excerpt from “Crow Baby”

Here’s an excerpt from my story about a witch, a baby and a murder of crows:

 

CROW BABY

Everything was black. The deepest, darkest black, the color of crow feathers, the color of a witch’s heart, the color of dreams that left you empty, crying in the middle of the night.

The only thing that cut through the darkness were the headlights of Laura’s Prius. Two white spots that hit the tree barks, dark green pine needles and insects dancing in the air.

The car had left the outskirts of the tiny village, and headed further up a hill, into the dark and wild forest. Through her rolled-down window, Laura heard a woodpecker drumming a steady rhythm. An owl was hooting, crows were cawing, and the wind rustled through the trees. There were the sound of little wings fluttering, then larger wings, getting louder and louder. Laura shuddered. She closed the window and turned on the radio. The sound of Cello music echoed through the car.

Laura was sure that the road would lead to another village before she’d reach her destination. The house she was seeking had a proper address, one that you could type into your navigation system and get a match.

But just as she passed the last line of trees, the GPS voice told Laura to turn right, into a small dirt road that turned out to be a driveway. The cottage was built of stone, literally at the edge of the woods. The window shutters were closed, the mortar crumbling. It almost seemed abandoned.

She had had a bad feeling about all of this. But up until she had opened the car door, that feeling just concerned the fact that she, Laura, a rational and sophisticated scientist, had gone seeking the help of a healer. As she had stepped out of the car, though, there was another sensation that added to her discomfort, a rummaging in her gut. For a brief moment Laura felt as if she had entered a void, a silent, lifeless darkness, that was filled only with her presence.

A warm breeze emerged from the tree line, yet Laura shivered in her summer dress. She felt ridiculous. Flashes of all backwoods serial killer movies she and Danny had ever watched popped into her head and mingled with fairy tales of evil witches and gingerbread houses. Apparently, a place like that was part of the show the healer had to put on to create some folkloristic effect. Laura was sure that kind of atmosphere felt more authentic to some people, but she was definitely not one of them.

Alison, her sister-in-law’s friend had told her that Erika, the healer used to be a midwife somewhere near Vienna, in the outskirts of the South Moravian Carpathians. She’d also sworn that Erika had helped her, in a matter quite similar to Laura’s. It was possible that this woman had some old, passed down knowledge that was lost to western medicine. It was even more possible that Laura was about to make a fool out of herself.

Just as that thought popped into Laura’s mind, the door swung open. An elderly woman stuck her neck out the door. She had white hair, that was bound into a loose knot, her face was round and wrinkly, except for her puffy, rosy cheeks. She looked as if she had just been baking cookies.

“Oh, come in, dear! So sorry, the porch light fell out again.” Then she turned her head and shouted back into the cottage: “Sam, you have to check the fuse, it looks like a Grimm’s fairytale out there without the porch light!”

Laura smiled. The scent of cinnamon and gingerbread suddenly filled the air. Then she entered the cottage.