I’d hardly slept the night before. Rain had hounded the conservatory roof, which was directly under my bedroom window. Each bullet of water had driven through my vague attempts at dreams as they bounced off the corrugated plastic and spilled into the gutter below, creating a stream that continued to trickle as the sun finally managed to wrestle in the morning.
With the radio clicking on as the time rolled to 6am, I gave up on the idea of having anymore sleep. Paying just enough attention to know what the weather would be doing – no more rain until the evening – I scrambled out of my bed and hunted down some bread to make toast as I started pulling my cycling gear on. I needed to be out of the house by 6.30am if I was to have any chance of getting a good ride in before all the dumb ass commuters began to choke up the surrounding roads.
As I completed my outfit with my favourite fluorescent sleeveless sports top, the toast popped up out of the toaster and I rushed to dollop some raspberry conserve on top. With a piece of toast hanging from my mouth, I quickly filled my water bottle and found my bumbag.
Having located my flowery cycle helmet as well, for a moment I had to stop and remember if I’d eaten the toast I’d made. I’d eaten it so quickly that it had barely registered in my mind, which felt full to bursting with cotton wool balls by that point. I needed to get outside. I needed to leave the sluggish warmth that hadn’t left for several months as a sort-of summer drew itself out endlessly over my days.
I stepped out my front door and was soon aware of the birds singing and cawing in the trees around me. The rest of the village was only beginning to stir. I could smell toast being made in the house next to mine, but the smell of burning bread was soon lost to the deep earthy odour of the saturated ground.
Pulling up the metal garage door to get my bike, the screeching metal gave the birds pause. I dragged my bike out and slammed the garage door back down and then locked it. The birds began to pipe up again.
I slowly turned my head to my left, but there was no one there. Just the disorganised bramble thicket that a neighbour had refused to cut back since I’d been living in the cul-de-sac. I shuddered as I realised that it could have been a rat.
I slid onto my bike and began to cycle up the hill that would take me to my favourite route through the back lanes and surrounding countryside. The houses of the village disappeared behind me as I began my descent down a hill into the lanes beyond. I felt so alive as the wind rushed past my face and curled over my limbs.
Occasionally spray from the crippled tarmac would fall on my arms as I bounded along the still soaked roads on my mountain bike. I felt like I was flying.
Stopping for a drink beside a moss covered gate, I could hear crows chattering in the trees around me. As I gulped down half of the water I had brought along with me, I breathed in the smell of damp plant life and the more pleasant aromas of woody decay.
Ten minutes later, as I neared the half-way point on my route for the day I heard it.
There was no sound, except for the scrape of my bike tyres on the ragged road, the beating of my heart and my breathing. No sound. No crows. No cockerels. No cows. No cars. No sheep. I stopped in the middle of the road. If I strained my ears enough, I could just make out a stream trickling through the undergrowth behind me.
That’s the end of part 1 of The Crows. Please vote in the poll below to help decide where the story goes next. Voting is open until mid-afternoon Thursday.