Loop Serial Revisited (part 3)
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
November 11, 2023
To catch up on the ongoing Raven serial, you will find the story in the last two issues of The Loop. In review, some people in town have been having strange experiences with the ravens. Some see ravens, others black trash bags, and sometimes both in the same sighting. Stephen, Maxi, Leanne and Walt have noticed a few mysterious occurrences in the mix.
A new character moves the story forward in this issue...
Glen Fieldstone is an old timer. He knows most everyone in town. And anyone who stays in town for a while knows of him. Filled with decades of information gleaned from experience and information from other old timers, he is never in need of encouragement to talk about anything and everything. Well, except one thing. He refuses to talk about ravens.
If anyone sees irregularities in the ravens of Tehachapi and comes to him with curiosity and questions, he clams up, changes the subject or abruptly leaves. This is noticed. Those that know Glen well choose not to broach the subject at all.
Today Glen stood at the edge of town beside his old truck and looked like a man who was simply contemplating the scenery. Eventually, he slowly climbed into the cab and headed out to Sand Canyon. Glen knows roads, wide to narrow bumpy trails really, like no one else, and uses them. When he finally stopped his truck, he was deep within the canyon where he sat for long hours. He was not alone.
Ravens gathered from all directions. Some were greeted, others cast off to the side. The numbers grew for each group and so did the noise. Clicking, knocking, popping sounds came from deep within their throats in patterns as if they were discussing a difficult topic, talking over each other in heated arguments. Glen was totally ignored, of which he was glad. Best not to interrupt a conspiracy of ravens. There was a reason a group of them were called an "unkindness."
Glen recalled his grandson sitting him down to watch the movie "The Birds." Finch seemed to sense his grandfather's affinity and also repulsion to birds. Specifically ravens. He wanted to know how his grandpa would react to birds attacking the people in that town. Glen didn't speak one word or react. He merely watched the movie to the end, got up and left with no comment at all.
But the movie was not lost on Glen. He recalled it often as he silently contemplated the ravens in Tehachapi. He was thinking of it now as one of the ravens in the center of the larger group suddenly fluffed up, raised its wings and turned from bird to black bag whipping in the wind. It rose about 10 feet above the other birds and hovered as the ravens below in both groups were mesmerized. They grew quiet. Absolutely quiet. No sounds of wind or ruffling of feathers.
Just as suddenly, the birds seem to wilt to the ground to moan softly and writhe in slow motion. Glen in his car even felt some kind of swelling of pressure and vibration that made him feel the need to moan as well. From what? He did not understand. But as the sensation eased, a group of grounded birds gracefully lifted off the ground and rose in a thinness of black plastic to drift away.
"Just like helium balloons," thought Glen, trying to make a human comparison to what was nothing in his human experience. He registered that the second smaller group of ravens were still together. They began making their loud obnoxious raven noises again before taking flight toward town.
It was then Glen noticed one lone raven moving forward slowly, waddling toward him with an occasional ruffling of feathers until it was close enough for him to see into its eyes. Deep beady eyes with a steady rather imposing stare.
Glen stared back, as deep and beady eyed as the bird, without a flicker or flinch. A standoff. Glen's stare with the bird went unbroken. Then calmly the bird finally blinked at Glen, one slow purposeful blink. Then, with a slight nod of its head, he too took flight. And then complete darkness fell.
In the days that followed, Glen noticed the numbers of ravens growing in the area. No matter where he went, there was always a grouping of three or four. Can ravens act nonchalant? That is how it seemed to Glen and he wasn't one given to fantasy. He also sensed numbers of people approaching him, then turning away at the last moment, changing their minds. This gave him pause. Especially when the town fathers were having meetings on how to rid the town of the raven population.
It seems some ravens were becoming a nuisance, pulling trash out of trash cans and strewing it about day after day. Trash was also landing upon the heads of people walking their dogs, doing errands, most any outdoor activity. Then there were the droppings! The methods of extermination the town was contemplating became as extreme as their revulsion.
As hard as he fought it, it was time. Time to come to terms with the ravens who had visited him throughout his long life.
The first time he remembers contact with ravens was when he was 8 years old, hiking through the dry creek bed on the edge of his grandfather's property outside of town. The flash flood was unexpected, and water rushed over him so suddenly that he was tossed off his feet. He remembered a swirling of water and black and then he was on the bank, wet but alive with a group of ravens staring at him. They too were dripping wet.
The second time was when he entered a cave up on the mountain. He was 10 or 11 then. He walked deep in until it was too dark to see further. Inching his way back to the light on uneven ground, he noticed a series of rock paintings. There were drawings of ravens. But then they changed to thin black swirls in flight.
Black plastic trash bags made their entrance in 1950 but weren't put into regular use until the 1960s. It took Glen many years to make the connection. It shook him when he did and he hiked up to the cave at 16 with a flashlight to examine the rock paintings in greater detail. That is when he first met the old man.
This man stood outside the cave with a raven on each shoulder and a third one making excited raven noises at his feet. Neither boy nor man spoke. Their eyes met and locked. Glen gleaned all he needed. But it unsettled him. All these years later, in his old age, he had gained enough knowledge and wisdom to understand.