On this dark night, if instead of being snuggled safely wherever you happened to be, you were sitting in the bright-white steeple of the Pilgrim Chapel on the outskirts of Dallas, and you chose to strain your eyes and look out through the rain pouring from the generous Texas sky upon the branches of the oldest black cherry tree, you might have seen the long, dark wing of a vulture extending out over a raven as it fluttered down to roost.
“Thanks, old friend, but I’ve weathered far worse storms than this.”
Vulture pulls his wing back close to his breast. “You never know, this could be the worst storm of our lives. Twisters, floods, lightning strikes, this could be God sending us portents of the end times.”
The Raven fluffed up his oily, black feathers at that notion. Armageddon was the sort of thing humans liked to babble on about. Every other animal had the decency to just live and die. “You know, it brings me great sorrow to hear you talk like that. You used to be a virulent atheist. What has happened to you, old friend?”
“Maybe we should flap over to the retirement home?” said Vulture, who generally avoided complicated or uncomfortable conversations.
“You know they put their dead in the backs of big trucks, right? The ones with lights on the top. You’re not getting any free meals. I only go there because sometimes there are pills in the applesauce that make the day a little brighter.”
Vulture laughed. “I just like to go sit by the windows and remind them I exist. It’s a hoot during a lightning storm.”
“You’re such a bloody sadist.”
Vulture noticed that the wind seemed to be rocking Raven a little more than he, and that perhaps his old friends’ caws weren’t as clearly enunciated as usual. “Have you been into the applesauce?”
Raven laughed so hard that he nearly fell off the branch of the black cherry tree. He hadn’t been pecking at pills, but he’d happened across a fermenting pile of dewberries earlier and gorged himself until he was rather drunk. “I’m quite sober, mostly.”
In an effort to split the dark sky in half, lightning struck the top of the church where you would have been sitting on this dark night, if. The explosion was rather spectacular. White bits of wood flew in every direction like rice at a wedding. Soon, the building was consumed by flames which seemed to have no respect for the rain whatsoever.
“The church is on fire,” said Raven, regretting the fact that noise and shock had forced him into more sobriety than he was comfortable with. “Do you think anyone was inside?”
“No, sadly I don’t think we’re that lucky. Is it a sign? Maybe we should fly down to try and help out. You could carry tiny buckets of water with your talons.”
“No, it’s their business. I think I’ll just peck through ashes later.” Truthfully, Raven had always thought of himself as superior to humans. He never had to share. He was always free to do as he pleased and, of course, he could flap around in the heavens all he wanted. It had never occurred to him that for all this superiority, he couldn’t really do anything to help them. “I don’t take bad things as a sign that I should do something differently. After all, we do eat the dead.”
On that dark and fiery night, if you had been sitting in the steeple, you’d have been killed instantly, which as far as I am concerned is the best way to be killed (except maybe a heroin overdose, which is nothing more than falling into a swarming black warmth), and if the explosion had carried your remains far enough, Raven and Vulture would have stomachs that are a bit fuller and little else worth squawking about.