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Under the Oak
Katrina Hayes ©2004

She sat on one of the roots that had wrestled itself free of the deep earth, beneath the spreading branches of an oak whose roots were nothing in comparison. Her sitting was weak; it was as if it was pure luck that she actually managed to sit down on the root and not miss. She exerted no more energy than was absolutely necessary with any of the movements she made. Her stride had been just as feeble as her collapse to her bent posture, and none watching would have doubted that she was absolutely exhausted. When she bumped down onto the root, a huge yawn escaped her face. Her head then nodded forward, and she was asleep.

Above, previously noted by her, as every other living creature in her surroundings, but seeming worth no more notice than any of the others, a horned owl sat. It appeared much more alert than she had, but she had noticed no fewer details than the owl. Now, however, the owl had the advantage of remaining awake, when she could not. The owl studied her closely, from her sweeping deep blue cloak that blended into the surrounding night better than any human-tainted green could have to the tousled brown wavy hair that poured over her face, covering it from the owl’s view. The owl had nothing else to look at for the moment, so it resumed its original gaze, outwards. It would have been impossible for this girl to arrive like this, all alone. The closest human habitation was a journey of at least a quarter moonphase, and she carried no supplies or anything. Apparently.

The owl, after waiting for the moon to make half its journey across the nighttime sky with no sign of anything or anyone coming with the girl, swooped down to her side and managed to get itself under her cloak without waking her. It had been a long time since it had felt human skin. Even longer since it had possessed human skin to press back. And the girl reminded him of someone. Someone so long ago that he could not even remember, but someone who must have mattered so much to him for the impression to still be there. The owl, too, closed its eyes and slept.