The Murder of Crows, Holley Cornetto
CW: blood, gore, violence, implied violence against children
He looked down, surveying the fields. His overalls were a tattered, bloody mess. He wore a straw hat that had rotted away to practically nothing. The smell of rot and decay -- his own scent, he recognized – lingered like an old friend.
There was a stirring down at the old house. The first stirring in years. A light shone through the window, visible now in the evening hour. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had lived there. Suddenly, he felt old.
The rows of corn stalks bent playfully in the wind. A starling swooped out of the dusky sky and landed on his shoulder. He reached into the gaping wound on his side and pulled a maggot from the decomposing straw, offering it to the bird. In return, the bird whispered to him.
It told him things about the family that had moved in. A man and wife. A son and daughter. The children were young and bold. Tender, juicy morsels ripe for the picking. The man had the hands of a laborer, calloused from years of hard work. The wife was a handsome, but sturdy woman.
Why had they come? Why now?
The last family had lived in the house for only three weeks.
The first week, crows flung themselves in a desperate frenzy against the windows and the sides of the house.
The second week, small dead animals started turning up on the stairs and under the porch.
The third week, the smell of rot and decaying flesh crept out of the house and into the fields.
When he’d walked down to the house and peered through the window, he’d seen the man and wife sitting at the kitchen table, turning gray and starting to bloat. Their eyes had been pecked away, until a dark red wormlike mass was all that remained. The crows had gotten there first. He vowed he wouldn’t let it happen again.
He straightened himself and brushed the straw from the front of his overalls, settling in to keep watch.
Night turned to day and into night again. Already, a murder of crows sat around the house, watching, waiting. Their beady black eyes shone with anticipation, burying a deep hunger that lay quiet below the surface. They sat. They watched. But they didn’t move. He thought about the children.
He must have closed his eyes, because he woke to the thunk thunk sound of crows throwing themselves against the old farmhouse. He looked around frantically, his eyes finally falling upon his scythe, rusty with age and disuse.
The starling landed on his shoulder.
“Tonight,” he croaked to the bird, surprised to find he had a voice. He watched all day as the crows waged their war of torment on the people inside the house, trying desperately to find a way inside. He heard the shrieks of the children and the alternating sobs and prayers of the woman.
After what felt like an eternity, the full moon reached its peak. The scarecrow tore his arms free and reached for the rusty scythe, hefting it upon his shoulders, ready to soak his overalls in a fresh coat of blood.
He was hungry, and this time he’d feast on more than crow.
Holley Cornetto was born and raised in Alabama, but now lives in New Jersey. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Lindenwood University and a Master's Degree in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University. Holley writes dark speculative fiction, which has appeared in over a dozen magazines and anthologies. She is also a reviewer and regular contributor at The Horror Tree.