Murder in District South


Short Story, Fantasy short story, Fanstasy Fiction, Flash Fiction, Maliha Rao, Read Short Stories, Best Short Stories

“Did you know,” my partner croaks slyly as he watches the maid, “she eats some of the meat while cooking?”

That may be her only flaw, but it has led to trouble for her employer, Aunty ji, who lives alone on the first floor. The sons have abandoned her and never visited, content with a yearly call on Eid. Crows are more family-oriented, yet humans get all the praise. Pathetic.

“Look now, the gentleman on the fourth floor is feeding bread and *bajra to the birds. Stale bread?” partner cackled. “Pfft, it would be nice to have some fresh meat occasionally, but those pesky eagles always swoop in first. Curse the talons. Who eats stale bread anyway? At least add some tea so it can be dunked and softened.”

The whispering tree of District South towers over the kitchen and bathroom windows of the apartment at Makkah Residency, giving us a glimpse into the lives of the human inhabitants. We crows are tasked with watching over a diverse group of humans, each assigned to our designated area. It’s not just for entertainment; it’s an honorable duty to Lord Iblees. You see, each district and town have a select group of humans assigned to the murder of crows. Every evening at Maghrib, the murder reports to the warden of the whispering tree.

The warden, such as I, is responsible for witnessing all secrets that pass through its roots and into the depths of hell. It’s a direct line to Lord Iblees- a long way down, but whispers travel fast.

“The couple on the third floor are always fighting.” Partner pointed towards the heated individuals. “They are constantly thirsty for more; nothing is ever enough for humans!”

It makes our job easy. When the man misplaced his watch and blamed his wife, she was already on the verge of a breakdown. She tries to be a good housewife, but he treats her like a servant. There was no room for love. Talking to the kind man who lives above them makes her smile. Maybe we can add some trouble there? Her husband’s missing watch was just the final straw, which will surely tip them over. The watch? We plucked it from the bathroom as an offering. It now lies in the burrow under the tree with a ruby ring. Our Lord loves Rolex; it’s timeless, like him.

Humans think they know everything; they’re entitled to know-it-alls because they have a little extra brain power. They don’t even use all of it — such a waste. Crows should have gotten something extra, like a bigger size, to keep the eagles at bay. Teeth would have been useful, too.

“Oopsie! Aunty Ji on the first floor caught the maid stealing meat. She’s done for now. I wonder what else she’s taken.” Partner hopped in joy.

That ring that went missing last month, perhaps? The yelling and quarreling that ensues is murder music. There is so much chaos crows cause and so much pleasure it brings, and yet humans are clueless and sometimes even reach out to feed the very creatures that will soon claim their souls.

“Halt all activities, no more murdering for a month,” a whisper echoes from the tree, interrupting the enjoyable viewing.

“What? Why?” My partner croaks in annoyance.

“Ramadan is here,” the whisper quivers with disgust.

Words no murder wants to hear. A month-long break from havoc duties will be dull, but at least there will be sadka meat for minor indulgence.

See you on Eid, humans. The rest of the year belongs to us for retribution and reckoning.

NOTE: I wrote this short story before Ramadan during a group writing workshop, and therefore, the reference to the Holy month beginning.

*Bajra - Bajra is the Indian word for pearl millet.