Dead Crow and the Spirit Engine: Prologue

Dead Crow 8 copy

Dead Crow.

Jackdaw crook.

Split-tongued muse.

Dark rook in a bleak rain.

Time has filed down my voice with a rasp. Spells, incantations, and alchemy interest me not at all, except as artifacts of what I already know. My only interest in bones is to pick them clean. Blood-cloaked loner on a trail of fingerbones. My eye black as the womb before star seeds snap life into being. Black as the feathers that fly straight from the eye of God. Caw! I speak and it is so.

Dead Crow.

Shadow eater.

Blackfeather acrobat.

Walks with a slight limp.

In my realm, stones on the beach are black embers, barely cooled. Leaves raven-sheeny in red moonlight. That sound is not wind but souls drifting past. Wind a deft pianist and every leaf another key. I’ve given up flying because thought is faster. If I only need to go short distances—hell, the walk will do me good. Reality in this place moves like mercury, not iron. Stare into my left eye—Caw! I dare you. See what happens.

Dead Crow.

Charcoal sunfire.

Bleak prophet.

Speaks with a slitted grin.Raven Mask 2 copy

In my realm, thought translates directly into reality. Karma stops lying on its ass in front of the TV all day. Equal forces are met with equal and instant reactions. You think you hate your enemy and want him dead, and Caw!—he’s dead. You wonder one summer afternoon why grass isn’t orange instead of green. The entire landscape turns Mandarin Impressionist before your eyes. You think something insulting about the person you love and she cries. Suddenly loving becomes much, much simpler. Then again, maybe not.

Dead Crow.

World sculptor.

Michelangelo of tongues.

Sings in a broken key.

Once I was white as Antarctica, pristine as sunlight on a wall. Once, my world was green and full of flowers, just like this one—meadows alive with birdsong. Skies clear as mountain crystal. Then one day Skunk came by. “Be careful, Crow,” she said. “Be proud of your thought magic and all the wonderful things it makes. But be careful.” It was then I began to realize—Caw! I was a god. 

Dead Crow.

Stone render.

Planet furnace.

Semen of dusky angels.

Every day, Skunk would come by and warn me, “Be careful.” At first, I just laughed her off. But my patience flaked away like mica. Finally one day, when Skunk came into my sight—Caw! I exploded. My mind darkened—a total eclipse of rage. I saw a world engulfed in flame and it was so—every living thing charred black. Now I was Dead Crow, King of Shadows.

Dead Crow.

Black curtain slasher.


Well of constant sorrow.

When The Makers heard what I’d done, they realized I was far too powerful. With power like that I could black out an entire galaxy. In the past, only the coiling, bottomless throats of black holes could do that. Dawn Bringers and World Seeders that they are, The Makers sensed a great threat to their power. Something had to be done. But I’m nobody’s fool. A simple frontal attack would never work. Trickery would have to be employed. So they invited me to banquet at their Council—a tribute to my abilities, they said. Damn my vanity!

Dead Crow.

Galaxy burner.

Star furnace.

Last among godly equals.

White Crow 2 copyI was a brilliant sight—beautiful white plumage, iridescent in the light. Goddesses purred over me, stroking my feathers. Gods praised me for the sheer strength of my mental powers, to turn an entire world black like that. Their singers sang me songs. Poets composed epic verses to commemorate Dead Crow’s deed. Let myself get a little too sloppy with wine, dancing on the table, answering song with song, poem with poem.

Dead Crow.

White star blossom.

Snowfire bard.

Master of song shards.

Caw! Did they butter me up! Declared Dead Crow special among all the creatures they made. The Makers set upon the table a mirror with a surface liquid and still as a pond. “Here is your reward, Crow,” they said. “What will I see?” I asked. “The truth of yourself.” But what I saw—! My beautiful white feathers—black as coal in the belly of rock! Black as the world my thought power had consumed. Desperately I turned to stare into a silver platter, hoping it was just a stupid party trick. But no.

Dead Crow.

Black matter king.

Brokenwing god.

Messenger of tears.

“What have you done to me?” I screamed. “We have shown you the truth of yourself,” said The Makers. “But I only used the power you gave me,” I protested. “How was I supposed to know how dangerous it could be?” But the party was over and they were in no mood for discussion. “We have a job for you, Dead Crow.” Before I could ask, they told me to step up to the mirror again. Sober now, my every step quivered. A strange string of words was uttered. I was pulled inside the mirror—a slurry of atoms. Yet I felt no pain. “Wait! WAIT!” I shrieked. Dead Crow-Mirror copy

Dead Crow.

Dark mirror diver.

Blank slate diviner.

Voice of all regrets in one.

When my vision cleared I had to check all my parts. Gradually I realized I was on Earth. “But why?” I demanded. “Why make me an exile?” To my shock, my lovely singing voice now rasped horribly. I tried to sing once or twice more but it was no use. I’m not ashamed to say I wept. I slid over forests and fields, lost—hopeless. Finally as I was about to hurl myself from the highest crag I could find, I heard a voice, couldn’t tell where. It was The Makers. “You are to be our Watcher, Dead Crow. Stay here and report back to us.” “For how long, how LONG?” I begged. But no answer.

Dead Crow.

Earth wanderer.

World watcher.

Quintessence of loneliness.

The voice died as suddenly as it came. Not even the trace of an echo. I had a terrible glimpse of millennia washing endlessly over me. You can imagine the comedown—from Sovereign of Shades, Alchemist of Secrets, Magi of Creation—to carrion eater. From a thousand languages to a hinge’s rusty growl. Prisoner and warder in one. Freedom a distant dream.

Dead Crow.

Crab Nebula outlaw.

Dog star wild card.

Cassiopeia’s Twilight Angel.

Exiled to a single planet, no less. Worst of all—Caw! A scavenger kicked around by humans, who shit their own nests. I’ve seen a helluva lot in 40,000 years. You want evolution? Give me somebody who can think before they act. Still, I take consolation from the poets, who translate straight from Earth’s core. Her signs and wonders are not in vain.

Dead Crow.

Stormcloud dancer.


Shaman incognito.

Emperor of the Crossroads, I nest over the forked path. The Book of Secrets is bound in crow feathers. You want the arcane equations? Hyperspace, wormholes, time travel? Caw! I’ve seen the universe spread in every direction like strings of pearls. Every pearl another world, another dimension skating sideways across time. Past, present and future nothing more than thought. And every thought another world budding on the World Tree.

Dead Crow.

Arbiter of secrets.

Paradox miner.

Constellation surfer.

My powers have ended. Yours are just beginning, Human. You think this world is everything there is? We see the stars from the bottom of a well. This reality we signed on for—this world order? Caw! We made it all up. We can agree it has failed and sign off. Make up a new one.

Dead Crow grins that long-beaked grin that has been the envy of every great smart-ass since the dawn of Time. But then again, I could be lying. Why not find out for yourself?

©2009–2012 Sean Arthur Joyce


About seanarthurjoyce

I am a poet, journalist and author with a strong commitment to the environment and social justice. If anything, I have too many interests and too little time in a day to pursue them all. Film, poetry, literature, music, mythology, and history probably top the list. My musical interests lie firmly in rock and blues with a smattering of folk and world music. I consider myself lucky to have lived during the great flowering of modern rock music during its Golden Age in the late 1960s/early '70s. In poetry my major inspirations are Dylan Thomas, Rilke, Neruda and the early 20th century British/American poets: Auden, Eliot, Cummings. My preferred cinema includes the great French auteurs, Kirosawa, Orson Welles, and Film Noir. My preferred social causes are too numerous to mention but include banning GMOs, eliminating poverty (ha-ha), and a sane approach to forest conservation and resource extraction. Wish me—wish us all—luck on that one!
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