The Owl King
Fall, 1954: Avery hoisted his worn wood-splitting ax above his head, once again bringing it down to split a dried oak log in two, the ax head thunking into the massive hickory stump beneath it with a satisfactory crack. He paused to reach into the patched pocket of his overalls, pulling a ragged handkerchief from its depths and placing it to his brow, wiping away the acrid sweat attempting to bite at his eyes. “Been at it a while, ol’ boy, maybe it’s time to call it a day,” Avery mumbled to himself, looking at the handkerchief in his calloused hands, now saturated in his perspiration. His eyes turned to the periphery, locking onto the dilapidated building, once considered a barn, that sat on his property. It had always been there, according to the elderly couple he’d purchased his plot from, of whom had claimed it was best to simply leave it there. “Best to let the dead rest,” he remembered the man saying, his stare shifting from the collapsing barn to Avery, a sense of knowledgable authority in his eyes. Avery focused at the nearly disintegrating door, some sort of primordial instinct deep in his gut telling alerting him to danger.
Levi awoke forcefully, his chest heaving in search of breath as he shot upright, his hand finding its way to clutch at the sterling, heart-shaped pendant draped across his neck. His thumb rotated around the gem set in the center of it, a stone resembling the color of a clear day’s sky, slowly calming him from the nightmare he had once more escaped until later when he would lay his head down once again. His regular night terrors are a never changing, rapid collage of fiery streaks across a rural night sky, men and women dressed in respirators and sterile white full-bodied suits, the thunderous clatter of human beings in horror, and a woman’s delicate, brown arm reaching towards Levi’s adolescent outstretched hands, her pendant, now his wrapped between his tiny fingers. It had been a little over 19 years since he had been given these nightmares, memories of June 30th, 2021. The day in which humanity in its entirety had its course forcibly changed for the worse, now soberly remembered as “Settler’s Day''.
Light gently permeated this foreign place from incandescent pinheads in the far off distance, entire galaxies unknown to man spaced far yet not so few between. Clouds of gaseous blue and purple detonations mottled across this great beyond, surpassing the grasp of one’s ability to imagine it’s scope, let alone handle an understanding of such phenomena. My head, both light and lagging, revolved across this vast spacescape in awe, temporarily unaware of the absurdness of my situation as I sheepishly peered into the glory of both past and present. As my gaze descended my eyes caught my pale feet, wide and naked, firmly planted on an imperceptible plain. A torrent of ice began to stretch from behind my eyes up and backward, a measured waltz from neuron to the next which promptly dissipated as it’s travel found the nape of my neck. My lips curled as my mouth cracked in horror letting out a scream, a scream that came up silent as if I were an actor in one of those silent film reels I’d seen as a child.
Decimus’ chest heaved, his breath recouping from chase given to a hulking boar in hopes of preserving his wife and young boy in this, yet another dire Northumbrian winter. His step slowed further, the fallen snow tacitly giving way to his overly taxed boots as he squinted against the frigid wind, looking for a sign that his arrow had met its mark. It was then, upon a hearty maple trunk that Decimus caught the glint of the moon, glowing crimson in a spatter of the boar’s life-wine. Decimus turned his head high to the luminous celestial body, bold and bright among the bounty of sky-stretched stars, grateful for that which he could see but not understand.