All of us had just got off work from various jobs; call centers, restaurants, offices, one of us even worked for the RSPB, a nature conservation organization. We had all been friends since high school, and through these meetups, our bonds have stayed as strong as they were then.
There was a nest of crow hatchlings up a tree near us, that would not stop screaming and screeching for their mommy. I turned the conversation to how annoying the little birds were being, and the conversation naturally progressed to how we all hated crows. Before long, some of us were throwing stones and twigs at the nest, me included, with the aim of knocking it down.
The only one that wasn't joining in was Gary, who worked at the RSPB. Not only was he angry, but he was scared.
"Don't hit the nest!" he started, surveying the air anxiously. "The wrath and vengeance of a mother crow of that particular species is something incredible! Don't tell me you've never heard of the Harpy Crow!
"There was a guy, who had a nest of Harpy Crows in his shed. Not knowing how wrathful these birds were, and thinking them pests, he put down poison mixed with birdseed. The crows ate the mix, and all but one of them died. The crow that survived took ill, and the man sought to finish it off with a golf club.
"It put up an awesome fight, and disarmed the man before scratching his face and upper body with its talons. The razor sharp claws cut through his skin like a hot knife through butter. The man looked up to see its face for the first time. It looked more human than crow, with pale, featherless skin, a heavy brow and a flat mouth, which it opened to reveal a set of gleaming, jagged teeth.
"The old man would have had his life taken away then and there if it weren't for a neighbor hearing the commotion, and coming to his aid. The neighbor managed to kill the crow before it focused its full attention on him. Both men had been very lucky, the first victim especially."
The rest of us rolled our eyes. In high school, Gary was always telling ghost stories, and taking seriously many urban legends and conspiracy theories. None of us knew whether or not the Harpy Crow was a real species of bird, but we all knew the tone of voice Gary used when he was about to explain another silly story.
"Gary," I interjected before he could get another word out, "nobody cares."
And to punctuate my sentence, I threw one more rock at the nest, and knocked it clean off the tree. It fell, screaming chicks and all, to the ground with a sickening crunch, though that wasn't the noise that made me queasy. When the crows got closer to the ground, obviously sensing death, their screams changed from the cries of hungry birds, to the cries of frightened children. Frightened... human children.
The death of the birds had killed the mood of our meetup completely. There was now an awkward, melancholy tone. The only one who didn't feel guilty was Gary, and he was terrified, eyes still scanning the skies. We all agreed to call it a day and meet up tomorrow.
I walked through the park alone, harrowed and haunted by the sound of those young birds. I couldn't stop those few seconds from replaying and replaying over in my head.
It was beginning to get dark as I continued to tread across the grass and under the trees. I heard a fluttering behind me. When I looked over my shoulder, I saw a black bird perched on a tree, quite high up, simply observing me.
I shuddered, and carried on. The bird could have simply been minding its own business, but I could feel its eyes fixed directly on me, it was watching me. After Gary's little story, the uneasiness couldn't have come at a worse time.
I looked back again. I hadn't heard the bird move, but it was now perched on a tree closer to me, and lower down, closer to my level. "It's only a bird," I thought. "Even if it does attack me with wrath and vengeance, I'll win in a fight."
Even with that mantra in my head, I was getting increasingly freaked out and paranoid. The bird was after me. The mantra disappeared. The thought of what would happen if it reached me no longer entered my mind, simply that it shouldn't, it couldn't!
My breathing became staggered and I quickened my pace. I had to reach home. I would be safe there. I could feel sweat coat my forehead, and run down the small of my back. I didn't want to look back again. I didn't. I just wanted to get home, lock the door, and relax in the security of my personal sanctum. I wanted to laugh off this silly little spell of bird fear that had gripped me.
I looked over my shoulder. The crow was perched on the branch directly over my head, above where I stood several seconds ago. Now I could see it properly. Its body and wings were coated in feathers so black that looking at it was like peering at a shape carved from a starless night sky. But its face was even more terrible.
Its face was a human's face. It was the Harpy Crow.
I stood still, staring at the Harpy Crow in wonder, my body not moving even though my brain willed it. The crow was just as still, almost like a statue. The more I looked at its face, the more it looked like my face, except pale. Its small beady eyes devoid of any spark of life or soul, instead jet black, like the eyes of an ordinary crow.
The crow broke the tense stalemate by moving forward and opening its mouth, baring its razor sharp rows of teeth. Its mouth was far more horrifying and dangerous than any of Gary's stories could give proper justice to.
I turned and ran. I had to get back home. I had to. My nose was running as I sprinted, and my heart was beating so fast that it was causing me pain in my chest, but still I sprinted. I sprinted until my legs protested, until my feet were sore.
Relief filled me as I finally reached my front door. I took out my keys, but in my haste and nerves, I couldn't slot the right key correctly into the hole. A large part of me wanted to look behind me as I did this, but my reasoning was thankfully strong enough to stop me. I knew it was right behind me. I could feel it.
Finally, I got the door open, bolted inside, closed and locked the door, and collapsed into my armchair. I didn't move for several minutes as my body calmed down. I looked out my lounge window, looking for the Harpy Crow that I knew had been following me, but it was nowhere to be seen. Maybe it was still in the park. Relieved, I went upstairs to my bedroom, and switched the computer on.
The curious side of me kept urging me to research more about the Harpy Crow, but I couldn't. I was beginning to work up a small fever, so I opened the window wide, and went back to browsing the web. What I needed right now was distraction. Explanation could wait until I was ready for it. Maybe I'd ask Gary tomorrow if he knew anything else.
Nothing else happened until ten at night. I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye, out of the second floor window. Too scared to look and see, I kept my eyes glued to the PC screen, but no amount of distraction could distract my mind from my returning paranoia. I swallowed, and mustered up all of my courage, then I turned to the window and shut it in one swift, panicked motion.
Nothing. There was nothing out there but darkness. Nothing visible in the window but the reflections of my room, of safety and comfort. I sighed with relief, shut and drew the curtains shut. I then went to sleep.
The next morning, I drew the blinds back, and outside my window, scattered on the ledge, were black feathers. The crow was outside my window last night after all!
Then an even more disturbing revelation dawned on me. It wasn't my face's reflection I saw in the window last night...
Written by Cyanwrites