Chapter Five—Ravens and Coyotes
The dream began as it always did: Linda was lying spread-eagled on the boulder by the brook in the snowy, silent hollow, one hand massaging her breast and the other stroking her womanhood. As she pleasured herself, her mind wandered.
So that Erwin, she thought, he’s pretty hot.
Slut!, she thought to herself. You love Frank. You love him, and he loves you.
Yeah, she replied, all of my love goes to Frank, but I’m just saying, Erwin is pretty hot.
He’s twelve years older than you. He’d be breaking the law just by offering himself to you.
No, he wouldn’t. The age of consent in Georgia is sixteen, and my birthday was months ago.
And then Linda had an orgasm. As soon as the waves of pleasure sweeping over her body receded, she started to feel lonesome. She was suddenly very aware that she’d been masturbating, instead of making love to Frank, and that she was alone. Totally alone. Even Ol’ Scratch was nowhere to be seen, and there was no sound but the snow-muffled babbling of the brook. All was silent, all was still. She was spooked.
To combat the growing lonesomeness, she decided to go exploring. She hopped off of the boulder and walked over to the brook, running cold, blue, and clear over its bed of stones worn smooth by thousands of years of the water’s action. She tramped down its bank, the sound of snow crunching under her big black boots pervading the still air.
After walking for what felt like hours, she stopped to look around. The scenery hadn’t changed, all was still dominated by black, leafless oaks and hickories stretching on into boulder-strewn eternity. Icy wasteland. Blasted heath. She sat down on a stone to rest. A flash of motion in the air caught her eye; a big black bird, a raven, with red eyes was soaring through the treetops. It perched on a branch, cocked its head, and stared at Linda.
Linda, grateful for the company, smiled at the bird and said, “Hi there! What’s your name?”
Quoth the raven, in a harsh but feminine rasp, “Nevermore!”
Linda rolled her eyes. The bird lept into the air and flew in circles around her, chanting:
“And the people—ah, the people—they that dwell up in the steeple all alone, and who tolling tolling tolling in that muffled monotone feel a glory in so rolling on the human heart a stone—they are neither man nor woman—they are neither brute nor human—they are ghouls!
“Brother’s shall fight and fell each other, and sisters’ sons shall kinship stain; hard is it on Earth, with mighty whoredom; axe-age, sword age, shields are cleft asunder, wind-age, wolf-age as the world plunges headlong; no man shall spare another!”
As the raven stopped, the wind started to pick up, there was another flash of motion, and the raven was pulled from the air. The trees were creaking and cracking in the growing wind, which was approaching hurricane force. Above Linda’s head, the raven and an enormous eagle were circling each other as if squaring off to fight. Linda woke up.
She shot awake with a gasp, shivering from the lingering cold. The digital clock on her nightstand told her that it was five o’clock in the morning. Somewhere far in the distance, toward the other side of the mountain, a coyote gave a mournful cry.
Frank had been awakened and couldn’t get back to sleep. A coyote in the woods was making a gawdawful racket and riling up all of the dogs in the area. The unseen Canis latrans would croon at the waxing moon high above, and every farm hound and rat-dog in the county would instinctively respond with a chorus of agitated barking. Frank put a pillow over his head in an attempt to drown out the noise. It didn’t help. The mournful howls, almost like banshee-cries, sounded like they were right outside of his window this time. He lifted the pillow off of his gulliver, looked, and was staring into two green eyes. No, they weren’t even eyes: They were orbs, radiant green spheres glowing with the intensity of Hell itself. Frank shouted. There was a yelp—like a scared puppy—, followed by a flash of motion, and the eyes disappeared. After a few silent minutes, the coyote-call came again. This time, it was followed by what sounded like the cawing of a crow or a raven. This call-and-response continued, as if the two animals were talking to each other, for a few minutes. Then there was a growl, followed by an angry squawk, followed by a whimper, followed by silence. After a while, the coyote called again from farther away. As the howl was muffled by the trees and drowned out by the barking dogs, Frank thought—was almost sure—that he could hear his name in it.
He glanced at the clock beside his bed—five o’clock in the morning. He’d have to get out of bed in three hours. With an angry and troubled sigh, he sank back into his pillow.