The sun glares, its gaze scorching the land beneath, the soil only barely protected by the green shadow cast by the palm leaves. Five ravens fly circles in the cloudless sky, cackling loudly as if in conversation. The biggest of them – red eyed with large obsidian wings and a broken beak – descends to the desert below, which shimmers like gold in the fierce light of the afternoon sun. The sand shifts and parts beneath the raven’s feet, making it trip and falter upon settling on the loose ground. Regaining its balance, the corvid stalks forward on its thin grey legs, standing before a mass of damp clothes and what seems to be bloated meat, and pecks it with its shattered beak. It then shoves its head into the mass’ folds, ripping out strings of crimson which it subsequently swallows with quick jerks of the neck, its body feathers ruffling and standing on end as it savours the delectable corpse.
At this point, the others join, the smallest of them so eager to get a taste that it lands on the bloody mass itself, drawing attention from the first. It looks up, staring at the one on top with its beady blood-shot eyes in warning, a flash of anger passing over it. The threat goes unnoticed, and the smallest proceeds to stab and poke the corpse, tearing off strands of fabric which it flings in random directions. Enraged, the biggest croaks, a coarse grating sound that reverberates through the air. It now spins in response to face the biggest, and caws – a sign of defiance. It hops from side to side, and props up its feathers and tail, bearing its throat in fury.
“Shoo! Shoo!” a voice shouts over the sea breeze. “Get away you tiny devils!”
An old man appears from behind a palm tree, brandishing an old cane. He whacks the sand around him and shuffles down the dunes, yelling slurs with spittle flying everywhere. His face is worn and drooping, the wrinkles that line his brow forming ridges marked by age. He wears a flat cap and a coat of tweed, with denim pants and a shirt that is half tucked in.
The old man hurries towards the body, and the ravens reluctantly flee into the cloudless sky, flapping their contempt-filled wings. He kneels down, groaning and knees knocking together, and inspects the deceased person, as the waves lap at the sands on which the body lies. He turns it over to face the sky, and grimaces at its decomposed countenance; the skin is folded, oozing a slimy substance that gleams in the afternoon sun, and tiny crabs scurry in what used to be the eyes and ears. Silently, the old man closes his eyes, and releases an almost choked sigh, as a tear falls down the contours of his cheeks. Sombre and forlorn, for a moment, he stays there, knelt beside the body, which seems so small compared to him, barely that of an adolescent’s.
Drying his eyes with the palms of his hands, the old man sniffles, then digs his arms under the sand, and, grunting, heaves the body up so that he is carrying it in his arms. He now rises, sharply inhaling the salty air of the beach, stumbling from the added weight. Eyes glinting, the old man looks down the length of the beach, proceeding to slowly walk along the receding waves. Overhead, the ravens squawk and fly circles around him, casting dark shadows on the golden beach below, their gaze stalking him.
So, as the man trudges forth towards the columns of smoke in the distance, behind him follows a trail of ebony feathers, which shine like onyxes on the ground, being blown away by the gentle sea breeze.
Jaehee (Jay) Kim