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Owl and Raven

Raven and Owl

By C. Rommial ButlerPublished about a year ago 4 min read
16

Owl perched on the rafter of the old barn, intoning her eternal question:

Who?

Shadows wavered on the edge of dust motes and moonbeams as the wind beat at the rotting wood. A voice cackled from the darkness in reply:

RA! ‘Tis I, Raven, come to tell you a tale of madness.

WHO? Said Owl, louder this time. She loved Raven’s tales.

The farmer lost his wife. He sits in his study all day, drunk, sometimes babbling, sometimes weeping, sometimes shaking his fist at the Heavens demanding to know her fate. He thought her an angel.

He knew not of her secret life. Frequent benighted trips to the haunted woods, dancing in circles—RA!—around firelight that glows a strange tint of green. She did things—RA!—vile things! Some humans say: behind every successful man is a good woman. She practiced dark arts that brought plentiful harvests, but sacrifices were made.

Raven paused here, savoring Owl’s anticipation. The wind swelled. The rusty weathervane atop the barn creaked as it rapidly spun and then settled into a lilting moan, swaying irregularly to and fro, south to west, west to south.

WHO? Owl urged, growing impatient.

RA! Who else? The Prince of Darkness! Old Nick!

The old farmer, when he was young, he failed them, failed his family, his wife, couldn’t get the crops to grow, they might starve! She loved him so, and she’d go to the Sunday services all smiles, pretending everything was fine, but she knew—RA!—she knew it was only a matter of time before he and their children would become laughing stocks to all the people in the community; or worse—RA!—the superstitious ones and the opportunistic ones would see a way to take their land, her father’s land, her birthright, by using the witch hysteria against them!

So she went out to the woods and realized their fears! She summoned Old Scratch with secret sigils and passionate rituals. Her and her alone. But she did it for love of her family, to keep them safe, to help them grow.

She promised the devil her soul if only she could raise her boys to adulthood, see her man succeed. God would not answer her prayers, but the devil, he came a-calling! Through the Billy-Goat smile of Baphomet he spoke to her as plain as day—RA!—as plain as day, I tell you, I was there, in the trees, watching, listening! I heard it all!

WHO?

RA! The Father of Lies told her he would give her man and her boys the opportunity to succeed in everything they did, but the day her youngest son turned sixteen, she would die, and her soul belong to Hell. She said,

“And they will remain successful after I am gone?”

The devil did not lie when he said they would—RA!—but the whole truth he did not reveal.

Here again Raven stopped to let the wind sing its faint lullaby. Owl was invested, wide awake, and she made her case for Raven to continue.

WHO? WHO?!

Still Raven waited, relishing the sound of Owl’s talons scraping across the rafter as she unconsciously moved side to side. This was juicy gossip, and Raven knew that Owl loved it, ate it up with as much pleasure as she would a defenseless field mouse.

Owl jumped down from the rafters until she was on the shadowed earth with Raven. Two birds stared eye to eye for a long moment while tension built. Raven’s excited cackle turned to a conspiratorial whisper as he went on:

So the day came, and for much of the day nothing happened. She enjoyed a sumptuous feast of roast duck with her family to celebrate her son’s birth and ascension to manhood, but she knew it was her last supper. She was particularly warm that day, glowing with some inner light, and the old farmer and their two boys that were now men, they never loved her more! They never saw her so happy!

How could she be happy? She dies this day! The devil doesn’t break a pact! But she sold her soul for love of others and did not care whither it led. As the day gave way to dusk she became paler and paler.

“I must retire early,” she said, and went off to bed, leaving her family—husband, sons, a daughter-in-law, grandchildren—yes—RA!—leaving them all for the last time to tell stories by the fire she started with her own hands, thinking it an appropriate symbol of how she, the Matriarch, secretly stoked the flame of their social status and affluence.

The farmer found her in the morning, a smiling corpse, after laying beside her all night.

His heart was broken. His faith shattered.

All the success she bought with her sorcerous machinations meant nothing to him. You see, the devil did not take away the success for which the dear mother sold her soul, but the Great Deceiver did not promise that the farmer would maintain it for himself.

And he did not. The farm sunk into dereliction, as you can see from the state of this barn. Her youngest son is a suicide. Her oldest struck out with his family to find fortune elsewhere, feeling some curse befell his grandfather’s land.

I tapped on the farmer’s window just this evening and he let me in, raving at me ceaselessly with questions about his lost love; but despite my powers of speech, I could only give him a single answer, for only that answer is true, and I will not be the tool of the devil like his poor, lost wife.

Owl was sad. She knew of the farmer's wife, for it was her family's barn in which her own had spent many generations, but owls did not bother to learn human names. Nevertheless, softly, she said: who?

And the Raven replied:

Her name was Lenore, and she will grace this earth…

Nevermore.

More love for Poe from C. Rommial Butler:

Short StoryHorrorHistoricalFantasyFable
16

About the Creator

C. Rommial Butler

C. Rommial Butler is a writer, musician and philosopher from Indianapolis, IN. His works can be found online through multiple streaming services and booksellers.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (13)

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  • Rachel Deeming2 months ago

    Like a dark fable. I didn't know the reference to Poe with Lenore although The Raven was known to me. Selling your soul to the devil never goes well. But what a sad tale. Such self sacrifice for eternal damnation. The Devil is a duplicitous rogue!

  • Novel Allen8 months ago

    Quoth the Raven. "Nevermore". Goodness gracious. I absolutely love this rendition of Poe. So now the raven quoths "Evermore", as Poe's legacy lives on. This is brilliant and so well written. Bravo from a Poe fan, my friend.

  • Veronica Coldiron11 months ago

    I had a feeling where this was leading, but it still surprised me ! I love your work!

  • Kalina Bethany11 months ago

    Loved this

  • Rick Henry Christopher about a year ago

    I originally read this one three months ago and loved the depth. Today I have read it again and I experienced a more internal depth. I could feel a thud in my soul as I read your words. So dark and almost hopeless. I felt a sadness at the end. You did such an excellent job with this. Very very creatively written.

  • Babs Iversonabout a year ago

    Outstanding story!!! Left a ♥

  • Shane Dobbieabout a year ago

    Fantastic prose. Had me engrossed from the off.

  • PJ Jackelmanabout a year ago

    Ooohhh, I love the moodiness and general underlying creep factor. Lovely.

  • Rick Henry Christopher about a year ago

    This was an interesting tale. Well thought out and written beautifully.

  • C. H. Richardabout a year ago

    An epic tale with the feel of Poe. Poor Lenore, sold her soul when that is what her family needed most. Excellent storytelling! ❤️

  • Ahh, she did the wrong things for the right reasons. Poor Lenore, she should have known that there will always be a catch. I was as invested as the Owl while Raven was telling the story. Loved it!

  • Michele Hardyabout a year ago

    Oh that was great! I love the narrative framing device with the owl and Raven and I love you incorporated some Poe in there. Great work and fun read!

  • Melissa Ingoldsbyabout a year ago

    Ohhh a Lenore take For Poe, I liked dark details of the wife’s smiling corpse. Very weird like I like it! Lol Here’s my latest, if you can catch your breath lol https://vocal.media/fiction/etched-out-ghost-town

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