The Crow Tree

A macabre tale of nature.


1. Chapter 1

There was a rustle at the entrance, a rustle of smooth, black satin as the light dimmed in the place. What had been a strange, still silence became animated as the figures inside reacted to the arrival. The charcoal grey feathers on the floor rose and formed into pleading, insistent gaping beaks. The bird had brought a large moth, the wings encased its beak and the soft hairs of its body glistened against the shaft of sun shining in through the hole.
The chicks pulled and climbed to reach the small morsel, but it was not enough to go round and as the bird left there was a slow disappointing sink back into resignation.
Some time later the place went dark again as the other parent bird entered, this time with a rodent hanging from its mouth, the tail hung limp and tempting. As the chicks again heaved there was an unsettling movement as a gaze was cast towards the helpless body. The eyes felt every being that was brought for consumption, after all, in many cases it had been the fate of their host. As the flesh of the pitiful corpse was greedily torn apart, the sadness showed in the eyes that surrounded the inside of the nest hole, eyes that had been brought there by the curious crows to line the inside of their lair, eyes that they had been drawn to from every dead animal the bird had found, while scanning the fields from above.
For many years now, every time the crows had landed to investigate a recently killed body, they had been attracted to the reflection in the dead face. It would hop round and look into the eye for some time and want it, want it to themselves to look at and admire. Pulling at the delicate socket area and snapping the sinew from the skull, the eye would be released for the bird to take, the inside of the nest hole being the perfect place to hide it from predators,  but also to admire it. The wall of eyes was protection, watching over her young as they grew. Looking out for them, she thought in an innocent way.
Some were from sheep, protruding, with a slit across them, some from wild creatures, badgers, rabbits and stoats, squinting in the differing light, other birds, the owl, pigeons, moorhens, scanning the space, flitting from the opening to the floor, some from horses and deer, soulful and deep.
The eyes still saw everything, still felt emotion, still knew what was happening, but they could not communicate, could not cry out, and could not stop what was happening.
The rodent was now gone, the commotion on the nest subsided and the eyes dropped again, some sleeping, some just reflecting.
The crows returned several more times that afternoon, each time satisfying the craving of the mouths. As the day wore on the clouds outside of the hole, gathered and darkened and a strong breeze whipped the branches across the entrance. The strength of the wind increased, rumbling the tree and causing the plastic caught in the fence outside to flap furiously like a huge, terrified flock of pigeons after a gun shot. The first few drops of rain fell as the storm approached, a crack of thunder hinting at what was to come. Minutes later and the sky broke open with an almighty tear as the air shook, the tree creaked and groaned with the force and the sky danced with static. The chicks were highly agitated, pinning themselves to the floor and circling in panic. All of the eyes were alert and excited, dancing glances around in a frenzy.
In a split second the whole of the inside of the nest was alive with a searing light, the eyes all looked at once, mesmerised to the hole. The tree splintered and broke open at the crown, a flame flushed through the branches, sending a shower of dancing sparks onto the loose nest material, which quickly caught alight. The birds panicked and scrambled over and over each other, reaching for the daylight.
The flames took hold, dancing wildly in slender plumes, higher and higher. The eyes watched flashing and fast, darting glances to each other as the flames reflected back from them. The whole place was intensely hot, wetness dripped onto the wall, creating a macabre scene.
One of the birds managed to get to the entrance and lingered momentarily before plunging out. The others could not scrabble high enough and quickly became lethargic, changing to still as the smoke overtook them, smoke that broke up the shafts of moonlight that now shone out from the unobscured sky.
The sight was now calmed; wisps wound their way out of the ravaged trunk of the destroyed tree. Nothing remained of the nest site when the crows returned. They perched in a twisted branch, surveying the scene. On the ground beneath them, they could just make out a lifeless form.
A magpie, attracted by the commotion, had flown down with a bounced landing, next to the body. It hopped around and turned back again surveying the corpse with its head cocked. A moment later and it bent forward, pecking at the side of the head. Only a few tugs and it was rewarded with its prize, before flying off to its roost.


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