The Night Surprise
a young girl discovers something in her barn that transforms her winter vacation for the better
I still remember this story even as an adult. It's one I tell my friends as a cozy night-time story. But this story is not a regular story... This one's different.
12 YEARS AGO
When I was twelve years old, something extraordinary happened. It happened one night. It was winter vacation. I had all the time in the world to tend to the barn animals; help my father out, and enjoy the peace and quiet. Being an only child, I had a lot of time on my hands.
When I crept into the barn in the middle of the night, I didn't expect there to be a surprise waiting for me.
No, I'm not talking about a present, or surprise pet pig, or dog or sheep. What I saw was beyond magical.
Right in the center of the bar, in the corner, was an owl's nest. And inside the nest was a barn owl, white, fluffy and wide-eyed. Next to the owl were three baby owls, newly born.
This sight brought emotions to my eyes like no other. The mamma owl gave me a look as if asking 'what are you doing here?'
I smiled back at her, as if to reassure her I was there to just watch, to see in awe how animals bring new life into this world. It's heavenly and so out of this world. Seeing the baby owls, barely looking like owls bop their tiny heads and inching close to one another was better than any gift I'd received.
When I left the barn and went back to the house to sleep, I kept thinking about the owls.
The next day, I told my father, who tended the barn, that new owls were born last night. He rushed to see them. When I showed him where the nest was, to my surprise, the nest was gone. Gone, meaning, non-existent. The magical nest that contained the mamma owl and her babies were not there, nor were the owls themselves there.
I didn't know what to think of this. Surely I wasn't dreaming. Surely I did see owls last night. My father told me that maybe they had left.
As I continued on my morning walk, as I always did, I looked around me at the leaf-ridden path, the sogginess of them hitting my boots. Twigs and stones stood in the corner, riddled with water from last night's rain. The dewy smell of rain in the air, the chirp of the birds made my walk for a nature person like me even better.
As I splashed my boots in the mud thinking about the owls, I wondered if maybe my father was right; perhaps they flew away somewhere. Perhaps the barn was too cold for them.
I looked up at the oak tree I always passed on my walks. Usually it was empty. But today, there was something perched on top of one of its branches.
It was the owl nest! The same one I saw in the barn. How could this be? I knew it was the same one because popping out from it was the mamma owl. She looked at me again the same way she did the night before, full of curiosity. I stopped and stared at her. Where were her babies? I wondered.
I stood on my tippy toes, hoping to see them, but short little twelve-year-old me couldn't see anything inside the nest; the branch was much too high.
I wondered how a whole nest could transport from one place to another. Was the mamma owl in trouble? Did she need my help. As I continued to watch the nest, I heard the caws of something loud and terrible.
I looked up in the sky. It was a goose! Its wings spread wide as it flew around the owl's nest.
'Go away!' I said to the goose. 'Leave the owl nest alone.'
The goose didn't pay me any attention and continued circling the owl's nest.
All of a sudden, a loud crackle of thunder filled the air. I screamed. I then saw it. Lightening. Cracked through the sky like Zeus's thunderbolt.
It was pouring now. My face, hair, clothes were all soaked. I wanted to run back home, but I knew the owls were in trouble. I wanted the mamma owl to fly to somewhere safe, with her babies in her beak. But when I looked up to see the nest, what I saw made me believe that animals can too sense trouble.
The nest was floating in air, almost like it was getting ready to fly away. Stunned, I started running away from the oak tree. The floating nest seemed to be following me. When I stopped, it stopped. When I turned to the right, it turned to the right.
That's when I knew this owl's nest was no ordinary nest. It must be a magical one! And it wanted me to help out!
The goose, terrified by the rain, gave up worrying about the owl nest and flew away.
I ran back to the barn, in the warm barn where everything was cozy and safe. The floating nest came inside with me. It rested in the same corner it was in the night before. When I inched closer to make sure everyone was alright, I jumped.
Inside the nest was the mamma owl, the father owl, and the three baby owls, all nestled close together. All of them looked peaceful as a dove, sleeping, and most importantly, dry. Tears filled my eyes as I saw this sight. I knew that the owls were a new gift to the barn, one that I'd treasure for as long as they remained here.
TWO WEEKS LATER
The baby owls were grown up enough to stand up on their own and imitate the caws of their parents. I kept watching them, making sure they were well fed. My father asked me why I was paying close attention to the owls more than the other animals.
I said, 'Because there's just something about them; they were the best night surprise I could have ever received.'
To this day, I still don't know how the nest floated in the rain, or how the father owl managed to fit in the nest along with the rest of his family, or how they all ended up dry despite being in the rain. Some questions aren't worth pondering about.
All I know is that my barn owls were safe, and lived a happy life in my barn the winter I was twelve.
Note: This story is fictional; all characters and events are fictional