On an overcast day in fall the heavens opened up stripping the clouds of their gray shadows. Light streamed down to the earth in rays calling to the recently deceased. It colored the lifeless November forests and fields in patches of warm tans and browns. Maybe what could even be called a lighter gold; a cousin to the light above. The golden glory signaled a display of birds flocking towards the very edge of a golden staircase to another world. Doves and pigeons carriers of the dead and messengers for the world beyond that staircase. Carriers because the calling light does not often touch the place where a soul had died.
A shadow flickered through the beauty like black smoke; a single raven drifted through the glorious sky. Not in a place a bird of his kind is usually seen. Yet he was here all the same watching the show. Lucky birds he thought they bring hope and good guiding people to the portal to the world beyond. All birds are a messenger of some sort he contemplates. The robins and bluebirds messengers of spring, the gulls messengers of the sea, and then my kind. The crows and ravens messengers of disease and death. It is my duty to warn people of death in hope that they listen and take the moments to show love or change the outcome. They never listen though he siged, they just don't seem to understand or care. Raven landed gently in a field away from the light not wanting to hear the joyous calls of spirits or even worse see the spirits themselves eyes streaming in happiness even in death. That was when he first felt her.
Quiet whispers of sobs the echoes of a long dead child and her lingering scent of honeydew drifting from where the girl's spirit shivered and shook. She hid under the very ferns where she had died her bones scattered only a little beyond the ferns. The scent of death so long gone Raven couldn't even catch it. The little girl's spirit had been here a long time and Raven's heart broke for her in that instant. He had never associated himself with spirits before usually because they resented him because they had not realized sooner from his warnings that they were doomed. After the person died Raven was usually pretty quick to get out of there before the angry and sometimes vengeful spirit left their corpse.
Yet he felt a twinge in his heart for the girl and hopped over to the little spirit cawing comfortingly, "Child please don't cry, what is your name little one?" The little girl's spirit gave out a surprised squeak falling back into the ferns managing to disturb their essence enough to send down a rain of icy dew. She shivered as if the body she no longer possessed could feel the cold droplet shower. She continued to sniffle and just when Raven didn't think he was going to get an answer she responded very quietly with the breeze of a ghostly sigh.
"My name is Suletu."
Raven almost fell over because of this one word. Suletu. He suddenly was drawn closer to the little spirit girl trying to get a better look at the child. Something he had not done since he was a young bird just learning the role he played in this world. Yes, he thought to himself she seems to be of native american descent although he could not place the tribe. Raven respected the old ways of the real Americans, how they treated the earth, and the fact that on their land fewer negative connotations seemed to follow him. Suletu watched Raven deep in thought staring off into space past her with glazed eyes like her grandmother's eyes had done when she was lost in memories.
For a moment a beam of sun hit Raven missing Suletu by a mere foot but as it hit him his glossy feathers shone like black obistan with indigo highlights. Suletu was curious even as a spirit and reached out a small ghostly hand to touch the no longer shimmering feathers as the sun beam faded away. Her touch snapped Raven out of his thoughts like a icy prick. In an instant he saw a few flashes of Suletu's life. He saw images of flowers parents and siblings and then some images from her last moments of life a white man with a rabbit and then dark woods. Raven closed his eyes and began flapping his wings trying to shake the spirit girl's hold off in a fight-flight reaction. He did not want to see Suletu's life and death.
The sudden motion from Raven frightened Suletu her eyes widening in shock as her hand clamped harder on Raven's wing holding on as the he took off with the spirit girl hanging on. The ghost child let out a shriek of fear that soon changed to joy as she realized that flying was kind of fun as she held on to Raven's back. Raven's panic began to subside as the images and memories faded leaving only Suletu's touch. It was a cold touch but faintly there like a light breeze ruffling his feathers. He tilted his head back a little to see what was going on now that she was quiet and saw her ghostly eye shining with excited joy as she looked down to ground and up at the clouds and sunbeams ripping through them. So he glided around a while letting the child enjoy the ride as he thought to himself so this is what it feels like to carry a spirit. This he said is pure happiness as he let the essence of joy coming from Suletu was over him. A warm spot for the child grew in the dark bird's heart as they soared above fields and woods. The golds and browns seemed to enchant the child along with every cloud and sun beam.
After a while of flying however Raven began to get tired and it seemed Suletu was growing lethargic whether or not ghosts slept Raven did not know. He also was not sure of what to do next. That was until he saw the golden staircase in the distance it seemed to call out to him bring the child to me. So Raven began a slow ascend in the direction of the staircase the only black dot among many greys and whites as he joined the pigeons and dove flocks heading for the same destination. The other birds gave Raven funny looks not sure what to do. They knew he didn't belong there and he knew he didn't belong there and they all just kept flying anyways. The other birds began to point and whisper about the child on Raven's back not sure what exactly was going on. Until one brave pigeon of a smaller brain and thinking capacity named Ronald dive bombed the bigger bird.
"What do you think you are doing death-bird!" he shrieked as he swooped at Raven a second time pulling out some feathers with his talons. The older ghost, a drunk to his last drop, on Ronald's back cackled as Suletu let out a surprised scream and almost fell off Raven's back as she rolled backwards.
"I am bringing this ghost child, Suletu, to the golden staircase since you birds did not notice her crying in the brush.
"She is not welcome at the golden gate!" called a bird or spirit from somewhere in the flock. "She is an heathen indian those stairs are for good christian believers, she doesn't belong on the golden staircase anymore than you do you dirty self serving bird!" screamed out the same voice. Yeah definitely a spirit Raven thought to himself that was way too intelligent for a pigeon or a dove, but not by much. Logic was definitely not on Raven's side though as Ronald and more birds began to swoop at him as he got closer to the staircase. He duck and dove and flew in and out of the flocks trying to shake his aggressors and keep Suletu safe. He would keep Suletu safe and get her to the portal if it was the last thing he did he thought as he flew through the pain. The other birds became aggressive actually knocking into Raven and pulling on his tail and wing feathers doing anything to try to make him fall.
Raven just kept flying however taking the abuse he would worry about fighting back once Suletu was safe on the staircase. Wait. He thought once she is on the staircase what is to keep them from going after little Suletu? I must keep her safe. So with that thought Raven sped up as they approached the staircase while other birds slowed down to drop off their passengers. They all watched him sure he was about to crash into the staircase and drop to his death. However, when Raven had almost reached the staircase he shot up flapping as quick as he could ascending alongside the spiraling staircase. The pigeons and doves below shrieked in indignity about how he could not do that and that they would not let him do that and soon a angry flock was after Raven. They were gaining on Raven but he could just see the golden gates starting to take shape ahead when lightning and thunder boomed and shot across the sunny sky.
An incredible voice boomed from behind the gates, "What is this madness? Who goes there?" The spirits walking on the staircase froze while the birds hovered where they had stopped when the lightning flashed and landed on the railing one by one. From their seats all the pigeons and doves started talking at once erupting into feathered chaos. "QUIET!" the voice thundered louder than thunder itself scattering lose feathers from fear everywhere on the wind. "Raven-bird, fly forward." the voice commanded after the other birds had settled and quieted from their shock. Raven in fear and awe slowly glided up to the gates. What had he been thinking he shouldn't have been here. The gates glistened like the most magnificent sunset Raven had ever seen and yet would never see naturally painting the horizon. "Why do you fly here dark one?" the voice boomed gently like faraway rolling thunder. Raven softly landed folded his wings and then stepped forward a few steps to let Suletu slide gently off his back. He stood by the little ghost child who hugged her knees to her chest after being plopped down on the ground. Even in death her body shook in fear but Suletu's eyes glowed and ghostly tears of happiness rained from them as she looked up in awe at the closed golden gates. Raven waited for the voice to speak again but when no words came thundering over the gate he stepped forward.
"Her name is Suletu, and she has been long forgotten and looked over by those who bring spirits to the staircase. I did not mean for her to ride on my back but once she was there I decided to bring her to where all the spirits that the light doesn't touch go. Then I was chased so I decided to drop her off right at the gate. I'm sorry." raven said finishing his story with a bow. Excruciating moments passed before the thunder voice responded.
"What are you sorry for Raven?" the voice asked.
"Well, I guess I am sorry for being where I wasn't suppose to be." he stated fluffing his feathers out and flapping his wings nervously.
"Raven-bird all are welcome at my gates especially one returning one of my lost children...." The voice said trailing off. From beyond the gates a light streamed through from the clouds even higher up illuminating Suletu in glorious light. Raven held his breath in awe as more images from Suletu's life floated around in the golden light as it illuminated her essence from the inside out.
"Ah yes little Suletu your family has been waiting for you for a very long time my dear." the voice said as the gate slowly drifted open as if blown by a breeze. "Come little one your family is here and your home is here now" Suletu stood up with a new strength glowing from some inner light and began to slowly step forward.
"Mother? Father?" she called with each step. "Oh its so beautiful..." she sighed to herself as if seeing something beyond the gates. She turned around and looked at Raven with the glory of the sky burning behind her. "Thank you Raven." she sighed "Thank you for everything I will never forget you, until I see you again." she said holding out her hand in a gesture of friendship that Raven mimicked. Then she turned and passed through the gates as they shut behind her the lights receding with Suletu's form.
"Sir?" Raven called out questionably not sure how to address the voice.
"Yes I am listening raven-bird." the voice boomed back.
"The other birds down there said that someone of Suletu's kind didn't belong here wherever here is... is that true?"
"Like I said before raven-bird ALL are welcome beyond these gates. If their spirits can find their way here then they are mine whether they are beast or man I claim them as mine and I will take care of them for eternity. I hold no restrictions this is not a selective club. All are equal and loved in my eyes. It doesn't matter if they are rich, poor, young, old, sick healthy, human, or beast and so on. If they believe they find their way here and they find their way here if they believe. So they can be welcomed with open arms and forgiven to have a second chance and to start a new life. Having faith alone is enough." The voice explained with the ancient rhythm and power of waves crashing along a shore. "So have faith raven-bird and let that be all the certainty you need to live how you want to, I have faith that you understand me and know what you want." the voice finished.
"Thank you." Raven said softly looking down at his talons picking at the clouds as he he flapped his wings a little and ruffled his feathers getting ready to fly off. If Raven was human he would have been more than a little pink in the face with bashfulness. He was just as thankful though as any of the human spirits climbing up that staircase he felt as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. "Good-bye!" Raven called as flapped up and then began descending not sure of what else to do.
"Good-bye and good luck raven-bird, I will see you again someday." the voice called to the black bird as he drifted away. Through the golden clouds raven flew alongside the golden staircase he knew he would see again someday. Many time he would see it in fact as he and then more crows and ravens would help bring spirits to the staircase. They would find that they were best suited in helping the sad and angry spirits to let go and find their way in the world. Someday Raven himself would fly up to that gate to join Suletu, the little spirit who started it all and they would soar together. He would see what the world beyond held for him because he had found his faith and then kept it through all those years.