Riding Through Spooky Hollow, 2015

Raven maneuvered through the branches of the trees crowding the canyon. The Oaks' cadaverous claws, turned and twisted with arthritis, scratched at his wings, while the bony white appendages of the Sycamores poked at his eyes. It had become a game to him, developed, perfected over a lifetime in these woods. He knew others who preferred the piney woods, but in his mind, the straight vertical growth, and perpendicular horizontal arms of those trees was predictable and unchallenging. The spirit of those woods was different as well. They were light filled and breezy; they smelled fresh. Not so these woods he called home. These woods, his woods, were dark and, sometimes, malevolent. The wind, when it blew through, was not a gentle caress, it howled and punched; the oaks and sycamores flailed about, and when it passed, their limbs, the same ones that reached to pluck him from the sky, frequently littered the ground.

Raven wasn't sure what drew him to this place, what kept him tethered. He despised it on one level, yet drew great satisfaction on another. It had something to do with the spectre; Ravens presence seemed to have a calming effect on the other, as if their lives (he was sure that wasn't the right word, but could think of no better description) were connected. Their communication, simple as it was, reassured the other, seemed to bring it some comfort, and Raven dreaded what might happen, were he to leave. More and more, Raven sought the spectre, searching from one end of the canyon to the other. Though his eye could discern the shadowy form in both bright daylight and pitch of dark, as often as not it was the cold patch of air that told Raven he had found the Other. There was no rhyme or reason to the Others' movement through the woods, nor for its pauses. Sometimes Raven would swoop down to the sound of low, but incessant moans, other times to a more frantic staccato of gurgling. His response, sounds from deep in his throat, especially those that sounded like bones rattling around in a box usually brought calm. Usually, but not always.

Once, Raven had lapsed into the language of the living. It was an easy thing to do, the words flowing melodiously in a, dare he say it, lively manner. The sounds of the words were so much more pleasant. In comparison, the language the spectre spoke was hushed and shadowy, deep down throaty, less a means of sharing complex thought, more a basic expression of raw emotion. Raven disliked the way the sky seemed to grow darker, the air colder when he spoke with the spectre. Once it had become too much to bear and he had shouted in more descriptive tones, an effort to free himself from the constricting bonds of the others' grim groans, to allow light into the dark woods. A mountain biker, paused for a moment to catch his breath, turned to where Ravens shadowy figure perched on a gnarled branch. The human squinted his eyes at the words, but saw only Raven. The being stared at Raven, that stare of incoherence that he came to expect of the living. He stared until a chill running up his back caused a noticeable shiver, breaking the trance, and prompting the rider to hurry away.

Raven sighed. It would be incomprehensible, to most living humans, to believe that he could speak their language. The croaks, caws and rattling sounds he used to communicate with the dead were the only sounds that made sense to them. He often wondered what repercussions the truth might deliver. It was a fun thought for Raven, and though he toyed with the living, speaking to them from the dark shadows, shouting from the hidden corners of the woods, Raven knew that was as far as he could take the game. Sighing yet again, Raven set out in search of the spectre. 

And then this morning the sky broke and a haze oozed from it, the color drained to a dull grey with no variation, no contrast. There was light, but there was no sun. It was cold, a cold Raven had never experienced before and he grew fearful for the other. Imagining a depth of despair that could not be grounded, could not be contained, he gave wing in search. He rose high into the sky, yet the cold was pervasive and constant, providing no sign. He flew down, into the canopy of the Oaks and Sycamores; the leaves fluttered in his passing, yet not a single one grasped at his wings, his tail feathers. Not a single one attempted to poke at his eyes. His eyes. He could always count on them to pick out the spectre's darker shadow. He settled onto the highest branch of an oak in the middle of the canyon. He was still, and listened intently for a familiar groan, or obese moan. That is when Raven, for the first time, noticed the silence. There was no sound, no animal scurrying through the undergrowth, no bubbling stream, not even the soothing sigh of breeze through the leaves.

Raven made to caw, to crackle a call, but the only sound that emerged came from deep down in his throat, and it sounded like bones rattling around in an otherwise empty coffin.

I have heard many spooky sounds while riding around the hills, and seen even scarier things riding around the streets, but what the heck is that thing bobbing around near my front wheel?

Happy Samhain, everyone. Happy Halloween, All Hallows Eve, Day of the Dead. Be safe on your rides, and keep an ear, and eye, out for Raven.