A Time of Great Anger
By Jaclyn Barrows
*Disclaimer: This is only the first chapter of a longer story idea that is being fleshed out continually into what may just become a grand novel in the near future. It is intended as an allegory for the times. Enjoy!
CHAPTER ONE: DISTANT MEMORIES AND YEARS GONE BY
The day dawned a bit earlier than usual across the ruins of the old family farm, which was just fine and dandy for the Great Horned owl who made its nest in the barn’s loft. That wise old owl knew just about everything there was to know about that ramshackle mess of a farm, for he was there at its rise, its corruption, and its eventual downfall. He’d lived through all of it. ‘Twas a grand downfall, too--one that most who had lived there never saw coming, except for the observant few who paid close attention to the signs.
What once was a lively, vibrant home for humans and barnyard animals alike now lay in a slowly crumbling heap. Weeds and wild grasses had grown tall over the splintering wood, and rust had already eaten through much of the guttering. Years of paint slowly chipped off and wore away onto the ground. It seemed the Earth was doing what she always did—taking back what was hers the moment the humans stopped caring for it. Decades passed since the last of the family members and barnyard creatures who’d lived there finally left---some in tears over what was lost, and others in a huff, scoffing at the sorry state of their old home. It was a wasted place. Such a blasted shame, too—selfishness of that nature always leads to chaos!
The Great Horned owl flew across the sun-risen sky, headed home to his barn loft after a long night of hunting. Faint sounds of morning larks filled the air as he soared above the treetops, a hopeful sound to be sure despite the impending anniversary of the farm’s official descent. For each year that passed, the old owl would reminisce about the time gone by, and mourn the loss. As he finally reached the edge of the land, he swoops in smooth as silk into the loft, where he now made his home. For now, it was time for the wise old owl to try and get a little bit of shut-eye.
Meanwhile, as the morning skies moved from purple to pink and orange hues, an enterprising young squirrel skittered across the branches of the massive oak tree in front of the barn, leapt with gusto, and finally landed with a loud thud on the roof of the barn. Of course, he was just a young lad of a squirrel, an early riser and full of ecstatic energy, much to the chagrin of the tired old owl.
“Confound it, Rufus!” shouted the owl, shaking his wing at the roof of the barn. “Must you be so loud, and so early? Do you ever sleep?”
Rufus peeked around the loft’s open window, grinning sheepishly from ear to ear like that of a mischievous child.
“Oh, whatever shall I do with you!” yawned the exhausted owl.
“Sorry, Arthur,” Rufus gently apologized as he swung down from the roof and sauntered his way inside. “You know how I enjoy being up on these lovely mornings! Why just look at these gorgeous skies!”
Rufus gestured broadly towards the clouds and colors outside, and stared for a moment, eyes wide with wonder. Rufus was one to hope for the best, after all, and see the good in everything, for he was indeed quite young and carefree.
Arthur cracked open one eye and looked out into the sunrise. A ray of fresh and bright light shined upon his face with fervor. Canadian geese flew south in the open skies in perfect V formation. Soon it will be a full three decades since the old farm had been abandoned by those who were supposed to care for it. Arthur’s face fell upon the dismal thought. While his eyes remained open, they were clearly full of heartache.
Rufus studied Arthur’s expression carefully. “Arthur? What’s wrong?” he inquired.
Arthur perched in silence, staring out into the world. He could no longer keep his eyes shut for his daily rest; his mind was now on a seemingly endless run through memory after memory.
Arthur’s eyes flitted back and forth, iris’ growing and shrinking as images of the farm in its glory days filled his mind, along with children playing hide and seek in the fields and by the trees, a family growing greater and greater in size with each baby born, animals grazing and living peacefully with one another out in the field and in the barn, which was covered with a fresh coat of red paint and bright white trim. At those precious memories, Arthur smiled. But as peaceful and tranquil as those beloved memories were, they quickly faded to darker times of deaths of the elderly members as well as some unfortunate young ones in the family and amongst the animals, the farmhouse and barn slowly decaying through lack of care and violent weather, as well as terrible fights amongst the greedier family members who in the end were only there for their fair share of the family fortune. Though this was a common story for far too many families, it was unfortunate and sad, nonetheless.
Rufus approached the motionless Arthur with the greatest care, unsure of what was taking place. He stretched a gentle paw out towards Arthur, attempting to wake him from his apparent trance and get him to come back to reality.
But Arthur’s eyes moved back and forth continually, with no regard to Rufus’ attempts. His mind was flying through memories from years gone by, soaring now through the stormy grey world of the past with the farm’s ultimate and unfortunate ruin.
The old owl’s name finally came through to him, and like a bolt of lightning, he was snapped back to attention in the real world. He shook his head to wake himself up, as he was still quite groggy from the unintended nightmare.
“Ah, good to have you back, old friend! Thought I’d lost you there for a moment!” Rufus laughed nervously.
“Yep, did it again, didn’t I? Sorry about that…” Arthur looked away sadly.
“You were lost deep in your mind again, Arthur.” Another voice spoke from a faraway and darkened corner of the loft. Rufus nervously looked at Arthur, who nodded to Rufus that it was alright. The mysterious voice belonged to Eleanor, a simple yet wizened barn owl with more years on her than Arthur and a face that appeared outlined in gold at the tips of her feathers. “Off in that distant world of the past.”
Rufus looked upon Eleanor with a certain level of fear, for she was such an intimidating presence. Her mind was sharp as a tack even in her old age, and her gaze was as gripping as her talons. She was only slow in her movements due to how old she was, and that was it. She was new around these parts but had seen other farms rise and fall in much of the same way. As she slowly shuffled her way from the dark corners of the loft into the sunlight, her shadow stretched and grew quite large onto the wooden wall behind her, giving her an even more imposing appearance.
“Indeed, Eleanor. Sorry to have awakened you.” Arthur responded respectfully as Rufus hid behind him.
“Oh, no need, no need,” Eleanor waved him off with her wing. “I’d been up a while, hadn’t gotten any serious shuteye yet.” She eyed young Rufus carefully, sarcastically mentioning, “Would’a been asleep already if it weren’t for a certain and rather loud ker-thud upon the roof...”
Rufus sheepishly grinned once again and hid further from sight, afraid to say anything around her. Eleanor smirked at the little squirrel.
“Now, Arthur, I want you to forget about what the humans had done in the past. This is nothing new under the sun, and you know that.” Eleanor advised Arthur. Her faith in the human race had been driven quite low due to what she’d experienced.
“Easier said than done, Eleanor…” Arthur’s voice sadly trailed off.
“Mankind has done careless things like this since long before I 'atched. Probably before my own great-grandmother 'atched from her egg, for all I know.” Eleanor dismissed. “You look like you ‘aven’t slept in years, love.”
“No, I’ve slept…” Arthur trailed off again.
“Aye, but you ‘ave not, Arthur. Just look at those bags under your eyes!” Eleanor interrupted with a look of concern, nodding him to look at his mirror, which was nothing more than a random shard of dirty glass roughly the size of a small chapter book. Rufus stepped out of the way, as he found himself standing right in front of it. Arthur took a brief look and was disappointed but unsurprised in his appearance.
“Ah well, can’t win ‘em all!” he sarcastically retorted. “No matter. Speaking of sleep—” he yawned, stretching his wings and chest in dramatic fashion. “—I really should get some now. You could use some as well, I’m sure.”
Eleanor shuffled off slowly back to a darkened corner of the loft, muttering to herself about a number of things past and present.
Arthur briefly glanced at Rufus. “And you, young lad, Mr. Daylight, as it were. Shouldn’t you get on with your day, and let us nocturnal creatures have our rest?”
Rufus stood up tall on his hind legs and nodded to Arthur, "Yep, guess I'll be off." Upon leaving the loft, however, Rufus stopped all of a sudden, alert as can be, and his fluffy tail high in the air. A small shiny object had fallen out of the thick fur--it was a pearl covered in thick mud! There was still a broken piece of fine string inside of the bead, which meant it came from a costly piece of jewelry. Arthur spotted it with a sharp eye and gasped.
The midmorning sun caused it to glisten on the cleaner parts, as well as reflect hues of blue and red from the inside of the loft. The broken string was a simple but of course dingy white. Arthur looked closely at the lonely little gem, trying to place when and where it came from. It felt familiar.
"I found it near the old tin bucket by the house," Rufus explained.
"Is that so?" Arthur inquired, picking the pearl up carefully between his talons. He studied it intently for a moment. "This is quite a find, Rufus! Mind if I keep it for a bit?"
"Yeah, go for it!" encouraged Rufus. "I actually meant to get it to you earlier...I was hoping it would help you somehow."
The old owl smiled warmly at the young squirrel, grateful for his thoughtfulness. The two nodded at each other knowingly before parting ways. As Rufus lept onto the tree branch once again, Arthur finally found a good spot in the loft to shut his eyes and get some rest, the mysterious pearl still in his talons.
END CHAPTER ONE
About the Creator
Jackie Barrows is an artist, a writer, and all around creative soul who enjoys bringing new ideas and stories to life. She wears many hats as a Graphic Designer, a blogger, and Lead Production Artist for R.A.W. Productions.
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