Monday, 6 February 2012

Tap, tap,tap by Helen A. Howell - February Femmes Fatales

Helen A. Howell and I are relatively recently acquainted, but goodness me do I like her words. She has a way with pace, pulls no punches and says it like it is.

With this tale Helen chills us slowly, dragging us down to a cold place of terror. It feels like a classic strange story from the distant past.

And the big surprise is - not only can you read TAP, tap, tap - you can also let Helen's lovely voice read it to you [MP3 file: 5MB].

Please enjoy this sixth story, from Helen A. Howell - our fifth February Femme Fatale.


The bird first appeared as a dark shadow overhead, just far enough away for me not to see it clearly. It followed me on my walks; dark, ominous, moving silently above. I shielded my eyes against the sun’s bright light and squinted at it hovering above me. The more I looked, the more I could discern what it was. A raven, a large black bird with iridescent feathers and a wing span so broad it caught the up-draught and hung in the sky.

Who had sent this? What did it mean?


Cr-r-ruck Cr-ruck. The noise woke me and I glanced at the clock. 5. am. I slipped out of bed and walked over to the window. There resting on the branch of the big oak sat the raven. Its eyes glittered in the light as it tipped its head from side to side. It had now been seven days since I first spotted it. It never left me when I ventured outside but this was the first time I had seen it close up. It balanced on the gnarled bark of the old tree and continued to call to me. Cr-r-ruck Cr-r-ruck— a sound so sharp it touched every nerve in my body. I knew I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t help it. I threw open the window and reached out to it, curling my fingers as I beckoned towards it. Its claws wrapped around my wrist and its jet black eyes stared deep into my own. I ran a hand across its inky feathers and a chill ran down my spine. I knew this wasn’t a good idea, that there was something dangerous about this creature, yet I was caught in its spell as hopeless as a fly in a spider's web. No amount of struggling would set me free.

The raven left my arm and glided to rest on the bed post. It turned its gazed towards me; those eyes, something was so familiar about those eyes. But how could that be? I stared at the floor, almost afraid to look back at it.

Tap, tap, tap. What was it doing? I forced myself to look up. Tap, tap tap. It had a picture caught between it claws. It looked at me, then with its beak, tap tap tap on the photograph. I advanced towards it and with a shaking hand I reached out and clasped the photo. Mark! My heart missed a beat.

“How did you get this? It was beneath my clothing in that drawer,” I whispered as I gestured towards the chest, waving the photo in its direction.

Cr-r-runk, Cr-r-runk was its only reply.

At Mark’s funeral I’d wept as the heart broken girlfriend. I looked again into the raven’s face. Those eyes, they’re his, but changed—darker, frightening. For a moment I felt dizzy as the raven held my stare. Unable to tear my eyes away, I walked towards the bed and sat down next to the post where it rested. Lifting my arm, I held it out and the bird climbed on; the photograph fell to the floor. The bird and I were trapped in a moment of time, unable to break free of each other. Just like it was with Mark, until I freed myself.

I lifted my hand and ran my fingers down its silky feathers, then rested them around its throat. Would I free myself from this bird or would it free itself from me? For now, we are joined. It knows my secret but the question is, can it keep it? Time will tell.

_________ The End _________

Bio: Helen has been writing for three and half years and has written several short stories, poems and completed her first novel.

She is a regular contributor to Friday Flash. She has had two poems, a short story and a Drabble published.

Her blog is where she shares her writing.


  1. HELEN! Your voice is terrific! I read the story to myself while your recording was downloading and it was good - but when I listened to it read by you, it came alive. What a beautifuly voice you have! So elegant and ladylike and just how I imagined it would be. And wow, you did a terrific job on the story. Loved the "tap tap" extras and the breathy, Hitchcock -like ending.

    Geez I wish I had an accent.

  2. Ha ha Cathy, I love that you loved it. Thank you so much for such a great comment. ^__^

  3. I'd pinch its silky-feathered throat, Helen. Ravens are known for "quothing."

  4. Ohhhh did she kill him? And maybe he will kill her now.

  5. So dark! yet so delicious!

    Is Mark back from the grave then, whether for vengeance or simply because he couldn't stay away? Really though, I think you ended it at the right place — we get to decide what happens next. (Me, I think she kills the bird too.)

  6. @Madam Z I know her secret quoth the raven ^__^

    @Sonia, I'll leave you to decide what happens. :D

    @Larry Yep I think he is back from the grave. I'm very pleased you liked it.

    Thanks for your great comments everyone! Madam Z, Sonia and Larry. ^_^

  7. Talk about a fine-feathered friend (Zelda grabbed the quothing line -- I was lost without it nevermore) . . . Well, Lady Helen ... a touching (literally) story, yet omnious with the depth of the look over his beak into some part of your soul.

    Yes, you've set youself up swell for more chirps -- er -- Crr-ucks of this flyaway tale from "the other woman's" perspective. I'd watch out though -- not only is this raven stalker a Marked man -- he can open heavy mahogany dresser drawers. There be black magick there, good author woman!

    ~ Absolutely*Kate, going to listen to your voice and the prime Aussie accent which delights our stunning colleague from O'Canadah - eh ... in the 'morrow, when you won't be held for wakening sleeping minds under my roof (where I shall not open windows to pecking birdbrained former suitors)

  8. Up to your usual high standard, once again, Helen! Well done!

    How I love a story that only hints at an ending - so many possibilities for the reader to continue where the writer has left off.....

    (Now I'm thinking about the chilling malevolence of the murder of crows who gathered outside my daughter's house yesterday - all the more scary for the stark quietness of the deep snow all around....!)

    1. Wonderful creepy writing, Helen. Daft woman should have thrown the bird out, not let it sit on her hand and invite it in but there you go, we do daft things like that, let the spirit in and it won't go away (don't I know it... got a household of the darlings) but mine are lovable, this is not. Great story.

  9. Wonderfully creepy. I am fascinated with birds (especially blackbirds and ravens and crows). They have a certain wise and mysterious quality about them. This took that to another level.

  10. That definitely took a nice dark turn at the end. Good job building up to it. When she wrapped her fingers around the bird's throat, I thought she was going to kill it then. Very devilish!! Great write, Helen.

  11. A disturbing, dark tale, Helen. I became alarmed as soon as the bird appeared overhead. The tension continued to build from there. I often think there's something quite malevolent about black birds and you've captured the disturbing elements and threatening ambiance perfectly.

  12. Thank you Sue, Anna, Erin, Laurita and Antonia for the great comments.

    And thank you everyone for the support you have shown me. ^_^

  13. I'm delighted to see Helen's shivery story in this venue. A perfect fit! And, as some of you already know, she has more of these stories up her sleeve...

  14. Thanks Scotti! So pleased you liked it. ^_^

  15. Oh scary scary scary.. big black bird tap tap tap.. I wouldn't have let it in.. but how could she resist the calls of her dead lover? I loved the way you left the ending open and ambiguous..Dark and wonderfully gothic. The spirit of Allan Poe is alive and well and living in South Australia. ( but not in a raven I hasten to add)

  16. Tee-hee Tom I was getting all excited there for a moment, thinking Poe could be in one of these big black birds that visit my garden. I'm very pleased you enjoyed the story. By the way it's Southern Australia not South, South is Adelaide I'm in Melbourne just a few hundred miles from South Australia—as the crow flies or should I say Raven hee hee ;)

  17. I kept waiting for a "Nevermore!" from this cursed bird. Great creepy feeling!

  18. Ha ha Tony if only I could have written something as cool as The Raven! ^_^ Glad you enjoyed it.

  19. Really enjoyed Tap Tap Tap. A council of rooks, a murder of Crow's, morning Mr, Magpie, how's the wife? Amazing how much superstition and fear is linked to bird's. Great story and the download was a lovely extra.

  20. Smart on you to employ Helen, Lily. She's got a lot of passion for her work.

  21. Thank you S.K. Adams and John for your great comments and thank you for your support. ^_^

  22. I'm always enthralled by the symbolism and mystery of ravens - and this story just tightens the grip this damnable black bird has on my psyche!

    Great flow to this, and a wonderful ambiguous end!

  23. Thanks Chris for you great comment. I agree Ravens are full of mystery and symbolism, so many stories to write eh!

  24. Excellent Helen.... You always give just enough to make the reader wonder... I must make time to listen as well..xx

  25. Loved the story and loved the audio! Good reading - the first craaaaack made me jump! Birds kind of freak me out anyways...especially their eyes!

  26. Thank you Susan I'm glad you enjoyed both the written and the audio versions. ^_^


Lily Childs is a writer of horror, esoteric, mystery and chilling fiction.

If you see her dancing outside in a thunder storm - don't try to bring her in. She's safe.