Read Once Online

Authors: James Herbert

Tags: #Thrillers, #Fiction, #Cerebrovascular Disease, #Fantasy, #Horror - General, #Contemporary, #Fiction - Horror, #Horror

Once (43 page)

468

She had said: ‘Expect me.’

HE BIRDS gathered in the trees surrounding the hidden forest clearing. Their feathers were sleekly black, sinister in the shade afforded by the thick leaves around the edges of the glade, their bills long and pointed, these also black.

Kraaaa! they called to one another, and the sound was harsh in the quietness of the woods.

The crows - a gathering that was known as a murder of crows - watched the black-and-white bird skip haltingly through the grass below. The magpie, shabby and tattered wings flapping weakly each time it tried to lift them, seemed disorientated as it hopped from one spot to another as if searching for something (although it never ventured into the shadows of the trees). It opened its bill as if to call, but no sound came forth, and occasionally it would peck uselessly at the soft mulch between the blades of grass.

The crows in the branches began to bustle on their perches, their feathers seeming to bristle, the long and strong

wings rising and lowering, a few strokes at a time. Their calls became more strident, the communication more intense.

The magpie on the ground did not seem to notice. Round in rough circles it went, each skip more feeble than the last.

The crows waited, their mood growing keener by the moment. It only took one to leave its bough, and that soon happened, for them all to swoop from their branches, their great wings spread as they plummeted.

The magpie finally found voice when the first two crows pecked out its eyes. And it managed a last shriek as others ripped out its throat.

Its agony did not last long. The crows soon tore it to pieces and the forest was peaceful once more.

CONCLUDED.

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