They gathered at dusk. First, one crow, then another. By bedtime, there were ten. In the morning, they covered the entire front yard.
The boy observed them for an hour before going upstairs to find his mother, fast asleep beside that uncle so-and-so, the father of those two nice kids he met at the skate park.
It was the first time any kids ever played with him and they were so nice! Between endless loops up and down the slide, they’d told him about their mom, an animal behaviorist who had her own TV show. Every Friday, she worked but otherwise spent all her time with them. They adored her.
How nice to have a mom and dad at home, the boy thought. He never saw his dad, who lived with his new wife and baby. The one time he visited them, he realized his father did not like him.
He overheard him telling his mother when she came to pick him up, “The boy is a sociopath. He hit the baby with a stick and wasn’t sorry at all. He just stared at us like he had done nothing wrong. You can have full custody. I am done with that child.”
He never saw his dad again.
Maybe uncle so-and-so would be his new dad. Then he frowned. If he did, those nice kids would have no dad, like him. Only their mom. That was not a cool thing to do to them.
In that case, uncle so-and-so shouldn’t be here. His mom was a bad person to keep him here, away from his nice children.
The boy stood by his mother’s bed, watching them sleep for an hour while crows fluttered and perched outside the bedroom window. One turned to stare at him while the rest looked at his mother dispassionately.
“Mom?” he called. She didn’t stir. He tried again, this time a little louder. “Mom?”
Uncle so-and-so opened an eye and stared at him, alarmed. He leapt out of the bed, quickly putting on his clothes. Without saying a word, he sped out of the room and out the front door.
A loud yelp startled the boy. He turned away from his sleeping mother and ran downstairs, two steps at a time.
Crows flooded into the hallway in droves, swarming over uncle so-and-so, ravenously ripping ribbons of flesh from his body.
By the time his mother woke up and found him sitting cross-legged in the hallway, watching the crows feast, all remained of uncle so-and-so was a half-eaten skull and a pile of bones.
His eyeballs dangled from their sockets for but a moment before being snatched up and swallowed by a large crow. They swarmed past his picked-clean skeleton and regarded the boy and his mother.
She barely had time to open her mouth to scream before they engulfed her, taking her down as one by one, they flew into her face, biting chunks from her cheeks, tearing out her tongue, and pecking at her eyes. She fell down, arms flailing, begging him for help.
The boy stepped past her to turn on the TV. It was Saturday after all and there were children’s programmes on that he never got to watch during the week, except for the Friday night animal show.
He cheered to see his favorite show was on, with his favorite animal behaviorist talking about birds while she walked in a park, face beaming with wonder and joy.
“Crows are fascinating animals. Clever, adaptable, and surprisingly trainable. Here, let me show you.”
She made a low whistle with her lips and smiled. The camera panned to the sky.
“Here they come!” she beamed. A murder of crows flew down to her and fluttered around her like happy dogs around their master.
Something made the boy turn. The crows were gone. He was alone with his mother’s skeleton.
On the TV, the nice lady was smiling. “Crows eat anything. These chaps look like they’ve had quite a breakfast!”
The boy clapped and cheered.
Christina Sng is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A COLLECTION OF NIGHTMARES (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2017). Her fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Grievous Angel, New Myths, and Space and Time. Visit her at http://www.christinasng.com and connect on social media @christinasng.