By Dominique de Castro
Broken family ties and ominous crows haunt Jo as she faces the dangers of the forest.
“Jo! Come back!”
My father’s voice ripped through the trees, echoing off their dampened bark. The rain had eased its ceaseless pelting, but water still dripped from the near-impenetrable canopy above.
I glimpsed the grassy expanse I’d left. Chairs sat organized in neat rows, empty and white as skeletons. My father stood at the front, a lone black crow screaming bloody murder.
“Come back here, Jo! You piece of shit!”
Despite his taunts, he didn’t follow me. He stood rooted to the ground as if he were chained to the casket behind him.
The casket was the most beautiful part of the scene. Surrounded by gardenias and lilies, it shined like precious amber. It was the perfect vessel with which to glorify the life of Josephine Corvus.
But I didn’t want to glorify the woman who’d cast me aside.
I clenched my fists in frustration and kept running. I sprinted through brambles and stumbled over tree roots. Before I knew it, the forest had swallowed me. Fog hung in the cold air, and I shivered as it sunk into my skin.
“Caw! Caw!” Crows mocked me from the tree boughs. I shrank under their piercing stares.
“Who’s there!” I shouted. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a girl hiding in the mist. I felt as if the trees and the earth were watching my every move, waiting for me to stumble and fall into their waiting jaws.
My breathing became rushed and heavy. I wiped my palms, slick with sweat, on my clothes and pulled my wet hair out of my eyes. There was thick brush and trees wherever I turned, but I decided to head back the way I’d come. Funeral formalities were preferable to an eerie forest.
As I marched back to the funeral, I could feel the forest choking me and pushing me back into it. The brambles thickened and scratched me. The branches lowered and swatted my face. Even the mist became thicker, suffocating me.
“Ow! Fuck!” I screamed in pain as I fell.
Shit! My ankle’s busted. I coughed and spat mud out of my mouth.
I’d tripped over a large tree root that had been covered in moss and vines. I heard the rush of bird’s wings flapping overhead and looked up. A murder of what looked like hundreds of crows stared down at me in complete silence.
“Get away from me!” I wailed. I grabbed a nearby stone and threw it at them. They didn’t move and merely watched as the stone feebly fell back to the ground. Hundreds of eyes then returned to my frail form, covered in mud, sweat, and tears. I could feel their stares burrowing into my soul.
I had to escape. I tried to stand, but I immediately felt shooting pains radiating up from my left ankle.
I began crawling through the mud. The pain in my ankle was so intense that I began shaking uncontrollably. I could hear the trees laughing as I scrambled past. As I crawled, I noticed a clearing ahead of me.
There was a well in the middle of the clearing surrounded by lush grass and daisies. Perched like a dove on the edge of the well was a little girl dressed in a pearl-white dress.
“Oh! Are you hurt?” she asked as she fluttered over to me. She lifted me up and slung my arm over her shoulder. She held me as we hobbled over to the edge of the well. Upon closer inspection, it was extremely old, with decaying bricks and a bucket with rope slick with moss.
“My name’s Josephine, but you can call me Jo!” she twittered. She looked up at me and smiled. The wind toyed with her raven black hair, so it flapped like crows’ wings. I touched my own raven locks.
“What a coincidence. My name’s Josephine too. I was named after my mom,” I said.
“Oh really?” Josephine said as she slid onto the ledge of the well and sat right next to me. She gave me a cheeky smile. “Would you like to see her again?”
Before I could answer, she placed her hands on my chest and pushed me into the well. The darkness of the well filled my mouth and lungs, stifling my screams. As the light of the surface began to disappear, I saw the shape of my mother grinning down at me while I plummeted to my death.
I awoke surrounded by lilies and gardenias. My father stood over me, his eyes filled with tears, no trace of the anger from before. I tried moving, but my limbs felt like stone. I tried to speak, but my throat felt like it was filled with cotton.
“Come on dear, it’s time to close the casket,” chirped my mother’s voice from somewhere out of my eyeline. My father nodded and began to close the door above me shut. All I could do was watch my vision blur with tears as I took my last look at the light of day and listened to the trees sing goodbye.
I was inspired by magical realism and the ways that magical elements become accepted as parts of reality in these types of stories. I also really enjoy scary movies and thrillers, so I wanted to write a story with themes of death and dread. Crows are often used to signify death or death approaching in the future, so I used crows and imagery associated with crows throughout the story in order to communicate how people in Jo’s life are leading to her doom.
Dominique de Castro
Dominique de Castro is an emerging writer raised in the British Virgin Islands. She loves writing short stories and poetry and has recently become involved in writing plays.
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