Disclaimer: Everything relating to The Crow is the sole property of J. O'Barr.
Oblivion is not black, although it is often described as such. Black is the absence of colour, so oblivion is not black.
Oblivion is the colour of the darkness and emptiness between the stars in the night sky.
Oblivion is not hot, and oblivion is not cold, but it does create sensations that prickle across the skin and stir up memories of both extremes of temperature.
The atmosphere of the oblivion space is variable. Down in the deep depths, it is thick and syrupy. Passage through it is made hard by the coagulating dreams and the fragments of souls that have fallen there. Further up, the atmosphere is thin and movements are more like flying than swimming.
This is the place where the crow exists.
("—told you to shut up you—")
It flies as easily through the thinnest ether of the edges, as it does through the most shadowed depths of oblivion. In a place that has no discernable time and exists only because reality has to have a reflection, it glides and swoops with silent grace.
The crow has feathers the charcoal colour of dead stars and its eyes are twin swirls of black India ink.
Its function is the same as it has been for thousands of years; it exists to ensure that the souls of the recently departed safely and quickly cross this eternal void of everything tinged nothing.
The vast majority manage it effortlessly; they appear for only the briefest moment, electric flashes in a rainbow of colours, they etch their path across the void and vanish silently.
There are slower travellers; these take more meandering and leisurely paths, tracing out delicate, fading patterns behind them.
And then… there are the visitors. They are the ones that spend their days laying amongst sterilised white hospital sheets, surrounded by a chorus of electronic beeps and tones. They are the ones that lie in cold gutters, and under bridges, and laugh and cry as they drink deeply of the fiery demon liquid and breathe in the demon fumes, rotting their minds away.
The visitors, like the travellers, rarely attract the attention of the crow. It knows of them, of course, and it is aware of their motions and actions in the same way that a lion knows of the fleas that crawl over it.
What interests the crow, what sends it criss-cross spiralling around the shifting neverwhere of the in-between place, are the souls that are not travelling or visiting. The souls that are lost, through their own bad choices, or because of forces beyond their power. The wanderers who have lost the path and tangle in the threads of the then and there, causing eddies in the flow of the could and be, and fighting to return to the here and the now.
The crow frees them, guides them, tumbles them to the place that they belong. Most of the time it is that simple, if not more so, but other times…
… they fight and they struggle, desperately clinging on to broken memories, fractured little earth-bound ghosts that kick and scream the injustice done to them.
Maybe the crow pities them.
It certainly listens to them, to the thin white noise sounds of their crazed voices as they spark shards of thoughts into a kind of coherency. It listens out for that extra timbre, that indefinable thing that would mark the little ghost out from the others—
"-stupid bitch stop screaming-"
It's not a voice; it's the echo of a memory of a voice, but it's enough to make the crow cant it's black, black wings and wheel in a sharp circle. And it's enough to make the crow fold its wings and nose forwards into a silent dive.
It's enough to make the avatar skim past the flickering flashes of souls moving on without paying them the slightest heed, and it's enough to make the crow ignore the silver filigree paths traced by the visitors.
"I said stop!"
The deeper the crow gets in the darkness of the in-between, the clearer and louder the remembered words sound; the anger and the filthy nature of them becoming more and more apparent.
There is a distorted area; a maelstrom of emotion and memory and screaming and the crow dives straight for it, cuts through the psychic lashing and the symphonic surround-sound of fear and anger that batters it from all sides.
—hurt in my side and Jack is—
He's shouting at me and he's on me and—
Images dance and whirl in a silent and furious waltz, edges razor sharp and burning with cold. The crow flits around them, absorbing the knowledge they contain.
A man— man has knife—
He's waving it at me—
The anger and fear spiral together into a madness that knows no limits, heeds no bounds, only seeks one thing. Only seeks revenge.
Jack is crying, the man has kicked his pushchair and Jack is crying—
He smells. He's on me and he smells and there are red-hot pains shooting in my side and he's on me and Jack is crying—
At the centre of the storm is a huddled figure, tattered colourless rags pulled about it as it kneels hunched over, one hand tangled in its hair, the other clawing impotently at the nominal ground, a blank canvas awash with dusty grey sand.
She is the source and focus of the wildly rampant energies discharging through the nothingness; she is the one screaming her need for vengeance for the life of another with the pieces of her mind that remain.
Jack is crying—
He is laughing and—
I'm going to die and he's going hurt my baby—
The crow cants its wings and drifts silently to the ground a short distance before the shivering hunched figure. It stares at her for a long moment before she seems to realise it is there and lifts her head up slightly to regard it through a snarled curtain of hair that is clotted with matts of imaginary blood and grime.
She sports a shallow knife cut across one cheek, and her outstretched arm is a criss-crossed network of slashes and wounds. As she pushes herself upright onto her knees, it is apparent to the crow that her other arm carries similar markings. There is a deep gash between her ribs, on the right side of her chest. Self-remembered blood stains mark out the ooze from it.
The crow stares at her, and she looks back, her breathing slowing from harsh wracking sobs, to even, steady breaths.
The sand stirs slightly around them, although there is no wind.
What are you? She asks. Why are you here?
I am the guide, the crow tells her. I am the keeper and I am the guardian and I am the anchor.
Why are you here? (OhGodJackisscreaming—)
I am your guide, the crow tells her. I am your keeper, I am your guardian and I am your anchor.
Without knowing how, the woman is standing upright, the sand shifting slightly underneath her feet as she stares down at the crow. Holding up one arm, she stares; the violent defensive knife wounds have healed, scabbed over and become purple-silver scars that cover her skin like living lace.
Why? She asks again. (—ontopofmeandhe'shurtingme—)
The bird launches itself upwards with a few strong wing beats and gusts forwards to land on her shoulder, claws that feel like pins digging in as it balances. I am your dreamtime and I am your lifetime, the crow tells her. I am your darkness and I am your light.
It caws once, harshly. I am your healing and I am your dying; I am your anger and I am your vengeance.
The woman blinks, slowly, and raises one hand to touch the black feathers of the crow. They feel like an oil slick running through her fingers. For Jack? She asks tightly.
Yes, the crow replies simply. For Jack and for you.
The woman stiffens her posture, her eyes beginning to burn with fierce intentions. Yes— she hisses.
The single word echoes around the empty expanse of sand, causing a few grains to tumble and roll into the decaying foot prints and scuffed shapes marking the surface of the oblivion desert. As it dies away to nothingness, it is joined by two more, sighing on the nothing-wind.