Ava Corvidae
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Chapter One - Counting Magpies
Falling. Falling, in the suffocating cold and darkness, is the first sensation I can remember. I was falling through the air, and yet I didn't feel any air rushing past me during my descent. I was cold, and yet no wind and chill was biting at me to produce such a feeling. I could see nothing aside from the series of images and events that danced along the edges of my vision, like ghosts. And yet, every time I tried to get a good view of those images as they flashed by, they seemed to disappear, only to reappear within the peripherals of my vision once more. I wish I could say those visions I saw stuck with me. I wish I could say they meant something to me. I wish I could say I knew who I was, that I had pieced together the disjointed visions - memories, really, to be accurate - to come to a name and identity associated with them. But as much as I tried to see and absorb those memories flying past me as I fell, they seemed just as determined to foil me and elude me at every turn. All falls come to an end, though; everything that falls lands on solid ground, eventually. Some falls are just more graceful than others, and mine wasn't exactly a graceful fall. The old saying about any landing you can walk away from being a good one? Nuts to that, all around.

When the curious sensations passed, I found myself awakening. Early in the morning on a midsummer's night, I came-to alone, with a huge appetite, and one hell of a headache, in a room I didn't recognize. While the room wasn't lit, the moon was full, and shone its light through the wide bedroom window. This gave me enough light to see that something clearly happened in this room - specifically, that somebody had ransacked it. I wish I could say something about the haphazardly-checked room I found myself in jogged my memory. I wish I could say the trashed and toppled bedside dresser, its mirror thrown aside with the glass laying around it in shattered heaps, meant something to me other than being a vague premonition of trouble ahead. I wish I could tell you the closet, with floorboards and wall panels torn out and clothing articles thrown askew, told me who I was. But, as I looked around the trashed and tattered remains of what was once a bedroom, I found myself remembering nothing.

Since I didn't really have anything better to do, I figured I may as well search through the room thoroughly and carefully, to find something, anything, that would be of help. I dug through some of the displaced dresser drawers from a heavily-smashed chest of drawers to find something I could use for illumination. I was in luck; there was a heavy aluminum flashlight in one of them, and it already had working batteries in it. I preformed a quick sweep of the room with its beam before setting to the in-depth task in front of me by bending down to look under the bed, where I immediately discovered something that whoever had been through here earlier had to have overlooked. It was a brown leather bag, somewhat worn from use, but otherwise in good condition - certainly useable, by all means, if in need of a little sprucing up at a leather restoration shop. The weight of the bag made it apparent that it contained something; I emptied it over the bedsheets - white with purple roses - to discover it contained several things.

The first thing that I noticed had fallen out was a black leather-bound journal with a simple snap button closing mechanism, which had a wooden ballpoint pen inserted in an inside pen loop and which, upon inspection, had entirely blank pages. There was literally nothing written on any of its pages as far as I could tell, not even a name identifying the owner inscribed on the back page - which wasn't terribly surprising, as the journal looked quite new. The next object that I noticed was a small opened parcel that, itself, contained a small collection of objects: An illustrated book of nursery rhymes and fairy tales made entirely of thick paperboard, clearly made for small children to handle and clearly often used, given the crackled line going down the spine; another journal, smaller than the first one and bound in a hardcover, with annotations explaining the meanings behind several of the nursery rhymes arranged in alphabetical order; and a stuffed magpie doll. That last one, the magpie toy, was perhaps the biggest mystery to me, until I skimmed through the nursery rhyme book and saw a picture of a magpie. That drew my attention to the nursery rhyme on that page, One For Sorrow.

I flipped through the book of annotations looking for the right one. Lo and behold, there was an entry - the nursery rhyme was about counting the number of magpies in a flock, since it used to be a common superstition that the number of magpies you see is supposed to indicate whether you would have good or bad luck. This is, of course, of only passing interest; what's really important about all of this is that as soon as I made the connection between the doll and the nursery rhyme, a flood of those supposedly lost memories washed through my mind. It was only momentary, but I found myself remembering things - about the nursery rhyme, and why it was evidently important enough to remember. The poem was something that my mother used to sing to me every night when I was a little girl. A spark of curiosity, a cloud of interest, ignited and descended upon me as I struggled to understand why these vague, broken, and yet utterly clear memories were the only ones coming back. It's a mystery I've never yet solved, and one of many I fear at this time I will never discover an answer to. After processing those memories, I kept looking through the room hoping to find something else that would help, but I found nothing of interest.

The stink of death - the smell of decay - had begun to permeate the room, having found its way in through the only thing in the room besides the bed that wasn't smashed or and broken down. That was the bedroom door, which stood ajar, but otherwise untouched. After replacing the bag's contents and slinging it over my shoulder, I made my way across the bedroom to the hall, stumbling momentarily over an overturned bookcase, or perhaps one of the wayside drawers. I still have no precise idea what it was I'd stumbled over to this day, and, for reasons that should make themselves apparent shortly, I'm not going to revisit the place to find out what it was. In any case, I braced myself for the brightness of the hall lights I was about to turn on as I killed the flashlight - I wanted to have the broadest array of light possible in that hallway so I could see everything, just on the off chance that I'd otherwise miss something important.

Some nights, I wonder why I ever turned those damned lights on; if I had known what I was about to see, I probably would have steeled my reserve and stumbled out of the house in the darkness, with nothing save the flashlight used for lighting.

Blood. That was the first thing I saw - and smelled - after the lights flickered on and my eyes adjusted to the sudden change in lighting, and it was everywhere. There seemed to be a thick trail of it, dried and rusty-brown, matting the carpet leading to the bedroom I'd just left. Hand prints and smears adorned the walls, made by hands that clearly had to have belonged to two people. There was an overturned end table blocking part of the path as I reached the halfway point of the hall. Nearby, a shattered vase that had contained a single rose - which had been trampled on and had died and dried out - was laying on the ground. A small, barely significant part of me somewhere was shocked and horrified by the grisly scene I took in as I tip-toed past the end table and the broken flower vase, but on the whole, I was excited and elated by the sights and smells. It was as if some foul dragon, nested in my chest, was rumbling and growling its approval at the sight of what seemed an almost impossible amount of various visceral fluids that were smeared all along the wall. Something interesting had definitely occurred here, and I was torn between terror, amazement, and amusement all at once.

I pressed on despite the heady combination of emotions, knowing that I probably didn't have a lot of time before I absolutely had to be out of this house. I tried the first closed door I came across, but that only led into a bathroom off the hall - a bathroom which, oddly enough, appeared to be completely undisturbed. The shower wasn't running or anything, the mirror was still intact; eerily, absolutely nothing was out of place or seemed like it clearly didn't belong. The plainness of the bathroom really bugged me. I shrugged it off and continued down the hall until I reached the staircase. The fact that the trail of destruction seemed to stop halfway down the staircase gave me pause, as I turned on the next light switch, but I recognized that the only safe way out was clearly downstairs. I descended the stairs, making note of the trashed and ransacked look of the living room. There wasn't any blood trail to follow, but the sheer destruction of the furnishings told me that something had to have happened. It looked like a tornado had hit the room.

I followed the trail of broken furniture to an open bedroom door. I found myself wondering if I was really going to go inside there. Open bedroom doors are usually a red flag in a horror film that the killer is probably inside, and, despite not being able to remember if I'd seen any prior to my amnesia, this is one of those things I just intuitively understood about the medium before I saw the first one since I lost my memories. Nevertheless, I was both curious and stupid enough to check inside the room. I didn't need to turn on either the ceiling lights or the flashlight to know that this was where the terrible smell had originated from, as the scent was particularly strong in this room, but I turned the lights on in the room nonethless so I could survey the damage.

That really wasn't a good idea. Upon turning the lights on, I was immediately greeted by the sight of two pale, emaciated corpses, one on either side of the bed. I could only make an educated guess about who they were, based on how I know I looked in the bathroom mirror, but if I had to say they were anyone in life, I knew and still know that those two people had been my parents. My own flesh and blood was lying there on the ground in that bedroom, although calling them just the flesh would probably be infinitely more accurate - they looked more like mildly dehydrated natural mummies than any other kind of corpse. And yet, for all the volume of blood they clearly had to have lost, barely more than a few scant drops of it marred the carpet. I checked the two bodies for any sign of a cut or abrasion of some kind. I got more than I bargained for. Their throats were a mess, both of theirs were. Torn and somewhat chewed-upon, something had to have bitten into them. But then, I wondered, why hadn't a much bigger mess been left? If it wasn't for the paradoxically absent blood, I'd have been inclined to say the police had an open and shut case of slashed throats to look into when they arrived.

Apart from the two bodies, nothing looked out of place in the room. The room itself and the furniture in it, much like that upstairs bathroom, looked normal otherwise. I checked the bedroom for anything that could be useful and then moved on to the similarly untouched bathroom off the side of the room to do the same. Nothing really stood out as inherently useful on its own, but I did at least take the time to put together a first aid kit, on the off chance I could need one. I checked the room again to make sure I didn't miss anything before heading outside. It wasn't until significantly later on that I realized I probably should have wiped down all the surfaces in the house prior to leaving, but I wanted to be well away from the house by the end of my search of it. Once I closed the door and had walked casually away from the for a while, in case anyone in the neighborhood was awake, I did the only thing I really wanted to do.

I ran for as far as I could. I didn't care where I ended up going, I just ran. The farther away I could get on foot, the better, really. I ran and ran as far and as fast as I could, paying no attention to my bearings until I found myself in the middle of a public viewing garden. It was a beautiful place, with blossoming cherry trees everywhere. I found a bridge that had a decent amount of space underneath it and laid down under it with my bag for a pillow, where I promptly passed out from exhaustion.