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Owl by Wendy Bloom

Owl awoke into an alternate universe, grossly apparent because he’d previously been flying through the clear night sky, in search of prey. Now crammed into a restrictive space, his lungs were nearly incapable of sucking in slight amounts of air.

Unable to scooch over by even one tiny bit, Owl felt himself pinned onto something hard and unyielding. Visions of dead butterflies with needles holding them in place cycled frantically through his thoughts.

Glaring yellow lights blinded his intensely sensitive eyes, created for detecting the shivering of rodents in pitch darkness—without even a sliver of moonlight to guide him.

What appeared to be a human hand came dangerously close to Owl’s wary face. It grasped an object that looked like a shiny stick, with bristles soaked in a gloppy mess that dragged across and poked at Owl’s powerless frame. He wished with unrealistic yearning that it would end—that this was but a figment of his imagination.

Dark whispers rang out from all around him.

“Let us out, let us out, let us out!” they cried in unison.

Louder and more plaintive grew their frantic voices, which served to increase Owl’s terror and sense of disorientation.

Noxious fumes assaulted his finely tuned senses, and the more the bristles ran over his body, the more fearful and motionless he became, held in the maw of some sharp-toothed monster.

The murmurings of the human before him were unintelligible, causing the increasingly crushed chest surrounding Owl’s heart to pound in panic, lungs hungry for enough breath to oxygenate his thinning blood.

“I’m not ready to die!” he shrieked.

The human didn’t hear him. If he did, he was utterly unconcerned and far removed from his victim’s frantic appeal.

“Free yourself while you still can!” a single voice shouted.

“Fight with everything you have left!” shouted another.

Owl knew that he would be frozen and lost in this place forever if he didn’t do all he could to escape his impending fate.

Every muscle in his wiry bird body became taut with rebellion. He pulled and he pushed until he was aching, yet still made no progress. Straining his withering energy into one last act of desperation, Owl alarmingly crashed to the floor, engulfed by the darkness he so craved.

The cheers of many rang out in encouragement, urging him on. He continued his fight against captivity; the human was standing up now, his mouth gaping open in shock and fear.

Owl flailed about more intently and forcefully than he had ever before in his short lifetime. Feathers began to rip from his back until he was freed from his prison.

He flew mightily into the face of his oppressor, snatching the human’s spectacles with his sharp beak, slashing his devastatingly sharp talons across the man’s forehead and eyes, gleefully watching as blood sprayed everywhere.

The man shrieked and shouted in terror and pain, after witnessing the frightful owl breaking free from the canvas he’d been painting.

“What have I done?” he mumbled, falling to the floor as blood shot from his empty eye sockets.

Owl crashed triumphantly through the glass window of the studio.

“We are free! We are free!” the remaining animals brayed as they broke from their own canvases.

Now the night air held its breath in excitement, pulsing with silent anticipation.

The painter’s wife returned home, and immediately became aware of the tattered and trampled remains of her husband. The remnants of what had once been his glorious and grand art studio.

Her tears fell onto his crumpled unrecognizable face, as quickly as his blood congealed and his corpse hardened.

“Albert!” she shrieked unconsolably. “What have you done, what have you done?”

Owl sat in the pine tree above them, watching as she fell to floor beside the painter.

He smiled broadly, as only a bird of prey can.

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