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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."

"You what?"

"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.

Finally…

11:00am: Bells chime; a Mexican wave of handshakes and a single, sincerely spoken word echoes across the globe:

“Sorry!”

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?

Everyone waited.

Screens across the globe showed a continuous unending screensaver of empty sky above the Tower.

Then… 

“Over there!”

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.

Comments
  • Thank you so much Eleanor. That's very much appreciated. Have a good Sunday. :)

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    • Hi Peter, yes, I enjoyed the story too. 

      Thinking, “Show, don’t tell,” what makes the Raven unique?

         Its power comes from the legend which gives voice to this remarkable creature's intelligence. Its presence is derived partly from its size. Its feathers (in the right light) bring with them an almost luminescent complex of colours. All of these qualities add something, the most subtle concealed beneath a common black cloak. Itself, a metaphor for the bird’s shady identity. A profile of the head exposes the beak and the glint in its eyes. Used together or apart, they suggest a mysterious backstory to an unremarkable black bird. 

      Under estimate them at your peril, for you are trifling with the monarch's privy messengers.

      I hope this helps.

      image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=229&dpx=2&t=1600007076


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      • Thanks Norman, your comments are much appreciated and thanks also for the suggestions and thoughts. Peter

         

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        • Hi Peter. 

          Thanks for sharing that . Interesting and lighthearted. Good concept. Sorry is certainly a powerful word and can often make things right.

          A couple of great lines like Eleanor stated. 'Insurrection has wings' was my favourite.

          Norman makes a valid point though about show don't tell. I felt there was a lot of telling. Particularly as I couldn't make out who's POV it was in, if there is one. It felt as if the story was being told by you, rather than me being taken on a journey thorugh your world. Certain passive voice sentences fueled this. 

          He was about to argue his point forcefully...

          Social media was alive..

          Soon the grounds were alive... (two alives in close succession.)

          This can distance the reader from the story.

          Also, on the subject of distancing, you referred to one of your Ravens as 'it'. ....the largest, proudest of the brood opens its steel sharp beak. I could be wrong here, but seeing as your Ravens are speaking characters, (characters being the key word) it may be a good idea to use 'he', assuming it is a he, what with him being the largest and proudest. This would bring your reader more emotionally engaged with the Raven. 'It' seemed to distance me from him a little, therefore I cared for him less and subconscously waited for a character to arrive who I could connect with or relate to. This came with the kid who called in. His personality shined through in his dialogue, and this section was a nice touch. I hope that makes sense.  

          Thanks for pulling this story out of the archives. I look forward to reading more from you. Hopefully, I have assisted you in some way.

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          • That was quite fun, thank you. Just one point (apart from Coronation having only 1 R) - I find it difficult to read anything where the tense keeps changing from present to past and back again. You might want to decide which one to use in any given paragraph/section of the story. Otherwise, an entertaining and thought-provoking story.

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