SA4QE 2022 - Roland Clare - Bristol, United Kingdom

This quotation is from the short story The Raven.

The road took me to the Zoo entrance […]

When I took some grapes out of a bag one of the ravens opened its wings and the whole outspread blackness of the bird suddenly appeared in front of me. Standing on well-worn and polished black feet, it folded its wings and stuck its bill through the chain-link mesh of the cage. It was a large black bill of clerical aspect, the upper mandible hooked over the lower with a long curving point that was like a fingernail that needed trimming. A little yellow sign on the cage showed the silhouette of a hand with a large piece bitten out, so I sidled away from the raven and dropped a grape through the wire mesh […]

How’s it going? I said to it, not speaking aloud but with my mind. 

Well, you know, said the raven, also not speaking aloud, there’s not a lot happening here. […]  

How can you live without flying? I said to the raven. How do you get through the days? How do you not go crazy? 

The raven looked at me for a while, the little round eye-mirror blinked like a camera shutter. Lots of people live without flying, it said. 

But you used to have the whole sky to move around in. 

Wait a minute, said the raven. 


How do I know I’m not talking to myself? Maybe I’m just imagining this conversation. 

I’ve been thinking that very same thought, I said. Tell me what to do to show that I’m receiving you. 

Hold out your arms and flap them up and down. 

I held out my arms and flapped them up and down. 

‘What’s that man doing?’ said a passing child to its mother. 

‘Perhaps he’s trying to get above himself,’ she said. 

I’ve given you a sign, I said to the raven. How about you? Walk in a circle round your bath if it’s really you speaking to me. 

With its old-man walk the raven slowly walked around the bath. Then it came back to where I stood. You were saying, it said. Its voice in my mind had changed: it was all around me in vast and reverberant diapason, as if rebounding from the face of a black escarpment that ringed the horizon under a grey and primordial sky. 

It was a giant voice of supernatural power, and a thrill of fear went through me as the raven grew before my eyes. The cage and the zoo seemed to have faded away; the raven loomed over me […] 

How could I ever have been such a fool as to speak to it as if I were its equal?

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