's 2020 Horror Write-off:

The Crow Lady

Submitted by Plakis Morakis (email)

We called her the Crow Lady.

I honestly don’t remember exactly how many weeks ago it was when she appeared, but it wasn’t long until people noticed. The middle-aged lady with pale skin and black hair usually sat at a bench at a local park, throwing seed to birds… or rather crows, as that seemed to be the only animals attracted to her. She didn’t seem that interested in conversation, usually responding calmly but simply to any questions. Honestly, most of us assumed she was homeless or some other form of vagrant, and usually laid down pocket change as we went by. I once laid a small drawing of a bird with mine, and she smiled when she saw it.

Aside from the small rumors that welled up but never amounted to anything, life continued on as normal. And then she went missing.

The first day she wasn’t there, no one noticed. A couple days later, however, and every local newspaper and station were reporting on the disappearance of her, and it became a small sensation, with all the goods and bads expected of that. Around a week later than that though, it seemed like everybody almost… got tired and went back on to their everyday lives aside from the smallest mentions. I’m not going to act like I was any special about this, either - all the interactions became pleasant but unpondered memories.

...But honestly I should cut to what is making me talk about this whole situation. A couple nights ago, I was jogging at a later time than normal due to some work complications. I normally jog just as it’s getting dark, so this wouldn’t have been too much of a problem. Something about this night, however, felt… off. It was as if there were eyes watching me in every nook and cranny, and venturing off my path would lead to me being consumed by the darkness. At the time, however, I wrote off those emotions as being from simple anxiety, and put on an easy listening playlist for my headphones.

It had been ten minutes -maybe fifteen, I wasn’t paying that much attention- and during the fadeout of a song I swore I heard footsteps. I immediately took off my headphones and looked behind me. I saw two people, and everything quickly became a blur of being charged, being grabbed with gloved hands, and struggling from what I’m pretty sure was certain death. I wish I could tell you what their faces looked like, but I was barely focusing on anything other than getting away.

And then it happened. I felt a tug, strong but not painful, coming from above and behind. I was confused, because my assailants were in front of me, and I felt another. The tugging became stronger, and before I knew it I was stumbling away from those in front of me. I then started to feel my feet leave the ground, in an erratic, pulled motion, and I realized something from pulling me into the sky. I started panicking again, only for my body to be repositioned the other way around, and I started to feel a sensation of something soft that I grabbed onto. I looked down, now a good ways away from the ground, and I noticed that under me, a dark shape was forming where I was grabbing., until it coalesced into a feathered body.

I then looked around me, and saw an amazing sight. Various bird-like figures were all flying around me; some looked almost like living shadows while others glowed with vibrant colors. I looked down, and saw all sorts of apparitions walking and crawling on the ground and in the trees. Some were recognizable as animals or people, while others resembled something out of the strangest of imaginations. I was so fascinated by what I was seeing that it didn’t immediately register when I was landed in the parking lot of my house. I then looked at what carried me.

It looked almost like a bipedal crow, but with limbs that seemed more human-like. It’s feathers were disheveled and torn, and it’s limbs seemed to be bruised in the areas not covered by scaly growths. It’s wings laid away from its body, and almost touched the ground at their lowest point. Multiple eyes seemed to form a ring around a scuffed, stone-gray beak, and long, disheveled tail feathers rested on the ground. As I took in that sight, the creature grabbed at its head and wrenched it at a right angle. It then pulled the beak open, and I saw something that caused me to let out a gasp.

It was her. Her face was visibly damaged and bruised, and her composition was deathly pale, but it was unmistakably the Crow Lady. She let out an almost nervous seeming smile, before looking around, pulling the crow head back up, and flying off.

I stood there for a second, before realizing that I should probably go inside unless something less friendly comes around. And so I did.