The raven gripped a bare branch halfway up a tall redwood at the edge of an open space. From there it surveyed the scene, turning its head and flicking its eyes to take in the familiar wide fields and the road cutting through them. The old fences were gap-toothed and leaning. There was fog on the horizon and the morning sky was white. It was a little warmer than it had been the day before. The raven was large and deeply black, covered in glossy feathers that gleamed with reflected light. Its eyes were blacker still. Its head jerked sideways at the appearance of a figure coming from behind a thicket of blackberries. The figure moved along the road heading west and the raven kept it in sight, using one eye and then turning its head to use the other. Anyone close by could have seen shiny wedges of white on the outer rims of the eyeballs as they turned and caught glimmers of light. But no one was near the bird and it was well beyond the vision of the figure who continued walking steadily. The raven flew down to have a closer look. The distance between the two beings was a five-minute walk, but only a few seconds as a raven flies. Its gliding swoop caught the attention of the walker, who turned her head and used both eyes to watch the raven land on the crosspiece of a high decrepit gate, a way ahead. She regarded the bird but kept with a firm step, but not too fast, like one accustomed to covering many miles in a day. The raven saw a person of middle height, slightly rounded, with long brown, red-streaked hair that hung in a thick braid over her left shoulder. The walker wore blue pants, a dark green jacket and sturdy boots. There was a carrying pack on her back and, with her left hand, she grasped the handle of an old garden wagon, filled with the last jars of honey, covered by a cloth. The woman was on her way to town, about three kilometers from her house on the ridge. She would trade the honey for flour, which the ships brought up from the city. The raven looked out at the hazy edge of the ocean beyond the far field, then back at the one who might have a bit of food. The woman’s eyes also moved. She looked down to keep her feet and the wagon’s wheels out of the holes in the pavement, and up to sweep the larger scene, as the raven had done. Wild plums growing along the road were beginning to bud. Yellow sour grass flowers bloomed in the weed-clogged ditch. The road was quiet as cars rarely passed. These days most people walked to town, using whatever side of the road had the fewest ruts. As she came near the gate, the woman stopped to look closely at the raven. She pulled her mouth into one of those grimaces that the bird didn’t understand. He croaked once. The woman croaked back and said, “Hello, sweetie.” “Ah, she’s one of those,” thought the Raven, and croaked again.
Karen Cahill "Raven Girl" & "Raven Girl 2"
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