I had fallen so deep into the depths of despair that I imagined a murder of crows, and they were staring at me—talking to me.
Not in tongues or some insane, cryptic chanting that only I could magically decipher by a weird-ass-haunted mansion, but in the parking lot of La Cosmo. Where I worked.
Well, where I used to work. I just got fired for punching some creep that decided it was okay to grab my ass. I might have also told him to fuck off, but it was justified.
My manager Tyler had been aching to get rid of me ever since I rejected his advances, but he knew I was still dating Jared. God, he was such scum, and tonight, I gave him all the motive he needed to fire me.
I groaned and glanced at the people flooding the doors of La Cosmo while the crows had a full-on conversation in front of me. Yet, no one else stopped in awe or terror.
“Did she hear us?" a crow with one eye and a scar down its beak asked.
“She must have," another one croaked, hopping rigorously up and down; its talons clicked against the concrete.
"Look at her face!"
"Definitely," the one-eyed crow said, nodding his beak like that would somehow reassure the others' uncertainty.
I stood there in disbelief with a slack jaw. My mouth instantly drier than a desert storm in the middle of a summer heat wave. Yet, I couldn't close it. Did people really not see this?
Yeah, my sense of reality was finally fucked. Mrs. Kelley always said I was a little off, but if I was being honest here—even if I was vividly seeing and hearing things again—it was her forcing us kids to call her mother when she was only fostering us for the money she received from the state. That's next-level psycho if you asked me. All I ever did was point at the crows and ask if she saw them talking too. I was a child. I didn't know any better, but that would send her over the edge because she would immediately swat my hand down and tell me never to say anything like that ever again. Especially, if our social worker Tammy was around.
Here I was, minding my business before they so rudely surrounded me. It's like they only came back into my life to wreak havoc. When all I wanted to do was get back to my shitty apartment and binge-watch romantic comedies and maybe cry my eyes out.
"Is she dull, Gren?" one crow said with feathers sticking straight up it looked mangled or mauled, or hell, both.
"He said she was the one."
"I have doubts."
"Quiet!" one-eye yelled. They hushed, immediately. He must be the one in charge and the one called Gren, seeing as they all settled their feathers and looked at him once he spoke again. "She is the one who accepted the token. She has it around her neck. Look at the emblem of Kaschel! It is clear as night."
They all croaked and mimicked a yes, yes as if satisfied with Gren’s answer.
I attempted to block out their irritating chatter and gazed up at the crescent moon, holding my last paycheck of $500.02 with a death grip. It felt like if I relaxed the tension in my hands for even a second, my money would disappear from my existence, and leave me nothing but crumbs.
I sighed. It already wasn't enough to pay my rent.
“Gren, are we too late? She's been staring at the sky for so long. Is she broken?"
“Shut it, Zain. But probably," Gren said, mumbling more to themself than to the murder.
I wanted to scoff at the word broken. Could a person not admire the beauty of the night and worry about how they were going to pay their bills without the defamation of their character?
So, I walked along the sidewalk and continued to ignore their talons clicking behind me.
I managed to unlock the door, push my way through, and collapse onto a chair in the kitchen, but I still couldn't get rid of them. They gathered around my twenty-story window and lingered like harbingers of death—it gave me a terrible feeling. One that made my insides boil up like molten rocks edging to the surface. It halted the weak flutters of my heart and instead, slammed against my ribcage with each beat.
They were definitely a bad omen.
I rubbed my eyes and looked outside my smudged window. Past the annoyingly loud crows, there was barely a soul in sight. A few beat-up cars and men that looked like they could be selling meth outside their trunks—complimented by lovely chipped paint and rust. It practically screamed I'm sketchy and might shank you if you looked at me the wrong way. Oh, the beauty of downtown Dedville. Where you're either a deadbeat or an orphan.
It was summer vacation, which meant this place was an empty husk of the bubbling town it once was during school time. No one dared to stay unless they had no other choice—like me.
Maybe, I should call Lucien and ask for a favor, but then again, I might just be a bigger burden to him.
I ruffled my hair and shook out my hands. Then I grabbed my phone and pressed the call button.
I inhaled and nervously tapped my nails on the table. Slouched over, I pressed my face to the cold wood and hoped it would soothe my anxieties.
For a second, it almost did until his deep voice rattled my eardrums.
I exhaled and tried to speak, but my throat instantly dried up again,
I swallowed, trying to coat my dry throat, and asked, "I need a favor. Can you come over?"