She had, for some time, been considering the poem he wrote for her. This poem in which she did not recognise herself. It was true that she had worn black for many years; that she lived in mourning for some part of herself she could not name.In her own dreams, she was black like the skin of a wet animal. A platypus or a seal; something slick, secret, and vividly alive.
In his poem she was black like death, an inanimate threat, closing in around him, choking out light. She was the black of the earth she had eaten in handfuls, the night when her last child died. Her brother, the poet, dreamed that he lay at the bottom of that pit she had dug. The loose earth falling on his face, falling into him. Feather-soft at first, then heavy as stone.
Perhaps he would never forgive her for those seven years he had spent as a crow, or the single syllable she had uttered on the pyre.
At night, the pinion feathers that still grew from his fingers would touch his face and he would wake, startled, unfamiliar to himself. The blackness enclosed him, like an egg. Like a kiss. And in that blackness he would hear the wingbeat of her ravenous sisterly heart.
This microfiction was inspired by one of my all-time favourite of the fairytales collected and edited by the Brothers Grimm: The Six Swans. In the version of the tale I most vividly remember, the brothers are not swans, but ravens. (Perhaps I confused/combined the two tales, ‘The Seven Ravens’ and ‘The Six Swans’. If so, I’m not the first person to do so. In the television series, The Storyteller, created and produced by Jim Henson, the two are combined in Season One, Episode Six ‘The Three Ravens’.)
Do you have a favourite fairytale? (I can never decide between ‘The X Ravens’ and ‘Hans My Hedgehog’. Let me know your favourite and I’ll attempt a rewrite in 200 words, just for you. xx