Ian calmly walks toward Dr. Rutherford’s office while orderlies and guards run by to stop the brewing riot. Coming to the door, he leans against the far wall and waits for the hallway to clear of watchful eyes. He chuckles when he sees that the name plate has fallen off and cracked in half, a sign that Corvus is trying to be funny. The sight does make Ian hesitate when he approaches the office and he wonders if this is part of the mysterious man’s plan. Yet the desire to know more about Raven’s Hold drives him to slip inside the room and wedge a chair under the handle. He goes about pulling the small shade on the door’s window and closing all but one of the blinds. He peers outside to watch the orderlies chase a few patients around the garden and to the distant tennis court. A trio of ravens watches him from the trees, the largest of them peeking at the remains of a rabbit.
“I probably don’t have much time, so let’s look at the files,” Ian whispers while approaching the desk.
Opening every drawer, he is surprised to find nothing more than piles of notebooks and clipboards. Digging to the bottom of a drawer, he tries to find the oldest information and uncover more about Corvus. Ian flips through the notebook and frowns when he sees nothing more than illegible scribbles. A knot forms in his stomach as he rapidly checks every piece of paper in the desk and tosses each one to the floor. None of them have clear words and remind him of when a person pretends to write something down. The only objects he can discern on the pages are the occasional raven doodles that the late doctor had put in the margins.
As the distant shouting grows louder, Ian turns his attention to the filing cabinets and finds the same useless pen marks. He has some hope when he finds a folder full of yellowed newspaper clippings, but they are nothing more than old articles on psychology and the benefits of therapy. Only one of them mentions Dr. Rutherford and how she graduated from the top of her class. The article is nothing more than a biographical piece from her college paper, which only reveals her ambition and previous success. The quote from the doctor talks about changing the world even if it does not want to be changed, which sounds both egotistical and bizarrely noble to Ian. If anything, he has no idea how somebody that wants to make the world a better place would end up creating Raven’s Hold.
“There has to be something on Corvus in here,” Ian says to himself while he walks among the strewn papers. He wanders to a bookcase and checks the largest tome to see if it has real words in it. “These are real, but the spines are so stiff. It’s like they’ve never been opened, which wouldn’t surprise me. She could have hidden the information in one of the books, but there are too many to check. I’m pushing my luck already. Maybe I’m wrong and she did keep everything in the staff area. Kind of risky considering Corvus isn’t something she’d want other people to know about. I think. I’m not really sure what he is.”
Flapping wings beat on the windows, so Ian goes to open the blinds and finds the massive flock of ravens have gathered outside. Barely moving and patient, the ebony birds are perched in the trees and on the fences. The grass is masked by those that were too slow to get a higher seat for whatever is about to occur. Gazing out to the forest, Ian notices that there are no leaves on the branches and the black coating are more ravens. He remembers that there were people outside and searches for them, which makes him nervously aware that the shouting has stopped. With nothing to hear besides the occasional caw and ruffling feathers, the young man fears that he may be the only person left on the island.
“I don’t know what you’re up to, Corvus, but bringing your own house down won’t help you,” Ian says, earning a hiss from the nearest bird. Backing away from the window, he relaxes when he hears several people rush by the door. “Guess they got everything under control, which means they’ll check the office soon. I don’t care if they find me in here, but I want to uncover something. Where could she have hidden the information?”
“You assume there’s something to be found,” Corvus answers, his voice emanating from the flock outside. One of the ravens leaps onto the sill and opens its mouth to reveal a human tongue inside. “I can always rebuild my home. The question is if the same can be said about you. I don’t know why you’re so driven to learn about me. You can live here in bliss like the others. Even your sister has found a role here.”
“What about her husband and daughters?”
The raven ruffles its feathers to appear twice its normal size and releases a maniacal chuckle. “Wives and mothers are lost all the time. The girls will survive and grow up. If either of them perk my interest then I’ll use their mother to bring them to me. After all, I prefer to have damaged toys.”
Ian grabs the nearest blunt object, which is a raven-shaped paperweight, and hurls it at the bird. The animal explodes into a curtain of feathers and the rest of the flock takes to the sky where they circle the entire island. Watching the mass of shadows, Ian gets an idea and hurries around the room in search of every raven figurine. He smashes each one on the floor, which causes the building to rumble and the island to gradually lose its color. Grabbing a book, he throws it at the stuffed bird above the door to knock the yellow-eyed decoration down. Pouncing on the raven, he tears its head off to find a crisp piece of paper inside. The quakes stop and Ian can hear a sigh of defeat that chills his blood.
“This is an invitation to Raven’s Hold and it’s addressed to Dr. Rutherford. It was sent thirty-seven years ago,” he says, jumping when the door shakes from a strong blow. He moves to a corner and searches for a weapon, but all he can find is a wooden backscratcher. “I thought she made this place and you were a patient who took over. Maybe even an entity that she uncovered or something. I mean, you’re obviously not human. Never thought you were behind Raven’s Hold. Are you even listening, Corvus?”
“Sweetie isn’t happy with you, little puppy,” Dawn whispers as she slips through the window. The brunette is wearing a beautiful wedding dress and spins a bouquet that is made of rose-colored knives. “We were happy here and you ruined it. Every chance we gave you to be part of our family was thrown in our faces. Because of you, we had to kill Grace and so many patients. All to keep up appearances and remove the threats. Now I might have to go away and on my wedding day too.”
“Why didn’t you just kill me?” Ian asks while he moves for the door and points the backscratcher at the weeping woman. He trips over a large object and crashes to the floor next to a gutted unicorn. “If I was becoming such a threat then you could have eliminated me like you did with the others. So, why am I still alive?”
“I don’t know, but I still hate you. I want you to suffer for hurting my sweetie,” the young woman answers, wiping her tears with the sharp bouquet. Deep cuts are left beneath her eyes, which bleed down her cheeks, along her neck, and under her collar. “Maybe sweetie saw something in you that he wanted. He senses stuff even from so far away, but he doesn’t always know what it is. That’s how I came here. He had Grace bring me to his world and raised me from the depths. He would have done the same to you, but you’re so ungrateful, little puppy. Such a naughty, evil little puppy.”
Ian scrambles to his feet and backs against the door, which merges with the wall. “What are you two?”
“My name is Dawn Addison and I was alone until my sweetie freed me from my prison. He makes me whole and you’re being a bad puppy,” the woman replies. She kneels next to the dead animal and removes its horn, slipping the golden piece under her skirts. “My sweetie holds reality in his hands, but the human world is cruel. He was driven into the shadows and took refuge on this island. Lonely and bored, he created Raven’s Hold to bring the broken ones to his doorstep. Then he found Grace and they turned his haven into an Eden for those of us strong enough to thrive in his world. Nobody really misses people like you, little puppy. Eventually they stop looking and write down that you died by your own hand. Funny how you don’t need a body to claim somebody is dead.”
“So you’re human?”
“I’m his imperfect, loving bride.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“That’s because you’re too normal. Sadly, it’s too late to fix that.”
When Dawn surges forward, Ian swings the backscratcher and catches her in the eye. As she screams and flails, the bouquet still slashes him across the chest. Falling back in pain, the young man passes through the door as if it is not there and lands in the hallway. With a rippling shriek, Dawn tries to follow by pouncing through the entrance. She makes it halfway through before the wood becomes solid and she is trapped within the portal. Crying and cursing, the brunette beats on the floor and tries to free herself while Ian backs away. A look of surprise is on the woman’s face before she is violently yanked back into the office and the doorway changes into a piece of solid wall.
Without a window to see through, Ian is unaware of the desolate wasteland that covering the island. From the depths of the distant lake, a figure composed of shadows and feathers emerges. Corvus sheds his outer coating and gazes at the raven-infested sky, the brief views of the sun too much for his amber eyes. Having been in the basement for decades, he savors his first breath of fresh air and releases a tired sigh. Staring at Raven’s Hold, he can see patches of the distant building blinking out of existence. The screams of those inside the vanishing sections makes his heart ache, which cause the barbed vines of the forest to race toward the shore.
“Now my home crumbles before my eyes,” Corvus whispers while a black suit sprouts from his exposed skin. Reaching down, he captures the last flower of the island and tucks the green blossom into his lapel. “And on my wedding day too.”