For Friday the 13th, a tale of harbingers and doom averted:
Emily’s office window did not open, but the crow was insistent.
The black bird, talons gripping the sill, reared up and began to peck on the glass, as grimly elegant as a Victorian funeral director.
“I don’t think you’ll have much luck with that,” Emily laughed. The crow cocked its head as if it heard her mockery. And then something incredible happened: the window shattered.
The crow lurched backwards, spreading its inky wings to float just out of range of the flying glass. The shards exploded upwards, like a tiny detonation had occurred, paused, and fell. With a jerky flap of its wings, the crow re-settled on the windowsill, and spoke.
“You can’t stay here,” the crow said. “Something horrible is going to happen.”
“What?” she said stupidly.
The bird twitched, the feathers on its back erect. It was a creature used to being obeyed. “Would you like to wait and see?” it snapped.
Emily shook her head, grabbed her purse, and began to close the office. It wasn’t even two o’clock, she noted as she shut her browsing tabs and powered down her desktop. She was the only one working today – her boss was in the constituency, and their part-timer wasn’t scheduled to come in – but she didn’t know how she’d explain her absence if anybody called. She hit the “Call Forward” button on her desk phone and programmed her cell number, forgot to dial out, and had to start over. Behind her, the bird cawed in agitation.
Emily abandoned the task and headed for the door. The crow followed on foot, hopping across the carpet, overtaking her as she paused to lock up.
As she speed-walked down the hallway, Emily noted the staff from other offices quietly working behind propped-open doors, blissfully unaware of the horrible thing which was to occur.
“Should I warn them?” she enquired.
She nodded and made her way into the lobby.
“Not the elevator,” the bird said.
“Do we have time for the stairs?” They were on the eighth floor.
“Not the elevator.”
Emily had a bad ankle, and the journey down the stairs was slow – much to the crow’s chagrin. The bird divebombed down several flights at once, cawing at Emily to hurry up – although when they arrived on a landing with a window, it paused to gaze at the bleak panorama. Outside, the sky was a frigid blue, and the brutalist buildings looked like prison walls. The bird shuddered.
The crow seemed to calm once they exited the building. “Cross the street, please,” it said, and she obeyed, ignoring the perplexed looks from passing bureaucrats.
“Are we far enough away?”
“One more block, to be safe.”
Emily walked the prescribed distance and turned to face her building, studying its grey-brown stones and blue-green copper roof as if she would never see them again. Just behind it, the grey waters of the Ottawa river churned ominously.
She half-expected to see smoke start pouring out of the old windows, or to witness the very walls collapse in on themselves. But there was nothing. No explosion, no fire, no people streaming screaming out the doors.
“What was going to happen?” Emily asked.
“You’ll never know,” the bird replied. “All you need to know is that it didn’t.”
And with that, the crow tensed up and took off, swinging around the crosswalk lights and sailing alongside the glistening glass of an office tower, an indistinct black shape above a reflected river.
(C) Madison McSweeney 2021