The stick was just sitting there, but when I picked it up, I heard a quiet growling noise.
I put it down.
The growl stopped.
I couldn’t just let it lie there, so the battle of minds between owner and cat got underway.
The stick had a string with a feather bob on it. The cat was attached to the feathers, and unwilling to let go of his prey. He clearly knew that anyone picking up the stick was going to attempt to take the prey.
As the game continued, my gaze wandered among the knickknacks collected where they were safe from the cat. A plasma ball. A line of Hummels. A magic eight ball. And in its own alcove, a lava light. The slow circulation of the waxy goo was hypnotic. It drew the eye and held it there while the background music (and the cat) did their work.
The cat was still growling.
The door opened, and one ear twitched as if to confirm that the right person had arrived.
He was dressed slightly oddly, as if as displaced in time as his tchotchkes, but his suit was also somewhat threadbare and worn.
The he held his hands out in seemingly empty space, and the most hauntingly beautiful music appeared. The slightest wiggles of his fingers were translated into audible liquids that washed over us.
I walked for a time in silence, enjoying the sense of peace. Everything was quiet. Even the brook I was walking near was more whispering than babbling.
Then a loud “Snap” rang out.
I had stepped on a stick laying in the path and broken it. I had a sudden sense of foreboding, as if I really had done a great wrong. I could feel all the eyes on me, and everywhere I looked it seemed as if the small beasts were quick to look away.
I spun around quickly, and left the path heading straight for the water. That might not have been the smartest choice I had ever made since that led me straight towards the brook. You never know what running water here will do to you, but I was pretty sure this was not the headwaters of Lethe.
Slowly the foreboding faded and the peace returned.
I hopped from bank to bank, careful not to touch the water just in case. The last thing I needed was to find myself back at the start of my journey with no recollection of where I was going, or why. But no matter how careful you are, sometimes the dice are simply against you.
My foot hit a slippery patch of rock on the far bank.
And I landed in a stagnant pool of muddy water. Flat on my back. I could feel immediately that nothing was broken, aside from my dignity. I had little enough of that left. With a sigh, I pried myself out of the puddle, and shook the muddy water from my clothes.
I walked for a time in silence, enjoying the sense of peace. Everything was quiet. Even the brook I was walking near was more whispering than babbling….
We found the campsite in disarray, as if abandoned in a hurry. Gear was left lying around haphazardly, and the coals of the fire were still warm. A well trod trail extended downhill to a creek, and another uphill to a dense copse. Both made sense if the site had been occupied for a while. The obvious hurried footprints, broken branches, and a piece of cord caught on a bush seemed to indicate which direction the camp’s owner had gone in a rush.
The odd thing was the stack of firewood beside the fire. It was all evenly cut to length and stacked neatly, with larger logs split and ready to add to the fire. There was at least two full day’s supply remaining. This was not the campsite of someone who thought they were on the run, no matter how quickly they had fled.
Or perhaps it was someone clever.
Searching more carefully turned up nothing else out of the ordinary. Except a new matchbox that was empty, but for a single match, and that match was broken in half.
That match was a sign for those who knew how to see.
We were on the right trail after all, and were expected to act as if we believed the story being told by the disarray and footprints.
The match signaled that the obvious story was a lie designed to throw any pursuit off in the wrong direction.
The match was bent nearly double at the center. Not really a common manufacturing fault, or something that happens by accident.
No, it was a signal to make a fuss about the trail, then quietly double back and wait.
Slowly the Eye came into focus, on one of many bowers made of twigs that we had examined so far today.
We were in luck this time.
Finally, we had one that was occupied. Sunlight filtered in through the lightly leafed canopy, dappling the shiny black feathers with dots of light.
Light that was not quite right. The eclipse was only partial there, and the gaps in the leaves were forming many pinhole cameras projecting the sliver of the sun’s disk onto any surface that would stand still. The effect was that some edges were blurred, and some were extremely sharp.
The bird saw none of this, of course. Or if it did, it wasn’t paying attention to celestial events.
As the Eye came into focus, the bird’s attention did turn to stare directly into the Eye’s point of view. Almost as if the bird could do the impossible, and see the effect of the Eye presence in its bower. An Eye that was hundreds of miles away.
Ravens, are smarter than most realize. This Raven certainly knew something was up. Perhaps it had noticed the eclipse and was on the lookout for additional weirdness. Or perhaps it was just guessing.