Crow was restless. There was something in the air, but he wasn’t sure what. The breeze stood very still, as if holding its breath. The crickets and grasshoppers refused to chirp and Crow’s ears heard nothing but silence. He had not been able to find any breakfast because all the worms remained safely tucked inside the earth. Even the sun hung low in the sky, spreading its warmth reluctantly over the land. It was as if nature were in mourning for some impending tragedy.
Crow spread his black, shiny feathers and took flight. He found himself flapping his wings more earnestly than usual, probably due to the stillness of the heavens. He longed to soar higher and higher, among the clouds. But, he stayed low just in case hawks were out hunting. He didn’t see any signs of his predators, but tried to camouflage himself among the tree canopy anyway. On an eerie day like today, he knew he needed to be extra careful.
Soon Crow grew weary and began searching for a place to rest. His keen black eyes scanned the landscape below for a suitable spot to perch. He noticed a commotion around the Place of the Skull and swooped down for a closer look. Three men hung on large wooden crosses. Although brutal, it was not an uncommon sight for Crow. He had noticed that humans frequently turned on one another and the result was usually a gory display like the one below.
Crow glided to a stop and gently landed on the beam of one of the wooden crosses. He pecked at the beam with his long, black beak and swiveled his glossy head around to look at the man hanging beside him. The man had been badly beaten and, at first, Crow was unsure whether he was dead or alive. Then, Crow heard him gasping for breath. Crow looked at his face and noticed he was a young man. A circle of thorns pierced his flesh and a sign hung above his head with writing in human language. Crow wondered what it said.
“King of the Jews.” Crow struggled to hear the young man’s voice. He had to lean so close to the man’s face that his whisper ruffled the sleek feathers on Crow’s back. “It says King of the Jews.”
Crow was astonished. The young man could hear his thoughts. Such a thing had never happened to Crow before.
Are you their King? Crow thought.
“I am their Savior.”
Crow looked around at all the angry people shouting cruel words to the young man. They did indeed look like people who needed a Savior.
Then why do they torture you?
“They do not recognize me.”
Crow found this very strange. The avian world was neat and orderly. Birds were always aware of their special place in the pecking order. They would never torment a leader in this manner.
Why don’t you tell them who you are?
“It wouldn’t matter. I’ve known this day was coming for a long time. My death is necessary to save them from their sins.” The young Savior’s voice was becoming even weaker. Crow could barely make out his words.
Although he didn’t understand everything the man was saying, Crow saw the horrific spectacle around him and knew the people needed to be saved from their evil ways. But, he thought it terribly sad that this kind young man who could hear his thoughts and would take the time to talk with him was going to die. After all, he was only a crow.
Suddenly, the young man groaned in a loud voice, “It is finished.”
The cry startled Crow and he rose up off the cross with flapping wings. When he looked down he saw the young man’s body, but Crow knew his spirit had left him. He looked up and cawed in agony at the sight of the blood-red sky while the earth itself trembled below.
Humans did not stop hanging men on crosses after that day, but Crow and all feathered creatures of flight were forever changed. Even now, especially when the fall air turns crisp, birds will sometimes see a wooden cross with a human form hanging limply in the breeze. From their place in the clouds, they avoid the plaid shirt and worn denim hanging among the corn fields. They refuse to perch on the cross out of reverence and respect for the young man who had a conversation with Crow so many years ago.
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