Hi guys, hope you are all well. Haven't been on this site for too long (definitely not actively, though I've been on one or two of the JW courses etc). Anyway, thought I'd put this short story on the site to 'test the water'. It was written a few years ago in what seems a simpler and almost nostalgic time (pre-covid, pre-brexit, pre-a lot of things really. How times fly.
From what I recall it was a short story competition entry about creating a new fairy tale about London. There is a myth that if the Ravens leave the Tower of London, then The Crown will fall, and that, I guess is what this is all about - sort of... Anyway, if I remember rightly I'd been reading some Neil Gaiman and 'The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared' at the time which may or may not explain something. Enough excuses - This is called:
"The Unkindness of Ravens"
Once upon a short time ago, beneath a blanket of night four ravens met. Wind wails as they eyed each other suspiciously. Their names were George, Grog, Rhys and Mabel.
A street-lamp fizzes overhead.
Rhys finally speaks, "No-one saw you?"
"Next stop the taxidermist tray?" George squirms, "No chance!"
"Why here? Why now?" Grog grumbles.
Rhys glances at Mabel who utters a single, chilling word, "Insurrection."
The street-lamp flickers and dies.
George and Grog are silent.
“Revenge?” smirks George, “For real!”
"London looks after its own," Mabel sighs, "but she’s forgetful, needs reminding."
"This is the time!" Grog chuckles excitedly, hopping from foot to foot.
“We are London’s Guardians,” Mabel continues, "Our duty is to help her. You sure about these two?”
The street-lamp fizzes into life.
Mabel nods, "It is decided."
With that, she launches herself northwards.
Rhys bows to George and Grog then flies south. George and Grog then take flight: George going east and Grog west.
Insurrection had wings.
Outside The Tower of London, a glassy frost lay on the ground. Bells chimed seven times and in the raven enclosure, the largest, proudest of the brood opens its steel sharp beak, bellows, “Ready!”
A flurry of feathers and the ravens circle the grounds.
Below, each raven spied the blood-red tailcoats of the Yeomen and Raven Master before landing on the pedicured grounds.
Today would be unforgettable.
Every raven scanned the sky while pecking and prodding the frosty ground searching for food.
Naturally, the ravens were the first to see the tiny black specks in the distance and hear the low shrieking calls carried on the winter sky.
Soon the humans spotted them too. Tiny spots gathered above them, growing larger, then raven-like. Two ravens became four multiplying until there were too many to count. The sky was a carpet of black as long as a football pitch, and loud as match day. And still it grew.
"Ravens United.. LOL! " one joker tweeted.
Soon the grounds were alive with a scratchy whooping chorus. Ravens churned like bubbling oil, and trapped in the slick, the topcoats of guards bobbing up and down as ankles were beaked and pecked mercilessly.
The media drank in the spectacle, viewers checked calendars to make sure it wasn’t an April Fool stunt. Others mumbled doom-laden omens.
Quick as the flood of ravens arrived, it’d gone.
Not a single feather remained.
Social media was alive with speculation about what this meant: Would The Crown really fall? Was some kind of abdication in the ether? But more importantly, “Where were the bloody ravens?”
Pretty quickly, ravens became all the rage.
The Queen called Downing Street, the PM convened cabinet, and they called for… an inquiry.
Interviewers snubbed Hollywood in favour of ornithologists and twitchers. Journalists plundered arcane sources of information and anyone who'd ever fed a bird was touted as an ‘expert’.
Everyone had suggestions, but nothing worked. No-one knew where the heck they were. Or how to get them back.
Day One: The ravens' favourite foods were food-parcelled to the grounds.
Day Two: Kestrel trainers swung lures over their heads 24/7 to entice the ravens home.
The Palace grew anxious and the Queen refused to watch Countryfile, in case her "blessed birds" were mentioned... Emmerdale and The Archers became hits with hastily improvised raven-storylines. Even Corronation Street swindled in a ‘retired Yeoman’ subplot into the mix. Eastenders tried to get in on the act but the writers couldn't quite figure how to merge Peggy Mitchell or Phil for that matter, a garage and a Raven's appearance into the mix - Hollywood CGI might've helped cut the mustard but the producers just didn't have the budget. So..
The world wobbled uncomfortably.
Then half way through day three something otherwise unremarkable happened: A twelve-year-old called in to Tony Kincade’s talk radio spot:
"Hi Tony," the kid stammered, "I'm calling about the ravens."
"Everyone is… What’s your idea?"
"Well,” the kid stuttered, "We should all say sorry to each other."
"My teacher says that many ravens is called an unkindness of ravens, right. And that doesn't seem fair. I mean, they're birds, they don't know what's kind and what's not, so, we're blaming them for just doing what they're meant to..."
"I hear what you're saying, but..."
But the kid seemed undaunted but quickened his words. In the background a bell could be heard, "So maybe we need to call it something else. I'd feel bad if I was always told that a group of us is not nice, and anyway, if you feel bad about being unkind to someone, you... say, sorry..."
"And that’s what we should do?" Kincade sniggered, "Just say sorry?"
"Maybe they'll see we mean it and return. If not, at least we’ll feel a bit better."
The kid abruptly ended the call - he was going to be late for his next lesson - leaving Kincade in silence.
Then Kincade smiled, "What do you think, people? Let’s ‘av’it. Should we I don't know, ah sod it folks, let's make HashtagJustSaySorry happen!"
The broadcast got reported, repeated, and facebooked and re-tweeted. Even before the end of the kid’s next lesson HashtagJustSaySorry had built up pace and shockingly started going viral.
Even the Queen played it twice on her IPad before personally phoning Number 10.
The PM listened and choked, "But we have an inquiry to..."
He was about to argue the point forcefully when his aide reminded him who he was speaking to. The PM meekly answered, "Right away, Ma'am."
Hotlines buzzed with many languages, some growled, "From a child," others shrugged and finally answered, “Why not."
Five raven-less days was too much. Three was bad enough.
So, on Day Four, at 11 o'clock, HashtagJustSaySorry occurred.
10:30am (BST): Roads are cleared for cavalcades to reach the place of Mutually Agreed Apology.
10:49am: The first dignitary cautiously arrived, glad to be the first since this would show they were ‘up for it’ as the kids would no doubt call it, but also cursing his earliness.
10:55am: Long-mutual enemies edged towards each other. Religious leaders of all denominations pixie-stepped towards those that until that point were in acid opposition.
10:56am: Feuding neighbours nodded at each other, began saying, “This has gone on too long.” Most, if the truth be told, had no idea why all the fighting and bad-word bantering had actually begun in the first place, and even if they could, maybe now wasn't the right time to bring it up.
10:57am: Hands quiver readying themselves to shake another while saying that word. Sorry does seem the hardest word.
10:58am: Cameras take sneaky-peak searches for anything remotely Corvid in the background. Nothing.
10:59am: The world waits.
11:00am: Bells chime; a Mexican wave of handshakes and a single, sincerely spoken word echoes across the globe:
For a second, everyone forgets about ravens and enjoys the warm flood of joy coursing through them. Even the PM chokes back a tear. For a second the world felt fuzzy, warm, safe.
That kid was right; saying sorry really did feel good.
Then, everyone coughed… Everyone remembered: Ravens!
Had it worked?
Screens across the globe showed a continuous unending screensaver of empty sky above the Tower.
Cameras frantically spun, woozily focusing on a distant black dot. It grew gradually becoming a non-descript black bird, then…
“It looks like… I think it is…. It is. It definitely is a… Raven. Wherever you’re watching, I’m happy to report… The… Ravens… are… back!”
The ravens chuckled as they listened to the jubilant celebrations below.
Grog and George smile, “Home at last!” then chows down on his luxury rations.