Contest #240 shortlist ⭐️


Fiction Bedtime Fantasy

One thing I was very wary about was the temperamental moods of Nature. Before leaving the nest for the first time, my mum had instructed me on flying head on into a steady stream of wind, one flick of a wing against it and I would be tumbled beak over toes.

“Better to use the gales to your advantage to conserve energy. A slight breeze will allow the airfoil of your wings to allow you to soar. Back drafts allow you to hover in place.”

I had been excited to try. To make her proud and master the art of soaring and hovering and attacking those pesky starlings that so annoyed us. I had been restless and overly eager to soar like my siblings and now I pay for foolishness with every rising sun.

Our nest was in the crook of branches in a tall sugar pine tree. From it we could see the entire human village that stretched from the shore of the sea to the forest before the gently rolling green foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

The purple sky to the west was darkening like a festering bruise, the slate blue cloud cover thickening. Good. It would be a very dark night. I trembled with impatience and the yearn to feel safe again.

Down below, windows brightened as lamps were lit. The intoxicating smells of meats and fish broiling and stewing that wafted upwards made my beak water. Human food was so much tastier than forest offerings and carrion. The homes to the eastern side of town were bigger and brighter, with large yards groomed neat and tidy with flowering shrubbery, gazebos, and big tasseled umbrellas. The east side refuse bins were brimming with tasty scraps.

The homes surrounding my tree were much smaller, with dirt yards planted with vegetable gardens and refuse bins devoid of anything remotely edible.

At last, the ebony night had descended around me like the blackness of my mum’s wings- a distant memory now, but a soothing one- my happy place. I leapt from the branch and listed to the left as usual, correcting my handicap with my extra strong right wing.


As the girl sat by her window, she looked at her drawing for a few seconds, then added more black. ‘There,’ she thought, ‘he’s much more evil now.

She growled in her throat like an irritated Tom cat when she heard footsteps approaching her door. She swiftly put her drawing in the drawer under the desk and picked up her pink pastel crayon to color in some petals on a page with roses in a sunlit garden complete with yellow butterflies.

“Grrrr,” she said softly as the door opened. She always came in without knocking.

“Matilda dear,” her mother said with a nervous twitch at the corners of her mouth, “look who’s come to visit.”

Matty did not look up. She knew who the visitor was, and she hated him.

“Hello Matilda,” the priest’s holier-than-thou voice grated on her nerves. It took all her willpower not to bunch her shoulders. “Can you look at me child?”

‘No. Go away.’

“She’s been like this for three days now,” her mother said.

Father Fairweather said, “That’s a very pretty picture, Matilda, you’re a very good little artist.”

She willed herself not to flinch. ‘I knew you’d like it. And I HATE when you call me that.’

“Matilda, dear, can’t you look up? Father Fairweather has complimented you…” her mother’s shadow fell over her as she leaned over to look at the colorful garden. Then she reached out tentatively and took her daughter’s hand and turned it towards her.

Matty felt her mother’s chagrin, thick and wonderfully prickly; she pictured her mother’s face just then, lips a tight line and eyes blazing under an angry furrowed brow. Matty’s small white hand was coated in black charcoal.

Father Fairweather said, “I’ve brought you a gift, Matilda.”

Curiosity prevented her from growling again.

The tall grey man in black placed a brand-new package of pastels on the desk. Matty couldn’t wait to open the package and inhale the waxy, oily smell deeply. The smell was a lot like the kerosene in her lamp. She remained frozen. She always tested herself this way- to see how long she could appear comatose for- she was getting very good at it.

Father Fairweather turned to leave; his shadow slumped.

‘I’ve won.’

Just before turning to leave as well, her mother snatched up the pastels and opened the small flat box. She closed it and put it back down, then followed the priest out the door. After their footsteps had receded down the stairs, Matty silently got up and went to the top of the stairs where she could hear them talking quietly in the living room. After all the years spent in her shell, she’d developed the hearing of a cat.

“Well, at least she’s not hurting herself anymore,” the priest said. “She seems calm, and the drawings have improved. No more spooky ones?”

“No,” her mother lied.

 “No more screaming at midnight?”


“Well now. We could wait a little longer, perhaps she’ll continue on this positive path.”

“I suppose. But…but…can’t we try the ritual again?”

‘No! I’ll run away before that again.’

“Oh, now Mary…”

Silence for a minute. Then the priest said, “well…let me confer with Cardinal Iscariot. I’ll be making the monthly passage to Astoria to present our tithe. He’s discovered possible possession in two recent additions to the orphanage there.”

‘No no no no no…’

Matty stepped on the floorboards nearest the hallway wall where they creaked hardly at all. In her room, she closed the door, wishing it had a lock. She sat down at her desk and smiled as she picked up the box of pastels and opened the lid. The black one was missing.

She wasn’t surprised but she did feel a loathing curl inside her chest like the larvae of a scream ready to burst forth.

‘Nevermind,’ she thought, ‘I prefer my charcoals anyways.’

She brushed the garden to the floor and took the dark one from the drawer.

The figure was crooked like an old oak tree, with tattered black rags draped on its limbs. The head was half the size of it, with a gaping maw full of square white teeth. It had holes for eyes under a shadowy hood. They were terrible eyes she knew, she seen them, yellow like candle wax and hypnotic like a cobra’s eyes.

Her room was small: a bed with a wooden chest before it, a desk by the window, and an armoire. At the base of the armoire, she’d pried a loose board up and inside the small rectangular space, she stashed the things her mother would not understand and take from her. She pulled out a pastel crayon box and opened it. Inside were an assortment of charcoal sticks she’d made herself, in varying thicknesses and lengths. She chose a thin one, four inches long and put the rest back.

At her desk, she finished drawing the creature’s bony slender hands, the fingers long as brand-new pencils. She shaded them in grey tones by mixing amounts of charcoal with a stub of white pastel. She drew from memory she once thought fictional but now believed to be real.

From downstairs, the sound of a broken bottle. ‘Good. Sleep well bitch mother.’

At last, she looked up from her latest drawing of Bernard, son of a Wendigo and a Canadian native witch named Koko. So Bernard had said.

She sat back sleepily and content. It seemed the more she illustrated Bernard, the less he appeared in her dreams…as if he were content to be pictured, immortalized…even admired. She could believe that one such as he were that big-headed to think that.

She felt the night pressing at the window. She loved the dark. It calmed her like her charcoal pencils did, and the kerosene scent of her pastels. She felt a draft from the small crack in the sill and turned towards the pane. Her smile flashed away from her face like a bonfire ember in a gust. Her eyes grew round and filled half her face. She stifled a scream, lest her mother fear her possessed again (she’d forgotten she was passed out cold.)

At the window was a raven peering in at her, its onyx eyes searching hers.


I had frightened the girl.

I’d come to this house on many nights after learning to fly, in my frustratingly lopsided way. The outside bins were rich with delectable human food scraps. Sometimes chicken legs with only a small bite taken, sometimes sliced beets with melted goat cheese, sometimes lamb bones, the fat untouched.

On this night, I know not why, I was beckoned to the window on the top floor overlooking the yard. I was drawn to it. Perhaps when I flew, sideways at first until corrected, and alit upon a branch close to it, I’d seen a small pale face staring out into the night. She was smiling. I could see she loved the night as much as I.

Ravens are not creatures of the night by trade. They roost at night like most birds do. I was not like most ravens…ever since that fateful day of my first flight from my nest. I thought I was as strong as my siblings and as strong as my mum wished me to be. But…when I leapt from the nest the first time, my right wing obeyed, my left was …not so much. The breeze that should have caught my airfoil instead tumbled me beak to toes and I fell.

On the ground I cried for my mum, but she shook her head, ashamed, and turned her back to me. I knew what happened to runts and the infirmed amongst our kind. My uncle had been born with a club foot. He could fly but was ever pursued by his own kin until at last they’d attacked enmasse and pecked out his eyes, and shat on his back, leaving him to die alone and blind and dirty.

I was not about to suffer his fate. I hid myself in the daylight. In the night, I became part of it. Perhaps because of my handicap, my night vision grew.

As I looked into the window, I could see the girl was terrified. ‘What? Of me?’ I didn’t understand but I felt bad. She was also a creature of the night, I could see it in her expression as she looked out and up into the skies.

I crouched in supplication and tried to look into her eyes so I could read her and perhaps she could read me.


Matty suppressed the screaming she felt like that snake was now eager to be free. ‘No!’ she thought. The Cardinal Iscariot would tie her down again and the torture would be worse than before.

Bernard was big and huge and wanting her to come with him.

‘A raven! At my window!’ She’d seen it peering at her, cocking its head to try and catch her eye. ‘Bernard! In raven form! It has to be…

Matty knew most birds roost at night. It was as odd to see a bird at night as it was to see a raccoon in the daylight. ‘Bernard that evil demon…in bird form,’ she thought again and shivered. Maybe she should let the Cardinal torture her to death. Life was just so…

‘Tap tap.’ It was back but she wouldn’t let it in.

From the time she was an infant, she hated to be touched. The touch of a hand brought shards of electric pain to her new pink skin. She’d hoped it would fade but it did not. To be enveloped into arms was to be thrown into the sky as a sacrifice, lightning bolts searing and sizzling until she felt too exhausted to speak or move. Eventually, people stopped touching her. If she ignored them, they turned away and she was at peace.

One day her mother had brought the priest. He’d tied her down and said a bunch of bullshit words and Bernard had come to her rescue, whispering to her, “just lie still. Smile. No more screaming. Just worship me and someday I’ll come and take you from all this pain.”

She had done as he said, and she dreamt of him. And drew pictures of him in homage. It had been enough until now. Here he was in raven form. ‘What did he want?’


She came back to the window as I tapped again. She breathed heavily and looked into my eyes, looking for something, searching…

She opened the window, and I crouched low to make myself smaller, meeker. I looked up at her, feigning weakness and not sure why I was here or why so drawn to her.

She said, “Bernard, it’s okay. I’m ready to go. Take me away.”

I thought, ‘Bernard?’  and hopped into her room.

I understood then that she feared something I was not. I made my decision. If she were to wring my neck, so be it. But I truly believed I’d at last found a kindred spirit. I hopped to her desk and crouched low, turning my head away because she seemed afraid to look into my eyes.

I closed my eyes. I prepared for execution, or eye-gouging as my siblings had tried so long ago.

I felt a gentle touch on my feathers. The ones one my neck and I cooed like a dove and bowed even lower, purring like a kitten. It was heaven to feel love through a hand, a touch I’d never felt before.


The huge black bird in Matty’s hands curled up and nestled close to her.

“Oh, my goodness,” she said quietly, “you’re not evil at all. You’ve been sent to me to protect me from Bernard.”

March 09, 2024 03:08

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Faith Packer
03:16 Mar 11, 2024



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Alexis Araneta
15:58 Mar 10, 2024

Such a treat to read ! I love the multiple POVs. Great, very vivid descriptions too. Lovely job !


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Tanya Humphreys
02:41 Mar 10, 2024

Thanks David, for reading my story. I was delivering mail to the rural hills of Santa Cruz when I thought of it. I came home early and wrote it for 6 hours.


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Wes Fish
22:38 Mar 30, 2024

Looking for the raven to speak, "evermore"


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Story Time
04:52 Mar 20, 2024

I love the different angles of the story. Smart and satisfying. Well done.


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Glenda Toews
16:29 Mar 16, 2024

I LOVED this story! It scratched the creep right into my skin AND tugged at all that longs to protect! Well done and well deserved shortlist! Congratulations!


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John Rutherford
18:23 Mar 15, 2024

Well done.


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Mary Bendickson
16:05 Mar 15, 2024

Congratulations on shortlist Will get back to read later. Really creative writing. Seems like start of something bigger.


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David Sweet
16:03 Mar 15, 2024

Congrats for being shortlisted this week!


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David Sweet
19:44 Mar 09, 2024

Wow! Cool story, but you left me wanting more! I'll have to check out your selections to see if any fit. Very interesting perspectives from both POVs. I'll look forward to reading more.


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