Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for pre-intermediate learners (so, just above beginners). The name of the story is Crow Island. You can find a transcript of the episode at easystoriesinenglish.com/crow. That’s easystoriesinenglish.com/crow. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So, today is the first time I’m putting my own original fiction on the podcast, and I’m very excited about it. I really hope you enjoy the story today.
It’s actually one I wrote quite a long time ago. I mentioned, I think in Episode 1 or 2, that I speak Esperanto. I’m an Esperantist. So, Esperanto is a language that was designed for international communication, and I go to Esperanto events around the world quite frequently.
A few years ago, I was at an Esperanto event in Slovakia. And during this event, there was a course about literature in Esperanto, and part of the course involved us writing our own stories. So this is a story I wrote then, originally in Esperanto, of course, but I liked it and it’s short so it fits the podcast. So I decided to translate it into English.
It’s an adventure story, and I usually don’t read adventure stories, and I usually don’t write adventure stories. But I do think it’s something that I want to do more of. I used to read a lot of adventure fiction as a child and a teenager, and I think I told myself, ‘Oh, I’m over that. You know, I’m not interested in that anymore.’ But actually I am. So I should just follow my interest.
There’s nothing like a well-written action scene. And hopefully, the action in this story is interesting and exciting for you.
This is kind of a chapter, a piece, an extract, of a longer a story. I haven’t written any more, and I don’t know if I want to, but if this episode gets a lot of positive attention, if lots of you like this episode and want me to write more, then I certainly will.
It ends on a cliffhanger. So, a cliffhanger is literally, well… It originated in a story where the episode or chapter would end with a car hanging off the side of a cliff. So the people in the car don’t know if they’re going to be able to get out or fall into the ocean and probably die.
I don’t remember what show or book it originally came from. But now it’s used as a general term. So, a cliffhanger is when you end an episode on a surprise, a really shocking thing, and you don’t know what’s going to happen next. And it’s usually to do with some kind of very serious danger to the main character.
So, just a warning that this episode does end in a cliffhanger. I know some people are not big fans of cliffhangers, but hopefully it will be exciting, and if you really like it then I will continue the story.
So the story is called Crow Island. You might not know what a “crow” is, so I’ll quickly explain it to you before we begin. A crow is a kind of bird that’s black all over. It has black feathers, a black beak, and small, round black eyes. In most cultures around the world, the crow is associated with mystery and, often, death. And, that’s kind of the reason I find it so interesting and why I decided to include it in this story.
The first time I wrote it, I just wrote the birds as “birds”, but then I thought, “Well no, I really need to pick a specific kind of bird to make it more of an image. To make a deeper image in the reader’s mind.”
The story is set in a jungle, so at first I thought of making the birds parrots or some other kind of tropical bird. But, parrots aren’t really very threatening, are they? I mean, I don’t think anybody has ever looked at a parrot and thought, “Ooh! That’s scary!” Whereas crows, when they cry, they make that caw caw sound that’s really kind of creepy. So I think they fit the setting very well.
I also just think they’re really cool. I’m not a goth, but I do like gothic things, and crows definitely fit under that category for me.
Anyway, remember that you can find a full transcript of this episode at easystoriesinenglish.com/crow. That’s easystoriesinenglish.com/crow. The transcript contains all of the text for the story, as well as my conversation before it. So you can read and listen at the same time. In fact, I recommend you do that. That’s how I study foreign languages.
OK, so, listen and enjoy!
The awful crows circled overhead. At least, they looked like crows when you first looked at them. But when you stared at them for long enough, you started to see strange things. Unnatural things. Real birds don’t stand in the same position for such a long time, without ever moving. And real birds don’t run out of batteries. The robot crows cried unnaturally often, and if their battery was dying, the cried would come out hoarse. Like they had smoked a whole packet of cigarettes in one sitting.
At first, I thought I could wait for each of them to die out. I counted the hours, and I celebrated each hoarse cry. But then, as time passed, I started to realise a problem with my plan. The crows were being replaced. They did it in the night, when I couldn’t see. The groups of birds never went below a certain number. And those were the ones I could see. I had no idea how many were hiding in the trees all around us.
So in the daytime, we had to find a hiding place. Usually it was a cave. The robot birds couldn’t go inside the caves, for some reason. But when we moved further away from the facility, there were less caves. So we had to crawl into bushes, cover ourselves with leaves, or find a tree with no birds in it and hope we were lucky. One time, I had to crawl inside an old tree, which was full of beetles. Those hours felt like forever, feeling the beetles crawl up and down my skin, across my lips, even under my clothes.
Today, we were under a bed of thick, red leaves, with a tiny gap to look through. The colours in the forests were amazing. I used to be the kind of person who loved nature holidays. I had hiked through the rainforests of Costa Rica, taking photos of waterfalls and tropical birds and snakes. Now I saw the scenery for what it was: food, a hiding place, or danger.
I barely slept in the daytime. When I did, I had nightmares where I was hunted by men with crows’ heads. Then I would wake up, and it would be night, and we had to walk like zombies through the trees.
“We” was me and my dog, Fido. Thank goodness I had Fido. Without him, I would have gone mad a long time ago. I found him soon after my escape. I thought that once I was out of the facility I would be safe. I didn’t think that there would be a whole island surrounding it, full of humid forests and all-seeing robots. If I hadn’t found Fido, I might have lost my mind then and there.
I reached over and scratched Fido behind his ear. He waged his tail, but not loud enough to draw the birds’ attention. He was the smartest dog I’d ever met. He stayed quiet all day, hiding in the grass with me. Without him, I wouldn’t have been able to move. He could see in the dark, and night was the only time the robots couldn’t see us. He guided me through the forest, and kept us away from the humans hunting me.
The crows ahead of us flew away. My heart jumped up to my throat. That was odd. That rarely happened. I sat there, still, for a long minute. Fido moved beside me. It looked like the area around us was clear.
Carefully, I got to my feet. Fido wriggled out of the leaves and shook them off him. He was such a good dog, to lay silent and unmoving for so long. I gave him another ear scratch, and he wagged his tail again. He was a labrador. I had always wanted a labrador, back when my life was normal.
I stretched my legs and we got moving. It was still light, but I was eager to take advantage of the opportunity we had. Fido ran ahead, clearing the way through the thick trees. It was like a rainforest, but not really. Real rainforests were so overgrown that you had to use a machete to cut through them. These ones only grew to a certain level, and then stopped, like a setting in a videogame. Just thick enough to stop prisoners from escaping, but not so much that they couldn’t easily be found by them.
Something moved in a nearby bush. I stood still. Fido stopped a few metres ahead of me. He made a face that said, ‘What are you stopping for?’ Maybe I had just imagined the sound. I started walking again, more urgently this time. Fido continued as well. He never seemed scared.
A few minutes later I heard another sound. Someone was pushing a branch away from their face. I saw some red smoke to my left. They had found us. I started running. I fell several times, because my legs were weak from lack of food. Only fear pushed me forward. Fido moved quickly and easily. Maybe he had already known the danger. We pushed through trees cut through branches.
Then suddenly, Fido stopped. I almost crashed into him. Thankfully, I didn’t. There was a bright light, and when my eyes had got used to it, I saw that the forest had finished and we were standing before a steep cliff. In the distance the sun was setting over the sea.
We had made it. The edge of the island. But a hundred-metre drop lay between us and the water.
I looked right and then left. I could hear the hunters crashing through the trees behind me. There was no path down the cliff, only a few bits of rock sticking out.
Either I let myself be taken alive, or I died trying to escape. The choice was clear.
Fido, reading my mind, started making his way down the cliff. I followed behind him. It was so steep, and the only option was to jump between the pieces of rock. After so much time running away from the hunters, I was weak, and when I landed, all the bones shook in my body. It was easier for Fido than me, but he was still struggling. He jumped onto a spike of rock, and it looked like he was going to fall off, but he threw his legs around it just in time.
I threw a quick look behind me. There were two men stood on the edge of the cliff, guns in their hands. They were shouting and pointing, but they didn’t shoot. I didn’t know how long that would last, though.
I heard a loud cry. I spun around. Fido was falling down the spike of rock. He tried to hold it with his paws, and then fell off. He landed on the sharp rocks, and bounced off, falling bam-bam-bam all the way down to the bottom of the cliff. His body fell into a pile by the sea. It was an awful shape.
‘Fido!’ I cried.
I jumped forward–I didn’t care if I broke my neck. I managed to catch myself on the spike of rock. The skin came off my hands. I stayed just long enough to regain my balance, and then I jumped again. A gunshot exploded behind me, breaking the spike of rock in two. I jumped from rock to rock, moving like a puppet. Somehow, I managed to get down to the water without killing myself.
Fido turned his head towards me.
I almost cried, and hugged his head against my chest. It was hot. Too hot.
I looked down at his body. One of his legs was broken, but where there should have been blood and bone, there was metal and wire.
Fido barked happily. But something was wrong with that bark. It sounded… hoarse. Unnatural. I let go of him, crawling back on my hands and knees. But it was too late.
A second later the robot exploded.
TO BE CONTINUED…?
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