The raven felt a dull pain – not unlike a chill – which found its way into the insulated spaces between his feathers, though perhaps the source lay further beneath the pimpled pinky-grey skin. His guess was vague and hazy, like moving water; he was loved, though he had never been taught how to use the image of his heart to explain the itching twitch of his wing and this sad puffing of his plumage. He thought just as he saw: through a swirly translucent filter, but also, with immediacy. A mediator – a picture, a word seen in writing – might have thinned the feeling out.
The still breathing, beating, living-undead bird wilted and sank, growing fatter from ruffling, and squatting deeper into some old guttered rain-mud, while the town, itself a trodden mass of clods, had no empathy for what was swept under its carpet. And so he patted his claws in and out of the dirt and prepared to waddle further into the underground shaft.
Then a lovely stroller-by – older than she looked, but younger than the volumes spoken by her swaying skirts – happened to be strolling far from Mama and Papa. She was a girl-child, curly and spruced up with ribbons, and twirling a pretty gold pendant on a long chain: as it spun about the raven saw a bird, then a cage, a bird, then a cage…
The creature’s gaze could almost be heard, buzzing, out of the dank little hole just beneath the pavement, and she, with a laugh like a glass chime, wanted to play with this curious little sewer rat.
“Haha, what are you doing there? Cute, filthy little thing…” She bent down at the waist towards the gutter, with her hands on her hips. Her movement was unselfconscious and rough in the coloured silk, beautiful and callously playful. The young coquette shook her waist and her curls at the raven, and called out an impromptu rhyme in a mock-angry tone: “Come out, come out, wherever you are, your Mama’s away and the door is ajar!”
Her pendant hung straight down and swiveled at the raven. He saw a bird and a cage, a bird and a cage, and then, a bird in a cage. That’s when he clawed himself out of the gutter and onto the street. Perhaps it wasn’t the bird or the cage; the pendant shone too bright for his one eye and he didn’t like the child’s tone, not one bit, as she leaned in with a giggle. Her eyes were grey-blue and narrow, both calculating and unthinking. He lunged and snapped.
The girl screamed and pressed her right eye. She tumbled to the floor while kicking her balance out from beneath herself with her own heels – her skirts were caught on her shoes as she kicked and yelled. All of London must have heard her; all who were close-by gathered about but did nothing but stare and whisper behind their palms. Whispers are loud when so many people whisper. This the raven knew, and a crack of black wings saw him off to find his Millie, who as you know by now, he did indeed find.
A fat, curious man removed his hat. As he leaned over the gasping crowd, his shoe crushed a grey-blue eyeball, now plucked out by the root. He put his hat back on and hurried home past the crowd.
The raven soared above while Mama and Papa wailed “Eureka, Eureka! Ohhh! Somebody please help our poor Eureka!”
Who ever could this Eureka be? Only time will tell…