A Murder of Crows: Part 9
"Of all the things that are unholy!" Leave it to Duo to say something like that, even though everywhere he went, he got away with something because he looked like a priest.
The attic was a laboratory. An incredible laboratory. There were archaic microscopes, scalpels, pins, and notebooks everywhere. Some of the equipment used I've only seen in my history books. I was so fascinated by this that I momentarily overlooked the smell. It wasn't even the smell of death; this smell was much too strong. This smell was that of decay, and believe me when I say that that was much, much worse.
I took five steps in to get a good view of the room. Hm. It wasn't too dark. There was some light that reached from downstairs. But Trowa lit a candle, which conveniently had a box of matches on a nearby table, and we also turned on our flashlights. Ah, much better.
Trowa went in front of me to my right, gun near his nose in the classic cop image. He was unfazed. Duo, unfortunately, ran to the corner and started vomiting. I didn't blame him. I had to swallow a large lump in my throat, and tears were welling in my eyes. This was NOT going to be easy.
Gulping, I managed to say, "Spread out and look for anything useful."
By this time Duo finished, and Trowa was already down an aisle of books. I headed straight for one of the metallic tables to find dozens of notebooks. Flipping through the pages, I found that they were notes on crows. There were drawings detailing their anatomy, the names of organs, their functions according to the autopsies done, and so forth. The notes were extremely detailed and even tedious in reading. I couldn't imagine the actual experiments.
Next to the table was a desk, where I found a stack of pictures. They were so old, the pictures had faded to that pinkish-brown color. One had a little boy standing to the left of a man sitting in a chair, and a woman on the right hand side. Studying the picture further, I realized that the little boy was Krahe, and that the man looked like an older version of him. Most likely his father. So the woman was probably his mother. She was very pretty, maybe in her mid-thirties at the time of the picture. Her hair was in a bun, jet black, with very pale skin and dark eyes.
Another picture was of Krahe and his father in this very room. His father stood diligently, arms behind his back with a white lab coat on, thin glasses, brown hair slicked back. Krahe was dressed the same way, except a crow rested on his shoulder.
After going through the drawers in the desk, I found another notebook. On the cover of the notebook was the word 'Corvidophilia' engraved in gold lettering. After untying a ribbon that held it closed and flipping through the pages, I realized that it was a journal kept by the father. It described the day that Krahe Corvidophilia was born, his first step, when he was sick in school, everything. Krahe's father seemed to be a scientist of some sort, with all types of birds. But his specialty was on crows. At least, I thought so. My German was a bit rusty.
Where things went downhill was when Abigail (so that was her name) died. When she died, the father, or rather, Dr. Corvidophilia, withdrew himself from society and work, to see if she made it to heaven. Why wouldn't she? Anyway, since Dr. Corvidophilia was a scientist for birds, he was well aware of the legends about them, most notably the ones surrounding crows. It was written in many of the books that I've studied, that all birds carried souls to heaven, but crows were the best suited for the journey . So he worked night and day to find out if this was true or not. How terrible.
The last page spoke of his abuse for his son. The mother died when Krahe, at the age of seventeen, ran away from home. I didn't know where the father was. It didn't say how she died, but when Krahe came home later that evening, his father and the police were already there. The father blamed his son, and from there on physically abused the boy.
"....once again Krahe has crossed me.... what must I do to get through to him?
....his behavior has to stop, but so does mine.
Wait, there is someone at the door...."
The journal entry stopped there. I wondered what happened.
"Did you find anything? I can't make anything out. All this stuff seems to be written in scribble, and all there is up here is embalming fluid and a jug of kerosene."
"Just this." I held up the notebook to him. He only gave me a funny look before turning around and going out the door. Trowa was nowhere to be found. So I stuck the journal and the two pictures into my coat pocket, and ventured down the aisle closest to the wall.
The bookshelf had literally hundreds of books, stretching from the role of crows in the bible, to the myths of the messengers of Odin.  Fascinating stuff. Next to music, I was very fond of literature.
It was very dark at the end of this corner, and the smell got a lot stronger. Whatever died was at this side of the floor. I started to shuffle my feet, hoping I wouldn't step on anything useful or squishy. All I needed was to get something gooey stuck to the bottom of Duo's shoes. I'll never hear the end of it.
Further in the back in almost complete darkness, was a freezer-type machine about the size of a coffin. What a pleasant thought. Anyway, it had a handle like a refrigerator door. I knew that hospitals would use equipment like this to keep appendages or organs cold. But this thing stopped working a long time ago, and the bottom of it had corroded away. I could feel that it was at room temperature, once I managed to gently knock the spiders off of it.
I didn't know why, but I was possessed with the urge to open it. But I knew that I was going to be very sorry if I did. It was one of those things, you know, that 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' kind of feeling. So once again, taking a deep breath for courage, even with the seamy air, I surrounded the handle with my palm, clasped my fingers firmly around, and pulled with all my might. It quickly flew open, spilling dust everywhere to reveal its content.
It was a corpse! Or what was left of one! Its arms were crossed on his chest, and it didn't have any feet. The clothes it wore had deteriorated to the point where it looked like skin. Its jaw had landed against the skeletal neck, the eye sockets and nose filled with maggots and other insects I couldn't even make out. The hair was nothing more than thick gray strands laying about its head. And the smell...oh Allah the smell. It was too much.
Dropping my flashlight, I stumbled back into the bookshelf, causing it to rock and fall forward. A hand from behind me grabbed me by my collar, and yanked me out of harm's way. The bookshelf landed loudly, half on the floor and half on the body. Looking up, I could tell I was laying my head in Wufei's lap, with his arms thrown over me for protection. I quickly sat up, and rolled to the side so that I wouldn't throw up on his pants. That was my limit.
"Quatre! Breathe damnit! You're going to hyperventilate. Trowa!"
Out of nowhere Trowa appeared, picking me up and cradling me in his arms like I didn't weigh a thing. Outside of the door, Trowa put me down and Wufei followed. I sat there, trying to get the image of a rotten, worm infested skeleton from behind my eyelids. Heero and Duo came charging up the stairs, with the latter frantically shaking my shoulders and screaming in my ear.
I managed to put my jaw back in place after a VERY hard shake from Duo. Once I appeared to be in the here and now, Wufei, Heero, and Trowa went to the bookshelf and started to move it. Duo held my bandaged hand, which was now covered with dried blood, dust, dirt and other filth I didn't want to think about.
"What the hell happened, Cat?"
I didn't want to say. Oh, I didn't want to say!
But Duo's question was answered when a gasp came from Wufei, and he stumbled away covering his mouth. Trowa and Heero followed suit. Even Heero looked disturbed, which was enough for Duo.
"You know what? Forget I asked."
The smell again invaded my senses, and that lump in my throat was pushing its way through my closed mouth. The other three came to stand around us. Trowa stood next to me, and I did not want to vomit in front of him by any means. So I did the next best thing.
/ Quatre. /
Was I dreaming again? No, I couldn't be.
/ Quatre, can you hear me? /
Slowly, I opened my eyes to a very concerned Wufei. He smiled a little bit, which in turn made me smile.
"You had me worried there. Besides, since you've been out, Duo has been forced to talk to me."
"Sorry." I managed a weak chuckle at that. It wasn't often that Wufei cracked a joke. He smiled just a bit more, but that concern was still in his eyes. "What is it, Wufei?"
"Quatre, you look like hell." That was as sugarcoated with him as it got.
"Do I really?"
"Yes, you do. Plus the fact that even though you fainted, you've been out for a whole hour. That's too long for being a little disturbed. Also, your breath stinks."
"You're too kind." I sat up, my back and shoulders screaming against it, and rose to my feet. My clothes were changed. I was in a gray jogging suit instead of the light blue I had on earlier. I looked up at Wufei to ask but he beat me to the punch.
"Trowa changed your clothes because you all smelled like..." he shook his head, scowling, "that thing upstairs. We're burning them. There's no use in washing them."
Looking at the fireplace, I could see the last remains of Duo's clothes along with mine. Oh well. It'll give me a reason to go shopping. Wait--Trowa changed my clothes? And I wasn't awake to enjoy it? There truly wasn't justice in the world.
Oh Allah, I was starting to sound like Wufei. "Where is everybody?"
"Heero and Duo are outside making the final preparations to leave. Screw driving back to Moscow, we're taking a train. Everything should be in the 4-runner by now. Trowa is upstairs looking for whatever he can. I suggest that before we leave, we burn the house down. Nothing but evil resides here."
Sounded good. Better than what we intended before. I had no complaints. Well, I decided to take Wufei's suggestion to heart, and get to a bathroom to spray some water in my mouth. I left his side, flying up the stairs.
"Quatre, where are you--"
"I'm going to the bathroom."
Looking in the mirror, I could see why Duo and Wufei were distraught over my face. I did look like hell. The claws on my forehead, and the bite on my lip were gaping open. My cheeks were bruised a deep purple and slightly swollen. But my eyes were the worst. They weren't the bright blue I usually had, but a dull, dark blue. The bags under my eyes were dark gray, and extended to the bony thickness of my nose. I brought my hands up to touch my skin to see if it was real. In the mirror, it had the appearance of a wax substance that was flaking. It felt like the skin of an onion, very thin and dry, ready to tear off. I honestly looked like I was on my deathbed.
I slumped out of the bathroom with my head hanging. Unfortunately, a clawing sound at the door brought me out of my self-loathing.
I raised my head. My bedroom door was open. I could see glass all over the floor, and crows were everywhere; on the bed, on the floor, and flapping across the room. I could only guess that they somehow busted the window. But the ones that attracted my attention were the ones on the doorframe. Twenty or thirty I'd say.
What also got my attention was my sweatshirt. It was the dark blue one that got torn and ripped off me when Krahe tried to...do something to Duo, and drown me. It hung on the doorknob by the collar, nice and dry, completely restored and inviting.
I was going to accept his invitation. I was ready to be finished with this, and I was getting my sweatshirt back damnit! I had taken one deliberate step forward, when a callused hand grabbed my arm.
"Don't move." Even in a whisper, Heero's voice was still intimidating.
We stood there for what seemed like forever. I didn't know if Heero was trying to glare them to death, but the silence and the air was starting to make me dizzy. So, snatching my arm free from Heero's grasp, I stomped over to the door and yanked my shirt free. The crows didn't budge. I decided to wait in case Krahe decided to make an 'appearance.'
I waited maybe a minute or two, but nothing happened. I know I should've been happy, but I wasn't. I didn't recall ever being that angry in my entire life than I was at that particular moment. He was such a coward. I was right here and he was nowhere to be found. But what really upset me, was that I could feel his presence. I knew he was watching me. For one second, I learned what it was like to hate, and I never wanted to feel that emotion again.
In an inexplicable amount of anger, I grabbed the knob, opened the door wider, and slammed it shut.
The force of it sounded through the house, rattled the windows, and a few splints of wood broke off. The crows inside the room could be heard flying about madly, screeching. But the crows hanging on the door watched me patiently. Nothing I was doing threatened them in the slightest.
I stood there momentarily, holding the shirt to my chest like a lifeline. I was trembling, but I didn't know if it was because I was angry, or scared, or just plain desperate. I never thought I would be able to hate anything. I felt that my empathy was what was special about me; that I could love anything, no matter how much distrust or hate existed. Now, I was no better than anyone else. I finally hated something, and it had the most beautiful blue eyes that will ever be, and possessed itself in one of the most sacred creatures on the Earth.
You have condemned me, Krahe.
"Quatre, come on." Heero's tone did not book argument.
But I couldn't turn away. I stared at the door, daring him mentally to come out. This new feeling I was experiencing, even though it lasted a second, had left its residue in my soul. I wanted to fight him like I fight OZ with Sandrock. I wanted to personally escort him to hell.
Heero came up behind me and placed both of his hands on my shoulders. I knew he was about to render me unconscious when I started shouting.
"Fuck you! Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you! FUCK YOU!"
Tears started streaming down my cheeks. I cursed at him in between sobs. Heero tried to pull me away, but I fought to stay right where I was. There was a shout, besides my own, but I didn't hear what it was. Then another set of hands pulled me back, and I saw that it was Trowa.
I continued to scream my profanities, but now in Arabic. Trowa was trying to say something, but all I did was yell in his face. Seeing that I was not going to calm down on my own, Trowa picked me up and threw me over his shoulder. I continued to holler obscenities while Trowa and Heero 'escorted' me down the stairs. Halfway down, I saw Wufei's mouth open in total shock. Duo was the other shout. Wufei was holding him around the waist, trying to keep him from flying up the stairs. He was just as frantic as I was.
Trowa put me down and immediately, Duo broke free of Wufei's grip and ran to me, knocking us both on the floor. Straddling me, he started to shake me, screaming who knew what. Neither one of us was making sense to the other, or anyone else. With another good jerk, I finally quieted, and he stopped, breathing hoarsely. Once I got to my feet, he embraced me and held me so close, we almost became one person. I buried my face into his collarbone and leaned into him, intending to block out the outside world.
"Holy-tap-dancing-shit!" he whispered hoarsely. "Quatre, don't scare me like that! You're too good, don't you understand? You're the light at the end of the fuckin' tunnel, man. You gotta be strong for me, okay?"
I nodded weakly into his neck. Duo was right. I needed to be strong for them. We were leaving. As soon as we got–
Heero brushed past us. "Whatever we don't have, forget it. We are leaving now!"
The home team's timing was impeccable. As soon as Heero said that, the window in the kitchen exploded. Crows came flying in, seating themselves on the furniture or heading in our direction.
Someone was on top of me, protecting Duo and I from the falling shards. Trowa. As soon as the sound of glass hit the floor, the fluttering of wings and cawing echoed in the hollow room. I saw out of the corner of my eye Duo being hoisted up by someone. Then I felt the weight that pinned me to the floor vanish, and strong hands pulled me to my feet. This time Trowa put an arm around my waist, and my arm around his neck, and ran up the stairs after the other pilots.
At the top of the stairs, we were greeted by my 'friends.' Trowa let go of me. What he did after that I didn't know, because I couldn't take my eyes off of the figure before me. Sitting on my bed was Krahe, legs crossed, palms down on the mattress, surrounded by his minions. He didn't have that sweet smile on his face anymore. He had the expression of one that would kill you then act as if they observed a rock on the road. Kind of like that deadly calm before a storm.
I was no longer angry. I was terrified.
"Quatre!" Trowa once again came to my rescue, and pulled me backwards to Heero's room. He and I were the last ones in as we hurriedly closed the door, locking it. The birds could be heard settling themselves, and their shadows were seen under the door. Running possible scenarios on how to escape through my head, I remembered that there wasn't a window in Heero's room, just a bed and dresser. All of our equipment and weapons were in the 4-runner.
We were trapped.
 I don't know a lot about crows, so while I was doing some quick research on them, I actually found that early in time people believed that all birds carried souls to heaven. But the preferred bird was a crow, because it is the smartest of all birds.
 The Messengers of Odin were two crows named Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory). While the god Odin sat on his throne above Earth, the crows would fly throughout Earth and report back to Odin what was going on. This refers to the rest of the sentence in  as in why Dr. Corvidophilia thought that the crow could find out if his wife made it to heaven or not, because the crow could fly there and back and tell him. This is Norse mythology, in case you're wondering.