The Last Winter
A short story about an aging barn owl.
The world is quiet ... perhaps more so than it use to be. I remember being young. I remember listening to the sound of snow falling as I gazed out from my perch. Now, the pitter patter of snowfall is all but gone. My senses have grown quite dull in recent years, and the winter is far colder than I remember. These eyes have grown weary, seeing much from the skies, although I have no legacy to leave behind. This suits me fine, as a humble life is one worth living all the same. Having spent it being happy, I cannot complain. This is a feat in its own right, as I've never truly struggled to be content as the humans seem to do. Their worries, their way of life. At times it confuses me, but they gave me my home. They gave me this barn, from which I've lived my days freely. I've spent many nights pursuing the hunt, feeding myself in the only way I know how. Perhaps this was my calling, and perhaps it is a legacy after all. Even with no one to tell my story, the story was still told all the same.
The barn, my home, has always been here. Perhaps it always will be. It has always been where I reside, and will be the last place I see when I'm ready for my final perch. I know that perch is coming soon. My body aches, and my voice is quiet. Hunting become much more of a chore, and as such I have not eaten in some time. I do not know if I will see the sun rise over the horizon tomorrow, but I do know I will always remember the beauty of this world and this life I was given. Could it be that all things feel the way I do now? I suppose such questions don't need answers, for I will soon forget when I finally take my rest.
Down below, the cats gather in the barn. They find warmth and safety amongst the hey left here by the humans. They too have always been here, and have always paid me no mind. There's a strange comfort in knowing they reside here with me. When I'm gone, the barn will still remain a home. Their young will inhabit it, much as I have before them. with no young of my own to speak of, it's a fitting gift to them. They will be safe here. They will be warm here. Much as it has always been, much as it will always be.
Now, in this moment, I'm hit with fatigue. I know when I close my eyes, I'll awake in the celestial skies. My brethren await me, and I will return to my prime. My body will no longer ache. I will no longer be cold. The mice will be plenty, and my body will return to the Earth that birthed me. I am not scared, for this is life. The beauty that connects us calls to me. I grow far more weary, and my vision begins to fade. This is my last winter. The last snowfall I'll witness. I'm thankful to have seen it. I will use my strength to come down from my roost. To lay in the snow once more, allowing it to become a blanket for the feathered body. I gaze upon my barn, my home, and think fondly of it. As my eyes close for the last time, it is the last thing I see. Perhaps I will see it once more from the celestial skies, though I know I won't have need for such a home there. This world has been kind to me, and for that I am thankful. Now I must return to whence I came. My eyes close for the last time. I fall into my last deep sleep. All is as it should be before I leave for the celestial skies.