It's late at night, snow whirling in dervishing gusts, and the crow girls are perched on the top of the wooden fence that's been erected around a work site on Williamson Street. Used to be a parking lot there, now it's a big hole in the ground on its way to being one more office complex that nobody except the contractors want. The top of the fence is barely an inch wide at the top and slippery with snow, but they have no trouble balancing there.
Zia has a ring with a small spinning disc on it. Painted on the disc is a psychedelic coil that goes spiraling down into infinity. She keeps spinning it and the two of them stare down into the faraway place at the center of the spiral until the disc slows down, almost stops. Then Zia gives it another flick with her fingernail, and the coil goes spiraling down again.
"Where'd you get this anyway?" Maida asks.
Zia shrugs. "Can't remember. Found it somewhere."
"In someone's pocket."
"And you never did?"
Maida grins. "Just wish I'd seen it first, that's all."
They watch the disc some more, content.
"What do you think it's like down there?" Zia says after awhile. "On the other side of the spiral."
Maida has to think about that for a moment. "Same as here," she finally announces, then winks. "Only dizzier."
They giggle, leaning into each other, tottering back and forth on their perch, crow girls, can't be touched, can't hardly be seen, except someone's standing down there on the sidewalk, looking up through the falling snow, his worried expression so comical it sets them off on a new round of giggles.
"Careful now!" he calls up to them. He thinks they're on drugs—they can tell. "You don't want to—"
Before he can finish, they hold hands and let themselves fall backwards, off the fence.
He jumps, gets a handhold on the top of the fence and hauls himself up. But when he looks over, over and down, way down, there's nothing to be seen. No girls lying at the bottom of that big hole in the ground, nothing at all. Only the falling snow. It's like they were never there.
His arms start to ache and he lowers himself back down the fence, lets go, bending his knees slightly to absorb the impact of the last couple of feet. He slips, catches his balance. It seems very still for a moment, so still he can hear an odd rhythmical whispering sound. Like wings. He looks up, but there's too much snow coming down to see anything. A cab comes by, skidding on the slick street, and he blinks. The street's full of city sounds again, muffled, but present. He hears the murmuring conversation of a couple approaching him, their shoulders and hair white with snow. A snowplow a few streets over. A distant siren.
He continues along his way, but he's walking slowly now, trudging through the drifts, not thinking so much of two girls sitting on top of a fence as remembering how, when he was a boy, he used to dream that he could fly.
"Crow Girls" was first published by Triskell Press, 1995. Copyright © 1995 by Charles de Lint. The complete story was reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (January, 1997); in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Tenth Annual Edition, edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (St. Martin's Press, 1997); and will also appear in the third collection of Newford stories.
Cover Art: "My Life As A Bird"
Dust Jacket Art