What Awful Hour Is It, Mr. Owl?
A visitor in the night
The candle wax drip-drop; the bottle and pills flip-flop; the spinning hands tick-tock. What awful hour is it, Mr. Owl? A cuckoo, a clip-clop, heavens know I want it to STOP! But I cry, and I cry, but it does not stop. I want the air to stop howling, but it does not stop. I want the water to stop dripping, but it does not stop. How fair is it, that I must be subjected to such horrendous conditions in my state?
Very FAIR, you say? Is it because of him? You flew into my window the same night I last saw him… Could be a coincidence? Could be a sign from the devil himself! To curse my soul for what I did? How would I have known what would happen?
I beseech that you not make me feel guilty, what’s done is done! I know not what I would do if I had to do it all again, but I know what I must do now. It was not just the confessions of love, but the confession that he would be gone by morning light to join the war. I could not stand the wait while my heart ached so! Begone, and don’t betray me such! He walked out into the cold, and never reached his destination… Why him? Why not me? Why must I live in this hell without him? Why must this world be so cruel to men like us? Let me save him, and take me instead!
As you wish…
The chill of the window snapped my bones. Who left you open? Who let you in?
His nocturnal eyes transfixed on my soul; shake me apart! I cried. Deliver me from this greed, this sorrow of the heart!
Those perfect orange spheres glow through the mist surrounding the room. At once, Mr. Owl flapped his dark grey wings and the storm vanished, sucked out into the vortex outside the window. The hush sank through to the floors, covering me like a draped silk cloth, shushing and lulling me to sleep…
I stood ashore, as the molten waves licked my naked feet. The sulfuric air, putrid and sour, burned my lungs. The sweat from my brow saturated my face with salty heat. My eyes could barely withstand looking out to the spires and chains. The only escape, the only hope: he who lied on the rock across the bloody river. Could I dare venture? Of course not! But I must… for him…
Pulled forwards, as if a thread of fate urged me towards destiny, my foot stepped forth. Braced for pain, I cried out. My foot suffered a thousand stings, no one more poisonous or petrifying than the next. But forward I ran, and cried, and ran, and cried!
The bird flew past me, perching itself atop the rock, his claws resting near my lover’s face. How handsome he looked, even after his death…
He died because of you-
NO! I didn’t do it! It was not my fault-
But he would not be dead if you weren’t a heartless coward, replied Mr. Owl.
The orange eyes glared through the steam of the river. I ran towards them faster and faster. I dared not look down, for my feet lost all sensation.
Please give me more time! I’m almost there! I’ll save him, I promise!
If I gave you the time, you would simply waste it, replied Mr. Owl.
Mr. Owl wrapped his claws onto my lover’s face and began lifting him toward the white light in the sky! Those large wings pulsated through time itself, flapping away all the years of love and hope I had to ever see my lover again!
No, please! I begged and begged, but he did not return.
I gave up running. I sank through the molten river, as it slowly swallowed me whole…
This is the part where I, the narrator, explain in excruciating, long-winded, expository, grandiose, and full-fleshed details what has occurred, what is occurring, and what will occur next.
1. Pain and loss.
3. More pain, but with a side order of eternal damnation caused by an Owl.
I’m awake. And cold. And stuck.
I look around. Mr. Owl is back. Just my luck.
“Would you stop that, please? I’d like to keep the hair ON my head, thank you very much!”
He tilted his head as if considering my request. A strand of my hair was still clutched in his beak.
“Why am I stuck?”
Mr. Owl dropped my strand of hair and cleared his throat.
I saw the molten river had frozen over, and that I was buried up to my neck.
“You refuse to see the truth, that is why you are stuck.”
“What does THAT mean?”
Mr. Owl looked around, and turned right back at me, without expression.
“You won’t answer my question?”
“You see that light over there?” Mr. Owl pointed to a ball of red and blue swirling lights.
Mr. Owl picked my tuff of plucked hair and shuffled toward a small nest he was building.
“What does the light mean?”
“What would you like it to mean?”
“Are you ever going to answer my questions with an answer or just more questions?”
He tilted his head in mocking silence. "In due time, just answer my question.”
“I guess I would like that light to represent my freedom. I would like it to save me from you.”
“Then that’s what it shall be.”
I looked back at the swirling red and blue lights. They grew closer.
Mr. Owl fixed his nest. He made it proper and clean!
“What does this have to do with the truth that I refuse to see?”
“You refuse to see that you are the one who trapped you here. I did not trap you here.”
I grew flabergasted, how dare he blame this on me? I writhed and wriggled my captured body.
Mr. Owl preened his feathers. So shiny and tidy!
“It’s not my fault! I didn’t ask to be born like this! I did not kill him, they did! It’s unfair!”
“That is true, but unfair or not, it is not why you ended up here.”
“But I’m stuck… I don’t know what to do…”
“You aren’t stuck.” Mr. Owl climbed in his nest of hair. “You are just pretending.”
“How am I pretending? Did I not confess my love back to him? Was I not truthful?”
“No. And it is that cowardice that brought you here, to try and save him and yourself.”
“How can you call me a coward when I ran through the molten river to save my lover’s soul?”
“Because you are at home. On the floor. Unconscious. Trying to end your life in desperation.”
The lights grew closer until they enveloped me completely.
This is the part where I, the narrator, try to understand how I got into this white room, on a white bed, with clear tubes going into my arms and shackles around my wrist.
1. Most likely ended up in the hospital.
2. Most likely also got arrested.
3. Most likely because I drank down too many pills and broke my window with the bottle after trying to drown my sorrows.
The liquid bag drip-drop; the nurse and police flip-flop; the spinning hands tick-tock. What awful hour is it, Mr. Owl? My head spinning, my eyes burning, my stomach turning, heaven knows-
I look around the room and notice the world has stopped. Mr. Owl is perching on the side rails of the bed, preening his wings.
Mr. Owl, can I make a confession?
I’m all ears.
I know I’m a coward. I know I don’t want this life, even though it could bring me the most joy. I know I’m responsible for the actions that got me here. And I know I can’t save him by dying. But why does it seem as if admitting this doesn’t change how bad I feel about myself?
It’s called guilt. It exists to keep us accountable for our actions. If we could feel better simply by admitting our shortcomings, then what would stop us from doing it all over again?
Mr. Owl flew towards the window and stops short of flying out. He turns to me.
Your lover. What was his name?
His name was Walter. Walter Evermore.
Mr. Owl thinks for a moment and then turns to me.
I’ll see what I can do.
Out the window, he goes, into the cool breeze of the night sky. I am left in handcuffs, alone, with my thoughts. They drift to Walter. His handsome face. His warm body. His soft touch. His senseless death… When I found out that he was stopped in the street by a band of young men, my heart sank. My first thought went to the senselessness of it all. Why do they hate us? What good did it do to kill us in cold blood, when they needed everyone to join the fight overseas?
Mr. Owl is flying back into the room.
I can make you a deal.
What is it?
I can’t let you save Walter, for he is destined to die, whether in the streets of your town or the fields of war. However, I can let you relive that night with him, and you can decide his fate and your own. Would you like this to be true?
My heart tightened and my breath quivered. Tears flooded my face. I might not be able to save him, but maybe I can save our souls. I could have one last night with him. I could be brave and show him my love too.
Yes, I replied.
Mr. Owl flapped his wings and a hush sank through to the floors, covering me like a draped silk cloth, shushing and lulling me to sleep…
I did not let Walter leave that night. I told him I loved him too. I told him I understood why he needed to join the fight. I told him I would write to him every day in secret codes. I told him I would miss him. He told me he would miss me. I kissed him. He kissed me. We made love. I could still feel the love he left inside me the night before when he kissed me goodbye that morning. When he left, I cried.
I did not need to save his soul from the damned, because he was never damned in the first place. Were I to coward from these feelings, I would still be damned. But not anymore.
I opened the window. Mr. Owl tilted his head, preened his feathers, and flew away.
About the Creator
Jay Olivier Morel
He / Him
LGBTQ writer with ADHD
A fan of Queer stories, cosmic horror, science-fiction, and contemporary literature.
Also a fan of non-fiction, history, science, biographies, and wellness.
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