Lost Souls

The Ravens

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The Ravens

by Ryder W. Miller

Roger looked at the Raven sitting on the stoop that led into the building he would be soon to reside in. The Raven was larger than most birds, actually the size or a football or a seagull. It was so black, it was darker than the night sky. It looked at him and paused. Its eyes were dark, and it had a presence that he had not experienced before in other birds. Roger looked into its eyes, but it was shy and looked the other way. Roger had seen Ravens chasing Raptors, birds of prey, in the park. Raptors actually had much smaller beaks. The Raven had a large and powerful beak, even if it was not as sharp as a raptor’s. Sometimes a number of Ravens or lesser counterparts, the blackbirds would bully their way through the sky.

Roger looked at his new abode as the Raven decided to fly away. It’s silhouette was messy and not streamlined like other birds. What a wonder to behold. One encountered them. They were not just wild, they had intelligence. They had a wild spirituality. They were secure in their own presence and power. They were off a different world, wild and almost magical. But the bird had flown away, and Roger was off to meet his new roommates. He could not afford to live alone, and this new residence offered him a chance to start again with strangers.

Roger walked up the stairs to 29 Watren Street. From the top of the stairs he could look out over the tree-lined block, now full with autumn leaves. Leaves were all over the ground in shades of yellow, orange and red. There was a chill to the wind and the days were getting shorter. Soon there would be rains and thunder. But Roger would be safe inside away from the forces of nature.

Roger looked over the painted lady. It was like a lot of buildings in the city, but there was a dark aspect to it. The building was ornate, but did not have any gargoyles at the on its joints. It was black and burgundy, the darkest building on the block.

Roger knocked on the door, but there was no answer. He was actually twenty minutes early. He needed a new place to stay before the winter set in. Roger decided to sit on the stairs and read a book. He liked to wear the old navy shorts because he could carry a book in his pockets, leaving his hands free. Roger opened The Halloween Child but closed it because he was not able to read. He decided to walk down the street and check out the local coffee shop, but the door opened behind him. Roger turned around to greet his new housemate.

He was a tall man with dyed black hair and black clothes. He wore black boots and a black vest over his black shirt. His skin was pale and his eyes were black. There was a cheerfulness to his presence, but he was also stern and serious.

“Roger I presume,” he said.


“Sorry for taking so long with the door. I was predisposed.”

This man at the front door looked suited to live here.

“And who might you be. Are you Mathew?” asked Roger.

“I am the one who lives here. I am Mathew and I am here to welcome you to the flat.”

“Are the others who live here also home?”

“I am afraid not.”

Mathew walked Roger up the stairs. The flat was dark. Walking through the hallways, Roger saw art on the walls. Latched onto one of the doors was a skeleton.

Mathew referring to it said, “one of my former housemates.”

Roger felt the skeleton and found out that it was made of plastic. They both laughed.

Here is the kitchen. There was no light in the room. Mathew pointed into the room and then turned on the light. The walls were stained yellow and the faucet was dripping. The refrigerator was old and one of the windows was broken.

“There is the occasional mouse, but it usually stays in the kitchen,” said Mathew.

Roger didn’t know whether to be scared or annoyed.

“Where are your other roommates?”

“Why they are out. They are gone for the time being,” said Mathew with a smirk.

Roger opened the refrigerator and saw a number of bottles of wine without labels.

“A deep thirst here. They are all not safe to drink,” Mathew said closing the door with a smirk.

They were then in the hall again. Mathew nodded to the bathroom and then walked on to one of the rooms.

“Here is where you shall stay,” said Mathew as he opened up the door.

Mathew flicked on the switch to reveal a small room. There was a door to a closet, a small bed, and a window that looked out onto a wall. Even with the light on in the room, the room looked unwelcoming. There was also a strange smell.

Mathew handed him the key and said, “The others will not be home for sometime. You should get used to the place soon. I have a studio here where I paint and I am in the apartment a lot. We are not too far from the park and the strip where there are bars and cafes. I am a homebody and have been here a long time.”

“I like to move around, but I am happy I could find this place.”

“I am happy that you moved in, but you must obey the golden rule. You must understand that I do not wish to be disturbed or bothered.”

“Just like everybody else,” said Roger.

“Thank you,” said Mathew.

“What is it with the skeletons?”

“I don’t keep mine in the closet,” Mathew said laughing.

Roger took a few days to move his stuff in. He was excited to be in this happening side of town rather than being in the boondocks. Roger had to get rid of a lot of stuff, but he was used to moving and had been through this before. He took a couple of taxis to bring his stuff over. Mathew had let him know that they did not want his stuff in the hall, and Roger lined the walls of his room with boxes. Mathew never seemed to answer directly the question about where the other flat-mates were. There were a number of locked doors along the hallway, one with the jeering skeleton.

“Easier to live with people who are out travelling,” Mathew said.

Roger shrugged and decided to spend a lot of time at the nearby cafes. The flat smelled and so did his room despite the window. Mathew was busy in his studio or was keeping to himself in his room. After his day in Customer Service, Roger was tired and didn’t want to talk with anyone. He was little more jittery at work since moving into this dark place. After a few weeks it registered on Roger that Mathew was really into darkness and the occult. There were paintings and reprints of a host of dark subjects. There were demons, a sitting raven, gargoyles, and even dripping blood. The Raven was especially noteworthy. It seemed to be looking at the observer with thoughtful but irritated eyes. There was also something eerie about Mathew even though he spent most of his time alone. Roger could tell from the refrigerator that Mathew did not eat a lot. He rarely found food, only bottles of wine. Being lithe and all, he seemed like a vampire, but Roger realized that he needed to respect his boundaries. Roger didn’t understand the goths, but he would learn in time living here. He had moved into Mathew’s flat, and the only rule he remembered was the golden rule. But where were the housemates? Roger decided not to ask Mathew again. He would find out in good time.

Roger knocked on Mathew’s door before he went to work and Mathew answered angrily.

“What is it?”

“I have a question?”

“What is it?”

“I want to put in cable. Is there a connection?”

“There is no connection.”

“I want to have a house warming party.”

“Fine. Have it when I am gone. Be careful of the art in the hallway. Some of it is original.”

“Is it yours?”

“It is early. Lets talk another time.”

Before he went off to work Roger tried to open the doors of the rooms in the hall, but the doors were locked. Roger did not tarry and he ran off to his post as a Customer Service Representative, but he felt uneasy. The thing about being a Customer Service Representative was that the caller was the only person who really mattered. It was also not enough to just be polite. One also needed to be savvy. Where he worked he was also responsible for his productivity. One could not become annoyed on the phone or too obvious about it. If you had a good reason to be irritated one could use that to help them with a sale, but being angry was a no no. He arrived home tired, deciding not to stop off at a café for a cup of coffee.

He would show his friends his knew place, but the party would be elsewhere. He would have his party in October and they would bask in the cold winds under the trees. Meanwhile he would learn to appreciate his new digs.

Roger decided to take a close look at the paintings in the hall that evening.

There was a gargoyle that was not just ugly, it was also pained and angry. Its teeth were sharp and there was grimace on its face. It was rooted on the corner of a building looking downwards.

The picture sent a message that one should tread lightly and beware.

The Raven was less threatening, and less imposing, but it was majestic and wise. Its look out into the hallway was somber and self assured. There were glints in its deep dark eyes. One could imagine that it could talk and tell riddles. It looked like it decided to be silent, or at least reticent. Roger touched the painting to feel the paint, but only softly and nervously.

The demon on the wall looked like a soldier. It had a spear and strong shoulders. It stood on a plane highlighted by fire. The demon had a determined look, almost sophisticated, but it was also cruel. The demon was walking up what could be guessed as a volcano.

Then there was the abstract painting which looked like dripping blood. There were tints of light on the blood and other colors mixed in. Highlights in yellow and burgundy.

Roger did not know what to make of Mathew, but the skeleton in the hallway did send the message that Mathew was probably capable of all kinds of things. Many men were like this, they needed to be, and so probably was Mathew even though he seemed eccentric. Eccentric was different than harmless. It was strange living with Mathew because he almost never talked. He was always in his room and he was up to all sorts of hours. There were strange sounds in the house. Roger assumed it was music from Mathew’s room. There were ethereal chants, whispers in the dark, and sometimes screams. Roger thought that he could hear names being called out. Roger wanted to ask Mathew what was going on, but he would have to be patient and wait for a good opportunity to talk with him.

Roger decided to also put a few bottles of wine in the refrigerator. He would imagine that he was drinking blood. He had issues with anger. His father was a harsh military man who had taught him how to kill at an early age. He didn’t teach much else. His mother was a strict disciplinarian, and Roger decided to move out before he finished community college. He did not have friends growing up. He had made a few friends at work, and they were not really really friends, but he decided to ask them out for tea in his neighborhood.

On the night of the meeting, Sophie, Patrick, and Ted arrived at his doorstep within a few minutes of each other. That evening there were Ravens looking down at them from the roof of the house. Sophie was sort of goth with hair died red and a buxom frame. Patrick was serious and argumentative, and Ted was dour. Roger was nervous about showing them around, but decided to anyway. The Ravens flew away when Roger walked them up the stairs.

“What a gruesome place Roger. Why you could write about the dark places of the soul living here,” said Patrick.

Sophie leaned her red head towards the painting with the dripping blood, and said, “Nice match huh.”

Roger smiled.

“Where are your roomates?” asked Ted.

“Why they are busy or they are away,” said Roger defensively realizing that they were making more noise in the hallway than he wanted.

Mathew he presumed turned up the music in his room and the hall echoed with loud organ music. There were also screams mixed in.

Roger smiled at his guests and said, “Tea on me.”

Though his guests were not anxious leave, Roger was making his way towards the door now.

“Do we need to leave so soon?” asked Sophie.

“It is more pleasant elsewhere,” Roger replied in a perky but nervous sort of way.

Following Roger out the door was Ted, Sophie, and Patrick. Roger’s friends were taking in the sights as they made their way to the door.

At the coffee shop Roger was telling them how he learned to appreciate the place. It was in a great neighborhood, he found his new digs inspirational, and he could let himself let loose there.

“You know I do not worry about appearances or propriety there. I am just able to hang out and prepare for the next day. I can come in anytime I like. I just don’t make too much noise there. I am a little spooked though,” said Roger.

“Why don’t you invite me over to suck my blood?” asked Sophie laughing.

Patrick looked annoyed. She was technically his girlfriend.

“I am just joking. I don’t really mean it, but Patrick doesn’t like to bite my neck like he used to,” said Sophie assuming a humorously disappointed look.

Patrick beamed to complete the joke.

“How are your studies going?” asked Ted.

“Okay. I am thinking about studying the occult, but only in a fun sort of way,” said Roger.

“I will lend you my encyclopedia of the occult,” said Sophie.

That night they laughed and referenced a couple of horror stories and movies. Sophie was the most thoroughly read. Patrick did not like the really scary ones, preferring the stories for children. Ted actually claimed to have seen ghosts, but he could not prove that they existed.

“I tell you there are things that are strange and beyond description in this world,” said Ted.

Roger did not know what to say and decided to call it a night. He walked Ted to the train, while Sophie and Patrick walked elsewhere to the bus.

On the way to the train station Ted said to Roger, “Did you know that the spirits of the dead sometime travel in the forms of birds?”

Roger was smiled. “The Ravens really got to you?”

“I am more afraid about you. Birds are usually just birds.”

They left each other smiling at the windy bus stop.

When Roger walked into the kitchen for a glass of water before he went to sleep that night, Mathew was sitting there drinking a cup of wine.

“Hello,” said Roger.

“You know you disturbed my solitude tonight?”

“I don’t plan to bring visitors home very often.”

“That is not the point. I rented the place only to you.”

“Well thank you. I needed a place to stay.”

“You could not afford to live elsewhere.”

“I cannot afford to move out.”

“Yes, I am doing you a favor.”

“Thank you.”

“Please don’t touch any of the paintings again.”

“Are they yours?”

“They came through me. People pay a lot for some of them. It is how I pay the bills.”

“Those sounds from your room?”

“Too many questions tonight. They are not all from my room,” said Mathew annoyed as he finished his wine and made his way to his room. He purposely closed his door a little louder than normal.

When Roger got to his room he was jittery. He lied down and listened to the moaning in the apartment. He decided not to read and just tried to sleep. He eventually fell into a slumber. That night he dreamt that he was at a party at the apartment.

A young woman said to him how she was never happy and hoped to be in the next life. A bearded man said that he hated people who kept moving from place to place. He liked to be rooted, to stay put, in a place. Another man said how he wished that he could fly like a bird. When he died he wanted to come back as a Raven. Another wished to come back as an artistic inspiration, especially if she could be ghastly and horrid.

The people in the room glowed with light. They were drinking wine and Mathew was among them. He was smiling, and they seemed pleased, but they disbanded in a flash to go to sleep.

Roger woke up late and made it to work late. He was extra jittery that day. He realized then that the others still lived in the house. He lived in a house of ghosts, the Ravens being the reincarnation of people who had lived there in the past. Roger turned his phone off to go to the bathroom. Looking into the mirror he realized that he must look crazy having not combed his hair that morning. He washed his face in the sink in front of the mirror, and made his way back to his desk. A supervisor gave him annoyed look. Later in the day she said that they were cutting his hours because of a work slow down. She told him that he better keep on his toes or he might lose his job. He didn’t have a lot of money in the bank, and he would just barely be able to pay his bills. His parents didn’t have a place for him to stay anymore. Nor did he have friends who could help.

Roger realized that he was trapped, a dead and beaten man, who lived among ghosts. He wished that he could fly away like the Ravens. He tried to maintain his composure as the phone calls came in.

Copyright Ryder W. Miller  2006

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