Owl Reaper

The empty night accompanied a shroud of cool night air on my way home from work. There were many nights like this, though tonight it was particularly strong. My radio was on with a series of news articles being discussed; something I liked listening to. I loved to take note of what was happening around me and learn why and how things worked the way they did.

I had left work with a few thoughts running through my mind. As to what triggered them. Well, I'd rather not say.

With my eye on the road, I saw seemingly endless pairs of headlights pass me. As they did, I focused on something: a fluffy white speck in the distance. It was a bird. Although, I couldn't see clearly what kind as it was practically fogged over. 

"Night vapours," I told myself, and looked back at the road.

In a matter of minutes, I found myself back home, exhausted from the day's work. I knew dinner wasn't an issue tonight. My stomach was full, as I ate before leaving work a lot of nights. I couldn't cook for the life of me.

Making my way to my bedroom, I dressed into a blue shirt and some baggy pajama pants; I slumped down on the mattress, and tucked myself in. Moving to the side, I glanced out the window. Fog had cornered the rims, and the pane looked similar to a sheet of ice. 

"I hate winter," I sighed. "It's so empty, cold. I wish spring would hurry itself up."

Closing my eyes, I drifted into a deep sleep. 

Upon waking I couldn't really remember my dream, but piecing it together, I remembered a faint glow. Nothing much else. Just a clear, pulsating glow.

But whatever, dreams don't really signify much.

After some slices of toast and a cup of tea, I dressed, picked up my bag and drove my way to work. Getting there, I took notice of the environment; it was cold, sure, but it looked beautiful. The grass was scattered with dry pieces of frost while the sun shone a weak but warm ray of light. I inhaled the cool air and walked inside.

I could hear the sounds of birds chirping loudly; screaming almost. As I walked in, a few people walked by me with serious looks on their faces. Walking to the front desk, I glanced at the receptionist.

"Hey, did I miss something?" I asked.

"Ms. Downing, shouldn't you be more focused on the fact you were late this morning?" 

"Alice!" I said irritably. 

"Listen, Ms. Downing. The boss won't do much against it currently. See, one of our birds escaped."

"Which one?" 

"The one we took in quite recently. What was its name. Well, it was a barn owl, that much I know."

I swiveled my hand in a circular motion, hinting her to be a little bit more descriptive.

"Um... Well, it's leucistic, so it shouldn't be too hard to find."

I nodded slowly, then wandered off. The day was normal, though a lot of people kept mentioning things like "white barn owl" or "missing bird". As distracting as it was to know one of our birds had disappeared, I couldn't help but be curious about it.

Toward the start of the night, I packed my things and left work with a smile at the receptionist. She had asked me during the night to track the bird down, since I was part of the nocturnal bird group at work. I happily obliged, and got ready to look for it.

Getting into my car, I revved the engine and made my way to a park close to home. Searching everywhere I could; I saw nothing but the lake, streams, leafless trees, and shivering bushes, from the gusting wind.

I took a second look around just to be sure, and well, nothing really came into view. It was just as it had been every winter night. Empty, cold and foggy. I shivered unto the weather's influence; I just had to get out and go home. The bitter night was getting to me.

Driving back home unsuccessful, I sunk into bed.

Shutting my eyes, I tried to sleep. Empty, pure silence. 

A shriek soon broke the peaceful quiet; inhuman, it was. I smiled, as I knew I had found the bird. I got out of bed, and grabbed my torch. Walking down the hallway and through the house, I tried to pinpoint where the screech was coming from.

I searched again, just like the park. From the bottom floor to the top floor, I examined every room in the house to find that owl. But to my disappointment, the screeching of the barn owl stopped. I sighed, and went to bed into a series of dreams.

Black faded to a grey-painted room. I found myself seated in a wooden chair, bound; I tried to escape, but it was just impossible. So, I just sat there, waiting for something. I began to tremble as the silence was overwhelming.

I begged something to happen. At that moment, a white light shone in the room, its light fading to reveal a white owl. Its beady oil-black eyes staring, it began to screech. Continuously screeching, one after another, never stopping. With time, its screams transformed into an eerie human speech. 

The words it said: "You must understand death is natural, Karen. It's a part of life."

Shocked that the owl was speaking, I spoke in a shaky voice: "What are you talking about?"

"It's fate." The owl didn't listen, "And it happens to each and every one of us."

"Why talk about it when you can enjoy life to the fullest?" I retorted.

"You were born on this world, Karen," it said in a stern voice. "Curiosity will pull at you, asking the questions you'd never want to know the answers to. And I can show you the answers."

"What are you?" I asked, "No owl could know this much about anything, let alone human speech! What ARE you?"

"I'd rather not say. Sometimes not knowing is best."

I was silent. I didn't know what to think. And it wasn't long before the owl broke the silence.

"I've come to take you away, Karen. To purgatory."

As my eyes opened back to the real world, I began to shake.

It wasn't morning. The night sky was still blacker than ever. I shivered, thinking about the white owl and its ominous words, it just... No, no! It was just a dream, right? I mean, dreams don't really mean much, do they?

I stood up to go to the fridge to get some food and water.

Half way down the hall to the kitchen, my legs wouldn't move. I pulled as hard as I could, but it just seemed like my legs were glued to the floor.

Pulling and pulling, I was lodged by something in the back, pushing me forward. I didn't know what it was--I turned around to find nothing. I caught my balance, and continued on to the kitchen. 

I passed the backdoor on the way; then collapsed on the kitchen floor. My head was spinning; it was hard to keep balance, I reached for the phone, and dialed for an ambulance.

"Hello," the answering paramedic spoke, "How can I help you today?" 

"I don't know what's going on. I feel really dizzy, I don't know."

"Okay. Are you breathing correctly?"

"Seems so."

"So you feel like you have vertigo?"

"I think so, I'm just not sure."

"Alright, and where are you at?"

I stopped to take a breath, "I'm at 82, Fairmount Avenue, Glasgow."

"Alright, sending help now. Seat yourself, and wait for us to arrive."

I knew it'd be best not to mention anything about the owl. 

I was taken to a nearby hospital. The room around me is pure white, as is every hospital, though it reminded me heavily of my dream somehow. The nurses' faces were blurred. I thought to myself I just had to be going mad! A day before I was at work, and now this? 

I just can't understand. 

In moments, I began to panic. The nurses tried to sedate me, but I begged them not to. There was no way I was going back to sleep; I never wanted to see that white owl again!

Struggling heavily, pushing the nurses away as much as my body would allow, I blindly felt a sharp sting in my shoulder. I felt my heart drop as I knew what was coming.

I gave in, knowing the owl had me in its talons.

Increased tension throughout night. Patient continues to scream relentlessly.

At 3:00am patient is calm.

Onward to 3:37 AM patient is crying in her sleep. At 3:40 AM she is silent.

Patient remained relaxed for a long period of time.

Patient cries out about an owl in her sleep at 5:00 AM.

Relentless panting, trembling and a hot temperature arrive. I requested ice bags.

By roughly 7:00 AM, patient's body cooled down to a low temperature and would not heat up again.

At 8:00 AM, patient was found dead, all systems unresponsive.

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