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Keep your journal closed

It started with a typo. Then, it spiralled from there. Here’s how it went down, so that you don’t get caught.

It was a regular Friday night, except for the fact that I had the house to myself for the next 36 hours. Joy! Really. My parents had gone off to some hotel in the Cotswolds, to celebrate their wedding anniversary. No more details needed about that.

And as I was alone, and I really know how to live, I spent most of the night up in my bedroom, sat on my bed, journalling, and working on my zombie retelling of Hamlet. By which I mean messaging back and forth with my best friend Kez about whether Hamlet should die or just get ‘turned’ in the end? All good. (Short answer…who cares about Hamlet. It should be about Ophelia.)

On a Candy Kittens sugar high (Very Cherry, the best) I ended the night by making a research list for the next day.

RESEARCH…

  1. CROW FUNDING…

Just so you know what I was actually shooting for, I was curious about how Brandon Sanderson had made MILLIONS on Kickstarter, promising books. I didn’t need millions, but it would be pretty great to make enough money to go to Spain with Kez. One day. Madrid? Barcelona? Or Portugal? Ibiza? (Hello numbers 2-4 on my research list.)

In my sugar-rush of excitement I’d dropped a D off the CROW. A typo of the hand, if you will.

I didn’t notice my error as I laid the journal safely on my little desk, under my bedroom window, open, primed and ready for my Saturday. The window was open two notches, and the pages fluttered in the breeze, like OK, HAYLEY, WE’RE ACTUALLY DOING THIS?

I nodded to myself in the bathroom mirror, as I brushed my teeth. I even hummed, for like two seconds, as I returned to my room. I turned the main light off and clocked the moon shining onto my desk. I decided not to lower the blind. Hell, I was going to go full natural light and wake up…sometime before nine in the morning? Let the sun say, HAYLEY. GET UP. GET UP. QUIT SLEEPING. BE PRODUCTIVE. DO IT ALL. DO YOUR LIST.

Then I slid into bed, hugged my pillow, and lay there, unable to sleep. Repeat, I was awake. So, the following cannot have been a dream. Or a nightmare. It just felt like it!

TAP, TAP, TAP on my window. I pushed up quickly to my elbows. There, sat in a pool of moonlight on my desk, craned over my journal, was a crow. I yelled, and leapt out of bed, still clutching my pillow. I backed up to the wall, now sandwiched between my bedside table, and the edge of my wardrobe.

“Tell me about the CROW FUNDING,” the crow said calmly, turning briefly over its shoulder and fixing me with its bright little eyes. Then it turned back to my journal, and did a hopping, raking movement that turned the page.

My body was an icy block.

“Excuse me, that was rude. My name is Arthur. Now, can you tell me about the Crow Funding?”

“You’re speaking?” I croaked, less articulate than the crow, which was totally messed up.  Then I lurched for my bedside light and snapped it on. The crow still sat there, just better lit.

His feathers were that oil slick iridescent mix of blacks and greens. He did some more hopping and raked the pages back the other way, then levered forwards on his skinny crow legs and peered down at my words.

“Watch the pages! I mean, quit reading. That’s not yours!”

I was torn between running forward and snapping the journal shut, and the fact that he might fly up into my face and rake at my skin, like in some horror film. Beating me around the mouth. Grabbing at my pyjama top.

“CROW FUNDING? WHAT THE HELL? WHAT ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT?” is what I went with.

The crow, allegedly called Arthur, dipped his head for a moment. Like you would if you were…praying? Ashamed? Considering your next move?

“Please, I beg you, take pity on a poor bird,” he said, then peeked up. He tucked his wings back a little. “All my cousins are YouTube stars, or Twitter famous, or are featured in Reels. You may have seen them? One, she skied down a roof, on repeat, on a little snow wedge, and the family left out walnuts for her for weeks. Another, in Germany, he was a very good actor, and made out like he had a broken wing. The tourists, they fed him all kinds of things.”

“YOU’RE IN MY ROOM! GET OUT!” I tossed my pillow at him, and it landed on the floor between us.

He looked at the pillow for a moment, then nodded to me, held both his wings out and did the most ridiculous little bow.

“Please know that I am here, most respectfully. To enquire about the funds you write of. I would love to buy some acorns for this coming winter. And maybe a little cloak?”

“A cloak? Have you totally lost it? You little scammer.”

“My mother is dead,” he said, quietly.

“Oh?” Should I call him out on that?

“And my father.”

“Oh?” I didn’t know how long crows lived.

“Yes.” His voice was both freaky, coming from out of that little crow face, and also terribly sincere.

“And please can I say, while we are at it, that I am sorry for your loss.”

He tapped one foot lightly on the journal. Then raked back a couple of pages more.

“I said quit it!”

“Quite right, quite right,” he said. “Bad Arthur.” He flopped onto his side and started beating his head against the journal.

“Stop it!” I took another step towards him.

“Arthur do better! Arthur a failure! Excuse my grammar. Arthur must do better. Arthur is a failure.”

“You’re over-reacting,” I said. Which somehow made it harder for me to lose my shit. “You do need to leave though.”

He groaned as he dragged himself back up onto his feet, using his wings like crutches.

“Ok, ok. I’ll get you some…muesli, I don’t know. We might have some peanuts. But get off my journal! And wait outside.”

He backed up and out through the window, tail first, onto the windowsill.

“Sorry for your loss!” he said again, as I snatched the pillow up and placed it back onto my bed.

I crossed to my bedroom door. “No-one has died. That’s fiction,” I said. “Hamlet. Ophelia.”

“Why so sad then?”

I looked back at him, and the moonlight caught his bright little eyes.

“I’m not sad.”

“Why so a liar then?”

“Wow, great way to get yourself some food. Break and enter, then insult the host.”

“You’re right. I’m wrong. Bad Arthur!” he started smashing his head against the window glass.

“Don’t break it! Don’t break yourself! Quit it! I’ll get you something.”

He looked right through the glass at me, then took two hops closer to the opening.

“I’m good. A good omen,” he said.

“Right.”

“You get me nuts, I’ll write your book. How’s about it?”

I shook my head. “Stay out!”

“Got it!

When I returned (almost faster than light), with half a pack of pumpkin seeds and a jumbo-sized bag of roasted peanuts, Arthur was back inside, perched on my journal again.

Wiping his little crow eyes with his wing tips he said, “Your journal almost too sad to read. Excuse my grammar again. Your journal IS almost too sad to read. I am too sad to do anything at all.”

I sighed through my nose. “So, you won’t be wanting these nuts?”

He looked up sharply. “Arthur is a comfort. A comfort eater.”

I looked at him. He looked at me.

“You want me to write your book?” he cocked his head to one side and shrugged his wings up.

I held one finger up and messaged Kez.

THERE IS A TALKING CROW ON MY DESK OFFERING TO WRITE MY BOOK. WHAT DO I DO?

KEZ: DUH. SAY YES?

I shook my head.

“No?” Arthur said.

“Yes,” I muttered, shooing him off my journal and snapping it shut.

“Yes? But you are shaking your head?”

“With disbelief.”  I put the pumpkin seeds and peanuts down on my desk, then grabbed my laptop out of my school bag and fired it up.

“You want me to show you a video of my nephew, Felice?” Arthur crowed. Literally. “He organised a…”

“No, this is so you can type. Just for the next 36 hours.”

“With snacks?”

“Sure, with snacks.” I wasn’t a total monster. I shook a few pumpkin seeds out of the bag.

“OHHHH KA-KA-KA-KAAAAY!” Arthur snatched up a couple of seeds, flexed his wings, and hopped onto the keyboard. “And our title will be….?”

Week 6

One quarter through the challenge! 6 weeks out of 24.

There’s been a lot of crow talk, and a lot of journal talk in the writer communities I’m part of. To the point where my brain became insistent on…

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