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The Eternal Curse of the Raven


The Eternal Curse of the Raven

Rola Mohammad Dinnawi([1])

The raven sighs, quite used to the dreadful sensation that washes over him.

“Must you always suck the joy out of everything?” Wonders the dove. It was a busy day at the park; people bustling and birds preening. The raven had just expressed his distaste of it. Had any of it mattered? He wondered loudly.

“I exist. Much, much away from the joyous folk,” retaliates the black bird, “If not by choice, then by the sneers and superstition of those who cross my path.” Often was the raven dismissed by others, feared by most, and hated for his wise, gnarly voice. He declared what others fought to ignore, said the truth, but was met by sneers from those cowering behind lies. For as long as he could remember, ever since he left his mother’s nest to set into the world, he was referred to as a bad omen. He had never heard that name before then.

“See!? That is what I am talking about! Why must you turn me into a villain?” Says the dove, furious. The raven could not tell why she was offended. Were his feelings insulting? Strange.

“I do no such thing,” says he, “I speak only the truth.”

The dove, displeased by his cool responses, huffs and puffs and flies away, the shiny white feathers gleaming in the sunlight, soon joining the flock of other glittering feathers.

Sigh, the raven sighs once again, it happens once again.

It was not the first time one of the sunny creatures got exasperated by his antics and way with words, but what else must he do? They ask, and he tells. God forbid he ever lies; he may be cruel, melancholic and apathetic, but never a liar.

The dark-feathered bird hops off the bench’s back and flies off, the encounter left a bitter taste in his mouth, and now he wishes to leave the scene before the misery consumes him. As he flies, he watches a pair of people – they were eyeing the bench – finally take a seat with relieved faces, murmuring about narrowly escaping the reaper’s pet.

He scoffs. Idiots.

          As he flew, his misery seemed to follow him, and it was catching up to him. Nearly at his tail, he decides it is best to scare it away. But how does one scare away his misery? For starters, he does not; for misery is your one true companion that never leaves; it may drift away, but it will come back again.

          The raven knew it was no use, he couldn’t scare the big monster, but perhaps if he put on a brave face and screeched loudly, he will delude himself into thinking he is bigger than the dark creature behind him. At the end of the day, they were both dark creatures, trying to triumph over the other.

          “Caw! Caw!” Screeches the raven, “begone! Caw!”

          He screeches once, twice, thrice, he has lost count. He does not know what he screams for anymore. He continues to fly and screech. What is he yelling about? The wind slashes through his feathers and cools the sweat on his skin; he is shivering and nauseous and his little stomach aches, but he must not stop until he is safe. He screams again, this time to be heard, to be seen, to be recognized as a cry, rather than hysteria.

          Down below, the sun creatures complain at the disturbing sound, in their eyes the raven caws to disrupt them, curse them, and call down the wraths of the sky on their blessed, lovely days. Do they really not know that the raven cares not? Must they neglect that the raven is fighting a battle as they speak? The raven, often misunderstood, stopped explaining why he screams once he realized it was to no avail. People will believe what they thought, so when he realized that he was spoken at, rather than to, he decided to caw some more in their faces for it was all the same in the end.

          Soon enough, the raven reaches his vast, desolate field. He sits on the arm of the little hay man standing there, the only person who never fled upon his appearance. The raven thinks this man is strange, but he finds it not in him to be put off by it.

          “Hello, friend.”

          Hello, little bird.

          In this empty space, he feels well enough. It was his haven, a place where he could simply be. He considered having friends over, but who would accompany the scary black raven back to the large field with the lone, strange man?

          “How are you today? Been busy standing, eh?”

          Quite the comedian, you are.

          The raven caws, but this time it is a laugh.

          “Quite, indeed.” The raven sobers, “I fear that it will only be you and I in this field, today again.”

          The dove was unnerved by your brooding aura, I presume?

          “Sod off!”

          I am stuck in place, you sod off.

          The raven remains quiet. He escaped getting consumed by the beast following him, but he knew it will be back as soon as the night unravels, as Orion rises and Sirius shines, as the world goes to sleep and the creatures under the moon wake.

          Sometimes, he wondered if he would be different if his feathers grew a different color, perhaps he would have merged into the crowd easily. But truly, he detested the idea of blending into a crowd. So perhaps it was not his black feather, but his brain that was his curse.

          He did not mind being away from the crowd if it was his because of his brain; it was a much easier pill to swallow than his feathers.

          Suddenly, the raven grew restless, he was going to miss something if he did not set off eastward, but what was it? As far as he could remember, he had no urgent plans and did not want to leave just yet, but his gut urged him to fly.

          “I am overcome with a premonition,” Declared the raven, cutting their meeting short, “I shall leave now, friend of mine, expect me again soon.”

          Farewell, black bird.

          The raven liked to believe that the silly man in the field speaks, but it was he who put the words into the faceless man’s mouth. He imagined that the hay man would await their next meeting, excited to hear about all the places he never sees. Alas, the man is only made of hay, and the wheat in the field tells him the tales carried in the wind, secrets whispered by people to the sky when everyone slumbers, secrets they may never say out loud, outside the solitude of the silent nights of the town. But what you do not know is that even the wind has ears, and it carries your voice far, far away to the ears of lurkers. Flying away, the raven scratches at the wheat with his sharp talons. Sigh.

          As the raven flies, quietly this time, with an occasional caw every now and then solely because he felt like it, he reaches a large tree on a hill. He lands on a branch that overlooks the city. It was beautiful, really. The lights dotting the city looked like constellations. There! That street is lit like the Lyra constellation! How wonderful is that?

          A few moments pass, then he feels a weight settle beside him. The raven flinches, how did he not notice this intruder creeping up on him? He then turns, undignified, to look at the intruder, ready to caw in their face and scare them off. Under other circumstances, he would have been intrigued by the company, forever curious, he might have even welcomed it! Tonight, however, he was particularly sour that his peace was disrupted.

          Curse you, brain! Must you now be dejected? Thinks the raven.

          Before he could even open his beak, the intruder beats him to it, and says, “Beautiful night, tonight. Is it not a magnificent sight to behold?”

          Only then did the raven get a look at the intruder, it was also a raven! Or perhaps a crow, he could not really tell, but he could tell by the sleek, smooth appearance of the black feathers that the raven was old. He had not met one of his folk before, so this was an experience he did not expect that random night in March. Realization dawns over the raven then, this was what he was going to miss! The raven is overwhelmed with a sense of elation for leaving the desolate field, and a sense of anxiety for even considering neglecting his gut and staying there.

          “You’re like me!” Exclaims the raven.

          “I am not.” Replies the elderly raven.

          “Oh, but you are!”

          “No, I am not!”

          “You’re infuriating. Caw!” retorts the raven, he only knew the elder raven for a few minutes but is already exasperated, enraged, and done with the interaction. He wishes to go back to his field at once.

          The elder raven caws out a loud, booming cackle, and it startles the raven. Was he not afraid of bothering others? Has he not been reprimanded for his screechy voice?

          “My, quite the raven you are! Indeed, we are not alike. I am not like you, just as none of the ravens in the unkindness are alike!”

          The raven stares for a moment, bumfuzzled, then decides to ask, “Why are you here?”

          “Why, I’m here to enjoy the view. Why are you here?” He asks back.

          “I want to be here.” The raven answers, boldly.

          At that, the elder raven smiles as best as any bird with a beak can and announces, “Well then, we must celebrate this joyful coincidence! Shall we meet the rest of the ravens? Shall you finally show your field to others?”

          The little raven hesitates for a minute, so many questions entering his mind each second, he did not even know what to ask first. How did the elder raven know about the field, or the raven’s mistrust of most? Though unnerved, the raven decided that this must be the wisdom that comes with age, and against his better judgement, he also decided to give the elder raven a chance to speak.

          “Whatever must you mean? How can you welcome me so easily?” Asks the raven, perplexed.

          “Because we are one of the same. Blessed and cursed with our brains, far away from the crowd. We are not alike, but we are of the same flesh and bone. We are creatures of solitude, yes, but we are part of the world. The world may seem dark, but so are we, and thus we continue to uphold it, and interact with its beings, because that is the way of life. We try, fall, then try again. What else shall we do?”

          The raven was stunned, had he really occupied such an important role in the world? It couldn’t be, for if it was, then why was he shunned and misunderstood? Why was he not held with high regard? If the elder raven spoke the truth, then his kind was the pillar of the world, the backbone, and the hand that feeds, but why was his hand getting bit?

          “You speak not the truth.” Decides the raven at last, the speech still running in his brain.

          The elder raven sighs.

          “But it is, dear child. Our brains cursed us with sight. We look where others only see, we see things as they are. It is both a blessing and a curse, child, plaguing us since hatch, but it is a burden we must bear. Others will misunderstand us, but as long as we know the truth, then we remain above  it all. It is our duty as the secret-keepers of Earth, after all.” Recited the elder raven, seemingly having said that speech numerous times, probably to other young ravens in the same boat as our own little raven, but passionate no less.

          “And what is to be gained by accompanying you?” Says the raven, forever the skeptic.

          “A sense of belonging, brains to match yours,” lists the elder raven, “and a home, most importantly.”

          The raven is rattled by the offer, it was not one he expected, but one that tempted him nonetheless. He was alone for a very long while, but not lonely, or he didn’t believe himself to be at least.  He did catch himself yearning for such things at times, but he lives through it, just like all the terrible things he experienced. Yet here it was, being handed to him.

          “If you wish to accept, seek Polaris in the sky and it shall guide you,” Says the elder raven, “I best leave now, but know that the unkindness welcomes you at any time. Until we meet again, child.”

          With that, the elder raven flies off, but our raven stays and ponders. His solitude has always been a part of him, who was he without it? He did not know who he was in a crowd, but he ached to know and quench his curiosity. Perhaps, he could find out. Perhaps, he could finally show his field and hay man to the others. What has he got to lose?

          With that, the raven spreads his tar-colored wings and flies north, and, for the first time in his life, he has hope in his silly little heart.

[1] – Computer science student at AUB 2nd year.

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