DEBUT FLASH: 'Seven For A Secret, Never To Be Told' by Julie FitzGerald

One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a Secret
Never to be Told


When the first came, it was thrown from the heavens; black as pitch, torn from the night sky.  Its body splintered against the pane, shattering itself - bone on glass.  The old lady in the ground floor apartment on Josefská saw it happen, heard the thump and crack.  A frail, short shadow of a woman, she gathered it up from her ledge, in stunned silence, with reverence.  Its blood slithered in small rivers through her creased hands, spreading like a delta across her palms, indelible as the numbers tatooed on her wrist.  She cooed it back to life in the days that followed; cradled, breathed over it, hopefully.  Jet, indigo-rinsed wings rose and fell to the simple piano notes she played to it, with two taloned, athritic fingers.

Then another descended to the same ledge.  It called to her, brave and bold; tapping hard on the crazed glass.  She succumbed to its insistences, letting it in with the midnight air.  It danced around the first bird, still nestled in the silk of her shawl, caw-cawed, nudged at the fallen one until it raised itself and fluttered free.  They perched on the music stand together, nodding in sync to a sonata, turning the pages in time with her quickening fingers.  A mating pair arrived, soaring in, circling the lighted candelabra, fanning waxy smoke; the shadowed room heavy with the scent of their oily wings.  A fifth followed, silver-streaked, age-old.  Then a sixth, gilded about the beak, with the span of an eagle. 

The corvids gathered, stationed themselves about her - at the neck, on both arms and shoulders; their piercing claws sunk deep in her yielding skin.  They kneaded, worked her wasted limbs, pulled at her tethered muscles like puppeteers, reviving the young maestra inside her.  She told them all she knew: everything she had seen, been through, believed.  Not in words but notes; her truth in symphonies. 

Days passed, in a trance, broken one morning by a current of cold air that parted the voile panels screening her music room from the street.  Out on the cobbles, she heard the familiar voice of a neighbour's child, calling through the opening in alarm, 'Dáma! Dáma!'  But the girl's shrill cries were ignored, deflected by the frantic movement of hands across keys, the beat of fevered wings.  So close to the last page, her grand finale. 

Spent, she turned down the lid, settling her hands on the old scores.  Gnarled bones and cartilage twisted, re-formed themselves.  Then she stood, finally, hunched under her plumy cloak, to a flutter of applause.  Reborn.

They did not find her there, when they came to look; only a dance of inky tail feathers lifting off the etched parquet floor, rubies of her blood on the ivories.  The windows flung wide to the December sky.


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