember thinking his face was too long. Then, he raised a bony hand and waved at me.
“Hello David,” I heard him whisper from beside me, and I whirled, expecting to see him. I was alone. I looked back at the window; empty.
That was more than enough for one night. I ran all the way home.