I am a crow.
It is not a nicknames. Neither is it a metaphor. I am just a crow with black feathers and nimble wings – it is the truth. My young boy, my young master should I call him so, never had a single thought about naming me. It has been such a long time since those days, my young master, and I still could not forget how your eyes were more expressive than your words, which could seldom be heard. We had been together for so long that a simple hand gesture, a slight change in facial expression was enough for me to guess his thoughts, his mind, his emotion and what he wanted to say but in the end decided not to. The boy, however, had never wanted to name me, or showed any intention of owning me – and that was the reason why I loved him so much.
It is because I am not just a crow. I am a crow spirit who have lived for hundreds of years. Most people in that village, throughout many generations, were as silent as my young master – a natural quality, perhaps. I had landed on the shoulder of his predecessors the same way I accompanied him, and just like my young master, they have never wanted to name me. The tranquility in their eyes was one of those things that had never changed in this land even though outside the green curtain surrounding us, so many things were no longer the same.
How long had it been, since the day Western ships approached our shores, since the day the anti-foreigners war broke up, since the day those who followed the newly arrived religion got murdered in a gruesome massacre which was followed by military revenge of foreign troops, since the time of Revolution that had totally changed the face of the country, and the birth of the democracy, when people were still unsure about the difference between political opposition and the crime of treason? Listing all of those things, I felt that we had lived through a very long time, but actually, it had been only a few decades of modernization, and of course, of Westernization. After a long period of choosing to isolated ourselves from other countries, we had finally woke up, and had been totally surprised at how far the world had left us behind. There were no ways for our country to survive other than trying to chase after the rest of the world. For that reason, we gulped down new knowledge and values from the Western world like a hungry ghost, trying to make up for all the time we had previously lost. That recklessness could, and did, bring harms to us, but on that day, we did not even think of the possibility, and did not have any other choices. We wanted desperately to become modern. And during this time, a modern man was a Western man.
It was not just the spring of my master’s youth, but also the spring of our country. There were so many possibilities, and it was an exciting time to live if your heart was young. In the street, we could see plenty of young men and women dressed in latest fashion in the style of Paris or some other capitals in Europe, hanging out in coffee shops, bookstores, or tea lounges. They injected strange English, French, German, or even Russian words into their dialogue without blinking, and mentioned strangely-sounding names like Baudelaire and Verlaine as casually as if they were talking about old acquaintances. The year my young master entered secondary school, a pierce discussion broke up on newspapers, being triggered by an high officer, who said that our mother tongues was an inferior language with loose structure, incapable of expressing complicated ideas, and should be replaced by some other Western language as the official language. This had created a great backlash. Amongst those who argued against that suggestion, some even went as far as saying that, teaching English in school was a sign of slavery to Western culture, and should be stop entirely.
Amongst all that chaos, my young master’s brother just told him that, whatever people could say, the use of Western languages in our country was something that could not be avoided anymore, and its frequency could only increase in the future. For that reason, it would be wise to continue studying. If the boy wanted to stay in the village after finished secondary school, his brother would not object. But he wanted the boy to have some other options to choose from, in his life.
What the brother said was their way of living. This family had always maintained a calm attitude and accepted what could not be avoided. Once again, my young master nodded obediently, and applied for a school with a strong focus on teaching foreign languages. On the day of the entrance ceremony, his sister-in-law, after looking at the boy in the new uniform, kept saying: you had become a handsome one, my young brother. Since that day, I had followed the boy on the way to school everyday, listening to his lectures from outside of the window. At that time, the government requested all students to learn by heart the army codes in order to build the patriotic spirit, I also stayed up late to read the little book with the army emblem together with him almost every night.
When other people in the village began to gossip about those newcomers, in this wooden house, separated from the village road by a flight of stone steps, there had been nothing unusual happened, not even a strange conversation by the dining table. We had to accept the flow, not trying to swim against it – his brother had said that – so we did not let those occurrences disturbed our quiet life.
Then, in that morning of spring, amongst those green curtain, on the bank of the stream, we encountered that blonde young boy.
The boy turned his head around and faced us. A gleam of fear shined up in his strangely blue eyes. But it seemed, finally, curiosity had taken over, the boy smiled and reached his hand toward my young master, who was standing still at a safe distance, not knowing whether we should just leave the foreigner alone or not.
It was our first contact to that young boy whom later we would know as Louis. On that day, neither he nor we knew that it would be the most unlucky contact in his short life.
That morning, in the spring forest that was still covered in a blanket of cold air, we had encountered the first sign of changes. A sign in blood and flesh, no less. What had been just a vague threat was now standing in front of us, right beside the stream where we used to play together in childhood. Resting in his shoulder, I could feel my young master silently stirred with uneasiness. The only thing the foreign boy could recognized, however, was probably the seemingly never-ending silence, when both side were standing there, facing each other, and not saying any worlds. Meanwhile, the forest was filled with the music of water flowing in the stream, the wind blowing through branches, and the flapping sound that a bird make while flying up into the beautiful sky of spring.
That morning, the foreign boy was wearing a well-fit western-styled grey suit, with a grey overcoat, a white shirt, and a necktie as blue as the sky in his eyes. A beret resting in his head, for some reason made he looked a little stubborn. The boy was carrying a student bag on one of his hand. Even though the clothes were slightly different, it was clear that the boy was also a student – probably belonged to a school for foreign children near the port. And it was also clear that, he was going to school, just like us. It was just like seeing a mirror at an unexpected place. But that face, that manner, and the color of the eyes were nothing like us. The two boys were still staring at each other without speaking a word, as if they both had been frozen in the cold atmosphere of the morning spring, and it suddenly occurred to me that, maybe just like us, deep in his heart, the other boy was full of anxiety.
Why did we go pass the stream that morning? I could not recall the reason very clearly now. If we had not strayed away from the path on the way to the town behind the green curtain, we probably would have never met that foreign boy. And maybe, just maybe, all the thing that happened later could have been avoided. But nobody could know that. Nobody could tell now.
At that moment, it seemed like there were delicate, invisible strings spreading through the air, and for that reason, both sides did not want to make a careless move, as those strings might be as well connected with invisible silver bells hidden somewhere in the forest, and a sudden movement might disturb the silence of the forest, heralding the change that nobody wanted, or was ready for.
Then my young master turned back, started to leave, still without a word.
That foreign boy shouted, and quickly caught up to us. His unfamiliar hand grasped my young master’s shoulder suddenly, made me startled, and quickly had to fly up to the sky. From above, I saw both of those two children, and saw my young master had pulled back, his hand slightly rose up, above his chest in defense. It was clear that the sudden contact made him as surprised and annoyed as I was.
That foreign boy did not seem to notice, approached closer, and threw out questions after questions, as fast as if he did not want to leave the other a chance to answer: My young master knew the way out, right? Could he follow us? He had been lost since early morning, and did not know how to go back.
Apparently, that morning, on his way to school, the boy had seen at a military airplane in the sky. He had followed the trace of that airplane in the sky, with all the idiotic naivety, and silly curiosity of a child, and got lost as a result, not knowing how to return to the main road. He saw some people, some children probably, from the village, but they left as soon as they saw him, and he could not follow them through all the hidden path in the curtain of trees. The boy went on and on, did not seem to notice that my young master also wanted to leave, or had choose to ignore his long speech. After hearing that story, however, the expression of my young master softened, and when the boy started to beg: let’s go to school together, okay – my young master slowly nodded his head after a little hesitance.
Almost instantly, a broad smile appeared on the face of the foreign boy. It was the first time the three of us going through the forest together. I did not land on my master’s shoulder anymore, just silently followed them. The new development, and the presence of the stranger made me alert. On the way, my young master just walked in silence while keeping a short distance between him and the other boy. Even when the forest had ended, and the building of the city beneath appeared, his lips were still sealed, and the foreign boy also fell into silence.
There were no school above elementary level in the village, and there were also none, in the town nearby. During that year, my young master had to cross the forest every morning to go to the city. When the green color of the forest became thinner, the sign of the city as well as the sign of modernization became more and more visible. The city we visited almost every day had changed completely in just a few decades. A visitor who went back to this place after a long travel, would be surprised on seeing the newly built roads, the Western style building, and people wearing Western suit going up and down in the busy streets. That visitor would probably wondered, whether our city had been destroyed in a terrible disaster, and there was no way for us but to build it anew, on top of the old debris.
In a sense, one might say that, it was not a wrong assumption.
When the school had ended, unlike other children, my master often quickly went home, did not pay attention to the busy streets with new stores full of strange wonders, or other places where students of those days loved to hang out. We would silently walked through the green curtain and sometimes we would stop, under the shadow of a trees, without saying any words and mostly without reason, listened to the ambient sound echoing through the forest, like the breathing sound of a sleeping person.
But in that afternoon, everything was different.
When we just got off the tram, and started to approach the forest, suddenly we heard a voice calling from behind:
My master threw a quick glance at me, as if he wanted to ask whether we should stop. But it was an unnecessary concern, as that person had already caught up to us.
That was the foreign boy again. Putting one of his hand in his pocket, and hanging the schoolbag over his shoulder with the other hand, the boy tilted his head, and before we could say anything, he instantly asked: Could he go back together with us? He still did not know much about the way to get through the forest, and did not want to get lost the whole night. With just that, the boy turned around, started to walk alongside us, so casually as if we had already agreed. And even if we did not want to, it was hard not to.
And just like that morning, together, both of them crossed through the green forest. As sunset approached, the air got colder. Grey clusters of clouds, soaked in water, gradually came down, and we could smell the rain coming soon. But unlike what happened in the morning, even though my young master tried to walk as fast as possible to send a signal that we wanted some distance, the other boy kept catching up to us, did not let us be ahead. He did not understand, or maybe decided not to. The insensitive in that behavior made me displeased, and it was probably the same to my young master.
And the boy, just could not stop talking. I wondered whether all that talkativeness was because he was scared of how dark the forest had become, awaiting the rain? He told us, even though we honestly could not care less, that he had come to our village once before his family moved in. It was last year, October, in the depth of night, therefore he did not see a single soul, just had an impression, this area was truly quiet and peaceful, we also thought the same, didn’t we? The way to the town was long, but the boy did not mind, because he had lived in even more isolated areas before. On the other hand, this seemingly untouched natured piqued his interest. By the way, did we find his accent strange? For a lot of reason, which the boy did not state clearly, he had moved from one places to another since the day of his birth, and sometimes, even children from his country got difficulties in understanding him. And his name was Louis. A boring name, wasn’t it? Hey, why didn’t my young master answer? Could he heard Louis clearly? Did he understood what the boy was saying?
When we had reached the rock marked the way to the village, that foreign boy had ran out of his patience. Suddenly, he grasped my young master’s arm and pulled him back, forced him to look at his sky-blue irises, and asked angrily:
“What’s wrong with you? You understand what I am saying, right? And you don’t say anything! Not even telling me your name!”
This unforeseen rudeness was too much for me, and I flew toward the boy, started to attack him, and made him jumped back out of surprise.
And at that moment, the previously sealed lips of my young master started to move.
The name that I had seldom heard he himself mentioned, coming from his mouth, in his usual quiet and calm voice, but with a hint of uncertainty I had never heard of.
I stopped my attack. I was totally surprised, and the same was Louis, as his eyes was widened. But he himself did not know the importance of what had happened. For a while, I thought that it was just the trick of the wind. My young master silently pulled his student cap down to hide his eyes, and his lips was again sealed tight, as if nothing had happened at all.
Despite his previous complaints, Louis seemed genuinely surprised and pleased by that unexpected answer:
“So that is your name? And here I was thinking maybe you’re mute or something…”
The boy smirked, and we could read one of the reason of that smirk was the strange pronunciation of our young master. Because of that, we quickly turned away.
“Hey, wait, I won’t laugh at you, I swear!” Louis quickly followed, continuing to talk. “Do you like, sweets? What kind of flavors do you want?”
The boy talked as if he had plenty of candies of all flavors, and it was the truth. His pocket seemed to be full of all kind of treats. During that year, we would then learn about that habit, and the fact that when Louis saw someone as friends, he would offer candies to them. That morning, our master naturally refused that invitation, which made Louis seemed quite obviously hurt.
When they were talking, heavy clouds had come nearer, and soon covered the whole sky. The wind get stronger, and suddenly, without warning, raindrops started to fall down from the sky, sparkling silently like drops of bell sound falling into a quiet night.
Let’s go, the foreign boy, whom we would then know as Louis, suddenly hold my young master’s arm again, and under the darkened sky, he started to run, as if trying to avoid the rain. I wanted to tell them to slow down, and after all, there was nothing guaranteed that Louis knew the way. But the other boy, of course, could not understand my voice.
That afternoon, it was obvious that Louis got us lost, and we only reached home when it had turned dark. Louis waved his hand at us, then quickly ran up the road leading to the mansion on the hill. Only two of us were left behind, and with the coat had been soaked in rain water, my young master carefully stepped up the flight of stone steps leading to the front gate of the family estate.
We had just entered the main door when the sister-in-law pulled up the bamboo curtain, and asked with a worried tone: “You were caught by the rain?”
The rain was still silently falling into the green forest the whole night. Our village quickly fell into a peaceful sleep, as if nothing strange had happened. But on the top of the hill, there was light from the windows of the old manor, and people started whispering to each other: that foreign family had indeed arrived. Behind the peaceful appearance, our village was hiding a silent uneasiness because of the change we still could not fully imagined.
The true meaning of that change, and the meeting with the boy named Louis, is something on that day both of us fell to notice.
Until it all became too late.
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