My Name Is Raven
My name is raven. I’m also called suffering. And war and death. Really, I don’t understand why I deserve such negative associations.
In Japan I’m red and I’m a symbol of the sun and a messenger of the gods. Here, though, I’m black, like the slag heap outside a mine on which nothing will grow. Black. And I’m never on good terms with the sun—no, the sun chases me away. I can’t stand its rays, and I have to hide. It won’t turn me to stone, but it will reduce me to ashes. The sun is bad.
And there are no gods—not a single one. I don’t say this lightly. I’ve been everywhere—and I am simultaneously nowhere—so I know it for a fact. Neither up on high, nor down below, is anyone waiting for you. Nobody is responsible for your fate—only me. Suffering and solace, all at the same time.
I come when the mind is asleep. Sure, there are some people who don’t really sleep, who never fully withdraw from events. They’re conscious—analyzing, counting, assessing—twenty-four hours a day. That’s fine with me. Sometimes I can butt in between those calculations. One moment of inattention, of longer thought, is enough for me to enter their awareness and to subordinate it to my own—the clarity of their thinking is pretty close to madness. Apart from the ones who are occupied with calculating, the other people who don’t sleep are those who love and are loved. This love fuels them, forces them onward, compels them to analyze situations and make the choices that will allow them to keep loving, to keep displaying their love. You simply won’t make certain choices when you’re in love—for example, you won’t choose suicide or escape. If somebody’s in love, they shut their door to me. I won’t visit them—there’s no place for me there.
But there are also people who don’t know love. People think that they’re born with love, but that’s a myth. You’re born into pain, a pain so big that it horrifies even me, although I’ve seen wars upon wars—remember, I’m rumored to follow the trail of dead that stretch out behind the world’s armies. That’s yet another superstition about me—when I want corpses, I can arrange for them all on my own. But that’s not our topic—we were talking about love. You have to learn how to love.
How does it work? It’s very straightforward—well, usually straightforward. You give love and you get love—just like that. You give a scrap, a tiny piece. A shred, a sliver, a molecule. Even without water it’ll grow, this love about which you talk, and dream, and sing, and write. By the way: I hate writers, all of them, good and bad, with Poe at the top of the pile. I dissociate myself from that poem absolutely, and my caw doesn’t in the least resemble “nevermore.”
Anyway, this matter with love is really quite trivial. You give, you get—that’s it. Easy? Easy. An exchange, something for something, from hand to hand, from one heart to another—whatever image you prefer. But amongst you there are blockheads. Blockheads who don’t understand. They can’t learn to love no matter how much love they receive. They are blind, handicapped. They will never learn. These are my candidates for friends. These dummies, with their stiff hands and their cold mouths that no kiss will warm. My dummies, the toys with which I’ll play until I get bored. And I get bored quickly.
The ones who crave love all the time are a little bit less boring. They saw love out there once, touched it for a little while, and then had the bubble pop. Soapy, it shimmered with all the colors of the rainbow, only to disappear silently after a brief moment. I love that metaphor. I overuse it, but it’s so good and it works with almost any situation. Your life is a bubble, a balloon that will pop and you’ll be gone.
But let’s come back, let’s hurry back, to the subject of the ones who’ve had love, but had it taken away from them. Just like that. The ones whose love disappeared, who open their mouths to shout, to call it back. Who cry, even though crying doesn’t help. The bubble has exploded and nothing will put it back together. The only option is to search for a new love somewhere else. It isn’t so rare so that your expedition can’t succeed. But there are many who won’t find it anyway. The ones who were loved and now aren’t—and who want so desperately to be loved again. They are interesting, very interesting, to me.
I offer myself to them, and they’re so hungry for love that they welcome me.
Humans—you’re so funny! It’s so easy to delude you. The most intelligent animal on this planet, Homo sapiens is nonetheless utterly, simply stupid. Or maybe not so much stupid as blind. It’s the sun—this sun is blinding you. The sun is the problem, I think. It shines straight into your eyes, causes this giddiness, this desire, the craving for love. Not necessarily with romantic love—purely platonic love will work. You’re like wanderers in the desert, crawling towards a mirage because there might be water there. Aqua vita. Love is the drink of life to you, and you will follow its mirage everywhere, everywhere.
And I willingly take you there. At your service. Because it’s funny. I like games.
“Get to the point!” you say. Enough chatting, enough showing the off your erudition, citing symbolism and mythology. You want concrete information: what’s this game, what are the rules? “Tell me!” Unfortunately, with me nothing is specific. Everything is muddy, like pond water. Everything is an element in a game for which I determine the rules on the fly.
I am raven, Apollo’s prophetic bird, punished by him for the fact that I told the truth. I told the truth! That was our game, me and him. I was more insightful than my master and I knew what his lover deserved. I told him that, very straightforwardly, very precisely. He killed her. And he turned me from white to black. I don’t care about the color, though, provided that I have someone to play with, the way I played with the very gods at the beginning.
Then I switched to mortals. Gods are very inconsistent. For example: they aren’t here and yet they are—they don’t exist and yet they do. Am I expressing myself clearly?
People—apart from the fact that they’re very fond of love and covet it, their Holy Grail—also adore predictions. Explaining that the future doesn’t exist, so there’s really nothing to predict, makes no sense to people. You want it, you want to know what’s coming. What on Earth for? If something is waiting for you, it’s not going to get bored and go away. And besides, there’s nothing waiting, because as I said there’s no such thing as the future. But you demand an answer from me anyway, a hint about which path you should choose. You think it’ll make you feel better, so I give you hints. They’re unusually colorful, real fireworks—and just as worthless as fireworks. Darkness surrounds you, then something flashes brightly for a moment, and afterward the darkness seems even darker than before. Better not to look into the light. Your eyes ache. First from the light and then from darkness.
We’ve talked about so many things so far, serious matters, the very things that make you human, and yet we seem to be pretty much where we started. What can I say? I’m not a diplomat. Love? We talked about it. The future? We covered that. But I think that it’s possible to get at something simpler, like you simplify a polynomial. I am searching, searching. I’m searching for the word, I’m searching for the key, I’m looking for this nominative case. And I have it—I always find what I want, always. In contrast to you—nine times out of ten you can’t find what you’re looking for. Nine times out of ten the thing you pick won’t be the one you need. And that one time someone gets it right? It doesn’t matter—that guy’s nuts. We don’t need madmen. Good night and sweet dreams to him.
You need to believe that your life has some meaning. That’s the thing! Alpha and omega? I don’t know, I stay away from Christian symbolism, although I admit it’s interesting. I say that unwillingly, very reluctantly—generally speaking all organized worship disgusts me. Alpha and omega. Allah, Buddha—who do you still have in your pantheon? Fuck it, they’re nonsense, but useful nonsense. You desire them in order to believe that your life has meaning. Without that belief, the suicides rate would soar. But if there’s a god of some kind and he has appointed you, or exiled you, whatever—if he has some plan for you (and since he’s a god, that plan must be important)—then your existence is likewise important. It makes a difference, it’s what the universe is all about. Excuse me, I just have to laugh. It’s funny, this kind of thinking—it’s a good joke.
There’ s no meaning, no purpose in your existence—nothing like that. Nothing. You’re a protein which, with time, will break down into dust. And worms will gobble the pieces down. So much for the whole subject.
Don’t chase me away—it’s not my fault that life’s this way. I simply have the courage to say it and a willingness to say it bluntly. There’s nothing special about you. No meaning. No purpose. No influence. You affect nothing. No change—you’re not an agent of change. You’re an object.
I don’t know why I tell you any of this. I shouldn’t. Firstly, it’ll have no effect. You’ll remain convinced that you’re the navel of the universe—however large or small you are, it nevertheless revolves around you. Secondly: the belief in meaning, and the demand for it, are good for me. I can plant the idea and you’ll gorge yourself on it until you’re nauseated. I only have to pretend that there’s some activity, some behavior or act that—if you do it—will alter the world. The world will change. Fortune’s favor will come to you—fame, you people love fame. The world will be better. It’ll be perfect. Your pursuit of the good is touching to me—and you’re ready to behave like such bastards to achieve it! I apologize for my uncivil tongue. I’m actually not sure that I even have a tongue, although if I didn’t I wouldn’t caw. Probably. With me nothing is certain.
My name is raven.
Am I real?
I don’t know.
About the Author
I began my writing career in 2012 after leaving the IT industry. In Poland, I’ve had several successful novels published by traditional publishers. In 2015, I made the decision to switch to self-publishing and start my international career.
In 2015, I published the English edition of my intense psychological thriller Absolute Sunset. This was one of the most talked-about books in Poland in 2012, and the English edition has been equally well-received.
In 2016, I published One God—a trilogy of techno-thrillers about corporate control of genetic modifications. Originally published in Polish as a single long novel, the English version was expanded and re-written to create a trilogy with lots of great new scenes.
Now I’m working on another psychological thriller, a brand-new story written directly in English for my English readers.
All of my books cross genres—I like to experiment with different styles to create the effect I want, and to give my readers a unique experience. My Polish background gives me a different perspective and makes my writing fresh, although I feel it’s still accessible—inside we’re all the same, after all.
You can read my free short stories, get writing tips, and catch up with me on my blog at katamlek.com. If you like my work, you can become my patron on Patreon and get future books for free. And of course, you can find me on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.