Friday, 1 July 2016

Scarlett's Way Out

Hello all, this an excerpt from a book I'm working on, called Scarlett's Way Out. Let me know what you think, thanks for reading!

Swings

She swung back and forth, higher and higher, steadily, consistently, rhythmically, back and forth. Reaching toward the clear blue sky, away. The sun warmed her, caught her red curls and lit them up. She smiled to herself, her cheeks rising and her green eyes filling with warmth. Her feet dragged through the bark chippings on the ground, making a clicking sound as her sandals slid through them. The old chain of the swingset creaked. Higher and higher she swung. Back, click, forth, creak.

The grass around her was short, heaps of it dotted around, recently cut. It smelt fresh, warm, safe. The sky was bright, empty and peaceful. An ocean of green below and an ocean of blue above, just her in between, the world and the peace. These moments were always the best ones, the peaceful ones, the safe ones. Happiness was not always a given but, in peace, contentment was easier to find.

The gravel path a few feet in front of her made a soft sound as feet fell on it. The old man was coming down it from the right. Back, click. His raven sat on his shoulder, dutifully, watching, waiting. The man’s grey trousers were patched at the knees, his woolen vest dotted with dirt stains. Forth, creak. His receding grey hair shone, almost white in the sun. He strode with confidence and stability but it was a leisurely step, carrying him down the gravel path, toward the swings. As he drew nearer he smiled softly, the slight raising of his lips barely noticeable, but full of warmth, she knew.

His raven squawked and took flight. The old man stopped. The girl, on her swing, went higher, higher, back, click, forth, creak. The man stood and followed his bird with his eyes as it flew around him, arcing and swooping in a steadily growing oval shape. Another bird landed on the path, only a few paces from the old man. The raven swooped, slowly, falling to the ground with a menacing flick of its wings. A batting of the wind, a soft rustle. The raven stared at the other bird, squawked and stepped forward. Back, click, forth, creak. Higher. The newly arrived bird held its ground, cocking its head to one side, curious as to this ravens intentions. The raven, drawing closer, closer, sprang forward, beak outstretched. The bird screeched, drawing back, pain seeping from it, a bloody hole in its right breast.

The old man looked bemused, he winked at the girl, knowingly, comfortingly. Higher. Back, click. The raven stepped to the left, lunged again, missed, lunged, missed, lunged. The bird screeched again, more blood dripping from its breast wound. It batted its wings, drew itself up to full height and went to fly upwards. The raven lunged, twice, quickly, drilling at the bird's wing, Feathers flew, torn free, blood spilled onto the gravel as holes appeared. The bird rushed into the raven, using its head to knock it back, closer to the bark. Forth, creak. The bird pressed the attack, lunging with its beak, the raven jumped back, back, back again. Taking flight it seemed to leap over the bird. It landed to its side and, three times, in swift succession, pecked at the bird's’ wing. Then, without pause, pecked at its eye, its face, over and over again. Peck, screech, peck, squawk, peck, peck, peck. A soft sound as the bird, breathing lightly, bleeding heavily, collapsed. The raven, its beak and body red with blood, flew back up to the old man’s shoulder, squawked and then settled.

Back, click. Forth. The old man pulled a tissue from his left pocket and wiped the raven's beak and feathers, gently, with care and affection. Creak. Higher, higher. He pulled something else from his left pocket and held his hand out at the raven’s beak. The raven looked to enjoy its reward but there was another screech. The bird, collapsed on the gravel, was not breathing. A larger bird stood near it, looking, with accusation, at the raven. With a subtle nod from the old man the raven took flight, its wings beating the air. Creak, higher, higher, higher.

The raven landed, several paces from its new prey.

“Scarlett!”

Higher, higher. The new bird flew up and plunged down toward the raven, trying to torpedo into its back. The old man looked to shout but his bird deftly flew upward and span the bird around with a simple flick of its wings. The bird, out of control, crashed to the ground,

“Scarlett!”

Forth, creak. Back. Click. Higher, higher, higher. The raven landed, next to the body of its first victim, its chest out, proud, righteous. Angry. The body on the ground shifted, almost imperceptibly, as breath left it, softly, and was drawn in, softer still. Life. The larger bird, the old man thought a female bird, regained its balance. Locked its eyes with the raven’s. Neither moved.

“Scarlett!?”

Fear, care.

Forth, creak, higher, higher, higher, higher. The raven stepped forward, slowly, spread its wings, flew, low to the ground and landed next to the bird. The bird turned away and then span back, slashing the side of the raven, ripping its wing, tearing feathers. A harsh scream came from its mouth, the old man cried out. The raven reared back, rammed its body into the bird, lunging, pecking, tearing, screaming. Rage sprang forth. The bird, wounded, pecked, pecked, pecked again. The raven, bleeding, heavily, screamed, pecked, pecked. Back, click, forth. Higher.

“Scarlett!?”

Higher.

The old man looked at his raven, looked at Scarlett. He began to walk, cautiously, toward her. Higher, higher. Forth, creak. Back. Forth. Click. Creak. Higher.

“Scarlettttttt!”

Her small, pale hands opened. She released the chains of the swings. Higher, higher. Falling, rushing. Air. Wind. Squawk. Peck. The old man stepped toward her as her body lay on the bark chippings, still aside from her chest, rising, falling, slowly. Her eyes blinking, slowly, softly, the blue sky, the sun. The bird took one last lunge. Missed. The raven tore its right eye out. Ripped at its wings. Slammed into its back. Spinning, lunging, charging, batting its wings. Peck, peck, peck.

“Scarlett!”

“Scarlett!”

The old man looked back at his raven. He saw it take flight and come towards him. He turned back to the girl, reached out and touched her arm.

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