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A Raven’s Journal- Five: The Opossum and his Gods

I wait on the branches as two more follow. Two more pairs of daylight-eyes, each with their own size and shape and noise. I assumed they go only one way, but here comes another- this time the opposite direction.  They cannot be the sun. Perhaps they are born of the sun or stars or the fire beneath mountains.

Yes, Partner, I cannot stay here. The questions would only multiply and drive me to insanity. I should turn and retrace my path to the true river.

Before I can take to the air, a creeping white face emerges from the ferns below. An opossum. In the usual opossum way, it shuffles leisurely over the flat stone.

“Stop,” I caw.  “Turn around! It’s not safe here.”

The possum hesitates, points his conical nose at me then lowers it and resumes his march. I float down beside him.

“Did you hear me? It’s not safe.”

“Of course it isn’t,” said the opossum. “Why else would I be here?”

Odd. I twist my beak. “You want those monsters to kill you?”

“They aren’t monsters,” barked the opossum.  “They’re divine beings.”

“What?”

“Gods. Messengers from the Realm of Perpetual Daylight.”

I stare blankly, unsure of what any of that meant.

“Bah, I don’t have to explain my faith to a filthy bird.”

“No, please,” I say, hopping after him. “I really want to know. What is a God?”

The opossum sighs. “Something bigger than us flesh-beasts. Something better, cleaner, more perfect. Something undying. All-powerful.”

“Like the Claymother?”

“Never heard of her,” says the opossum, selecting a nice spot two-thirds of the way across the road to lay down.

“Of course you have,” I laugh. “Her music is within all of us. It’s what tells us when to eat, when to sleep, where to go.”

The opossum snorted. “That isn’t music. A God’s roar is the only true music. It’s mighty and terrible and… impossible to reproduce. What you describe are the mere desires of us pitiful mortals. We disgusting, filthy mortals- scratching about the dirt for a worm here, a beetle there. Aren’t you ashamed?”

“Ashamed?”

“Well, you’ve seen the Gods, haven’t you? Two eyes of immortal fire, invincible flesh that shimmers without a flaw, and that roar… even you ravens cannot sing so loud. We are an embarrassment by comparison.”

Though I’ve strayed from the Claymother myself, I feel somewhat insulted.

“Well, I wouldn’t say- hmm. So, your conclusion is to let them kill you?”

“Kill my mortal body, yes, but this is the only way for them to take our Light. There is Light within all of us, you see? That “music” you describe within us. It is merely a fragment of Their glory. It must be taken by Them to the Realm of Perpetual Daylight.”

Are you hearing this, Partner? Yes, I see where abandoning the Claymother leads: pure insanity.

“How do you know this Realm exists?”

“How? I’ve seen it. Haven’t you? It’s quite hard to ignore.”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Where in the Gods’ name have you been?”

Confronted with this question, I realize I might have been too quick to judge. After all, I am the newcomer. If someone had described these fire-eyed beasts to me this morning I would have assumed they were insane as well.

With my beak lowered I say, “In the mountains. Lived there most of my life. Left only yesterday.”

“Well that explains it,” spat the opossum. “Now leave me alone, I have the gift of immortality to receive. I have grown tired of this revolting body.”

Bewildered into silence, I ascent to the trees.

Before long, another “being” approaches with the brightness and the noise. The Claymother is begging me to look away, but I must resist. I must see what happens; perhaps there will be a bit of light that comes out of his dead body.

Here it comes… the great roar, the two burning eyes.

Wait- there’s only one. Just one eye. This beast is different. It’s squat and narrow with two round legs where the others had four. It’s roar is angry and uneven.

“So long, filthy bird!” The opossum cries as light devours him. It’s too bright and fast to see. I blink.

The light, wind and noise fade away, but my senses are flooded and will take time to adjust to the emptiness of night. I land beside the heap of grey and white fur, dreading the mess that awaits my returning sight.

“Where am I?”

I leap in fright.

“Am I dead?”

There is no blood or guts. The opossum is completely intact.

“You’re alive!” Despite my disappointed curiosity, I am quite relieved, Partner.

“Oh no,” groans the opossum, who had expected to be welcomed into a life of infinite splendor. “Not you.”

“What happened?” I ask.

“I- .” His voice breaks and whiskers twitch. “I think I was denied.”

“Denied?”

“They didn’t take me. Obviously.”

“I think it just didn’t see you,” I say. It’s quite strange that I must console someone for not dying.

“Impossible. The Gods see all.”

“Well… it only had one eye. And two legs. And it was rather small.”

The opossum looks like I had just told him that trees can fly.

“I swear. Didn’t you notice how it sounded different? I think there was something wrong with it.”

“That is impossible,” asserts the opossum. “Gods are perfect. They cannot lose eyes. They cannot lose limbs. And they cannot give birth to runts.”

I must choose these words carefully: “Perhaps there is more to them than you assume.”

“Of course there is; their very nature is unknowable.”

“Yet it’s possible to know more than you expect.”

The opossum sighs. “Okay. You’re a clever raven. I’m so impressed. So what? I’ll wait for the next one.”

“What if you’re wrong about that one too? What if you’re wrong about the whole thing? You’d be dying for a lie!”

So what? Leave me alone.”

“Look- I once thought the Claymother’s music is all there is. But your Gods and their stone river have proven me wrong. So we are both wrong. And if what you say is true about this entire Realm of Gods, then there is much more we are wrong about. The only way we can learn more is if we live to explore it.”

“You want to enter the Realm of Perpetual Daylight? That’s forbidden.”

I turn my head. “Is it? Let’s find out.”

 

 

 

A Raven’s Journal- Four: The Beast

This meat tastes strange. It is coated in the same curious scent that is soaked into stone. I can only describe it as “burnt” though it is unlike fire. Unlike anything I know.  I cannot eat it. Cursed.

Something roars far away. Not nearly far enough for comfort. It sounded like a bear- if bears were the size of an evergreen. There it is again, louder and longer. Small vibrations travel through the stone river. Perhaps whatever killed this raccoon has returned to claim its kill. It wont be happy to find me, and I it. I fly to a branch near enough to see yet far enough for comfort.

The bellowing roar becomes impossibly loud. White light bursts between the tree trunks, gliding along the stone river. My heart clenches and refuses to let go until I rise to a higher branch. The forest is bathed in the sight of two glowing eyes. This is the fire. This is the beast.

I am wrong- it does not stop for the carcass, doesn’t even slow for a sniff, but blasts over it with a callous grunt, smearing the guts about for good measure, then disappears around the curve with a backwards red glare.

The forest is dark and quiet again.

If you could speak, Partner, what might you say? Perhaps this is where the sun goes when it falls from the sky at night: trampling over stone rivers, destroying everything in its path. Either way, my hunger for answers is only blooming.

 

 

A Raven’s Journal- Three: The Body

This stone river’s song is not only separate from, but outright defiant against the Claymother. It follows no harmony. It branches, curves, rises and falls all on its own accord. I assumed it would surely end as it approached a steep rock wall, but it went through the cliffside. Through. 

Night is upon me. I have lost the water. I am sorry, Partner. It is just us and the stone river and the towering conifers. I feel unwell. Perhaps it is the smell of death nearby. Perhaps it is the hunger I have abandoned. Death can mean food if it’s fresh enough.

I follow the smell to a furry heap resting the smooth stone surface. No, “resting” is the wrong word. This creature, perhaps once a raccoon, has been obliterated. Something ripped it open and threw its innards about in a random spray, claiming nothing for nourishment. Here on this lifeless stone, no worms may find it, no fungus grows; the raccoon’s gory death is suspended in time.

Though it pains me to admit, that bobcat was more respectful to you, Partner. I am glad you did not die this way. This is death without renewal. This screams directly in the face of the Claymother.

I must eat it to correct this tragedy.

 

 

 

A Raven’s Journal- Two: The Stone River

The rippling hills below become smooth. The river which guides me widens and slows. I should find the world’s edge by next morning. Tonight, I will gather strength with food and sleep in case relations with the gulls turn ugly. There’s always food on a riverbank.

I pull my wings in close and let myself fall. For a moment, I feel as if I should keep falling and plunge into the river. Something snags my attention, a strange gap in the trees. My wings open, catch the air and I hover.

There is a secondary river parallel to the main. It is not like other rivers. This one cuts exactly along the hillside, impossibly straight and impossibly silent.

I align my flight with the river and follow its movement. This is no river. Rivers do not go up. Rivers do not lay still unless they are frozen, and nothing in the lowlands freezes during summer. No, this sings a song separate from the Claymother. It is cold and dissonant like me.

Upon landing on its banks, I test its composition with my beak. Stone. That explains the stasis. Perhaps there are stone rivers just as there are water rivers. There are old rumors of mountains weeping hot stone, and this does smell infernal, but there is no evidence of burning. This is too precise for fire. What can it be, Partner?

The song of this strange thing begins to dance with my own. It at once harmonizes with my isolation and pulls me onward, carving holes in my assumptions. This feels like hunger, though hunger is attuned to the Claymother’s song. It is no longer food I crave.

 

A Raven’s Journal- One: The Fracture

 

My beloved Partner…

Though you are gone, no longer soaring beside me, your form appears behind my eyes. It is strange. I wonder if something broke inside my head, or if it really is you. Perhaps it’s an echo of you, like what happens when a pebble drops into water; the rock is out of sight, yet the legacy of its fall remains.

Our treasure- the one that convinced you to be my mate- is in my throat-pouch, where I can feel it always and forever.

Your image is silent. If you could speak, you would say, “Follow the Claymother’s music. Find a new mate and start again.” But I cannot do that. I’m sorry.

Your death has pushed me outside of the Claymother’s reach. Her constant humming enshrouds me no longer. There is a new song that drives me. Something separate and isolated- this very thing I am doing now; how am I calling to you without opening my beak?

The mountains scream at me. It is the scream of the bobcat that killed you. I must leave them behind for flat deltas where we can see the edge of the world. Yes, we will go there now, where we will never be snuck upon again. I will build our home in a high tree on a misty cliff. No other will share our nest. It will just be your echo and me. 

Wasting the Day

LYRICS:

I’m in a rage

’cause everything that I make

just floats away

evaporates

like a lion cub trapped in a cage

I’m in a rage

 

I’m in distress

oh my mind’s a mess

What once was covered’s

all undressed

like a baby bird plucked from the nest 

I’m in distress

 

Wasting the day

giving this life

to a lie I don’t believe

They’re working so hard

for what they should have for free

Somebody help them please

And if it gets better with age

then why’s it getting harder

to keep my mind out of the rain?

It was all figured out 

how do I get it that way again?

 

I’m not alright

’cause everything in sight

is forced to choose to 

flee or fight

on their way down to the great goodnight

I’m not alright

 

How can  I be 

the type of person I see

in my wildest dreams

and fantasies?

Why can’t that be reality?

How can I be?

 

Wasting away

giving this life 

to a lie I don’t believe

They’re workin so hard

for what they should have for free

Somebody help them please

And if it gets better with age

then why’s it getting harder

to keep my mind out of the rain?

It was all figured out

how do I get it that way again?

You spelled it out before

how do I get it that way again?