Tycho lay on top of his grassy hillock and waited for the disgusting crow to come for his eyes, feeling downright blue. His friends the tired old turtle and one-eared rabbit tried to pep him up, but it wasn’t taking. Banter was banter, but the disgusting crow was something else entirely. Every time he closed his jewelly eyes he saw its claws of brambly bone and its diamante beak. He remembered how it stank, and how much he hated it.
“I really hate that disgusting crow,” he said sadly. “Maybe I should just let it take my eyes.”
“It won’t settle for your eyes,” warned the turtle, barely poking its wizened head out of its crusted shell. “Even you can see that.”
“I don’t know,” reasoned Tycho. “Seems to me, eyes are enough for anyone.”
“Normally I’d agree with you,” said the turtle, “but today I won`t.”
“Hmm,” pondered Tycho, “thanks a lot.”
Image from here.
“What about ears?” piped up the rabbit cheerfully. “Or muscles? The crow has to make his pies after all, doesn’t he?”
Tycho sighed. “That’s a very easy thing to say when it isn`t your ears and your muscles he comes for.”
The turtle shrugged. “Why would he come for us?”
“Well,” said Tycho, “I don’t know. Rabbit skin makes for nice jackets, I hear, and a turtle’s shell? Bongo drum, isn’t it? For when he gets bored. Bong bong bong.”
“Stop it,” said the turtle, as Tycho bonged him on the shell.
“Yes, well, you get the idea,” said Tycho, sitting down and plonking the rabbit in his lap. “It just hardly seems fair.”
“Ouch,” said the rabbit.
“I didn’t do anything,” said Tycho, “besides, that’ll hurt a lot less than if he plucks my eyes out, won’t it?”
“Yes that’s right,” said the turtle, “do you feel better for pointing it out?”
“Of course not,” said Tycho, shrugging his battlement eyebrows over his jewelly eyes.
“So why say it?” asked the turtle.
“I don’t really know,” said Tycho.
There was a sudden whiff of foulness on the air.
“Oh no,” said the rabbit, and scampered off Tycho’s lap.
The turtle ducked into its shell. Tycho smelt the disgusting crow approach. “I hate this,” he said.
In came the disgusting crow.
His feathers cut the whistled air like knives, slicing the sounds of the hillocky world into high and sharp screams. His foul odor gathered like humidity about him, like the static crackle before a storm, plaguing the air with stale rot and disease.
“So revolting!” shouted Tycho, and batted at the disgusting crow as it swung down, cawing and spraying him with its stinking saliva. It sliced at his bulky forearms with its claws and beak. It hovered over him like a mosquito, great black wings billowing stench into his eyes and mouth, causing him to gag and his eyes to water even as he swung his arms blindly.
“Go on Tycho!” cheered the rabbit. “You can do it buddy!”
“It stinks!” yelled Tycho. “It’s so disgusting!”
“Smack him on the beak!”
Tycho smacked the disgusting crow on the beak, but the disgusting crow was listening too, and as the smack rained down, it swung its head, used Tycho’s blow to thrust its head down, and plunged its grimy beak into Tycho’s eyeball.
“Argh!” screamed Tycho.
The disgusting crow yanked back with a fierce beat of its massive wings, then flew aloft with Tycho’s eyeball in its clacky beak, cawing with pleasure. The rabbit and turtle booed, and soon enough it flew away, clutching Tycho’s still twinkling jewelly eye in its bloody mouth.
Tycho knelt down and started plucking up fistfuls of grass, which he stuffed into his ruined eye-slot in a terrible panic.
“What are you doing?” asked the rabbit, keening at his knee.
“I don’t want to bleed to death!” cried Tycho, his fingers staining green and red.
“And grass will help?”
“I saw the old man doing this when he lost his eyes.”
“The old man died!”
“Not from losing blood though. He was smart.”
“He still died, Tycho. We don’t want you to die! That would leave us all alone!”
“It’s that disgusting crow. God, I hate him so much!”
“Me too!” said the rabbit.
Towards dusk, Tycho was weeping softly. The rabbit rubbed his soft velveteen ear against Tycho’s face and the turtle hummed a gentle river song.
“The old man went like this too,” said Tycho sadly, looking out with half an eye across the plains to the nearest hillock where the old man once lived.
“He was old though,” said the rabbit. “His grass was weaker, and he couldn’t stomach the smell.”
“It took his eyes first,” said Tycho. “Then his ears. Nose. Piece by piece, like it was rearranging a jigsaw.”
“It won’t happen to you like that,” said the rabbit. “Don’t worry about it. Maybe one eye will be enough.”
“It wasn’t for the old man,” said the turtle. “His tongue, teeth, fingers, toes. He couldn’t even defend himself by the end.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the rabbit.
“Yes,” said Tycho, “but I think it has stopped bleeding.”
“There’s blood everywhere.”
“I know. Sorry.”
“It’s OK. It makes the grass kind of sticky but it isn’t your fault.”
The three of them stared up at the sky. There were thousands of stars glinting up there.
“I heard the stars are just eyes,” said the rabbit. “They watch over us.”
“I heard that too,” said Tycho. “But mine will never be up there. The disgusting crow would not put my eyes there.”
“No,” said the turtle.
“The disgusting crow will keep my eye and bake it into a pie. Then he will take my other eye, and my body piece by piece, and make a whole range of pies for himself and his mistress.”
“He might not,” said the rabbit.
“But he might,” said Tycho. “Anyway, goodnight, I’m tired.”
“Goodnight Tycho,” said his friends, and cuddled in close to the crook of his elbow. The turtle’s shell was cold against his skin but soon warmed.
The next morning Tycho plucked plenty of grass and stuffed it in the pockets of his jeans.
“What are you doing?” asked the rabbit.
“You’ll see,” said Tycho, picking up the turtle and putting him in his pocket too.
“What’s this?” cried the turtle. “Abduction!”
“It’s OK,” said Tycho, and picked up the rabbit too, nestled him in with the turtle.
“Kidnap!” cried the rabbit. “Help!”
“Oh hush,” said Tycho. Then he stood, lone figure with arms spread on his single hillock, and waited for the disgusting crow to come.
The disgusting crow came on a cloud of stench.
“Maybe he just wants to say hello,” said the rabbit hopefully.
“Maybe,” said Tycho.
“You should invite him down for tea and grass.”
“I haven’t got any tea,” said Tycho, “only grass.”
“Grass tastes nice,” said the rabbit.
“Not to crows,” said Tycho, bracing himself. “He’s coming now.”
The disgusting crow swooped in, his feathers bruising the air, and dived right through Tycho’s open arms and into his remaining eye. Tycho screamed, felt the jewelly ball wrench free, then sprung his trap. His arms he strapped about the disgusting crow’s slimy wings, and his teeth he latched onto the disgusting crow’s thorny feet.
The disgusting crow cawed wildly, and Tycho sunk his teeth in deeper. The taste of the crow’s blood was foul, its wings were slick and greasy, but he held fast.
The crow cawed beat its wings, took off, lifting Tycho with it.
“Abduction,” cried the turtle. “Bail out!”
“May mhere mou mare!” mumbled Tycho through his mouthful of crow’s leg.
“What?” asked the rabbit.
“I think he said ‘Stay where you are!'” said the turtle. “It’s not very clear because he has that leg in his mouth.”
“Oh,” said the rabbit.
“Myes!” cried Tycho. “Mow, Mrass! Mrass mor my mye, mor mi mill mleed mo meath!”
“Did he say moo?” asked the rabbit quietly. “Like a cow?”
“No, I think he said grass, for his eye,” said the turtle.
“Oh, right,” said the rabbit, and clambered up Tycho’s body and started shoveling grass from his pocket into his second ruined socket.
Meanwhile, the disgusting crow was not happy. It was swaying and looping and trying everything to dislodge Tycho and drop him to the ground. It turned somersaults but Tycho’s grip remained firm on its slick claws and slithery wings.
“Hang on buddy!” cried the rabbit.
“Mi mwill,” mumbled Tycho.
The disgusting crow looped the loop. It climbed high, through the spartan clouds, then dropped down low. It cawed through its muffled mouthful of Tycho’s eye. Tycho held on. Finally, it spoke.
“I will foul upon your head,” it said, its voice simple and clear.
“Mo on!” challenged Tycho. “Moo it!”
“Did he say moo?” whispered the rabbit. “Does he want more grass?”
“I think he said do it,” said the turtle. “Cover your eyes.”
And with that, the disgusting crow let loose. A torrent of foulness flushed from its bowels, a rainstorm of filth which showered and streamed over Tycho, who held on grimly and wouldn’t relent. The crow flushed and flushed and flushed, its evil effluvium running down Tycho’s body and trickling through his clothes.
Tycho tightened his tooth-hold on the disgusting crow’s claws. He bit down until he felt one snap clean through.
The disgusting crow cawed, and the shower of filth ceased.
“No more,” cried the disgusting crow.
“Mive me mack my meye!” mumbled Tycho.
“I cannot!” cried the disgusting crow.
“Mhen make me mo mour mistress!”
Tycho bit down harder. The disgusting crow cawed.
“Very well,” it whimpered.
They flew into the night. Tycho could see nothing because he had no eyes, so the rabbit and turtle saw for him. They saw the demarcating line in the sky between the dark and the light. They saw the fires in the sky from the setting sun.
“What’s that?” asked the rabbit.
“The end of the world,” said the turtle.
“I don’t want to go there,” said the rabbit. “It looks hot.”
“You can touch my shell,” said the turtle. “It is always cool.”
“Thank you,” said the rabbit.
And the disgusting crow flew on.
By dawn they were passing over rank after rank of close knit tiny hillocks, each populated by one writhing body, thousands in all, feasted upon by gales of whickering snickering crows.
“Look!” cried the rabbit. “There’s so many!”
Tycho looked down and saw nothing, because he had no eyes, so the turtle described the sight.
“Mwhat mis miss?” he asked the disgusting crow.
“Fields of the foresaken,” said the disgusting crow. “This is where most come.”
“Not Tycho,” said the rabbit. “He’s a good boy.”
“And yet I came for both of his eyes,” said the disgusting crow. “How good is he then?”
“You are a most disagreeable fellow,” said the turtle.
“It is a joy to torment the forsaken,” said the disgusting crow.
“Quite distasteful,” muttered the turtle.
“It is only his due. All are here for a reason.”
“Morsaken,” mumbled Tycho.
“Yes,” said the disgusting crow. “Forsaken.”
They finally landed at midday, at a pleasant little white-washed bungalow with a white picket fence and magnolias jostling with great tall sunflowers in the flowerbeds out front. On the windowsill sat a warm apple pie cooling in the gentle breeze. All around them, the fields of the writhing writhed on their hillocks under a black blanket of crows.
“I have brought you,” said the disgusting crow. “Now let me go.”
“Mo,” said Tycho. “My meye!”
“Did he say my my?” whispered the rabbit, “like an old woman?”
The disgusting crow spat out Tycho’s jewelly eye. It rolled on the short green grass of the lawn. Tycho knelt, slicked one hand free of the disgusting crow’s wings, and fumbled up the eye. He scrabbled at the grass in his eye socket, clumped it loose, and slotted the eye back in. He could see again. He lifted the rabbit and turtle from his pocket, held them up to the crow’s underbelly, and said “mite!”
Then he let his aching jaw go, as his friends bit right into the disgusting crow’s gut. It went berserk and tried to flap free but Tycho grabbed onto the picket fence with his free hand, keeping the other clamped firmly on the disgusting crow’s wing.
“Stop it,” he commanded. “Stop it or they bite clean through.”
“Not fair, not fair!” cried the disgusting crow, reeling in agony, turtle and rabbit hanging from its torn belly by their sharp little teeth.
“I said your mistress,” ordered Tycho, twisting the wing. “Call her!”
The crow cawed long and hard in pain, and soon enough the bungalow door opened. A little old woman wearing a flowery apron emerged, her gray hair swept up in a tight bun. She was holding a spatula.
“Really,” she said. “Is this any way to be civilized?”
“Are you responsible for this?” asked Tycho, looking around for the first time at the hillocky fields of writhing figures.
The little old lady smiled nicely. “Everybody needs something to put in their pies,” she said softly.
“So you send out your disgusting crows to fetch your tidbits?”
“Well, they’re not so disgusting once you get to know them. Besides, pies don’t bake themselves, deary, now do they.”
“No, you bake all the pies.”
She smiled nicely, a nice old person smile. “Really, it doesn’t do to talk about this out here,” she said. “We had better go inside.”
“No,” said Tycho. “I may not have led a perfect life, and I may be forsaken, but this pie business is just plain stupid.”
“Come inside,” she said, waving away his comment. “There’s tea on the boil and I have some mint crackers fresh from the icebox.”
“Mon’t moo it!” mumbled the symposium.
“Did you say moo?” whispered Tycho. “Like a cow?”
“Mo,” said the symposium. “Moo.”
“Ah,” said Tycho, turned back to the old woman. “Here’s what I want. Let all those people go.”
“Whisht,” she said, waving the spatula. “It’s far too noisy to discuss out here, besides, there’s apple pie waiting inside.”
“The apple pie’s on the windowsill,” said Tycho.
“Of course it is,” she said. “Of course. You’ll like it.”
“The old man’s in one of your pies too,” said Tycho. “He used to wave at me from his hillock. Now he’s in one of your pies and you want me to come inside?”
“I have Darjeeling and Earl Gray tea, which would you like?”
“I’ll kill this disgusting crow,” said Tycho, deftly switching his fist from the wing to the scruffy neck of the crow. The crow made a strangled caw.
The old woman regarded him balefully. “He is just one crow,” she said.
“Then you won’t miss him,” said Tycho, and twisted the disgusting crow’s neck. It made a crunching strangled caw, gristle popped free, and the crow went limp in his hand.
The old woman screamed, but was drowned out by the sudden noise from the fields. Every one of the tearing crows reared their heads and bellowed in pain. An explosion of sound rang out as they all unfolded their wings and burst into homicidal flight simultaneously, rising into a mammoth black cloud that eclipsed the sun.
“They’re coming for you,” said the little old woman smugly. “You should have listened to me and come inside for some tea.”
“They’re not coming for me,” said Tycho, then swept up the rabbit and turtle from the dead crow and hurled them both at the old woman. She swatted them away easily with the spatula, but before she could ready herself, Tycho was upon her, spinning the disgusting crow round his head like a ball and chain. He kicked the spatula from her hand then walloped her round the head with the disgusting crow itself. Crunch went her little old head and her tight gray hair came loose from its bun. She fell to the floor and he whacked her again, then he knelt and tied the stinking corpse onto her apron’s drawstrings.
The gathering storm of crows zoomed closer. Tycho gathered up the dazed rabbit and turtle, bolted for the door to the whitewashed little house, and slammed it shut behind him.
For a second there was only the sound of harsh breathing, time enough to realize the cottage stretched in and in and on and on, every inch of space filled with shelves which bent under the weight of all the fat crusty pies laden one atop the other from the floor up to the ceiling, before chaos reined outside.
There was screaming, cawing and screeching, the gunfire clap of wings whipping the wind. A tidal wave of violent and buffeting sound, a maelstrom of swirling cacophony, stretching on and on.
“Look at all those pies,” breathed the rabbit.
Tycho opened the door a crack and saw nothing. No old woman, and no crows. He heard voices raised from the hillocky fields, not in pain but in wonderment. He looked down at the turtle.
“You know what they need,” said the turtle, and Tycho nodded. He threw the door wide open, walked back past the awe-struck rabbit, and picked up the first of the pies.
By nightfall Tycho had emptied out the entire cottage, and the scrambled pile of pies heaped over the sunflowers had already wormed and jumped and thrived itself empty of bits and pieces of men and women, seeking their counterparts. He had watched as fingers rooted free of the pies and sought out palms, knuckles bursting through the crust and seeking wrists and veins and elbows and biceps, eyes worming towards their sockets and teeth chittering to their gums. He had watched as the hillock folk had come and smiled and thanked him, dug through the growing pile for the pieces they needed. Some had helped him carry back and forth from the cottage, dumping pies, emptying out her prison.
All had disappeared once they found what they needed. Even the old man, who once had waved from his own hillock not far from Tycho himself, eventually resurrected himself from amongst the myriad pies and walked free.
“Goodbye,” he’d said, as his body phased to light and was swept up into the black sky.
Now all was silent. Not even the cawing of a crow or the rustle of the wind. The crumbs of a hundred thousand pies heaped into a mountain of crust and filling sat immobile over the picket fence.
“What a lot of pies that was,” said the rabbit.
“Really,” said Tycho.
“But not all,” said the turtle. Tycho looked down. The turtle looked up. “There’s one left.”
“I guess it’s my time, isn’t it?” asked Tycho.
“I guess so,” said the turtle.
“What are you talking about?” asked the rabbit, watching as Tycho walked over to the windowsill and picked up the last pie.
“Mmm,” said Tycho, “apple,” and pushed his fingers through the crust. They came out with his last jewelly eye.
“Wait,” said the turtle.
“What’s going on?” asked the rabbit.
“Lot more stars up there tonight, aren’t there?” asked the turtle.
“I think so,” said Tycho, staring up at a night sky filled with sparkling lights.
“So there are!” said the rabbit in wonder. “So beautiful!”
“I’ll be watching over you,” said Tycho. Then he brushed the eye down, pulled out the last of the grass, and set it back into its socket.
The turtle nudged his head against Tycho’s glimmering foot. The rabbit scampered up his leg and kissed him on the forehead.
“You’ll be the brightest star of them all,” he said, then dropped down as Tycho disappeared.
Everything was silent in the garden for a long time. Then the rabbit turned to the turtle.
“Race you back to the hillock,” he said. “There’s some nice grass there. Maybe even a cow.”
“Alright,” said the turtle, “you’re on.”
You can see all MJG’s stories here:[album id=6 template=compact]