The October sun set over the mountain bursting into a penumbra of red and purple as it careened into the pointed apex of rock and forest.
John brushed a weary hand through his salt and pepper hair letting it stray to his aching shoulder. He sighed and heard in the exhalation of breath the reminiscence of steel grating on pavement. The memory of fire danced before his eyes as the sun sang its final song over the landscape.
A crow screamed in the trees.
He heard in the bird call, “Daddy! Daddy help me!”
He knew the raven’s cry was just a call to worship for the murder. He was a regular congregant of Nature’s mass. It was the only release from the condemnation he clung to with the shadow strength that grief had left him.
The murder gathered in the highest branches of the pinions. As the last rays of day surrendered to the violent grip of night, crow calls filled the air. Louder than a city traffic jam they screamed in Autumn’s voice, “You let her die!”
His whole life was a haze: There was before the accident which he could only behold with the most conscious of efforts and there was after which started with a white room in the hospital. Black-out faded to dim understanding. He wept with the agony from his broken shoulder and the image of his little girl slumping into unconsciousness as smoke and flame consumed her.
What he needed was absolution. What he got was the forever scream of crows that spoke with Autumn’s voice. What he got was an empty apartment returned to after a month’s stay in the psych ward. What he got was the weariness and the Prozac migraine that kept suicide at bay. What he got was the catharsis of sunlight sprayed across mountains burning into the interminable silence that had become his life.
He came daily to relive, through sun fire and crow scream, the events that had brought him here. He hoped that someday his Sisyphean devotion to the act would set him free. Yet, no penance could ever satisfy hungry guilt. Somewhere inside he knew it would never be enough but it was the only payment he had to make.
As always the avian cantata rose suddenly to a deafening crescendo and then without warning fell dead siphoning away with it all his dreams.
The stars were up. He felt the whisper of the moon’s breath upon his neck. Blame, held at bay for the few moments of Nature’s symphony, came rushing back in with an audible groan. He waved good bye to the tree tops and rose to go.
He heard the crunch of autumn leaves behind him. He turned and gasped. Autumn stood illumined by the street light. Tears streaked her leaden features. She held out her hand.
“It’s time to go home John.”