Unkindness of Ravens by Tracey Stanley
Nature is healing. Does that explain the giant raven tapping on my patio doors this morning? Maybe it came from the Tower of London; bored without visitors.
My sister, Mags, ruler of the roost, squawks: ‘don’t let that filthy bird in here.’
I think there’s something wrong with him though, his wing looks broken.
‘Bra..an, braa..n,’ he caws at me through the glass.
I made a little bed up in the garage and I’m nursing him back to health. Gathering worms for food. Mags is disgusted with me, says it has diseases, will infect us both.
The raven disappeared overnight. I wonder if Mags is responsible. I saw her kicking his bed when she thought I wasn’t looking.
In his place, we find a cauldron. Mags translates the Welsh inscription on the rim: ‘this is the cauldron of Blessed Bran. Restorer of life.’
Should we take it to the hospital? I keep thinking of all those poor families who have lost someone. Perhaps we could use it to help.
Mags says we should use it for our own means.
Mags decides to experiment; fills the cauldron with chicken legs from the freezer. Within minutes there are live hens clucking around the garden. She shrieks with joy: ‘no more trips to Tesco for us.’ I’m relieved in a way; last time she got into an argument with someone who wasn’t wearing a mask.
Though I may turn vegetarian. I don’t like the look of these chickens.
I swear that Mags’ nose gets beakier every day, and I don’t like her watching me with those beady black eyes.
I awake with a start in the night. There’s a figure in the garden; dancing, crowing. Dressed in an ebony cape, arms flapping, witchy hair fluttering. It’s Mags. What will the neighbours think?
Mags tells me she is taking the wing to Ireland, to marry a prince or something. Is it another of her virtual Tinder romances?
Confused, I ask, ‘but you haven’t even met him. What happens if you don’t like him?’ ‘That’s no matter,’ she says. ‘And anyway, if it doesn’t work out you can muster an army to come and rescue me.’
Would we quarantine?
Mags has gone. The cauldron is missing as well. All that is left is a black feather.
Originally from Derbyshire, but Cardiff-based for 10 years, Tracey Stanley spent most of her adult life in Yorkshire. She started writing again in 2020 during the pandemic, working mainly on poetry, but recently branching out into flash fiction. Key themes include family, childhood and memory, loss and grief, responses to literature, the pandemic and world affairs. Twitter: @fragmentsstone.