Sigil of Healing

©2023 michael raven

“The West is the best!” shouted the crow at the bow as I paddled through cattails and ruddy rushes’ hissing cats through the narrows and shallows choked with grassy aquatic plants just below the water’s surface. Other things lingered there as well, but I tried not to think of those things, for the dead only waken when you think too hard about them as you pass over. And so I thought of anything but, although my will was weak and the ghost images of the dead washed through my head, clinging like barbs no matter how I wished otherwise.

“The West is the best!”

“Shush, now Mr. Mojo Risin’,” I said under my breath. Who’d have thought I’d be saddled with the poet shaman from the Doors in the shape of a crow as I made this journey? Occam’s Razor would argue that the beast was overexposed to Sixties psychedelic rock, but that blade had no place in this place. Everything was just as it seemed as I paddled down the channel, trying to think of something other than dead people with glassy eyes staring up from below, the faint flicker of resurrection dancing as the sun reflected from the deep wellspring of their dead eyes.

Or, perhaps, it was the direction each quiet splash of the oars dipping into those waters that provoked the echo of the Lizard King in black feather. The sun was quickly slipping under the reeds in front of me and I longed for a journey’s end, the rising of waterlogged deadwood closing in on me from both sides and the genuine fear I had given the dead too much thought — sending them rising with the blood-stained ivory moon once night came in earnest.

“You haven’t jumped yet. That’s a good sign.”

I started at the voice, my eyes darting from umbra to shadow cast by skeletal branches growing grey in the gloaming of the day, biting back the scream that fought to vomit from my clenched teeth.

“I mean you no harm. Now, least wise. I’m glad you haven’t joined the others.”

That damned crow took wing and landed on one of the looming branches, melting and growing, becoming something that might be a man. Or not.

His legs dangled over the dead, the cattails and rushes, kicking playfully. He wore a broad grin that seemed to glow in the dying day. My mistrust was instant.

He noticed my furtive glances toward the water and the smile grew. “Don’t worry, ’bout the dead-uns,” he said. “Them and me… we have an arrangement.” He paused, the smile never leaving his face. “At least until we’re done talkin’…. After that?” The man in black shrugged.

“Well,” he continued. “Let’s not worry about that until we have to. And, so far, I’m thinkin’ it won’t be no issue once you answer my questions.”

He pointed to the sigil the tribe had tattooed on my bare chest. Against my will, mind you, but I wasn’t given an opportunity to object.

“It looks like we need to have a healing.”

I nodded, tension rising as the sky turn burnt orange to grey, water rippling from movement under. For the hundred thousandth time I told myself this had all been a mistake. “That’s what they told me back at the camp.”

“And I seer that they was right, man-o-man. And I agree. But…” he paused, smiling, letting that word sink into my chest with the ache of the inked sigil, menacing. “Do you agree? Cos’ what they think and what I think don’t mean shit if you don’t think the same.”

I had been thinking about it all the way here. They were all right. It was hard to admit, but I was broken. Even my fiancé thought something was broken. But no one could tell me what was broken.

I nodded.

“Good news, good news.” A burst of feathers and the crow joined me back at his perch on the bow.

“The first step is acceptance,” he continued from the mouth of the crow. “The second step is to fuckin’ use that oar and paddle just a bit more. Now, git paddling afore they forget we had our arrangement.”

The ripples in the water had calmed, and I was glad that I could not see what lurked under the surface. Finding the most center part of the canoe, I began to paddle where the sun had been moments before, barely making out the path forward by the negative space without stars.

“The West is the best!” shouted the crow at the bow as I paddled through cattails and ruddy rushes’ hissing cats through the narrows and shallows through the growing night.

This is another improvised flash fiction piece I wrote in the space of about thirty minutes after drawing a card from “The Oracle of the Morrigan” deck, the Sigil of Healing. I hadn’t a clue what I was going to right before I started. The above piece is pretty raw and only lightly edited. My improvised flash fictions are meant to be just exercises, not finished works.

Apologies to Jim Morrison for his appearance as a crow.

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