When the final days came, it was said that Satan walked the Earth in the guise of a crow. Those who feared him called him Scarecrow or sometimes Black Jack. I know him as the Crowman.
I speak for him.
Across the face of the Earth, in every nation, great suffering arose and billions perished. An age of solar flares began, rendering much of our technology useless. The cataclysms that befell us, the famine and sicknesses, the wars – it was all the work of the Crowman, so they said. Yet it was ignorance that fuelled our terror of him and the rumours of his wickedness.
Ignorance and convenience; we needed someone to blame.
None who beheld the Crowman, whether in dreams or in reality, ever forgot him. Nor will he be forgotten now. We still recall his deeds of war and sacrifice. We tell his story to our children so that they may pass it on to theirs. Only in this way can we keep him close and dispel the lies. This you must understand: the Crowman is no more evil than you or I.
Hear his tale now. Take it to heart.
Though it pains me, I will tell it, clear and true.
I do not want to recount it. I do not want to recall the casting out of so much goodness, nor the reaping of so much pain. But, for the sake of all of us, I must and I will. Mark it well. Tell your kin and those you love his story. Tell them this: Satan walks nowhere on this Earth, nor has he ever, save where he treads within the human heart. Tell his story and let us keep the Crowman alive for as long as our kind walks the greening byways of this world.
Above all, make them understand one thing: the Crowman is real.
Where does his story begin? It begins in England, not really all that long ago. It begins with a nativity; the coming into the world of a special child. It was this infant who changed everything. This lonely boy, who became a man in the harshest of times; it was he who was destined to seek out the Crowman, only he who had the grace and strength to find him. It was this wondrous boy who revealed the Crowman to the world.
I am an old man now, broken and blind. But I still see the boy’s journey. I see it with great clarity, as though I’m sitting on his shoulder or holding his hand. Sometimes I look out through his eyes, other times I watch from above. I see everything, even the things he couldn’t. I find I want to shout to him, to push him this way or that, to warn him about what I know is coming. But I can’t, of course. His story, and the story of the Crowman, is already over. It finished long, long ago and there’s no changing any of it now.
All I can do is tell it. And in the telling, resurrect him for the good of all. For, without the teller, there is no tale. And without this tale, there can be no world.
What others have said about Black Feathers…
“Joseph D’Lacey has written a contemporary fairy-tale; here, in Black Feathers, you’ll get everything you want to find in a work of dark, apocalyptic fiction: menace and magic aplenty, and characters otherworldly, scary and fantastic. A very special story, one to savour.” Paul Meloy, author of Islington Crocodiles.
“A bold beginning to a new duology from the brilliant D’Lacey – where two children embark on a search for meaning that is riddled with ambiguity about the nature of the saviour they seek and which, ultimately, provides a siren call to live in harmony with the land.” Alison Littlewood, author of A Cold Season.
“Black Feathers is poetic and compelling. It’s a gripping story crafted around a deep core of eloquent anger. And it’s scary – it’s the scariest kind of fiction – the kind of fiction that rings true. D’Lacey has written a great book of and for our troubled times.” Tom Fletcher, author of The Leaping, The Thing on the Shore and The Ravenglass Eye.
“Dreadfully visionary. Appallingly inspired. One could wear out a thesaurus trying to articulate the singular fusion of qualities that has come to define Joseph D’Lacey’s work. Alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) horrifying, mesmerizing, shocking, unsettling, and beautiful, and always deeply intelligent, it’s utterly unlike anything else I’m aware of. It’s also utterly wonderful.” Matt Cardin, author of To Rouse Leviathan and Dark Awakenings.
“Black Feathers is an enthralling novel written with gnarly, knotty elegance, every page gravid with menace. Further proof, were it needed, that Joseph D’Lacey is one of our great, dark hopes for the future of UK horror.” Conrad Williams, author of One, London Revenant, The Unblemished and Loss of Separation.
“A deeply personal story full of invention: as compassionate as it is genuinely terrifying. Joseph D’Lacey’s talent lies in creating realities too close to our own for comfort, but his greatest gift is in his ability to always make us care about both.” Carole Johnstone, author of Frenzy.
“Joseph D’Lacey is one of our best new horror writers, delivering surprises, intensity, and scares aplenty with each new book. And with every book, he’s upping his game.” Tim Lebbon.
“Ambitious, passionate, vast yet intimate and utterly thrilling. I was already a fan of D’Lacey’s writing: with Black Feathers he’s pushed it to a whole new level…a new classic story of apocalypse and rebirth to rank with Stephen King’s The Stand…” Sam Enthoven