Friendship Happy Sad

Raven could never sleep in the deep blue of night, because it was strange now. There were windows here, in the study with the curved desk and tall, plush chair. She wasn’t in her room of walls anymore. No domed eye watched her every move anymore.

It was strange…

But she was grateful.

Just to be sure, she tapped the ruffle of pale curtain, stiff but not as hard as stone. Real. She wondered if she wrapped it around herself like a blanket, would it be warm? If she pulled it down, Kier might not be pleased though. He’d rescued her from the observers, so she’d be good and wait.

The velvet sofa dipped. She steadied herself on the backrest; like deer fur, maybe. Poking her head through the first curtain, she met with the silky inner sheet. Spun snow. She’d seen pictures of sunbright mounds burying trees and grass. She parted this sheet too and her breath painted the glass, but the dozens and dozens of winking, blinking cityscape pierced it. She covered her mouth to see clearer.

Each speck was a lighthouse.

The squares, caged lightning.

Stars scooped and tethered to make neon signs.

If this was a dream, she was glad she’d found this sleep.

Her fingers crept up to the latch, two tiny feet walking. She didn’t touch it. She knew it to be cold metal; and a betrayal if she acted on her own. She’d been raised to serve. She must listen and stay until let go. If let go.

A white bird wheeled by, wide as cirrus. Kier had given her a bird book three days ago… and that shape must be an owl. Maybe it’d gotten tired of the forests billowing on. They chirped at night. She rather liked that. The city was a stone forest, but full of human wonders. One day, she might be allowed to explore the mall with its tiered fountain; the bakeries with their long breads and cream cakes, cotton dresses made for summer, scarves and knit hats for slow winter.

For now, they were just passing pictures in bird’s eye. Untouchable.


She ducked her head back into reality; Kier shut the door, a comforting shadow where it’d been empty. He held out a square card. A photo of the next target running around, and making his life harder.

“I have a new task for you.” When he reached past her ear, when he pushed up the latch, when the curtains blew back and the windows out, she was always, always so happy.

She Turned. In a flare of red, her black wings lifted her up and out.

This was her starry sky, and he’d given it to her.


“What are you thinking, Raven?” asked the male observer. All of hers wore a raven’s mask, to ‘teach you to be comfortable with yourself’, with coat and clipboard to show they weren’t the potential buyers promised to her future.

She sat up, pulling her legs into a kneel. Be respectful. She’d been drawing imagined circles on the floor. Little windows with pie slices of glass, like the book ‘Good morning, Little Spot’ had shown. If she could have a cottage window, what would she see out of here? But she shouldn’t ask so much. She didn’t need it.

We feed you, clothe you, allow you to bathe. Don’t be greedy.

Yes, she was content like this. But what a nice window Spot the dog had.

“Raven. I asked you a question.”

“Sorry, sir. I…” She hesitated.

“You can ask more than one. I’ll let you, since you’ve been very good. More than your peers.”

“Why… am I here?” When the observer kept silent, she ventured, “You all raised me and kept me. So… when will someone buy my… talent?” Am I useful?

“Do you want to get out?” Said so kindly, like an offer to hold your hand.

Friends did that, didn’t they?

The observer turned his back on her. One question, and she’d blown it. “You will not leave here, with that attitude. Looks like we still have some fixes to do. Follow.”


Raven stared at the top shelf of Spot the dog plush toys. They were real. She could buy one, with money. Kier had given her some.

Someone tugged on her sleeve so she looked down. “Hellooo, Raven in space? Are we all here? Seeing clouds up there?” Ritzi bounced into view, pigtails flapping. She was a tiny bunny and a bouncy ball rolled into one.

Raven nodded. “I’m here.”

“Good good, I just found the perfect hamburger slippers for those chilly winters that creep up on us all the time-” Ritzi’s hold was gentle. A friend’s hand. A very good and patient friend. A sister?

One of those hands patted her cheek. Ritzi had to stand on her tiptoes, so Raven bent to make it easier. “Did you want that puppy dog?” Ritzi pointed to Spot.

Don’t be greedy.

“No, thank you. It was nice to look at.”

Ritzi searched her face. “If you’re sure?” They started going, Raven in tow. “There’s also a really cool jacket with wings on the back, but they’re not printed on, they’re 3D, and you could be like an angel of death-”

They met Arzaire outside at a round table by the escalators, sipping caramel milk with whipped cream.

“Hey! You never asked if we wanted any!” Ritzi charged over to steal the rest of his drink.

Arzaire was the wolf to the bunny - but this wolf enjoyed the sun as much as Raven did. His silences were thoughtful, not expecting like the observers.

Arzaire sprang to his feet and dodged Ritzi’s thieving attempts. Later, to make her stop pouting, they visited a cake house for chocolate slice, cheese tart and a packet of shortbread. Raven liked the feel of wax paper. She liked to keep the silver red ribbon in her drawer, and taste the buttery crumble-melt on her tongue.

They met Dune in the centre of the mall, letting the fountain catch his coins. He tossed her two, which she caught, and she skipped them across the water. Arzaire had taught her at the park pond.

“Show off.” Dune smiled.

Ritzi held the cheese tart high in its flat white box. “This is for youuuuu!”

“Wait wait, watch out for the fountain-” She soft-tackled him into his jacket and immediately escaped his tickle grab. The box was a bit squashed, but that didn’t matter. The little things never did. Not like in the room of walls.

Dune knew the value of a head pat or a ‘well done’. He - all of them - had patience and they saw her, not only what she could do. Somehow, that felt better.

It felt better to be with these three, all together, all at once.

We’re not just workmates, okay? We’re family.

Today was a vacation. You were supposed to enjoy vacations. Raven supposed she did, very much. If this was a dream, she was glad she’d found this sleep. 

June 09, 2021 08:29

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