Excerpt of Song of the Crow by Layne Maheu
(Page 3 of 7)
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But I already knew. Far back in the darkness of the egg, Id
felt the blows that landed in the forest and sent a tremor through our tree.
Id thought it was some dark force of the weather. But I knew now it was not
only a beast but a beast human, Keeyaw the Terrible, doom of the trees,
and I knew there must be others, all sorts of Keeyaw-looking creatures, chopping
and mauling, driving a wedge into the pulp of the woods. But no. There was only
one. One old, hairy curse on two legs, Keeyaw, the grim reaper of our trees,
hunkered over the roots of the Giants, assailing them with his anger and
dragging them away to the underworld. The thud of that beast working was like
the struggle of my own beak, trying to muzzle my way out of the eggshell, or the
clap of the flicker, drumming away at the bark, or the rhythm of the wind, my
mothers song, the pause of nightfall. The noise of him felling trees goes far
back in my mind, to a time before sound and memory, where the boggy water never
I didnt know if my hearing was getting better, or if Keeyaw
was getting closer. But the crack of his ax grew tremendous. With each blow, our
tree quaked, and the wind scattered his hammering and brought it back again as
if he were attacking all of the giants of the woods at once.
Get up," I said. "Get out there and
No ones coming," said My Other, kicking his
claws to get back up. "Hes too close."
Close? Hes chopping us down."
Crows and their cousins in the corvid family, ravens, jays,
and magpies, have spent hundreds of thousands of years taking advantage of
Theyve been known to perform pitch-perfect imitations
of explosions, revving motorcycles and flushing urinals.
- Michelle Nijhuis, "Shadow
Fall of the Giant
Fly off! Fly!
It was our mother. But from where? Where? Who could tell with
the wind chasing her calls?
I saw her, a few trees away. She appeared on one branch, then
another, then in an altogether different tree. But it was just the yes and
no of the wind heaving her perch and whipping her feathers into a
confusion of leaves. Why didnt she swoop onto the nest and stuff food into
Fly! she kept calling.
So what choice did we have? Though Id never left the deep of
the nest, I reluctantly climbed up to the fatal jump. There was no way we could
survive it, but Our Many must have known there was no way wed survive the
falling of Our Giant either. And to die at least trying, even though you couldnt
fly yet, was a way to fly off to the Tree of the Dead. Any death before that was
no death at all, but only a quick flight into whatever fate befell youflies
and maggots and stiff feathers and dust. The only way to become a true crow was
to fly. Until then you were nothing, without a name; flying was all.
My Other was still in the deep of the nest, trying to stand back
up, while I picked my way through the hurling twigs and stuck my beak into the
headwinds. They howled yesss across my face. They howled yes and no
in biting, utter cold. Id never felt anything like it. But then, this was
my first experience beyond the bowl of our nest. As our tree bent, the
underworld was thrown into view, first one side of our nest, then the other. I
was so scared and astonished, I would have kept going if it werent for my
enormous bony feet holding me back. Below was a mad sea of branches thrashing
every which way. What lay below all the layers of bushes and vines I could not
see. But I was hungry to fly. Or fall. Or eat the air. I had to wrap it in my
wings, if you could call them that, just bare bones and points. For this very
reason, infant crows are discouraged from the edge of the nest. Some just cannot
overcome the urge to lunge out and grab hold of the wind and plummet, or
whatever the feeling is that takes hold of your wings, even though there are no
feathers anywhere yet to fly.
Excerpted from Song of the Crow, © 2006 Layne Maheu. Reprinted by permission of Unbridled Books. All rights reserved.