The air was perfectly still, and this was important, because it meant that the campfire smoke went straight up. Bergen could not afford to disrupt the rhythm of the drum beats once he started. Smoke in his eyes and lungs would most certainly do just that. The crow had said that the spacing of the beats was the only thing that allowed it to sever the threads of time, fate, and memory. Any variation, was a thread that could not be cut.
Bergen settled himself, making sure that he was comfortable and could maintain the pace for hours. He had practiced for over a year. The weather report for this night was for a calm still air, and warm temperatures. Settling the resonant djembe between his knees, he tapped the head a few times, testing the tone. The African drum was not traditional, but the crow said it would be acceptable. It was that resonance that mattered. The crow picked up the sharpened flint Stone and took wing as Bergen started his drumbeat. He was going to get back his son.
Spiraling around the campfire, the crow cawed three times. Multicolored glowing threads began to appear, growing down from the stars to trail across the ground. One brushed across Bergen and he almost lost his rhythm as the memory flashed across his eyes: his adult son, glassy eyed and tied to a hospital bed after a suicide attempt. The crow sliced the thread and it fell to the ground withering.
Another thread, another memory: a young adult screaming at his father. That thread too fell to the ground. Bergen continued the steady beat. Black feathers buffeted his head, and black, fluffy down seemed to fill his lungs. He coughed but continued drumming. More memories spiraled around him, evoking images and sounds as the threads trailed over him and were cut away.
Slapping his son hard on the face, bursting into the boy’s room when Bergen smelled marijuana, a report card thrown in the trash, the baseball team cleaning up after a successful game as a boy waited for Bergen to pick him up. Each thread was sliced and shriveled. Bergen’s hands were getting sore, but he ignored it. The sight of his son asleep, far too late for a the promised story, his wife’s reproachful eyes when he got home too late to tuck in his son. The crow dropped the stone and cawed. Bergen beat faster, faster, as the crow spun around him in a mad dance. Feathers became thicker, thicker, blotting out the light of the campfire until Bergen saw nothing at all. The crow spoke once more and Bergen stopped.
Slowly, slowly, the light returned. Sunlight. There was no smoke, no drum. Just Bergen on a porch swing, the warmth sinking into his shriveled, arthritic hands.
“Daddy!” Squealed the little boy, leaping into Bergen’s arms. The impact hurt. Bergen didn’t care.