I Ain’t Afraid of No Black Bird

It was a sky of grey slate which the ravens perforated that morning. They sat on the branch of the great tree, and every morning it was the same question.

–”Papa, when shall I have one of the black birds?”

–”You can never have one Millie, my silly, they are wild things and will snatch out your eye! Just like this!”

–”Haha! No Papa! Leave me alone!”

From over her father’s shoulder, moving further away and bobbing, Millie always saw the ravens sitting on the tree.

On a morning much like the one she remembered, she woke up to another dreary day, but at least, even after all these years, the ravens remained. At five in the morning, her bonneted ladies strapped her into a corset and pinned her hair, rolled up her stockings and laced her boots, while the lord of the house moaned for his physician. She snatched her father’s old black bag and huffed down the dingy halls. “Silly-Millie, silly me, the Lord can no longer afford a man so he hires a woman to prod his gout and examine his urine!”

“What took you so long? Ohh! Ohhhh! Serves me right for trusting a woman with my health!”. Having assured him that his leg would not drop off and his sanity last the day, Millie took to the front gardens where their grey light offered the ravens to her view. There was only Kit, the stable man’s son, throwing stones at the birds. Rather than flit about in fear, they preferred to rasp back with pride. At first she wanted to scold the boy, but stopped herself. She secretly wished that he would knock one down out of its tree, and so he did–it fell dead and ruffled, lacking the grace she had always known them to have.

Without thinking Millie picked up the dead thing, shoved it under her coat and ran breathless to her hovel of a laboratory under the house. For some time she had been working with frogs and mice and any minor specimens that a certain strange physician had cast off his shopping list: she had attended some of his lectures about the body and electrical currents, how it jolted the nerves back to life in experiments which were still in their infancy. He was considered a crank, and she a woman.

But finally, she had the subject she really wanted to jolt back to life, to possess!

There was no breath left in the pitch black body. She cleaned the eye socket where the boy’s tossed gravel had struck the poor thing as precise and rending as gunpowder, and then she hooked it up to the voltage machines of her own design. Millie had no faith in the raven, in the strange physician or herself, and yet she did! She started it up and watched. But as the beautiful creature convulsed she was struck with a sudden horror which made her cry out in confusion. Her finger jabbed out at the switch so that the currents died and she ran away with tears and a pounding heart.

That night a forgetfulness came upon her as her bonneted ladies undressed her and slipped the pillow under her head, though she knew in her heart that she would still look to the ravens in the morning. She heard a sharp tapping. It didn’t sound like the branch in the wind. Her eyes opened, and there it stood, proud and pomp-chested, the black one-eyed bird behind the window! He was hers!