The leaves up above rustled and water flowed in a trickling creek. A dirt path wound through the mountainous woods and led hikers on a scenic walk through nature's work. The dirt road crunched under your soles as you crouched yourself over a fallen bird. Eyes wide with youth and curiosity, your six-year-old mind processed what you saw before you: a black crow sprawled over the ground with feathers strewn about from a harsh landing. A frown pulled at your lips as you realised the bird was hurt, but still alive as you heard the soft whistle of its strained breathing. Cautiously, your small hand started to reach out towards the struggling avian only for your attention to be pulled away by a call of your name. When you looked up and ahead on the forest path, your parents stood a short way’s away. Your mother called for you once more and your father curled his arm through the air a few times to emphasise their directions. Another frown tugged your mouth downwards as you glanced back at the animal near your feet. With a reluctant sigh, you stood and readjusted your personal backpack.
"I'm sorry," you whispered to the bird. "I wish I could do something to help you."
With your apologetic farewell you lifted your gaze from the creature, its strained breathing lost to the sound of a dirt eroding somewhere along the mountain. At the same time, a frantic scream of your name came from both of your parents and you snapped your vision towards them. Just as you caught sight of your father beginning to run towards you, darkness encompassed you and the last thing you saw was a flash of the clear blue sky before it all disappeared.
The sound of trembling metal filled your ears just as your eyes snapped open. A sharp breath entered your lungs and you took a moment to regain control of your senses. When you managed to refocus your vision, you could see the mass of people standing in front of your seated form. Chatter and the occasional metallic screech filtered through the air. Your fingers held your schoolbag in a painful death grip and you had to forcefully relax yourself to ease the canvas material out of your grasp just enough to stop irritating your skin. As you glanced around to get back your bearings, the girl seated to your left gave you an odd look. A sheepish smile flashed across your face as you mouthed a quick apology. Before much else could transpire, the automated voice of the subway system rang from the speakers and called your destination. With one last deep breath to calm your racing heart from the nightmare, you stood and readied to depart.
The train soon slid to a stop and the doors slid open. As soon as a gap appeared, people began to flood out of the vehicle until there was enough space for those outside to push their way in. Already used to the underground crowds, you slid and pushed your way out of the stream of people and immediately took a turn for the nearest staircase in order to exit. Just as you crested the top of the stairs, a tap to your shoulder called for your attention. When you turned around to answer, you were met with a boy your age. His onyx hair was a mix between naturally curly and plain messy, but it fit in fine with his black-framed glasses and dark eyes. The uniform he wore was different from your own, almost entirely black save for the pale turtleneck and plaid pattern of his pants.
You shuffled out of the way of the stairs before asking, "Can I help you?"
"You dropped this," he replied, clear and concise. With his words, he raised a hand with a small, stuffed cat resting in his palm. The black fur of the mascot animal was somewhat faded with age, but you immediately recognised your favourite bag charm.
"I didn't even notice!" you exclaimed as you checked your schoolbag and, indeed, the plush was gone from its usual place. "Thank you for that."
"...You're welcome," the male replied, a little stiffly you noted as he gave you a curt nod.
With a grateful smile, you reclaimed your favourite accessory and placed him safely within your bag. Just as you were about to thank him once more and bid farewell, the boy's own schoolbag began to move about. In the next moment, a cat's head popped out of the open zipper. Silence encompassed the two of you as the black cat sniffed about for a moment before it trained its marine blue eyes on you.
"Um, what..." you stuttered.
"Ah, this is..." the boy stumbled at the same time.
"We-Well, thanks for picking this up for me, I should get going before I'm late for school. Goodbye," you excused yourself as politely as you could. A chill threatened the tips of your spine the longer the animal's irises stared at you so you fled with a quick stride.
If the other student tried to reply, you failed to catch it as your swift steps took you out of the subway station and into the streets of Tokyo. Though you had surely left the odd boy and his blue-eyed cat behind, you still felt an uneasy queasiness in your gut and instinctively looked skywards. As you expected, a city crow was perched atop the nearest street lamp and was staring in your general direction. A shiver ran down your spine. You were unsure if it was because of the events of that horrid day, but birds—and especially black ones—filled you with a sense of anxiety. Time was not a patient being, however, so you stuffed aside your fears and continued on your way to school. You never turned back to check, but you swore you could feel the beady eyes of the bird watching you from far off into the distance.