Jack didn’t think about it much when the first crow appeared. He was about to bite into a soggy tuna sandwich, sitting down in the middle of the tree-lined quad at the college where he worked. It was a cold day, the wind tossing the tree tops gently back and forth. Students scuttled to their classes, hands stashed in their armpits, scarves trailing behind them. His usual lunch location had been overrun by a group of noisy law students, and the sun was shining, so Jack decided to brave the cold and eat his lunch peacefully in the quad. His cheeks and hands were pleasantly numb as he raised his sandwich to take a bite.
The crow hopped up to him and stared with its beady little eyes, cocking its head this way and that. It looked like it wanted something, Jack thought, perhaps a piece of sandwich? Then it opened its black beak and let out a loud caw. Jack turned his attention back to his tuna, but it continued to look at him for a few minutes, head still moving this way and that. Jack felt uncomfortable as he stared back at it, facing off absurdly with something so much smaller than he was. Suddenly, the crow took a step forward and exploded in a barrage of caws, filling up the empty quad with echoing noise. It flapped its wings at him and generally made a scene. Jack looked around, embarrassed, to see if anyone had noticed. No one was around.
“Will you quit it!?!” Jack said to the bird. It didn’t stop. Great, he thought, now I’m talking out loud to birds. He threw his sandwich back into his brown paper bag and stalked back to his office, his peaceful lunch ruined.
The crow squawked after him as he walked away. “That’s right!” It seemed to say. “I’m talking to you, mister, and you’d better listen.”
It was waiting for him as he left the office that night, and it had brought a friend. They were sitting smugly in the tree outside the white concrete building where he worked, gurgling back and forth to one another and discussing their day, little black blobs among the green leaves. As the automatic glass doors slid open and Jack stepped out, the birds started again, both screaming at the top of their lungs.
Jack gave them a dirty look. Wonderful, they’re following me now, he thought sarcastically. Another crow flew over to join the two in the tree. Worse, they followed him to his car, hopping and flying as he walked along. Jack couldn’t believe that three such little animals could make so much noise, and it annoyed him. He sat down in his car, slammed the door shut, and peeled out of the parking lot.
Jack pulled into the white, modern garage that stood in front of his white, modern condo. He opened the white door, threw his keys on the marble kitchen countertop, and pulled a TV dinner out of the freezer. The answering machine gave a loud beep, and Jack pressed the play button as he waited for his dinner to warm up. A shrill dial tone pierced through the air until he pressed the delete button.
When the microwave beeped, Jack removed his dinner, sat down on a vast, black leather couch and flipped on the football game. Besides the giant plasma-screened TV and the couch, there was no other furniture in the laminate floored, white walled living room.
Finished with dinner, Jack wandered upstairs to his white walled office where the sound of the TV still chattered in the background. A glass-top desk and leather desk chair stood in the middle of the room, a state-of-the-art computer perched on top. Piles of papers covered the laminate floor like carpet. Jack picked his way to the computer and typed “Crows” into the internet search engine.
The usual popped onto his screen: information about types of crows, what they eat and their life cycle. There was nothing that would explain why crows had suddenly started stalking him. He did learn that the big black crows interrupting his lunch were the kind that ate the flesh of decaying things. Suddenly, the crows no longer seemed funny or annoying, they seemed like something more. He went back downstairs to the football game and fell asleep on the couch.
There were four crows waiting in the tree for Jack when he walked into work the next morning, one more than the day before. They screamed at him as he walked past them through the sliding glass doors. At lunch, walking to his favorite café, they followed him, attracting two more cawing black birds as they all walked along. People stared as he passed by, and he tried to look nonchalant, like the crows weren’t following him specifically, like they just happened to be on the street near him. It was hard as they hopped along beside him, flying from small, manicured tree to lamppost as he walked along the sidewalk of downtown. I wonder how many crows constitute a murder, Jack thought to himself grimly.
“I’ll take a table inside today.” Jack told the host as the crows fluffed their wings and roosted on the roof, waiting for Jack to emerge again.
By Friday night, the birds had not stopped following Jack. In fact, several more had joined the group each day. There were now a grand total of twelve birds following him and screaming no matter where he went. As he shut himself inside his black sports car, he breathed a sigh of relief. A weekend at home, sans birds, awaited him. He looked forward to it.
Jack was surprised, and extremely pissed, when he opened the front door for the newspaper the next morning. There on the little maple by his door was a crow. Not black like the other crows at work, this one had a creamy body, its black head, wings, and legs peaking out, like it was wearing a white feather sweater. It didn’t make a sound, but it studied him carefully as he picked up the paper. A sort of despair settled over Jack as he stared back at it. Was he unable to escape them? He tucked the newspaper under his arm and went inside.
When he left the house for groceries a few hours later, twelve black crows had joined the white one. Jack couldn’t be sure, but he thought they might be the same that had been following him around at work. They cawed at him as he ducked into his garage and peeled away. “Listen to us,” they yelled incessantly as Jack walked back and forth from garage to condo, unloading brown bags of groceries as he seethed.