HIS MURDER OF CROWS, the working title

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December 7, 2012 by saharaj

This is a story I started yesterday, the one I started off of Wither. On top it seems like it is romance, but I’ve already told you I don’t do romance. No, His Murder of Crows is so much more. Underneath lies several murders, the hint of magic, and a mysterious, cursed boy who only looks for a way out. And, of course, Haven, who is so very far from home. I hope you like it. Feedback is welcome.

Please ignore the fact some paragraphs are stubborn and chose to unindent themselves when I pasted what I have written in here 🙂 They should be indented.

S.

CHAPTER ONE

Cal and I used to fantasize on the weekends. We were younger then, around ten, and we would sit down across from each other, legs crossed and all the newspaper clippings we had salvaged through the week dumped in the middle. For several seconds it would be all we could do to stare between each other and the pile, giggling. We would use the basement, so we were all alone, but we didn’t feel like it, despite the walls seeming they could crumble any second they chose. We felt like we were in our own world of riches, escaping the reality of how poor we were down there.

First came the dresses. Cal chose traditional white, but hers had a feathery, torn up skirt to make up for the sleek, strapless bodice, so that we would giggle at how she looked for hours on end. People would come down and see us laughing at Cal standing there, wearing the meager, dirty brown dress she had, and they would declare us insane. We didn’t feel insane, but instead chose to believe the others simply couldn’t find their way to our world. They had lost the ability, somewhere along the way. Everyone does.

My dress, of course, was anything but traditional. I have never quite liked following the crowd, but I like to twist popularity so it can fit me, too. So it was self explanatory, I thought, that therefore my dress had to be black. It was a black version of Cal’s, and hers wasn’t even very traditional in the first place. When I explained my dress people believed I was describing a funeral dress and I gave up trying to fit them into my world. Only Cal and I saw the beauty of my dress. It wasn’t just the dress, of course. You had to do my hair a certain way, and the make up a certain way, and I had to be wearing a white pearl necklace and pearl earrings, and I had to have little white gloves and white boots. We always debated whether I should make the skirt a dark red as well as black.

After the dresses came the setting. Cal wanted her wedding to be on the beach. “Maybe,” she grinned at me one day, “Maybe my husband will be rich and he can buy me an island. We will go live on the island, just us, after the wedding.” But that was the end of that discussion, because we had brought up the issue of money. We never discussed money because then reality barged in to inform us all our dreams were inaccessible.

I wanted my wedding to be in a forest. So desperately I wanted the redwoods to be growing still, and for life to be able to sustain itself without science. I wanted to go to the mysterious, majestic redwoods in California I had read about and seen, and I wanted to be married beneath them. That was my dream.

Lastly came the most important part, we told each other. The last thing about our weddings that we would go on and on about was the groom. He had to be perfect. He had to be our true love. We could go on for days about who the perfect person for us was.

As it turned out, all the decisions for my wedding were made for me, and it came with nothing as I had dreamed.

I was walking to the orphanage from the market, taking my time, staring up at the sky and wishing it would snow even though I knew it was only September, and not nearly late or cold enough for snow. I had been standing on the side of the road, staring off at the twinkling lights of the city, when the van rode by the first time. As soon as I heard the engine chugging along unusually silently I started walking, picking up my pace. Yet the van drove by, and all I got was a glance from the driver through the tinted window. I watched gratefully as it passed, but then it stopped several blocks away and started lurching backwards, stopping beside me.

I should have run, and I know it would have been easy to disappear within the alleys, yet something held me routed to the spot. The window rolled down and the man, taking and folding his sun glasses, slipped them into his breast pocket and stepped out of the car. I dared not take a step back, though I think he expected me to, and I clutched the market bag, hoping I could get to a can in time to throw it at him if I needed to.

“Are you Haven Fair, by chance?” He asks me, his voice gruff, but almost verging on polite.

“By chance?” I snort. “Actually, you caught me at the right time, and by chance, I am Haven Fair. Tomorrow you’ll have to check back with me, because I might be someone different then, by chance. I don’t typically hand things over to chance.”

I see the man’s mouth twitch, whether it’s for a sneer or smile I don’t know, but I’m hoping for the latter. “Would you please accompany me, Miss Fair?”

“What am I needed for?” I’m loosing my normal, witty self, and I don’t like it.

The man doesn’t respond. Instead I am grabbed roughly from the side and shoved into the back of the van, were around two dozen girls are cowering. The van starts with a lurch, but I don’t stop pounding at the back door, wishing it would open – yes, by chance – or the truck would stop and they would realize this was a mistake. I had to get back to Cal. She was Calypso Evans, my one and only friend in this sick world.

As the van continues my movements become more sluggish, and I realize why the girls don’t seem to care about what is happening. They are drugged, just as I am becoming drugged, but it is impossible to avoid because the gas is coming through the air vents. Everything is blurring around me, and then suddenly there is bright lights and jumbled words, and I am being dragged, being forced onto a chair where a man in a lab coat examines me. They talk about me, I think, as I begin to wake up. They talk about how I am the only one to struggle, and how hard it will make me to sell if I don’t cooperate.

They talk of me as if I were an object. I surprise them, though, as they force us to line up in a room, men and women walking along our line, inspecting us. I surprise them by cooperating, but it is only because of the man in the corner who holds a gun. Because of him I dare not move. I try and keep my head lowered, but one man doesn’t appear to be much older than me, standing in front of me, watching me almost sadly, and I wonder how he got pushed into this, looking up.

Then I have to be sedated as they tattoo little numbers behind my left ear, claiming I am someone’s property. They put me in a limo all by myself in the back, and I know the gas is coming through the vents again, though I am still sluggish from being sedated.

When I wake up I find that I am being slapped, and I have to be restrained by a strong man in a suit so that I do not slap the woman back, even if it was just to wake me up. The man finally lets me go when I calm down so the women can strip me and deposit me into a bathtub where my skin is nearly rubbed off and I think I may be glowing, slightly, I am so clean.

They are disgusted by the amount of filth I’ve accumulated, but are thrilled to find I have such straight, white teeth, and they take almost a full minute to awe over my thick, brown curls as if unsure what to do with them, like they have never come across hair before. Then they come out with the gown. Because I am not sure what exactly is happening, I let them put the gown on, and make me pretty with make up, and do my hair, even though none of it is me. The gown is beautiful, with its sleek, white satin bodice and skirts, and slim, long sleeves, but it is not me. At least it fits, I think. I am always receiving hand-me-downs that are too small or short or big, because of what a slender, feminine figure I have, and because of my height.

The man pushes me along a hallway to where I join up with three other girls in a room, and in some order, where I take third place, we are herded outside large doors, through a wonderfully fake garden. There is a large group of people sitting and staring at an empty covered pavilion, and a long red carpet.

Then I realize, being led down the aisle, that I am one of those girls I have seen on TV, who are taken and forced into a marriage in groups. My stomach knots and I begin to fight. I don’t think anyone was expecting the slim, pretty feminine girl to fight back and be so strong, but finally they get someone who can hold my arms behind my back while I am forced to stand inside the covered pavilion before about a hundred guests, next to other girls who don’t need to be assisted. They stand by themselves and yet try not to run. Perhaps I should have I waited so I could make a break for it now. Silently, though I do not know them, I wish one would do so, for their sake.

The groom is making his way down the aisle, and I see him smiling at us as if we had each of us been in love with him properly and this was not the first time he had laid eyes on the four of us. I realize, with a sick thought, that this is not the first time he has seen us. He is the boy I looked up at in that line. He comes up, and I vaguely register someone saying the vows for the first girl. I can’t look at any of them, not the girls, not the groom. Everything is growing blurry and I wish I could puke on him, but nothing comes up, and I wonder how many days have passed. When have I last eaten?

He is standing in front of me now, and he looks hurt that the adult supervising this doesn’t think it safe for me to be let go so he can hold my hands. I’m trying to inch away from him anyway, and the thought of him touching me makes my skin crawl, but the man behind me who is holding me holds firm.

“Will you be my wife?” He asks me as he has asked all the other girls, staring at me. But my eyes don’t widen in fright as the other girls have, as they have shook their head no but then stuttered a yes with the whisper of the advisor. My eyes harden in anger.

“No. I will not be your wife,” I say firmly.

The advisor leans by my ear. “We have your family,” he whispers, barely audible.

I just laugh, because this isn’t possible. My mother died alongside my baby brother when the disease came, and my father died soon after. Eleven . . . there is no way that this man can have my twin sister, I tell myself. And he is too formal to call Cal my family when she is not. So I just laugh.

“If you really think I’ll change my answer over a pile of ashes, you are mistaken, sir. I will not wed this man. Not now, not ever.” The grip on my wrists tightens – what does he really believe that is going to accomplish?

The advisor sneers at me, but the groom laughs and pockets the wedding ring to pull out another. “Wreed,” he addresses the advisor, “There is no reason to harm this girl for expressing her opinion.” He turns to me, now, and slipping this new ring onto my hands says, “I look forward to our engagement.”

He moves on to the last girl.

CHAPTER TWO

I wake to find that I am in a plush bed in a large, cream room. The walls are bare of any décor, though there is a polished desk with a mirror, and a bookshelf half-filled with books; the rest of it is empty. There is a high, closed window, and there are three doors. One is large and oak while the others are smaller, and I presume they are a bathroom and closet. I sit up, thinking that of all that time I spent with Cal in the basement, now is when I feel the walls pressing in.

Letting myself fall back to the bed I find the mattress fits to my body, but it is not the firm, springy mattress I have grown accustom to, and I hate the way I feel like I could sink underneath the blankets, so I shove them to the end of the bed and get out. The floor is carpeted, and I find that I am wearing a pink, lacey nightgown. I slip out of it, leaving it crumpled on the floor, and I steal a blanket and pillow from the bed, taking it with me to the bathroom. There I wrap myself in the blanket, curl up, and fall back asleep.

I am plagued by nightmares.

Through my dreams I am forced to endure the hell of being taken and forced into engagement all over again. But all through out the dream I see a dark figure huddling here or there, blurry in my peripheral vision. When my vision swings to focus on it, the dark mass blinks out of existence. Then as the groom walks down the aisle, I watch him transform into this dark creature I have been trying to find. It appears to be a formless body, but it is a face cloaked in black. The boy – slightly older than me – is handsome, but he has such cold, dark eyes that seem to stare straight through me, and as he sweeps his gaze over us everyone falls until I alone am standing, and this monster boy is smiling slightly at me. Then he blinks out of existence again and I am being chased by a murder of crows, and I am running as they grab at my hair until I stumble, cry out, and open my eyes to find the bright white ceiling of the bathroom staring me down.

There is a face, too, though it takes me a moment to focus on it. It is one of the girls from yesterday at the wedding, I think. Yes, this is the last girl, the youngest one. She looks delicate and thin, her face frightened as she kneels next to the bathtub, watching me worriedly. She wears a modestly cut dress that has a sheer outer layer of pastel green. It looks gorgeous on her. She is beautiful and thin, with light blonde hair that ends in little waves. Her hair is pulled away from her face, and her face is already painted with blush and blues to match her dress and her deep blue eyes. They’re my blue, I think, and wonder if our husband – I have to remind myself he isn’t really my husband yet. I don’t know which is worse, being stubborn or loved. I will reassess later, I think – has a thing for blue eyes like that.

“Are you alright?”  Such a silly question, I think. Does she truly believe I am alright, when she finds me naked in the bathtub? “You were thrashing about. It was awful.”

“It was a dream,” I say, moving to sit up.

“A nightmare, I think,” she smiles. “I never fell asleep, for fear of nightmares. I truly understand. I . . . I am married, now. But you are the one who said no, yes?”

Numb, I nod. I take a deep breath and haul myself up, clutching at the blanket. “I should get dressed,” I announce shakily.

“I can get someone,” the girl offers, but I shake my head.

“Please don’t,” I beg, and I make my way over to the closet. I figure if there is really nothing I can wear without being helped into it, I will have to put my nightgown on again.

The girl helps, walking into my closet and grinning. “Your clothes are all so different from mine. You must be Jasper’s favorite,” she pulls out a dress, “If he gave you this. You should wear this, it would look very nice on you!”

I take it from her, inspecting it. The dress is somewhat short for my likes, but not unreasonably so. (Besides, any dress is beside my likes. I like pants and shirts because skirts and dresses don’t let you do anything in them, but my whole closet seems to be dresses, so I resolve to ask for some jeans and blouses later.) It is a neutral tan color, with a little brown strip of leather at the waist, forming a bow slightly off center. What catches me is that there is only one inch wide sleeve, and the other side has the sort of torn up look that I always thought my wedding dress would look like. Furthermore, I will be able to put it on by myself. Shrugging, I pull it on, finding it to be a nice fit. The girl zips up the back for me after handing me simple black ballet flats, and I thank her, hoping I may have found a friend.

“My name is Haven,” I tell her.

“Shoshanna,” she responds, “But my friends all call me Suzie, you might as well do the same. I would so love to find a friend here.”

I nod in agreement, leaning against the wall. We are sitting on the windowsill, looking out at the garden, which is the view from this window. I have tried, and you cannot open the window. It seems shatter-proof as well.

“What do you know of this place?” I ask Suzie forlornly. “What is to become of us? How old can you be? How is it fair that this happened?”

Suzie says nothing. Then she swallows and answers. “I am fifteen, younger than you by a year, I have been told. I am told that we are in Ontario, Canada, now,” she looks sympathetic at the way my mouth drops momentarily. How can we be in Canada when what seems to be two days ago I was in Texas? How could we have driven that entire way in such a short time? “And that we – well, the other two girls and I – have been married to Jasper Art, who is only nineteen himself.”

I interrupt her. “Who are the other girls?”

“Jacelyn Hawks, who is seventeen and goes by Jacey, and Maeve Fringe, also seventeen. I haven’t really met either of them, though. No more than you have, at least.” We are both silent, and I wonder when we will get the chance to meet them, and to meet Jasper. “Our four rooms are all in a row on this hallway, but you’re the first to wake. Will you explore it with me?”

I am happy to explore now that I am awake. Perhaps we will find a way to escape, but it is my suspicion that we will find ourselves confined to our hallway instead. I am surprised to find that both of the doors on either side of the lush hallway open easily. However, we find that they both lead to the same, large, furnished living room that leads off to a library. We search the perimeter but find no way out, save to large doors in front of the living room, but they are locked. Eventually we accept defeat and I find a book to read, sprawled on the sofa. Suzie discovers that Jasper has a huge, flat screen TV, and puts his Wii to good use, as outdated as Wii is. Still, it is fun to create Suzie and I as Mii’s, and of course neither of us have ever touched a TV of such quality, so it is all new to us.

Suzie has left for the mast bathroom when an older girl comes stumbling in the room. She has a mass of tangled dark brown hair – much darker than my light brown curls – that’s in her pale face. Her cheeks are flushed and her eyes are red and puffy. She has large red lips and light brown eyes. She, like the rest of us, I suppose, is pretty. She wears a nightgown similar to the one I woke up in. Though she must be one of the seventeen year olds Suzie told me about, she seems my height, and a bit bigger than me, though not by much.

“Hello,” I look up from my book, giving her a shy smile. She returns it. “I’m Haven, what is your name?”

“Jacey,” she blinks, wavering over and steadying herself on the couch. She blinks and frowns at me. “You’re the girl who refused.”

“Are you alright?” I ask instead, because she seems rather unsteady.

Jacey shakes her head as if to clear it and smiles again. “Well, considering I’ve been dragged here and forced to marry a man I’ve only just met, no. But I’m just tired. I had an awful nightmare.”

“So did Haven,” Suzie is back, walking over to turn the TV off. “I’m Suzie, by the way, but I didn’t have any nightmares, because I feared that would happen should I let myself fall asleep.”

“You shouldn’t let him do that to you,” Jacey said, “Make you lose sleep.” But Suzie just shrugged. “How long have you two been up?”

I glance at the clock and make an estimate. “Around three hours. Do you happen to know if Maeve is awake yet?”

“The other girl? No,” Jacey shakes her head. “At least we’re all in this together, though, right?” I smile in an assuring way and mutter that I was in it with her, because of the desperate way she looks at me, like she has nothing else in the world to cling to.

We talk for a moment, each of us sharing our story on how we got here. I tell them how I was taken, and about Cal, but I don’t say anything about my family beforehand. Sometimes I think it better to forget. Suzie tells us her family had been shot to death by a cult who didn’t believe in their religion. She explained that she had never even truly believed in all that stuff, but seeing what her parents went through made her want to believe. “What is it they see that they’ll die for that I won’t?” She asked, but neither Jacey nor I answer, because we can’t tell she doesn’t really want us to. She is quiet after that, not even explaining how she escaped, but we don’t press. I think it awful that it happened, especially because America was supposed to be over that by now, but it is just wrong. Then again, America has gone back to favoring men. Nothing is given in today’s twisted, surreal society. Jacey tells us that had been living with her older brother and her brother’s wife and newborn. She had seen an opening as a maid and was going to take it, but found herself in the back of the van instead when she arrived.

Finally we break off, Suzie to the TV and me to my book. Jacey seems unsure even though Suzie offers to let her play Wii bowling with her, and I offer to find her a book. In the end she simply wanders, which I suppose makes sense because we have explored and she hasn’t. She wanders off and I don’t bother to ask where, because for all I know she could be lost in one of our closets. The possibility of this is more real than I want to admit, so I let myself wander in my book. After an conversation with the incredulous Suzie, who finds it impossible I started and finished the three hundred page book all within this time, I find myself trying my hand and tennis on the Wii.

When Suzie realizes that I won every game at tennis and boxing, so I will probably win on other topics too, she seems downcast, and I wander off to leave her to her virtual world. I would rather read, anyway. But instead I find myself going back to the hall with our rooms in it, seeing the three open doors, and one shut. The shut door is Maeve’s room. I just know it.

Mustering up the courage, I turn the knob silently and push the door open a crack, peering into the dark room. I see a shape huddled in the corner of the large room, and I open the door all the way, letting light flood in so I can see better. The room is a lavender, furnished the same as mine, but it isn’t as big as mine is. Still, I walk in and flip on the switch, afraid of what I may see.  I’m relieved but curious to find Maeve huddled in her blanket against the wall, arms wrapped around her knees, which she is hugging tightly to her chest. She definitely appears to be the oldest, with shorter, straight brownish reddish hair but tan skin from spending time outside. She has a flat, round face, but she is pretty, and her cheeks are covered in freckles. I wonder if she is Irish, in which case the tan skin seems as out of place as it looks.

I cross the room and kneel down next to her. She is moaning, rocking slightly, but she doesn’t appear to be awake. I place a hesitant hand on hers and her eyes fly open. She stares at me with wide, pale green eyes.

I open my mouth to tell her it is okay, but I realize it is not, and shut it again. Finally I guess, “Nightmare?” She nods, slowly, and I shuffle back a little, leaning against the wall beside her.

“You had the nightmare too?” Her voice is a whisper, but I can tell in a setting more familiar to her, when she is in a different state of mind, she is a loud person who people listen to. I nod. “With the cloaked boy?” I nod again, and she shudders. Then she opens one eye and peers at me, a slight smile creeping across her face. “You’re Haven Fair, aren’t you? You’re the girl who refused.”

I sigh. “I seem to have built myself quite a reputation off of that.”

CHAPTER THREE

It is strange, talking to Maeve at first, because she is older than me, but has been traumatized into behaving similarly to a young girl. She is looking at me with such awe, and I notice she is messing with her one finger, and I see the gold band that is her wedding ring. She notices my gaze and holds the hand out in front of us, finger’s splayed.

“It’s hideous,” her voice almost breaks. “I wish I had said no, but I . . . I just can’t. Please don’t ask.”

“I won’t,” I promise, and I mean.

“You said no.”

I nod again, but then I hold out my own hand, with the silver band inlaid with a single amethyst jewel. It is gorgeous, I think, and entirely my style, but I vow to not let anyone know. “I still got a ring,” I say instead. “He still touched me and slipped a ring on my finger, and smiled as if he were in love. And yet, he saved my life. The advisor would have killed me for refusing.”

Maeve is silent at this.

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