Alone she sat upon her bed. As a young girl of thirteen, belonging to a financially-well-endowed family, everything she could ever have wanted she had. Her room was wide and tall, perhaps the grandest room in the house in terms of size, and it was decorated lavishly with everything she owned, or rather, everything her parents had spent on her. She was not a selfish girl, nor was she greedy, spoiled, or rotten of any sort. Still though, she felt unfulfilled.
Her father was a successful businessman, her mother just as well-off in the field of psychology. Just as well, everything in the house, every square inch of the vast building was constantly kept orderly and neat, to the point where even the tiniest speck of dirt on the floor, the slightest flower petal or dish out of place, was met with fierce beration on part of the staff by the lord and lady of the house. The daughter was the one person in the estate that was different from this outlook, beyond it, you might say. She had been born and raised with the same endless, monotonous order of patterns in her life of thirteen years, and as she sat, alone in her spacious bedroom as the clock in the corner struck the hour the six, she stared at the wall before her, as if in a daze.
The walls and ceiling of her room were all covered in wallpaper of the same pattern: straight, plaid stripes of transparent orange and faint green crossing one another over, always in the same pattern, always crossing on the center of the top, bottom, right, and left sides of the neat squares they formed. Orange squares, surrounded by identical cubes, filled in with four empty green squares. Every line was perfectly in place, nowhere was there a crease or a fold-over in the laying of the wallpaper not even in the corners of the wide bedroom were wall met wall or wall met ceiling. The pattern was all the same, fine, orderly, and neat. Even her bed sheets maintained a solid, straight pattern of gold and white hexagons within hexagons.
Many people in this day and age, especially those of the upper class, would see such a room as a marvel or fine neatness, perfection in its simplest form. Her parents certainly did; that was why they had chosen it for her. People cherished order, they wanted everything exactly to their liking, exactly the way they demanded of their servants. But the young girl of thirteen, she was different:
She had grown up with this vast atmosphere of order and straightness, and one would think she’d grown a love for it, a liking, as her parents had. But no, she did not cherish the fine wallpaper and straight corners of her room, her house, and the evenly-groomed lawn outside. No, she didn’t like it at all.
Slowly getting up, the girl walked to the wide window on the right of her bed, and pushed it open. Peering outside into the fresh air, the girl looked down on the lush, green lawn covering the yard below. Not a single blade was out of place, not one patch was bare or dry. The lawn was a well-taken care off as one would expect a million-dollar pooch to be, and the young cherry trees planted on their plots lining the path to the barred metal gate mirrored each other perfectly, not one more or less than the exact same distance across from the other. These trees, of course, were all equally pruned to perfection.
Looking beyond the barred metal fence surrounding her home, the girl saw how the road wound rhythmically through the straight lines of trees on either side. The girl longed for something new, something different, something far away from all this order and blandness. She wanted to see chaos, things out of order, wild and spread out. Free.
But she could have none of that. Not in this life. Solemnly she pulled the window shut and returned to her bed, lying down and staring up at the ceaseless, orderly pattern on the ceiling.
The girl stayed awake long into the night. She often did, stirring in her silent room hours after her curfew. When she did, she would open her window and gaze up at the stars, the beautiful, wild stars. She marveled at how disorderly they were, scattered throughout the night sky in clustering droves or lone, spread-out bands. And yet they still had a mysterious glory in their chaotic disarrangement. Unfortunately, the stars were her only window into that world far away, the world where nothing was as orderly and elegant as this house she lived in.
No, she did not live here, not in this big, fancy, organized home. She resided here, ate here, slept here, but she did not truly live here. Is there not a vast distance between living somewhere, and merely existing there, as she did here?
Soon the girl felt tiredness creeping over her, and decided to let sleep calm her mind. Leaving the window open, she crossed the monotonous room to her bed and sat down. But in that instant, something strange happened.
The girl turned to the sound of fluttering wingbeats to see a bird land in her open windowsill. She stared at the strange sight; birds never came here, especially none of this bird’s size. It was a big, black crow that perched in her window, staring into the room with curious eyes. She looked at the crow with interest, seeing how impossibly black it’s feathers were. It’s color was monotonous and dark, filled with the very tasteless sameness that she saw every morning, day, and evening in her life. And yet, somehow this crow was different, with its striking black against the white of the window and bright color of the wallpaper. It was...different.
The girl had only a few fleeting moments to relish the sight, for when the crow flew away screeching, the room returned to its dull, seamless state of being the girl loathed. Slumping into her bed, the girl fell into a bored and dreamless sleep.
The next morning, the girl awoke to the same ceiling, in the same room, in the same house, as she did every day of her life. Nothing was different, as she stared at the blank and gloomy walls that enclosed her on all sides. However, she remembered when the crow had flown into her window, the way its shining black feathers bled onto the dull, repetitive coloration of the room. It was an intriguing sight, one she desperately wanted to see again.
But that wasn’t likely.
After dressing herself and fixing her hair, the girl approached the door to her bedroom and stepped into the hall, though not before giving a fleeting glance back at the still-open window, as if wishing the see the mysterious crow there again. She got her wish, for not a moment after she left her room and started down the long hallway, the crow fluttered into her room. This time, however, it landed on her dresser, looking around the wide bedchamber. Then, as if on an agenda, the crow began pecking at the nearest wall, tearing off strips of the plaid wallpaper.
The girl didn’t return to her room until that night, not wishing to see the infernal wallpaper while she didn’t have to. When she returned, however, she gasped in shock: all over the walls, the paper had been torn and shredded in small strips, as if by a sharp beak and nimble claws. The orderly stripes and squares were torn and blemished with chaotic scars and scratches, revealing the wood underneath the wallpaper. The girl was frozen, not knowing how to react to this sudden sight. She was, however, able to notice a single, black feather resting atop her bed.
When her parents happened upon this, needless to say their reaction was much more negative. Horrified at the mess, they ordered the staff to redo the walls and make it like the mysterious attack had never occurred. When it was done, the girl had to stare back at the same, taunting wallpaper, the blemishes courtesy of her crow visiter completely gone. Still, the mere act of rebellion, even if she herself had had no part in it, thrilled the girl. The sickeningly straight and neat wall patterns, all scratched and torn up, were eerily beautiful in her eyes. She only wished she herself could feel so free as to destroy and deface whatever she liked, as the bird did.
She hoped she saw the crow again tonight…
That night as the girl lay asleep, her window was wide open as a gentle breeze blew in, rattling the silky curtains. A light sleeper, the girl awoke to the sound of wingbeats, and she leapt up excitedly at the prospect of her dark friend returning once more. When she looked up, however, she did not see the crow. But she felt the eerie sensation that something was watching her from behind.
Turning slowly, the girl stared wide-eyed upon seeing the crow perched on at the head of her bed. But it was different. Now, the crow was covered in swirling white spots and lines, striking against the black of his body. It had changed its color, the patterns of white markings erratic and following no order whatsoever. The girl had never heard of a crow with such white markings, but to her the black bird was now beautiful. Before it had been pure black, little different from the cursed patterns that surrounded her life every day. But now, its look was changed, different, and to the girl, one of the most glorious things she’d ever seen. And, much to her awe, it was already changing again.
The crow’s eyes began to turn a dark, bloody red, giving off a faint glow in the dark of her room. Its back arched and its claws gripped the wood as it began to grow, its wings elongating and turning into a shadowy cape. Its claws grew thick and sharp as blades, and its head and beak expanded and elongated as the flesh peeled away from the bone, the bird’s head turning into a huge skull like a mask. Long, scrawny arms with sharp elbows ended in long, spindly fingers tipped with black talons that gripped the feathered cape, and long, feathery spines grew sharp and curving from the crow being’s back. The “crow” now stood atop the girl’s bed, hunched over and crouching, yet even so it towered over her. Its sunken, fiery red eyes stared into her from its skullish mask. Then, it spoke to her.
“You do not belong here.” Came its cold, wizened voice. Ordinarily, the girl would have been shocked out of her mind. But she felt oddly calm, feeling like she knew this strange being she thought to be a crow wouldn’t harm her.
“You do not belong in this place.” The dark, crow-like creature hissed again, its feathery cape hiding any view of a mouth or other facial features other than those bloody red eyes from sight. “You have wished to leave this place…” The hunched figure whispered. “I can grant you this desire...I can free you.” The girl listened intently; she would be quite happy to leave this house, but she was unsure what the crow being would do. The cloaked figure spoke to her again.
“You can leave this terrible place behind, with my help…” It whispered, getting to its point. “I need only your oath.” The figure then held out its long, bony hand, its claws gleaming in the moonlight. Nervous, the girl mirrored the gesture, reaching her hand forward as she glanced into the towering figure’s hellish red gaze. Reaching out her shaking hand, the girl gasped in surprise when the figure snatched her arm and gripped her hard by the wrist, forcing open her palm. Reaching its other hand forward, the figure bared the oily-black claw on its index finger, and with a swift strike, cut her palm open. Gritting her teeth at the sharp pain, the girl watched, helplessly, as drops of fresh, hot blood leaked from the wound. Silent, the figure then tightly grasped her bleeding hand in its own, drawing a sharp breath of pain from the girl.
“Yeeeeesssssssss…..” The figure moaned, almost lustfully as it clasped her hand. “Good. Now, follow.” In an instant, the crow being vanished in a flash of shadow, flying out the window in the blink of an eye. Gaping, the girl ran to her window and leaned out, looking around briefly before hearing a familiar caw.
The girl stared in disbelief as the crow hovered in the air outside her window, its white markings returned and its eyes burning red.
The crow then flew away into the night, calling out for the girl to follow after him. Desperate to avoid being left behind in this gilded cage, the girl, thinking quickly, tied all of her sheets together and fastened them into a makeshift rope, which she tied to her dresser and used to haphazardly clamber down the side of the house. Dropping to the ground, the girl stood up and hastily looked around for the crow, who signalled her with a soft caw from atop one of the cherry trees decorating the front lawn. The crow took off, and the girl hurried after him, forcing herself to run through the ordered rows of cherry trees and along the neatly-cut hedges. The sheer cleanliness and monotony of it, all of a sudden it made the girl sick! Shutting her eyes tightly, the girl ran, following after the crow as fast as she could, desperate to get away, to escape this awful prison of organization and conduct that had kept her locked up for thirteen long years. She pushed the metal barred gate open, running away into the night.
Following the crow, she ran all through the night, ignoring everything she passed, ignoring the blood still freshly leaking from her hand. She had to get away.
Only when the girl was completely and utterly exhausted, did she finally stop. She hadn’t the slightest idea where she was, all she wanted to do was stop and rest. Slumping against what she thought was a tree, the girl was ready to fall asleep right then and there. But the sharp jabbing of a pointed beak kept her from doing so.
“Get up.” Came the voice of the crow. “We must keep going. We are not far now.” The girl felt tired to the bone, but the crow wouldn’t let her be. Groaning, she reluctantly got to her feet.
“How much farther?” She asked tiredly, not caring where she was evidently going.
“Not far. Not far.” The crow answered. “Come.” The grow then flew off once again, and with a moan, the girl followed him into the forest.
When the sun had already risen over the horizon, the girl still followed the crow on her aching feet. Finally stopping, the girl rubbed her exhausted eyes, blinking to see the crow perched before her, its white markings shimmering in the dawn light.
“Are...we there...yet?” She gasped, breathing heavily after walking the whole night. The crow’s only response was a twinkle in his eye.
“Look around for yourself.” He said. Turning, the girl took a look at her surrounding, and immediately she straightened up, gasping as her eyes grew wide in wonder.
She was in a forest grove, but unlike any she’d ever seen before. The trees towered over her like skyscrapers, reaching towards the sky on gnarled, winding trunks growing out of huge rocks on the ground. A glittering waterfall, splitting in two, flowed into a sparkling blue pond that shimmered in the sunlight, huge, thick reeds of all colors sprouting from the banks. Mushrooms the size of tabletops sprouted from the mossy ground, their tops covered in sparkling dew. Huge, violet flowers blossomed from the bush and undergrowth, the scent of their sweet nectar wafting in the breeze. Looking to the sky, the girl could see golden clouds and a sky filled with glittering stars, even in the daytime! Reluctantly, she turned away from this incredible beauty back to the crow, who had returned to his huge, cloaked form when her back was turned.
“What...what is this place?” She asked, amazed.
“It is a special place.” The black figure replied. “You had wished to be free, and it is here that you shall be free.” The girl smiled, marveling at the beautiful grove.
“You.” She said to the crow being. “You’re not really a crow, are you?”
The being shook his skulled head. “I am not.” Came his answer. “I am something else entirely. And, it would seem, so are you now.”
“What do you mean?” The girl asked, bewildered at his statement. The crow being gestured for her to look down.
“See, and behold thyself as what you are becoming.” Confused, the girl looked down at her hands...only they weren’t her hands! Where her human hands once had been, there were now a pair of bird-like talons, covered in sapphire blue feathers leading up her arms, her fingers ending in pointed claws. She gasped, and looked down to see her legs, as well as her feet, growing roots and becoming like tree trunks! She watched in stunned awe as her pajamas grew into her skin and transformed into a covering of turquoise feathers mixing with emerald-green leaves, extending into a beautiful peacock-tail trailing behind her. Tentatively she touched her hair, and felt it become long and wispy vines, and then she felt sturdy, long branches grow out from the top of her head and sprout bluish and pink leaves. Her skin became pale olive green, and her eyes became blue flecked with brown and catlike. When her transformation was complete, she turned to look herself over, grinning at how strange and alien she now looked, like a creature from a chaotic and bygone world; and to her it was a dream come true.
“This will be what you are now…” She heard the crow being say. “And this will be your new home, where you may be endlessly free, and live for as long as you wish in peace and freedom...if you so choose.” The girl looked down at her reflection in the pond, then looked all around her in the beautiful grove, looking at the sun and stars, the winding trees and crumbling stones, such natural freedom and chaos, when all she knew before was artificial order and neatness, and she knew her answer.
Turning to the crow being, she smiled warmly. “I choose to stay.” Wordlessly, the crow being closed his fiery eyes and nodded, spreading his cape and beating it like wings, soaring into the air like a majestic bird and leaving the changed girl alone. At that moment, numerous figures peeked and scurried out of the trees and brush, staring curiously at the girl, who was their new arrival. They all had strange and beastly forms as the girl now did, and many appeared part plant and part creature, as she now did. They approached her silently, before they all grinned and welcomed the newcomer with open arms, branches, and wings, and they called out into the starry morning, praising the new creature for joining them in their realm. The girl laughed and called out with them, following them into her new life that awaited her.
She was finally free.