Bird cage

Wednesday the Raven

by Colin Lewis


Chapter Twenty-seven

To the Tower

Ella looked out through the dull orange bars and did not speak.

Harold said, “You remember.”

It was not a question.

“I remember,” said Ella.

“You remember how to flee,” said Harold.

“To fly,” said Ella.

“That’s what I said,” said Harold.

“You said flee.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

Ella sighed.

“I have to leave,” she said.

Harold said nothing.

“How do I get out of here?”

“I recommend the door,” said Harold. “Squeezing between the bars is hard on one’s constitution.”

“How do I open the door?” said Ella.

“What do you mean? Just open it.”

“Don’t I need a key?”

“I must not have been paying attention again. What is this key you speak of?”

“The key to unlock the door.”

“Aha,” said Harold. “Well, I can’t give you the key.”

“Why not?”

“Because there is no key.”

“How did you get out then?”

“Through the door,” said Harold. “What are you talking about? Our conversation seems to have taken another strange turn.”

“I know I didn’t see you use a key, but there must be one. Isn’t the door locked?”

“Locked? Of course it isn’t locked. Why would it be locked?”

“This is a cage,” said Ella. “Aren’t cages always locked?”

“Sometimes I don’t understand you at all,” said Harold. “The world be a most unusual place when seen through those blue eyes.”

The cage door swung open with a bang as Hurricane leapt in.

“Ta-da!” he said. “Our hero arrived with his head held high, the sun at his back, and the element of surprise on his side.”

He jumped into the air, spun three hundred sixty degrees, landed in a crouch, and pointed at Harold.

“Stand back!” he cried.

He turned to Ella and grinned.

“What do you know?” said Hurricane. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

Harold and Ella stared at the mouse.

“What on earth is that?” said Harold.

“That,” said Ella, “is Hurricane.”

“Is this green giant a villain?” said Hurricane.

“No, that’s Harold,” said Ella.

“Oh,” said Hurricane. “Is he helping with the mission?”

“In his own way, yes,” said Ella.

“So you don’t need me to vanquish him?”

“No,” said Ella firmly.

They stood and looked at each other.

“Well, this is exciting,” said Harold. “I suppose there must be a new plan.”

“A plan!” said Hurricane. “That’s right. The public demands action. Today is the day when everything will happen.”

“You don’t say,” said Harold.

“How did you find me?” said Ella.

“Pigeons,” said Hurricane. “When an expedition lacks the necessary resources for extensive field work, pigeons can serve as excellent and inexpensive data collectors. It’s a little known fact.”

“Pigeons?” said Harold. “I wouldn’t trust a pigeon to find a teacup in a teahouse.”

“It is a little surprising,” said Ella.

“Don’t say that,” said Hurricane. “It worked, didn’t it? All I had to give them was my sunflower seeds.”

He grabbed Ella and pulled her toward the door.

Harold blinked his gray droopy eyes as he watched them leave.

“Don’t bother closing the door,” he said. “Old Harold will get that for you. No need to say goodbye, either. You two just run along on your adventures. Really. It’s perfectly fine. I’ll stay here.”

They didn’t hear him. They were already gone.

Harold sighed.

The young apprentice pushed back his chair in the Bird House and stood. The chair fell over behind him.

“The time has come,” he said.

“What time?” said Zhao. He looked at Madame Alouette. She shook her head.

“Today is the day when everything will happen,” said the young apprentice softly.

He picked up his bag and walked quickly out the door, and as the door swung closed, everything did begin to happen.

Frances was the first to notice. She pointed out the window and said, “Is that Edward?”

Zhao and Madame Alouette both leaned forward.

“Where?” said Madame Alouette.

“There,” said Frances. She pointed again.

Detective Weisell led Edward past the Bird House and toward the Broken Clock Tower. Edward still looked confused.

I’m a good Rook, he thought. I think.

Frances pushed back her chair and ran out the door.

“You forgot your flowers,” called Madame Alouette. “Your buds and blossoms.”

Zhao said, “What happened to that sparrow?

“The sparrow?” said Madame Alouette. “I thought she couldn’t fly.”

“She’s gone,” said Zhao.

Wilhelmina looked at the musician and raised her eyebrows.

“Whatever is going on,” she said, “I want to be a part of it.”

“Let’s go,” said the musician. “I think something is changing.”

“Something is changing,” said Madame Alouette. “The change is changing again.”

“I knew it,” said Zhao.

At the arched entrance, the Police Chief entered the Park with his face flushed the color of hydrangeas. He huffed and puffed as he trotted down the path.

“Missing from duty,” he muttered. “Absconding with my main suspect.”

This, he thought, called for an immediate suspension. Without pay. And criminal charges. He would put Weisell’s name at the top of every form he had.

In the distance, the Chief saw a young man exit the Bird House, followed closely by a woman, followed closely by four more people.

Something was happening.

The Chief peered across the Park.

Frances? he wondered.

He saw the woman wave to Edward. She had curly dark hair, and shiny red shoes, and honey-colored eyes with little gold flecks that the Chief thought looked exactly like the kind of stars one should wish upon.

The Chief slowed and stopped. He watched the people move in the Park. He saw Frances walk beside Edward, and saw her reach out and touch his arm.

The Chief’s knees grew weak, and he hobbled over to a tree and leaned against it and stared as Frances and Edward and Weisell moved toward the Tower. He pressed his hand against his chest.

A squirrel ran up to the Chief and held up an acorn.

“This is the most beautiful acorn in the world,” said the squirrel.

“Go away,” said the Chief.

He wondered if it was too late to cancel the delivery of roses.

For the second time that day, Hurricane scaled the Tower, paw over paw.

“Danger called,” said Hurricane, “and as always, our hero answered in a loud voice without fear: Hi, danger!”

“Keep your voice down!” said Ella, who flew beside him. “What are you talking about?”

Our hero realized he needed to keep his voice down, thought Hurricane.

“What’s our plan?” he said.

“Our plan?”

“Yes. Our plan. We need a proposal for action. Our strategy for success in an unexpected hour.”

“Right,” said Ella. “We need to try to locate and retrieve the blue-covered book, my mother, and Edward’s ring, but not necessarily in that order. We also need to open all the cages and release the birds.”

“That’s not a plan,” said Hurricane. “That’s a list of things we want to do. A plan is an organized formula of the measures we need to take in order to achieve our goals.”

“Oh,” said Ella.

She thought about this for a moment.

“In that case, we don’t have a plan,” she said.

“Right,” said Hurricane.

He furrowed his brow, and turned his head toward Ella so she wouldn’t miss the furrowing. He knew this made him look even more intelligent and capable than usual.

“Are you okay?” said Ella.

Furrowing my brow, thought Hurricane, feels very similar to squinting.

He wondered if Ella could tell the difference. He decided to investigate this the next time he found a mirror or similar reflective surface. For the time being, he would assume it worked.

“Our hero furiously furrowed his brow as he analyzed their chances for success,” said Hurricane. “Given the overwhelming odds against them, what could they do? There must be some clever tactic they could employ, but what was it? Time was running out!”

“Why don’t we just go up there, move discreetly in the shadows, grab the things we want and leave as quickly as possible?” said Ella.

Hurricane nodded.

“Okay,” he said. “Good enough.”

The light began to fall below the horizon, and a deep blue glow crept up the other side of the sky. The bluest hour arrived again. Birds gathered at the Chattering Pond to gossip about their day. The pigeons cooed and the mourning doves sighed. The ducks splashed and laughed and paddled around. The tattered jay flew past and screamed for no good reason and disappeared again.

Change, thought the jay.

He shuddered. He wasn’t one hundred percent certain he approved of change.

Wednesday the Raven cover

This is a work in progress, and to keep track of things you can subscribe to the update notifications. Readers are also encouraged to submit suggestions & edits through the Github repository (or old school email). Questions? Check the project announcement page for more information.