Sunday, 5 March 2017



The Portent - – Rabi I, 9, 1492 (May 1st, 2069)

Above Abbazia de Casamari thousands of devil-black crows drifted gently past each other, crisscrossing the sky like ash fragments caught by Contrastes breezes. The children watched the crows for over twenty minutes before the priest, sensing their increasing unease, returned them to their classroom. As the children settled into their seats, the crows began shrieking fiercely above them.  The children instinctively looked up, as if they would be able to see through the oak beams to the sky.  High above the tiles, the birds whirled themselves into a massive black teardrop and flowing with the contours of the hills swooped down the valley, until they disappeared over the final peak before Sant'angelo In Villa Giglio.  

The children chattered nervously, their voices rising exponentially, as they sought to be  heard above their classmates. 

"A portent," shouted Maria.

The priest told them stories about portents. He raised his right hand. The children’s voices dropped. The priest, as was his habit, turned and stood with his back to the class staring out of the terrace window, his big red haired fists clenched and crossed at his lower back, his broad shoulders straining against his faded black cassock. 

He turned to face the class, “Children, remember portents can sometimes be frightening, but they always point us towards truth. The creatures know what we humans forgot long ago.  They're of the earth.  They understand it.  Do not fear the crows.  They're trying to tell you something.  Listen, not just with your ears. What are they trying to tell you?"

The priest turned back to the window, peering through condensation stained glass. He drew strength from the rows of sharp green Sangiovese vines, neatly floating over ochre-brown loam to the valley floor and beyond. They helped him focus his thoughts- to carefully select his words for the children- even on his most weary days. With each season he hungered for its taste, maybe a little too greedily for a good priest, he often thought. He squinted his tired eyes through chipped, scratched lenses, three years past a good prescription. He stopped mid thought. The vines didn’t inspire him today.  The horizon appeared to be moving towards him.  It took close to a minute, before he realised thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people moved up the valley towards the abbey. 

He knew this moment would come. When it arrived, he counted on steeling his heart against fear, but he didn’t anticipate melancholy would ease its way past his defences. A deep blue sadness hit him. He knew this was the end of his home, maybe his life, but now he sensed everything he loved would be consumed. He stood in treacherous light, the same light that dissolved the shade inside Constantinople’s walls, when the Ottomans finally broke through. His heart ached. His eyes watered. He felt like sitting down and never getting up.  He remembered the children.

"The crows children...they tell us it's time to go."

The Residium – Road to Rome © 2015/2016 John E. Dennett


Publisher for UK, Ireland & New Zealand: Desert Blues Press / John E Dennett
Publisher for Italy & other jurisdictions:  Bonfirraro Editore 

Introducing John E. Dennett

John was born in Wellington, New Zealand. He recently returned to live in Kirkcaldy after eight years in Abu Dhabi, UAE. He is happiest listening to blues & rock, delving in ancient ruins and wandering off the beaten track.




Publisher: Desert Blues Press