It was worse than I could imagine. Our mother still urged us out.
But I found myself awed and calm in the stinging headwinds and wanted to take in as much as I could before casting myself down into the depths of a short life in the unknown.
The whole world swayed on its stem, complaining.
There was no bottom to the world, while our nest was filled with stuff from down there, or so I was told. I looked and saw only the green hurling movement below. Until I saw a sight yet stranger still.
Through the flying leaves and broken branches, I finally saw him, the monster, the mythic, the beastman, Keeyaw. He was much farther from our tree than I had thought. Not an army, or a gathering of many, as Id learn was the case with his kind, but just one, one beastman like no other, separated from the rest of his kind, Keeyaw of the lank figure and mournful mustaches, low, groveling, hunkered over from the weight of his implements and the white, colorless beard that hung from his face in a way he had no control over. It just hung there and swung as he worked. And his eyesthose suspicious, unseeing orbs he occasionally turned to the sky as though he were about to be scolded and were constantly being watchedhow could eyes sunk so far back in his skull ever see a thing? And his toolsthey say he was the first to use tools, that he invented them. According to the lore of his kind, this was his gift to the world. And it was always upon us. All around us, the trees had been severed from the air and hurled to the underworld. And somehow I took a strange pity on this supposed Doom of the Trees. It seemed his grim hacking away at the Giants gave him no satisfaction whatsoever. Instead he seemed trapped in a landscape of irritable brooding, and taking his anger out on the mute Giants gave him no escape. Still, it was his only answer, which he repeatedly struck.
My Other finally plucked his way up to the nest top. He perched much closer to the edge than I did and spread his prickly wing points out to catch hold of the howling, but he failed to jump. He just crouched low and did what I did. We sat there and wondered about this Keeyaw creature from the heaving edge of the nest. Then My Other picked himself up and whipped his tiny bones in the direction of the powerful gusts. No! Stay there!" cried our mother, seeing his brave little twigs flapping. "Stay in the nest!"
I realized shed wanted to join us at the nest but didnt want to reveal our whereabouts to Keeyaw.
Though we thought Our Many had been calling us out to fly, she must have meant it for Keeyaw. Crows have no alarm call for walk off, or grovel your way back across the underworld. Fly was the only call she had to drive Keeyaw away.
And she dove down to mob him, strafing his whiskery head. But the wind weakened her attack. When she dove after him a second time, a sudden gust nearly pushed her up against the trunk. So she hung on to the trees between us and the beast, looking at him, then at us, then back to him, full of hesitation, until it turned to weary patience. Get back inside," she called, mute and panicked
So I dove back into the safety of our nests inner bowl and closed my eyes, until I felt more acutely the heaving and roiling of Our Giant through the air. My fearless Other, who was already practiced in the ancient art of imitation, stayed up in the headwinds and made the sound of Keeyaws ax just fine. But no crow could imitate the sound of a tree falling, like the rippling of violent thunders, darker than doom, worse than the end, broken limbs, loose leaves flying. Frightened birds and creatures took off. Then our mother fled. The branches of our own tree sank, and there was a silence, like a weight falling in my chest. We felt the whole world tilt. When the Giant hit, the woods exploded. Each bounce brought more thunder, until it stopped.
Excerpted from Song of the Crow, © 2006 Layne Maheu. Reprinted by permission of Unbridled Books. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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