I Ain’t Afraid of No Black Bird, Part II: The Bird is Mine

Millie glanced at the diploma hanging next to her mirror.

–”Dr. Millicent Fethermann…hmm

That’s how the voice of the hand that wrote it would have trailed off as it grudgingly signed that piece of paper. In the mirror she could see the raven, turning its one good eye towards her and blinking, clacking its beak and rasping faintly. Was he even alive, really alive? She hadn’t gotten close enough to tell. All she knew for sure is that yesterday, in her grotty laboratory under the house, she had left him for dead, a lank and puffy mess of black feathers.

They had spent most of the night staring at each other from a distance, after the raven had burst in through the window and perched on the footrest of her bed. The crashing sound had stirred a few of her corridor-neighbours. Her ever-concerned bonneted ladies had come rushing to the door, candle in hand and feet provocatively unslippered, as the Lord’s son swooped valiantly out of his room, eyeball aimed straight for the keyhole. She locked the door before anyone could catch a glimpse of feather or nightie.

–”Yes I’m quite alright! Just dropped something in here! Silly Millie as usual! Yes I’m sure…”

Now the sun had come up and Millie was ready for her weekly trip into town. Perhaps she would also visit the university. What was she going to do with the raven now that she had him? His head, though his coal-feathers glistened in the sun, looked more gruesome than it had last night. He stood on the window sill, roosting quietly, but always attentive to Millie’s movements, waiting.

She fixed her hat in the mirror – the pretty one, powder blue, with a bit of veil in the front – as the raven’s one good eye remained fixed on her.

His socket was still a fresh sore from the day before, crusty in places and dark red. But it wasn’t so much this that made her hesitate to step forward: it was the thought of him as a secret. She couldn’t afford to be any more eccentric. A woman, twenty-three, unmarried with no living relatives, a certified physician, and now a dabbler in unholy magic tricks with electrical currents and a taste for feathered familiars!

She sighed, took a solution and a cloth from her bag and finally walked up to him. As she tended to the wound there was no fear or protest from the bird. She petted his back and he clicked his beak happily.

“My sweet friend, you are erm, undead, yes? And I am, well, dead to civilized society. So we might make a good pair yet you and I !” The raven squawked slightly and nodded his blue-black head in agreement. Millie was hardly surprised by now. He hopped onto her forearm looking quite pleased as far as ravens can looked pleased.

“Alrighty then!”, said Millie, “We’re off to London town!”