First of all: a thousand and one apologies for leaving this story as is for... wow, nearly a year! As I said in the beginning, I wrote this story when my PC broke, but shortly after uploading the first chapter, I got the PC fixed, and I lost focus on this story, which I'd written with pen and paper. Then, during a recent tidy-up of my room, I came across the pages, and realised I'd never put them up! So here they are. Hope I haven't kept anybody waiting...


Daniel visited the graves every day for nearly 3 months after the fire. The investigation had turned up nothing save an empty vodka bottle in Ryan's room. The team assumed that he had spilt it and then somehow lit it, and so that was that. Even though Daniel couldn't believe that the man he'd come to call his son had been a heavy drinker, it was the only option that made any sense, and he could only agree with the conclusion.

It was 3 months exactly from the day of the fire that Daniel had been forced to work late. Crime had risen dramatically and the force had been overstreched for weeks now. Tonight they'd caught a would-be jewellry thief and he had been the only officer free to take care of him. He regretted not being able to visit his family's grave, but he felt they'd understand.

He was about to head down to the holding cells when a shrill call alerted him to the office window. There, sitting on the ledge, was a crow, black as the night itself. It looked around the room, then focused on Daniel and cawed again.

Daniel moved over to the window and, after shooing the bird away, closed it. He mouther a silent 'thank you' to the crow and he locked the window; he was always forgetting to close it.

As quietly as it had arrived, the crow watched as Daniel left the room before turning and flying across the city, passing building after building. Before long it had reached its destination - the church. The gates had long ago been broken and no-one had bothered to fix them, and the crow flew through them as he headed for the graveyard at the rear of the building.

As it flew through the gravestones, the crow honed in on its target. After a few seconds, it landed on a plain, unobtrusive slab which looked like it had been there forever. In it was written the simple engraving 'Ryan Meler. Dearly Missed.' The crow cawed once in a simple clear call, then was silent once again.

The ground seemed to shake, and there was a deafening howl that seemed almost inhuman, yet the crow stayed perched upon the stone. Suddenly a hand punched through the soil covering the grave. Another cry emerged, much clearer this time. A cry of pain.

Ryan Meler slowly clambered his way out of his grave, and collapsed in a heap beside the mass of upturned dirt. He felt cold and tired, like he hadn't slept in days, but slowly, ever so slowly, he summoned the strength to stand, using another gravestone for support. He opened his light blue eyes and tried to make sense of it all.

The crow cawed again, and Ryan turned towards it. Before he could even think there was a blinding flash of light and suddenly he found himself remembering the last few minutes of his life. He had been reading a book - which one he was neither able nor willing to remember - when someone had knocked at the door. He had answered it, only to have the door slammed into him as a group had forced their way into the house.

The memories licked between the horrors which had followed He had been held back while his mother... and then his sister had arrived home from work and they... but then he had broken free and retrieved his step-fathers Glock 9mm. He'd hit one of them in the arm and another in the stomach before they'd struck him from behind... then the woman had taken down his trousers... and then, at the end of it all, they'd lit a bottle of something and thrown it across into his room...

He screamed as he remembered the brutality, the madness, the horror of it all. It hardly seemed real, yet he knew it was. And then the crow called to him again, and, somehow, he knew he had been brought back for a reason. To make them pay.

Gathering up his strength and his wits, he started to walk back towards the place he had called home. He felt strange, more powerful now, though he didn't know how. As he stumbled through the graveyard, he looked down at himself. He was wearing plain, black clothes - a smart shirt and jeans as dark as his hair, both reflecting the darkness he once claimed he'd felt inside. The back of his hand bore the scar he had gained with the kitchen knife when he was 15, and he almost laughed at the memory.

For some reason, he felt compelled to lift his shirt. As he did so, he remembered how he had died... the dagger plunging into his chest... The scar was still there. He placed his hands to his face - the scars across his eyes and mouth were there as well; a cruel joke given him by his attackers. He recalled being given the injuries and howled as he relived the pain. Pain that willed him on, made him stronger.

He approached his road and stared at the neighbourhood his family had once shared. GOne were the houses that had lined the streets, replaced with construction crews buiding roads. Was that why his family had been killed? No, he told himself - it couldn't be. It was too easy an explanation. He was about to turn away when he heard the crow, his sole companion, it seemed, caw and fly twards a building that was amidst the rubble - a temporary hut, erected for the forman. Ryan followed it inside.

The building was empty, save for a few plans on a table and some tins of paint in one corner. Ryan looked on the floor and saw some shards of glass beneath a broken window which the crow flew flew through, landing on the paint pots. Moving towards the shards, Ryan stepped on one, the glass crunching beneath his feet as he broke them further.

Crouching down, he picked up a shard and held it at an angle, trying to see himself in the reflection. When he finally saw it, he threw the shard away in anger. It smashed into the wall behind the crow, causing it to caw once more. Ryan turned to it, and noticed the paint. He moved over to them, reasoning that if they'd wanted to make him look like a clown, then he'd give them one.

Clawing at the pots, he opened the white and smeared it over his face with one hand. He grabbed another shard with the other, and used it to carefully cover his face in white before opening the black paint, using it to cover over the scars. When he was finished, he was a dark, twisted image, one which the crow approved off with a caw.

His new face completed, Ryan felt himself ready to see those who had destroyed himself and his family... if he knew where they were. Suddenly, the crow took off and flew through the window, and Ryan was somehow seeing through the crow's eyes, wtching the city from a view none but the birds had seen. The crow flew down into the streets and landed on a trash can opposite a seedy strip joint. It watched as a taxi pulled up and a bald man wearing a black coat and a chest full of tattoos stepped out. The crow continued to stare as the man walked up to the door and pulled a gun on the bouncer, forcing the man to let him in.

Suddenly Ryan was back to the night he died, watching as the man raped his mother and held back his sister so others could do the same to her.

Snapping back to reality, Ryan stepped out of the hut and started toward the city center. He knew what he had to do.