The night winds, cold and howling, rattled my patio door. The clock’s hands had slipped past midnight and were on their way towards the early morning when I heard a tapping, or was it a rapping, on the glass of my patio door. Startled, I woke to discover my glass of rum had spilled onto the carpeting, and a throbbing haze clouded my vision of my small living room. My laptop had slipped from my legs to the couch cushion. Yet another Netflix movie stared me in the face, paused and diverting. In my stupor, I must have stopped it.
The gentle rapping sounded again.
All day I had seen them. Robust. Sleek. They strutted down side streets with the arrogance of a thousand kings. They preened over their mangled meals of squirrels and rabbits.
Could one of them be my late night visitor?
I stumbled to my feet and pushed my blinds aside with a plastic clack and a gasp. Outside my patio door was no prophetic raven.
With a face as pale as the pocked moon and eyes as large and fixed as bust of Pallas, the man loitered near the glass. His black hair, flat and unkempt. His moustache, crooked and concealing a downturned mouth slightly agape. His dress was old, a faded black suit and tie.
I recognized him immediately.
A gentle tap on the glass.
“What do you want?” I asked, but the specter only rapped that much harder.
In the shadows behind me, my white cat’s green eyes widened, and she growled loudly.
Still, with a trembling hand, I unlocked the door and slid it open. A blast of cold wind chased dried leaves into my apartment, and after a small hesitation, the ghost stepped forward.
“Why are you here?” I asked. His face paler in the light. His melancholy palpable.
His great grey eyes never shifted towards me. Instead, he stepped over to my bookshelf, slid a finger down their spines. I shivered at the touch.
“Why do you haunt me?” His silence was more frightening than any ghastly moaning.
“Would you like a drink?” I asked with a small chuckle.
The ghost fingered the trinkets in front of my books: shot glasses, picture frames, university paperweights.
“You come into my living room without anything to say? No important message?”
“Ignore the ravens,” he whispered, his southern accent soft, his voice so light I almost did not believe I heard him.
“That doesn’t make sense,” I protested, brandishing my empty glass of rum. “I thought you might at least tell me the secret to being a great writer. I thought you might at least haunt me and inspire me to write a great masterpiece. You could share your genius with me. Instead, you float in here and tell me to ignore ravens. How am I to be a great writer? How can I follow in your footsteps?”
“Ignore the ravens,” came the lament.
“Get out of here! You were nothing but a drunk anyway. Penniless and pitiful in the end. Keep your cryptic word play. I don’t have time for your haunting.” I moved towards the ghost. “Every night I sit in this apartment and try to forget that I am alone. I want to write like you. I drink my rum and revel in my inebriated flights of fancy, yet nothing of note. Here, you come back from the grave, knowing the other side of this life, and what can you tell me to be successful?”
With one last gesture towards the bookshelf, the ghost moved back to the patio door and told me what he’d said before, “Ignore the ravens.” His black suit and black hair blended into the night until I could not distinguish him from the rustling darkness of the trees.
I stood in the patio doorway, confounded, disquieted. With a sigh, I slid my door closed and locked it, taking one last chance to search the night for my visitor. I squeezed the empty glass in my hand and turned back towards the light of my living room.
There they squawked and fluttered, nudging each other on my bookshelf, television, armchair. Their black feathers floated loose onto my carpeting. Dozens of ravens, beady-eyed, accused me, studied me. Two flapped forth and rested upon me, beaks poking at my arms, claws pinching into shoulder blades. I poured myself more rum, shared it with my constant companions, and drifted back into my dreamless sleep.