Short Story
                                                     Raven
                                                                       By Timothy Wilkie


     The Raven found our forefathers in a Clamshell on the beach at Naikun. At his bidding, they
entered a world peopled by birds, beast, and creatures of great power.
                                                                                                                     -Bill Reid, Haida


     On a wind-swept, cold December night, Pastor William Crouch, eighty one years old, who had spent
the last fifty years of his life ministering to the homeless walking the streets and sleeping outside, sat
asleep in the foyer of 411 Maple Lane.  He was aroused from his slumbers just after three a.m. by the
sound of shattering glass.  He stepped outside and saw the shattered front window of the abandon Palace
Theater across the street, above him silhouetted against the dark sky, a huge set of wings, and he
glimpsed the gleam of razor sharp fangs.  His mouth gaped and he chuckled dryly, only one word spilled
out, “RAVEN”

     The sun was beginning to set, time for them to scurry out of the tunnels like little rats and infect the city
streets.  The roar of the subway trains rattled the grates on the sidewalks as Squirrel stepped out of the
shadows and without looking up, he stalked his first victim.  Her perfume reeked of wealth.

     The flutter of huge wings made him glance up and slip back into the shadows for the Raven was
watching.  Blood leaked from an open wound on his side, a trail of crimson that would lead the Raven to
his hiding place it was as sure as there was a heaven above and Hell below.

     In the dim glow of the street lights, he studied the gash in his side, the wound caused by the jagged
razor sharp edges of the window he had climbed through.  He had come up from the tunnels through the
old abandon Palace Theater. He had come to see his old friend but he had been too late.

     Most of the bleeding had stopped, it just oozed into the fabric of his shirt as he made his way down the
sidewalk leaving an almost invisible trail that only the Raven could follow. He thought of his sweet Maria,
who at thirteen was only one year younger than himself but she was wise in the ways of cruelty like men
were to certain kinds of women.  He adopted her from the Port Authority just a year ago today and now
she was gone.  The Raven has whisked her away to make her but he vowed on all that was sacred to him,
like his tiny compartment on the third level right above the boiler-room, and his Mother’s gold wedding
band, that he had stolen from her the night he had runaway to live with the Mole people under the streets of
New York, that he would get her back.

     A shudder ran through him when he thought of Raven alone with Maria and the horrible things he would
do to her.  She was in the season when the blood comes and Raven must act soon to turn her before she
develops the curse of Eve and a will of her own.

     He had been fighting the feelings that had been coiling around his brain like a snake casting him back
into the world of shadows, thoughts of giving up and leaving the tunnels forever, or throwing himself on the
third rail and committing suicide.  He knew that they all came from Raven. “All that stuff is stupid.” he
whispered barely loud enough to be audible for fear that Raven would hear him.  His violet eyes
shimmering with tears, he wiped his hand across both cheeks, it wouldn’t do for Maria to see him crying.

     He lowered his eyes and traced the toe of his tattered sneaker across the cement.  A woman
screamed and that snapped him out of Raven’s evil spell. He started running down the alley towards the
sound of the scream and there on the sidewalk covered in blood was the woman with the wealthy scent.  
She was near death, she has been drained of her blood.  He knew that it was a message directly to him
from Raven. In his head he could hear Raven’s thoughts.

     “When they come, they will call it a great battle but I will massacre them one by one, I will slit their
throats and suck their blood .”

     It had been a sacred moment suddenly and brutally interrupted by the tremendous hammering of
massive wings.  In an instant, talons of steel had lifted him to the top of a tall building and dropped him on
the roof, in words that were immortal and without form except in Squirrel’s mind, Raven had said.

     “Again, the Devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and all
there splendor.  All this I will give to you, he said if you will bow down and worship me.  But the foolish
carpenter said away from me Satan for it is written worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”

     In the far off distance, he could hear the sounds of sirens.  Raven reached down with hands that were
all too human and lifted Squirrel’s blood streaked face up towards him.  

     “You are mine.”  

     His talons like steel hooks grabbed him as he shot upward and then dove down setting him gently on
the ground.

     “But, unlike your God, I am truly merciful.”

     And then he was gone shooting straight up into the night faster than the eye could follow.  For a
moment, Squirrel was overcome with a sense of terror and hopelessness, and then he started walking.  
Keep moving, his Father use to say “Son, if you got to eat shit, do it fast and don’t think about it.”

                                                                                   *****

     Rabbi Rosen looked up, his mouth agape as a specter with huge wings folded to its side stepped in
through his window.  A man’s face revealed cold and cruel.  Dark eyes deeply set and bloodshot studied
him for a moment as the Rabbi held up his hands in prayer. “None of the knowledge you seek is stored in
those books old man, your God thought humans were too stupid to comprehend it.”  Raven said.

     Large dagger shaped fangs suddenly pierced his neck and a pool of crimson blood slowly formed on
the tile floor.  He made no attempt to hide the bloody body of the Rabbi as he opened the doors to the
study and strutted out through the synagogue.

                                                                                   *****

     Deep in the catacombs of subway tunnels beneath midtown lit only by the glow of a lantern, Squirrel
sought out Maria. The Raven was watching, he was always watching.  Raven’s voice inside his head said.

     “He will chew you up and spit you out like the foul smelling ooze that you are.  He’s bipolar, is he the
God of Abraham or the loving, forgiving God of Jesus?  Door number one or door number two, either way
you lose.  ”

                                                                                   *****

     Raven lightly ran his fingers down Maria’s cheeks as she laid cradled in his massive arms.  Her eyes
tilted upward pleading for him to turn her now, but he smiled and said, “soon my child.”

     He left her lying in a soft nest of rotting corpses and putrid smelling flesh that he had made just for her
out of the Pastor’s and the Rabbi’s earthly remains.

     He walked down the tunnel until he saw the exit stairs up to the street and then he bounded up them
with no effort at all.  At the top, a young man stood guard dressed in a black robe with a hood concealing
his face, he was a member of the Brotherhood.  In the middle of his senseless babble, he stopped and
stood completely silent, Raven turned on him suddenly. “You don’t even know how much you disgust me.”

                                                                                   *****

     Squirrel walked up a stairway of crumbling cement being careful not to lose his balance.  At the top
was a latched cast iron gate.  On the other side, there were two musicians, one was strumming on an old
beat up guitar and the other blowing on a harmonica.  “We play to keep the Raven away.” he said.  “We
praise God with our music.”

     They stopped playing as soon as they saw him.  The guitar player laid down his guitar on the cement
and hurried over to the gate and unlocked it.  Their clothes were ragged and he looked like he’d been beat
up. “Have you seen Maria,” Squirrel asked?

     “I should have known better then to try and stop them.” he replied looking down at the cement floor.

     “They took her to Raven’s Nest deep in the tunnels.”

     “Don’t blame yourself,” Squirrel said patting his head gently, “you tried.”

     For a few moments, Squirrel just listened though their instruments were old and worn, the music was
sweet. Long shafts of early morning light stretched down the now empty escalators that went between the
first and second levels. The heavy sound of footsteps approached from up above. Squirrel needed to hurry
now because soon the surface dwellers would the fill the empty spaces between dawn and dusk.

     He ran and jumped off the loading platform onto the tracks being careful not to hit the third rail in the
process.  When he looked up, two dark hooded figures were standing on the track watching him. They
were of the Brotherhood, the very eyes and ears of Raven himself. Some said that they had offered their
souls to Raven, willingly others believed he had taken them as payment for their sins.

     Walking as quickly as he could, he moved towards the ladder constantly looking over his shoulder to
make sure they weren’t following him.  He climbed down the utility access as fast as he could but he could
still hear the scuffle of their boots right above him.  He raced through the darkness of the tunnels, he had to
find Raven’s nest and save Maria from a fate worse than death.

     Squirrel’s lips tightened in a scowl as his thoughts once again turned to Raven.  What did he think he
was doing killing that woman on the streets?  It was almost as if he wanted to start a war in the city
between those above and those below the streets. Either way, he knew he needed sleep, he was starting
to feel the effects of all his sleepless nights as he headed back to his chamber on the third level.

     In his dream, there was a circle of large stones and he was stuck in the middle.  Each one was placed
just so and seemed to glow with some kind of internal heat source. They started closing in on him, the
circle getting smaller and smaller, he dashed out between them, he was fast, that was why they called him
Squirrel.  He ran blindly on and on, there seemed to be no ending to this dream he couldn’t wake up.

     With a start, he remembered returning to his compartment to sleep and wait until night when it was safe
to go out again. Maria was sitting over in the corner of the compartment, holding on to his lit candle.  He
jumped up from his bed on the floor and approached her.  He was so happy to see her, “M,” he cried.  
“How did you get away?”

     She had a faint smile on her thin red lips and she held her hand out to him.  He took it and kissed it only
to shiver and jump back.  Her hand was stone cold and her eyes were different too.  Instead of being a
laughing blue, they were almost black like death. “Come to me,” she said, “and I will share this nectar of
truth with you.  We will take communion, just you and I.”

     In her other hand was a gold challis and she reached out offering it to him.  He took it and placed it to
his lips, it smelled of ancient evil and decay but something living began to form in the liquid and Squirrel
dropped the cup.  He was wide awake now alone in his compartment.

                                                                                   *****

     Raven soared out over the city until he was at its shadowy edge, a place where light and dark
converge. With the merciless glare of the sun on the horizon, he could still feel the sting of a kiss on his
lips, raw pulses of desire still moved in waves through his body. His icy cold fingers for the moment were
cloaked in warmth energy in its purest form obtained from the living.

                                                                                   *****

     As Squirrel sat there, his lower lip began to quiver and he was filled with despair. He was pretty sure
he was alone and Maria had just been part of an awful nightmare.  When he checked the floor for the cup,
it was gone and his candle was still glowing dimly in the old coffee can where he had placed it. He saw his
jeans in a bunch on the floor and his shirt was lying across the old mattress that served as his bed. He had
absolutely no recollection of getting undressed and this frightened him. “Oh man,” he uttered as he sat
down on his bed and ran his fingers through his hair. He covered his face and cried because the only one
Maria had to save her was him and he was no match for Raven. He laid back on the old tattered mattress
and cried himself to sleep.

     He woke up later just before dawn. He knew this because the sounds in the tunnels came alive just
before daybreak. The boilers kicked on and the trains rumbled overhead, he had slept through the night.
He could hear someone cough just outside the door to his cabin. After putting his clothes on, he decided
to look. When he opened his door, he could see a shadow dart down the tunnel.  “Hey!” he called after
them.

     Then cold air whipped his face as a train passed right above him. He started running down the tunnel in
pursuit of his mystery visitor. “Hey!” he yelled again as he got closer.  The figure was female, she had long
frizzy dark hair like Maria. He ran faster, his heart pounding in his chest, the one thing he could do better
than anyone else was run.  He could grab a handbag and be gone in a heartbeat. Coming up from behind
her, he tackled her to the ground. She rolled over and for the first time he got a good look at her face and
to his grave disappointment, it wasn’t Maria. “Were you in my cabin?” he screamed.

     “Let go of me!” she yelled digging her nails into his arms.

     “Who are you?”

     “I thought you could help her,” she spit out through gritted teeth while still trying to claw his face off.

     “Help who?” He cried.

     Suddenly she stopped snarling and clawing at him, “the girl.” she replied.

     “Maria?” he cried.

     “I don’t know the bitch’s name, but she took my place.” she replied.

     He let go of her arms and stood up. “Do you know where he’s holding her?”

     She smiled at him her dark eyes gleaming. “I should, it was the same place he took me.”

     “This doesn’t make sense if you’re under his spell, what are you doing here? Is this some kind of trap?”
he said.

     “He discarded me,” she growled, “left me to the Brotherhood. I don’t give a damn about your bitch, I
want revenge. However I will give you this warning once we go down to the nest, you will probably not
come back.”

     “I’m ready,” he replied.

     Holding his head high, Squirrel followed her down through the tunnels deeper than he had ever gone.
The ground beneath their feet and ceiling above shook every time a train went by. Cement dust would
shake free from the tunnel in little clouds of grey and rain down on them making it hard to breathe. They
passed person after person just wandering aimlessly in the darkness and the grit from the ceiling made a
prickling sensation on his bare arms and on the back of his neck.

     Squirrel realized as they went, he was taking the biggest risk of his life in fact it might cost him his life
but he felt that he owed Maria at least that. It had been Squirrel who had introduced her to the tunnels. If he
had left her where he had found her, the surface dwellers would have eventually taken her into the system.
She probably would have ended up at some safe foster home where the woman would have drank too
much and the man would have been doing her every chance he got.

     For a year, they had done everything together, him teaching her the ways of the mole people. Then
suddenly Raven had reappeared as if coming out of a deep sleep. Pretty much up to that time, he had just
been a spooky story that the mole people told around the cooking fires at night.

     Suddenly, as they came around a bend in the tunnel, it split into several tracks, each one lined with old
rusted coaches from some bygone era. Squirrel had heard stories about this place, it was the train
graveyard.

     Suddenly things felt different.  His nameless guide slowed her pace and was looking all around as if
searching for something. He walked past her and approached one of the old coaches.  He climbed the
steps and turned the handle on the door. It was rusted but it finally clicked and he slid the door open, there
was an ear torturing grind of metal on metal and then he stepped inside.  For all intent and purposes it had
been gutted entirely.

     He suddenly heard a banging sound like someone hitting an anvil with a sledgehammer. He crouched
down instinctively and listened. One, two, three,-pause-one, two,- pause- one, two, three. Someone was
sending a signal. He peeped out the window, his nameless guide was nowhere to be seen.

     He recoiled back, scared to death like he had feared he had been led into a trap. Somehow as fate
would have it under these queer circumstances, he found himself trapped in a train car in the middle of
Brotherhood territory.  Suddenly hoods back and their long black robes hanging down they seemed to be
everywhere. There wolfish faces grinning with the prospect of fresh meat. Most unusual was the way they
moved in cadence, all seeming to respond under the influence of one mind, Raven’s.

     All of a sudden standing on the roof of one of the coaches and seeming to appear out of nowhere was
Maria, this time he was sure he could see her clearly through the glass. She was dressed in a long black
robe just like the Brotherhood and she was staring right at him her eyes glowing red like some kind of
demon from Hell.

     Oddly, the metamorphosis did not end with that, Raven was standing right behind her his huge leathery
wings draped over her as if to protect. She stood there leaning into him as if in some kind of exaggerated,
immature, father and daughter pose. In this place of demons and monsters, he was their God.

     The one thing Squirrel had depended on was that Maria would want to escape, now he could plainly
see that he was too late. It wasn’t about Maria anymore, it was about him getting out of there alive and
returning to the surface world and escaping the wrath of Raven. It was about breaking that demonic grip
that Raven had on him and getting as far away from this hellhole as he could. He could see now that Raven
wasn’t a god, he was just another blood sucking vampire and the mole people served as his own personal
blood bank.

     Squirrel didn’t know why but just gaining this insight seemed to change everything, he was no longer
afraid. He quickly moved to the back of the coach and slid the door back just enough to squeeze through.
Then from only inches away a voice said, “You’re mine.”

     When Squirrel turned, Raven was standing right next to him.”Death would be good for you my little
Squirrel.” he hissed.  “I came to you in the challis, why didn’t you drink so we could be as one?”

     Squirrel jumped on to the tracks and ran as fast as he could but suddenly Maria was in front of him, her
eyes shining red like two evil orbs. “Did you come to join the party?” she screeched, her hands like claws
reaching out for him, snapping open and shut as they ripped at his shirt.  He pivoted on the balls of his feet
and changed direction like a quarterback. All the time he could hear Raven’s thoughts in his head.

     Please my child, lose the attitude, you were always mine, heart and soul. That was why I had to kill the
Pastor and the Rabbi, they were trying to take you away from me. Don’t you understand it was you that I
wanted all along, but you had to come to me willingly, I will trade your soul for Maria’s, for I am a God of
mercy.

     “You’re no God, just another blood sucking vampire.” Squirrel screamed at the top of his lungs, putting
as much venom into the words as he could.

     This was not a measured descent into panic, Maria was clawing at him and the Brotherhood was
coming at him from all sides like someone had rang the dinner bell. They were swarming around him with
their grunts and growls and slobbering faces and suddenly Raven was right behind him with his hands on
his shoulders whispering in his ear. “It’s either me or them, the choice is yours.” His long grotesque
fingernails dug deep into Squirrel’s shoulders. “Death is where everlasting life begins, everybody wants to
go to Heaven but nobody wants to die.” he whispered.

     The Brotherhood were getting closer, he could see now that they were vampires too, their maker being
Raven. The sweat trickled down the back of his neck as he looked around wildly for an escape, but this
trap had been set by a master and there was no way out.

     The Brotherhood was so close now that he could smell the foul stench of their breath. “As you choose,
my little Squirrel,” Raven hissed his tongue darting in and out of Squirrel’s ear. His grip loosened as he
prepared to leave Squirrel to his fate.

     “Okay!” Squirrel cried.

     “Okay what?” Raven growled.

     “I want you to make me,” Squirrel said.

     Raven spun him around until they were nose to nose.  “You must beg me now, get down on your knees
and pray to me.”

     Just as Squirrel dropped to his knees, he saw someone come up behind Raven and with one mighty
thrust, drive a wooden stake straight through him. Raven squealed like a pig, his eyes bulging out of their
sockets and as Squirrel scrambled to get out of the way, Raven fell face forward on to the third rail. There
were sparks flying everywhere as he ignited into flames. One by one the Brotherhood dropped to the
ground and also burst into flames.  His nameless guide stood there smiling, “I told you I get the cheating
bastard.” she said as she began to smolder and burn.

     When he looked over at Maria, she was just standing with this confused look on her face like she had
just awaken from this terrible nightmare. He grabbed her arm and she smiled at him. “Where are we,” she
asked?

     “We’re in Hell but we’re not staying,” Squirrel replied.
About Timoth Wilkie

Timothy Wilkie is a
Writer, Artist, and
Musician living near
Woodstock NY. He has
two grown sons Justin
and Blake and is active
in the local music scene.
He is also a Paranormal
Researcher.
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