Owlgirl by Regan Thompson
As Oliver soared against the ominous inky black sky, he wondered if he was too late. His beak was parched, and he hadn’t eaten a bat in a long, long, time. His dark, amber eyes were filled with fear, and he wondered if he could survive the journey. He perched on a rotten, blackened log, unable to go on. He surrendered the sack he carried, sculpted of owl pellets. His last, anxious thought was, Who will take care of the owlets? He wondered this question until finally, the barn owl drifted into a sleep from which he would never wake up.
My name is Regan. Some people call me “Regon” or “Tree Hugger” but my most common name is “Owlgirl”. That’s because I never had a human family. I was born an owlet, in a silver egg. My egg was the conversation among the heart faced owls for a long while. The most mysterious thing about the egg is that, on one half of the egg, from the inside, there was illustrations carved into the soft shell. And that’s where our story begins.
I grew up in a roost underground with two other owlets. Once hatched, they were dubbed Sport and Crash. I’ll tell you about Sport. Sport is the only reason I’m alive. When I was getting delivered to the roost, the owl that carried me didn’t make it. Soon after that, the owl that carried Sport arrived. There was a hole in the bag, and Sport could see my sack through his peephole, and pecked it until it was large enough for him to crawl out. He took a deep breath, and vaulted out of the peephole! The owl delivering Sport felt the weight of the bag shift, and looked down. He swooped down to save Sport. He clutched Sport in his black talons and noticed a dead owl down below. He plunged down closer and began to recognize him. “Oliver,” he breathed, and gently set Sport down on the grass. The delivery owl noticed the sack I laid in strewn across Oliver’s torso. Breathing heavily, he carried the sack and me, home to the roost in a cave underground where I met Crash.
For a owlet, Crash was surprisingly stalwart. His talons showed plentiful stamina, and the curved lenses of his dark, brown eyes could easily see in the dark, and I could easily imagine how he would pinpoint prey without having to scavenge and strain his eyes. Sport, on the other hand, didn’t look as stealthy. He had dislocated his left foot, and the area around it was irritated, puffy, swollen and red. Sport was going to have to be bathed in special herbs, and the owls that were yet to raise us planned to make him a cast of moss. “Why does Sport get special plants?” complained Crash. I glanced at Sport and realized that neither one of us had explained to Crash how hard it had been to survive the way here. “We both just had a tough ride here.” I blurted. Crash followed my gaze to Sport’s wound. “Oh, I get it.” Crash answered. “Why are we here?” I wondered aloud. I flopped down on the floor packed with wood shavings. Now it was Crash’s turn to do the explaining. “Well, back in the prehistoric times, eggs took decades and decades to hatch. So anything could break our eggs, like egg eating rodents. So Ambassador, my great great great grandfather, decided to bring us into hiding, and this tunnel, “Crash told me, “probably leads to more eggs. I gawked at the tunnel dead ahead of me. “You mean there are more of us?” I gasped. “Yeah, probably. My dad also says that the reason we hatch faster in here is because of the heat.” Crash responded, wiping a bead of precipitation of the fluffy, gray, fringe of feathers on his back. “So I think that, basically, we live inside of a giant blowtorch,” he said, gesturing with his talons. But I was no longer listening; I had a theory too. I figured it out. We had burrowed right inside of the sun.
Sport was back. There was only one miniscule problem: he wouldn’t let us see his injury. “What happened?” Crash asked. “Oh, nothing.” Sport shifted uncomfortably, trying to hide a garden of a cast behind his back. I tried to cover my laughter with a bout of coughing. “Then why are you standing on one leg like a flamingo?” Crash pressed. Sport hesitated, unfurling his tiny gray wings to set down his leg, revealing a big, green cast of moss so big, he could barely walk. It was bigger than my head. Almost immediately, Crash was drowned in a sea of giggles. “Be sure to water your garden every day, “Crash teased. Sport blushed three shades of violet. Finally, Crash stopped laughing. His dark, liquidy eyes met Sport’s. Sport puffed up his feathers until he was almost as big as Crash. He looked ready to attack somebody. I was about to break in and end the squabble, when a beautiful snowy owl glided in, I assumed, the hunter. A hunter’s job was to hunt prey for the tiny owlets that couldn’t(jobs were assigned all over the sun; guards, messengers, weavers, hunters, etc.). She had turquoise blue eyes, flecked with gold, that seemed to penetrate right through me, a seemingly bioluminescent coat of shimmering feathers, and a hooked black beak. Her gleaming, pointed talons were clutching a large, dead rodent. She plunged down lower and landed beside me.
“Hello.” She told me. “My name is Winter. I’m the new hunter.” She spoke softly in a gentle, melodious, voice. And faster than the wind, she unhooked the mouse from her claws, and spread her wings to take off. “Wait!” I called. She rotated her head halfway around. “What?” said Winter. “Where are you going now?” I asked. “To provide for the other owlets.” She muttered something under her breath that sounded like “Clueless owlets”. “Other owlets? Crash, your theory was right!” I called to Crash, who had decided to try and devour the rat himself while everyone was distracted. Crash dropped the rat, a bit surprised. “I was right?” Crash asked. “I was right!” Crash muttered over and over, strutting around the burrow. “I was right.” Winter rolled her turquoise eyes to the ceiling. “Yes. It’s dangerous outside, and the millions and millions of eggs laid would never survive. So when they were first laid, it was decided amongst the mature owls that survived to put our species into hiding until THOSE owlets mature, then we set them free to mate and breed, and when they lay eggs, it repeats. There’s still eggs out there,” She shrugged her pearly white shoulders and took off, but not before whirling back around and saying, “All in the name of The Medallion.” Then she disappeared into the blackness of the tunnel. Me, Sport, and Crash all peered into the tunnel. Our ability to see in the dark hadn’t developed yet. Me and Sport both stared expectantly at Crash. “What?” he said defensively. “Can you see in the dark?” Sport asked wonderingly. But even Crash could only see a dim, gray, lighting. It was our only chance of finding out more about The Medallion. We gradually made our way through. It was a little tricky. In the blackness, I tripped over a small rock. Sport couldn’t hear me, or see me when I fell. “Sport!” I warned. “Don’t step on the –“ Sport stumbled over the same rock and landed on top of me. “rock.” In the last few minutes, there had been a fork, and Crash had gotten a little lost. He scavenged and found us. “You guys!” Crash approached us. “I’m so glad I found you. Did you find anything interest—“ “Crash!” we yelled in unison, trying to get his attention. We signaled frantically through the darkness; maybe he’d catch a glimpse of what we were saying. “Aah!” he cried out, adding the final owl to our pig pile. I groaned loudly. We all rearranged ourselves. Crash flared his wings indignantly. Sport flexed each of his talons with uncertainty as if one of them might snap in two at any moment, and I helped Sport groom his feathers. This was a good time to stop for a break. “Hey Crash, do you still have the rat Winter got us?” I asked. Crash nodded, pulling out a dusty, battered garbage can of a meal, but as far as I was concerned, it was a meal fit for a king, and after dividing it up, we devoured it quickly. “Phew. What’s next, Owl Girl?” Crash grinned as he used my favorite nickname. “Why don’t we keep going?” I asked. So we trudged on and on, until Sport finally yelled, “Look! I think I see light!” Indeed, there was a soft, pink glow in the distance. Just seeing it warmed me up, as my thin coat of small, gray feathers didn’t serve much protection against the bitter cold of the tunnel. We hurried toward the light that felt like home and found ourselves in a room surrounded by warmth. It seeped over and into us like an invisible blanket wrapped tightly around us. There were also dozens of eggs. Cream colored eggs waiting patiently in one corner, freckled brown eggs rattling and cracking in front of our eyes, eggs with beaks poking out, but tapping so weakly it seemed they would rather take naps. Bold bronze letters that were practically shouting, “look at me!” read “Horned Owl Hatchery”. In one corner of the room there was a bowl carved of shiny white marble filled to the brim with tiny white mice. I knew I wasn’t supposed to, but I stole three of them for our journey. There were so tiny, they wouldn’t miss them. They were live, so I guessed they were overfeeding them so they could get fat. I wondered why they never made hatcheries for barn owls.