The Tree of Night Owl

Elsa followed her mother out of the door, Dad was gone, she wasn’t sure where, just gone, ‘I can no longer look after you,’ the woman said in a tone as dead as the autumn leaves that still littered the floor. She was wearing the coat her gran had bought her before the fuel prices had frozen the old woman into the grave. Her mother hesitated with her fingers in the warm fabric, was she thinking of selling it?

The little girl looked up at the woman with eyes pleading for a hug but the women turned and marched forward grabbing Elsa’s hand and dragging her along. ‘Where are we going Mummy?’ she asked a little frightened.

‘You will see,’ she snapped and darted across the road narrowly avoiding the cars. It was already late in the day and the light was a silver glow she tried to snuggle up to her mothers leg. They walked out of town, and up the hill now devoid of trees, her dad had cut some of them down to get them through last winter – everybody had had the same idea and now there were no trees.

Was she going to the orphanage? She thought it was over the other side of town but didn’t want to ask, maybe she would go and stay with her Uncle Tommy and Aunty Sandra though she couldn’t remember them well, they hadn’t visited in a long time. No one visited anymore.

They reached the cliff edge near the old quarry lake, ‘are we fishing Mummy?’ she asked. The woman didn’t answer, Elsa wasn’t sure what happened but she must have lost her footing, she didn’t even scream as she slipped over the edge, the wind ripped at her face. The water rose as an icy wall she shattered in a blast of pain. The eons of the night seemed to claw their way into her mouth and into her lungs, darkness swam as she plunged downward the coat dragging her onward. She was fire then with nothing to fight with, just a burning that consumed her from the lungs to the brain, I am dying? she thought, poor mummy will be so sad.

Time skipped a beat and became erratic as she played with her new trike and the flew in the air to be caught in strong arms. Water weeds that were gelatinous caught her and held her form upright once more, little head nodding gently in the current. She opened her eyes, the world was a dark layered sky with strange vegetation sprouting here and there, she stepped forward untangling her hair and coat from the branches and looked around in the gloom. Wasn’t there supposed to be water? Wasn’t she in the lake?

Perhaps she was in an air bubble like in those films, maybe she could find away out and swim back home?

It was so cold here, like when the snows had buried the houses for six weeks and they’d had to dig tunnels to get to each others houses. She had thought it was normal but Daddy had said it wasn’t. She wondered where he was. He’d gone to find work but Mummy said he wasn’t coming back anymore. She’d heard whispers of soldiers and bread lines but none of it made much sense – perhaps Daddy had gone to be a solider?

Elsa began to shake with fear, it was so dark and she didn’t have a torch, but she kept walking over the purple brown packed earth, looking around her pupils so large in the dim light. It was so dark she almost didn’t see the lamp and matches sitting on a stone. It looked a lot like her Grandmother’s hearth. She crouched down to light it, her fingers were all pruney from the lake – she hated wrinkly fingers and how they felt the world but she was distracted from the thought by the realisation that her cloths where not wet.

She lit the lamp. A dark shape swooped over her, she squeaked in fear and huddled there but a soft hooting made her look up, the silently drifting shapes were owls!

She stood with her lamp and looked around her, there were a lot of owls all heading in one direction, she decided to follow them, if they had gotten in here they must know the way out and she could get out too!

In the distance she could see a large tendril crowned bulk, it was nothing but a darker black on the smudged grey of the sky. Pin points of yellow light began to appear within the tendrils, more and more of them were blinking into existence, as she got nearer she could see the feathered outline around each set of yellow lamp eyes – it was the owls!

Hundreds of them nested within an old dead tree. the trunk was old and gnarled and rather wide, a crack of blue light appeared and yawned into a glowing door way, a cool white entrance, she stopped and stared into its endlessness. Should she walk through the door or continue exploring?

A silhouette began to shift within the glom, ‘Elsa?’ came her Daddy’s voice. She dropped the lamp as she ran through the door it winked out. An owl hooted and swooped picking up the now extinguished lamp and set it down in the hollow next too some matches and swooped away to another tree with a red gash, a woman emerged a vine tangled around her neck. ‘Forgive me Elsa..’ she murmured before awaking to the realm of Night Owl.

Posted: Thursday, August 5th, 2010 @ 2:06 pm
Categories: Flash Fiction.
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