That morning I had woken up before my alarm to the sound of a cat dry-heaving in what seemed like the dead of night. I sprinted out of my bed and quickly turned on the kitchen light to find the floor tile void of hairballs. I looked down at the cat looking unfazed at the seemingly urgent situation and watched her calmly walk away into another room as though nothing was wrong. This was my first warning.
I suppose I can go on my run outside a little earlier today. I thought to myself. The sunrise, nautical or otherwise, was nearly an hour away, so I decided to change my morning schedule around to do some of my indoor exercises with weights prior to my morning run outdoors. This was my first mistake.
After I had finished my workout indoors, I laced up my tennis shoes, grabbed my running gear and various defense mechanisms, pulled up my hot pink neck gator, and grabbed my phone. I opened the fitness app to track my mileage and decided to hold the phone in my hand while I took off at a steady jogging pace. This was my second mistake.
I was already a couple of miles into a strenuous run down the path of trees adorned with vibrant reds, oranges, and browns when I heard a murder of large black crows gathering on top of nearby street lamps. I looked up to see the large birds quickly swarming overhead. Several of the creatures began to caw and swooped down as I continued along the autumnal corridor. They peered down at me as I lifted one foot in front of the other in an attempt to keep my original steady pace. This was my second warning—but it wasn’t the first-time black crows behaved in this manner around me.
In various pieces of mythology from around the world, the crow appears as a messenger. Whether the message is good or bad is determined by what cultural and mythological lens, you view the warm-blooded and beaked vertebrates. Researchers say crows never forget a face and that they hold grudges, too. Scientists have also discovered that crows have great memories, that they can recognize a human face and behavior, and that they can pass that information on to their offspring. Whenever I thought about a crow’s memory, I would remember the story of my mother and her encounter with crows.
While walking home one afternoon in elementary school, my mother spotted an abandoned baby crow and took it upon herself to try and save the poor pitiful thing. She wrapped the baby bird in her favorite jacket and continued her walk home with the ailing bird tucked safely away inside. A murder of crows had picked up the scent of the sickly bird in my mother’s care and began their taunting swoops to try and “save the kidnapped youngling.” With my mother’s heart racing and failed attempts at ditching the crows, she gave the baby up and ran home to safety. However, her encounter with the birds wasn’t over yet.
The scent from the ailing baby bird had apparently still lingered on my mother’s favorite jacket even after washing it thoroughly, she explained, because when she walked home the next time while wearing the same coat, another murder of crows had come to attack her again. She tried to outrun the angry birds to no avail swatting at swooping crows left and right. Realizing that the birds were pecking at her jacket, she slipped out from the article of clothing and flung it away from her. As she continued to run home, she noticed that the birds had followed through with their task of pecking away at the abandoned outer layer of clothing. They never did bother her again after she sacrificed her coat, but the sour taste of vengeful crow had already set into her thoughts. She despised crows and passed the story along to her two daughters.
While remembering this story, my heart raced a little as the birds continued to swoop lower overhead. I quickened my pace, not sure what to make of the divebombing feathered beings until I saw the world around me grind to a halt. I felt the tip of my left foot caught onto something I never even got to see, and then noticed my entire body pivoting at the toe like a fulcrum until it crashed—hard—into the concrete beneath me.
I was stunned for a moment. I had technically never fallen while running prior to this day. I immediately felt a sharp, aching pain on my right knee and the little knuckles on my right hand’s intermediate phalanges. I pushed myself up after a moment and finished the last half mile of my run, still shocked at what happened. I noticed while running the rest of the way that the crows were nowhere to be found. It was utterly silent outside the occasional expletive that left my mouth.
It wasn’t until I went to turn off the tracker on my phone when I realized that the fall had chipped through my phone case, the glass screen protector, and all five layers of glasses underneath that, leaving me unable to use the bottom half of my phone. I looked down at my right hand to notice that my kiss with concrete had eaten away at nearly all the skin on each of those tiny knuckles. I was in pain, but all I could think about were the crows.
Did the murder of crows gather in generational revenge hoping for the blood of my mother’s offspring, or were the crows warning me in a self-fulfilling prophecy of my terrible meeting with the cold hard ground? Perhaps it was just a weird freak accident that left me void of a phone for a few days?
There were other stories involving me alone with groups of crows that were seemingly either warnings of or causes of a series of unfortunate events. Perhaps this is why the crow always gets a bad rap? Perhaps their ominous history of negative stereotypes precedes them and is attached to randomized events with adverse outcomes furthering their haunting demeanor? I suppose I will never know, but I’m aware now that I probably should run with these fragile phones tucked away safely so that I don’t damage the hardware.