He was being chased. Through the dark woods he ran, nearly caught as he reached his front door. He leaped up the stairs and hid beneath the blankets.

He woke up, the dream still vivid, but kept his eyes tight shut.

In the silence he heard the door handle turn.

Written for Scottish Book Trust 50-word competition April 2022

Aiden the crow

Aiden the crow landed on the balcony railings, his beautiful, miraculous claws tiptapping as he sidled along, eyes bright. 

Claire knew that look. It was the look of a young man evening-eager for a night out or a quiet night in, anything she liked as long as they were together. She remembered that look so well, the look that had captured her heart forever. 

The crow’s feathers were mostly glossy black, tropical night black, reflecting back the setting sun like polished coal, the colour of a young man’s hair when they had first met, a fringe for a while and then a mohawk. Later of course grey appeared, in patches at first, and it seemed the crow was on the same path. The look and the colours. Claire was sure. 

Aiden the crow tapped again and cocked his head, asking for something – probably not the beer she had poured into the aluminium ashtray, still marked with too many late-night cigarettes, although historically it would have been. She sat on the balcony on the hard kitchen chair, face wet, hands gripping the railings. The crow tiptapped impatiently, expectantly.

Aiden flexed his wings and took off, soared and tilted, wingtip pointing almost straight down at the concrete five storeys below, and fixed her with his mirror-black eye. She understood and smiled and stepped onto the chair and held out her arms then for a moment, for the longest of moments, for the rest of eternity, she flew.

He was a man

He was a man in that way that energy rises 

rust-red from the earth beneath his black toe-capped boots

A man to his palms and his knuckles and fingers

scarred by rivets he had caught and men’s heads he had broke

Real boys don’t cry he shouted as he cuffed me for crying

and boys hit first in the face no forgiveness

but as he lay helpless, clenched fists on the bedsheets

as the energy soaked down through the world he had conquered

as I finally knew what was his was now my world

as my face lost its colour remember he said 

what I’ve often told you that real boys don’t cry 

one last thing to remember

men do