The Barn Owl? No, no, no, the Barred Owl. I can't tell you how many times I researched both, have listened to both calls to tell which one I had heard that night and had almost cried at the sound. And when I had found the YouTube video with the exact call that I had heard, I had never felt chills so violent or had cringed so hard at just the sound; as stupid as it may seem.
The Barn owl is creepy enough with its screeching cry, the sound to be mistake for a Banshee in the thick of the woods, under the moonlight already fogged over by wispy clouds. It's a sound that sets itself up for fear. A classic horrid call, almost cliche - a slim face to match its cry, its call of the wild.
But that's not what I heard that night. That high pitched ringing was not what had woken me up at 3:42 in the morning, almost hesitant to get out of bed to see what could possibly be making a sound so bone-chilling. It was quiet otherwise, the house and my room, the full moon casting a comforting and familiar glow that never slipped past my window's curtains. This night, however, the moon was bright enough to slip through the cracks the curtains just didn't seem to cover, small slivers of silver light reaching, skeleton-like fingers toying with the shadows on the walls. I usually don't wake from such a deep sleep, but something had caused my eyes to snap open, wondering if the noise I heard was still echoing from the dream, or sitting in the dark corner of my room.
Until I heard it again, sounding distant and close at the same time, not quite being able to comprehend where it was coming from. Getting out of bed was out of shear curiosity, fear driving my concern as chilled hardwood flooring met my warm - and slightly sweaty - feet. The moonlight greeted me first, my window facing the street my parent's house sat on, the neighborhood silent and still with the air around it just so. It was foggy, of course, each house's porch light on and illuminating a path both to the left and right down the street, not as bright as they usually are in the dead of night.
I heard it again just then. The low smooth baritone that felt as if it shook my core. It sounded as if it was down the street to the left, the sound almost traveling slowly, crawling, in the sludge of the hazy night.
But I couldn't see it. What or where exactly it was coming from as I heard it again, the noise not quite scaring me, but erupting something fearful from within me and causing tears to gather on my bottom lids. It was unknown, where that noise was coming from, and while my fogged brain was reassuring me that it was just an owl; something about standing there at 3:42 in the morning, bathed in the moonlight alone in front of my bedroom window, overlooking a truly silent and still night made me wonder - what if it wasn't an owl? What if that noise I was hearing was still in my dreams, that I was still curled up in bed asleep and having the most vivid nightmare of my life? What if I was lucid dreaming? What if the owl wasn't just a bird, but an animal you'd never expect in a small suburban area?
I didn't sleep the rest of that night, hearing that smooth low baritone a few more times after retreating under the comforter of my bed, blankets and pillows wrapping me in a cocoon I hoped that would shield me from the call of night I've never considered before, the sounds that I've never thought I'd hear when everyone else was asleep and unknowing.
From then on, I wouldn't hear the owl, but it would still haunt me when I'd hear sounds similar, animal calls familiar and enough to make my heart flutter and this strange fear to cause a reaction so strong and unusual where tears well and my breathing falters. Out of shear curiosity on some occasions would I bring up a video of the owl's call, listening to it just to wrap my head around the reality that such a rather adorable looking creature would make such a bone-chilling noise.
It was a good few years later, my parents were moving out of the house that my family had stayed in for the past 15 years. Myself moved out, my sister moving out soon to start her senior year of college, my parents wanted to downsize, and I had been visiting to spend what would be my last weekend at that house. I would miss my bedroom with the two windows that would see the sunrise every morning and the moon almost every night. The wonderful view of the weeping cherry tree that reached up to the second floor, myself having seen that tree grow since the trunk was so small, I could wrap my hole hand around it. It was sad, honestly, my family leaving this house that my sister and I had grown up in, made and shared plenty of memories in. Regardless, I tried to make that weekend the best I could. It was Christmas, anyway.
I also loved walking around that neighborhood. It was a huge and very safe neighborhood with lots of families, young families with kids, older couplers with grandkids; plenty of security cameras, ring doorbells cameras, everyone saw everything. So, I always felt safe, even to walk when it was dark; the light from each house's lamp posts enough to always keep the sidewalks illuminated. My last night at that house, I took one last nightly walk around the neighborhood; my parents had gone out running as well, themselves a bit ahead of me as I finished my walk down the one main road in the development leading to my street. It was such a perfect night, the sky was clear where I could see the stars and moon. It was chilly, especially for a December evening, but it was still perfect.
As I was walking down the street, I tried to burn the memory of this neighborhood into my head, the emotions experience, music listened to, the miles walked. I saw my house in the distance at the end of the road, my parents sitting on the front step as both had just finished their run; I slowed my steps a bit, wanting to drag the moment out - until I heard a sound that forced the headphones from my ears to make sure I had actually heard it.
It was the owl - sitting perched atop someone's lamp post across the street from myself, just watching me as I passed by.
I knew what it was, I knew the sound it made, and the fear that it invoked within me since that first night I had heard its call. But, seeing it perched there, watching me the last night I would be there at my parent's place before they moved; it was fate. The fear was still there as I walked by with my eyes on it, itself watching me as well, it made no sound as I kept the headphones from my ears, the music I had been listening to a muffled static noise in the background. My heart didn't beat any slower, my nerves never settled until I rounded that corner to my parent's house, until it was out of my sight.
The only thing I could remember was that encounter was fate. It felt like something that doesn't happen, a fear faced after so many years of trying to forget about it. And when you finally come face to face to what the reality is, you wonder on if what you feared was something to actually fear. Could it have been the atmosphere that night I had heard its call for the first time? Could it have been the hazy over the moon, the stillness of the usually busy and lively neighborhood? Could that owl have been sitting on that same lamp post, calling out to the night to whoever listened? Possibly. And I just happened to be that one person to be listening.
About the Creator
Young, living - thriving? Writing every emotion, idea, or dream that intrigues me enough to put into a long string of words for others to absorb - in the hopes that someone relates, understands, and appreciates.