Welcome to a new adventure! Let’s not waste any time. Let’s jump right in =)
The room’s temperature sits well above comfortable, like every student is sweating their anxiety into the air. The usual chatter is nonexistent. Do this one task well and the rest of your magicks class will be a breeze because all the other tasks build off of this one.
Sand falls through the hourglass, its tiny grains counting away until your time’s up. Students lean over their individual tables around you working on their own projects but yours sits like a lonely lump of clay, unformed and far from finished.
The project is, in fact, gray and red clay, but as the instructor demonstrated, if you form it just right, you can animate it into a pet for a single day. It’s not supposed to be a difficult task. It is, after all, the first building block of the class. The clay doesn’t even have to be perfectly shaped to look exactly like the animal you want.
But you want something different, something unique, compared to everyone else’s. Around you, cats and dogs are starting to move, slowly taking on the fluidity of the actual animals they’re made to portray.
You want an owl. A beautiful horned owl like the one that sits outside in the big cottonwood at night ‘who-whoing’ to the world and scaring up mice to catch.
When you attempted the owl’s shape, though, it fell back into its lumpy form and refused to hold the body of the bird.
You try again and the clay melts around your hands like hot mud.
Animas clay can be stubborn, the instructor warned when he gave the assignment. You have to be very clear in your mind what shape it’s to hold if you want it to retain the animal’s form.
You’ve seen the horned owl, but only through the window at night. The shadows and tree limbs of the cottonwood it calls home obscured much of its actual shape.
The sand finishes falling into the bottom globe of the glass.
“Time’s up,” the instructor calls and you raise your hands into the air just like all the other students to show you’ve stopped working.
The instructor ‘ohs’ and ‘ahs’ over a small cat and praises a boy to your right for his mouse. Then he stops by your table and stares at the formless lump of clay on the surface. Without a word, he moves on but you know, you’ve just failed the assignment, and possibly the rest of the class if you can’t figure this out.
The class finishes and you move to shuffle out with the other students, all of which get to keep their Aminas pets for the day.
You hold your lump of clay in your hand, planning to take it with you.
“Stay a moment,” the instructor catches your eye.
You step out of the flow of students and wait. When the room’s empty, the instructor folds his large hands on his desk and stares at you with a long gaze. His blue eyes seem to be searching for something but he doesn’t apparently find it, because he shakes his head a moment later and sighs through his thick beard.
“What were you trying to make?” he asks.
“An owl,” you admit.
“Not a cow or a horse?”
You simply frown, why would you want such a large pet for a day?
“Just making sure,” he says after a moment of you frowning at him. “Since you live on that farm, I wanted to make sure you didn’t go for an animal that was too large for the clay.”
“I listened in class,” you protest. “I know that’s too much for the clay you gave me.” Plus, you’re surrounded by cows and horses. It’s not like you need another one.
“Bring me an owl tomorrow morning,” he says, nodding at the clay in your hand, “and you’ll get full credit.”
Excitement builds in your chest. “Thank you, sir,” you say and take off out of the classroom.
You doubt you can get a good look at the full-grown owl from the cottonwood but she has a nest in the tree with several babies inside. From your bedroom window, you can see their tiny heads bobbing around when the momma comes home.
Maybe you can climb the tree to get a good look. But if the momma catches you, she’s sure to attack and she’s a large bird.
Or maybe you can wait for bedtime and climb out onto the roof. With the binoculars, you might be able to see the babies from the top of the house.
Climb the Tree?
Use the Binoculars?
Owl Shaped-Climb the Tree
The afternoon was torturous. You headed home with the lump of animas clay folded into the bottom of a paper bag and then that bag was tucked carefully into an outside pocket of your backpack. You can see the bulge it makes in the canvas even now where it sits by the front door.
Mom hums in the kitchen as she cleans the dishes. Dad’s out, working with the cows. On the table in front of you is a spelling list from school. You’ve written it out several times but you know you’re not retaining the actual list. The words are just letters floating through your subconscious while your active brain is focused on that lump of clay and the owl tree outside.
You finish writing out the list for the fifth time and set the pencil down. This was the last of your homework for the day.
“Can I go play?” you ask.
Mom glances at your list and then nods. “Put the list in your backpack.”
You race to the pack and trade the list for the paper sack with the clay. Tucking the clay into your pocket, you’re out the door and down the steps before you hear the screen door slam closed against the frame.
Mom’s exasperated sigh reaches you. Maybe it’s a mental thing, you know she’s going to sigh about the door, so you hear it no matter where you’re at.
The cottonwood tree isn’t far from the house. You skid to a stop at the base of it and locate the tangle of twigs above that make up the owl’s nest.
You’re just about to start climbing when you see large tail feathers sticking over the edge of the round mass.
The momma owl’s home. You slump to sit at the base of the giant tree.
She’ll attack you for sure if you start to climb up now.
The momma owl doesn’t seem inclined to leave anytime soon, so you pull the lump of clay from its paper sack and start trying to mold it again. Each time you get the rounded shape of the bird’s body formed, the clay sort of melts around your hands. The tail feathers hold their shape a bit longer though. With one good look at the owlets, you’re sure you’ll be able to hold the whole shape in your mind.
Dusk blurs the horizon by the time you hear a whoosh of wings overhead. You glance up just in time to see the momma owl skim away toward the nearby field. There are mice aplenty in the field, so you’re sure she won’t be long. On top of that, your own mom will be calling you to bed soon.
You pocket the animas clay again and scale the tree in the near dark. Long experience in this tree makes the climb easy.
The bark of the branch containing the nest bites into the palms of your hands as you pull yourself up to peek into the bird’s home.
Inside you find two fluffy bits of feathers. The owlets pivot their heads to look at you and one gives a soft, babyish ‘who’? Their adult feathers have not come in yet. Instead, they’re covered in a soft poof of down.
You stare at them, taking in their shape, the round features of their faces and eyes, and the wings they flutter in agitation the longer you stay near them. You try to imprint the way they look on your mind’s eye.
A whoosh is all the warning you have. The momma owl screeches as she sinks her claws into your hands where you grasp the tree.
Instinctually, you try to pull away. This off balances you at the exact moment you let go of your handhold on the branch. You swing wildly, attempting to regain a hold but the momma owl will have none of it.
She beats her massive wings in your face and you lose all sense of the world around you except for the gut twisting feel of falling and the wind and feathers buffeting your body.
A scream escapes just as you hit the ground. It’s cut short as the impact drives the breath from your chest and then your head cracks hard against the dirt. You get a sense of dizziness and then nothing.
The world still feels like it’s spinning. As you open your eyes, the faces of mom and dad slowly come into focus.
“There you are,” Dad says. He gives you a lopsided grin. “Think the tree got the better of you this time.”
Mom huffs. She’s about to launch into a tirade about climbing the owl tree in the first place but dad chuckles and helps you to your feet.
“Go wash up,” he says and gives you a push toward the house. He watches as you make your way inside, probably to make sure you can walk a straight line.
You clean up and make it into bed without any residual effects from your fall. Dad clears you for sleep and soon your sitting in bed in a dark, quiet house.
The animas clay is still in your pocket.
You close your eyes, trying to recall all the little details you gathered about the owlets. It’s easy to remember their large, curious eyes but the shape of their wings seems a little off in your mind.
It’s better than when you tried to animate the clay in class but it’s definitely not a full, clear image. Perhaps your fall muddled your brain a bit.
Attempt to see them again?
Try from memory?
Owl Shaped-Attempt to see owls again
The image in your mind of the owls seems to get fuzzier and fuzzier the harder you try to recall the details. At this point, the animas clay might hold the large, curious eyes of the birds but have no distinct body.
You can’t get full credit for such a half-formed creature.
Around you, the house lays silent with sleep. You tuck the clay into your pajama’s pocket and slip from bed.
Down the stairs you go, determined to get the owl image perfect in your mind. You skip the third stair that squeaks and tiptoe on the left side of the last step to avoid the groan it always emits.
Then you’re out the door and at the base of the tree again without mom or dad the wiser. No tail feathers stick out over the edge of the nest, so you’re reasonably sure the momma bird is away hunting.
The night’s breeze caresses your nose and ears, chilling them as you pull yourself up into the tree again.
The owlets swivel their heads in unison to look at you when you peek over the side of their home. One gives a ‘whoho—whooho00” like he’s asking you what you’re about. The other hides behind him.
Again, their large, curious eyes grab your attention but this time you have more than a second to truly take in their clawed feet and the shape of their bodies. The bolder of the two flutters his wings in agitation and you study the soft down that covers the baby appendages.
There’s a whoosh and an ear splitting screech just before the momma owl sinks her claws into your shoulder. You don’t make the same mistake as last time and let go of the tree. Instead, you pull yourself tight against the cottonwood’s trunk.
The momma owl lets go only to come at you again. You bat her away and lower yourself a few branches down.
This isn’t far enough for her, though, and she angles her body in at you, sinking her clays into your side and leg.
You bat at her again and the back of your hand strikes her in the chest with a solid thud. She backs up, beating her wings to keep air born.
This allows you to quickly lower yourself out of the tree.
You don’t pause once you’re on the ground. Pain shoots through your hip and side where she punctured skin as you race for the front door of the house.
Her screech follows you and from the sound of it, she’s giving chase. You get through the door and close it just as there’s a thud against the wooden frame. You hear claws tearing at the screen of the outside door.
After a moment, the sound fades. You sink onto the kitchen floor. With shaking hands, you inspect your shoulder and side and hip. The shoulder’s fine. Bruised with a few small dots of blood from her claws puncturing the skin, but it’s nothing a night’s sleep won’t help.
You side looks like you tried to grate it like cheese. It reminds you of the road rash you get when you fall off your bike on the gravel road.
It’s the hip that’s concerning. The momma owl sank her claws, not only through your pajamas, but through the clay in your pocket and then into your skin.
Terror seizes your heart. You scrub the wound with soap and water from the kitchen sink, rinse it, and scrub it again.
After a third washing, you assure yourself it’s clean, and head up to bed.
Morning sunshine and the clank of pans from mom cooking eggs in the kitchen wake you from sleep filled with bird’s wings and soapy water. It’s now or never to make your owl, so you set the lump of clay on your desk and shape its body with your hands. To your surprise, it holds the shape you set. With a deep breath, you step back and start the process of animating the clay from focusing your mind.
Feathers start to fluff out from the oval shape and excitement grows in your chest. There’s a tingling in your skin, which isn’t totally unexpected, the instructor did mention some odd side effects that could happen while working magick.
Except the tingling grows stronger until it feels like your entire body is awakening from the loss of blood flow.
The clay on the desk now has a beak and large eyes but your own eyes have blurred, filling with tears from your discomfort.
You try to stop, to maybe refocus your attempt. No one in class seemed to have these problems. But the process won’t stop now. You’ve gone too far with the animation process.
As you watch, the bird on the desk flows into fluid clay again, but it’s not melting like before, it’s flowing toward you. The clay touches your skin and starts to spread. Before you know it, it’s covering your body in a very thin film and the tingling is so intense you can barely draw breath. Your vision blurs even more, goes yellow around the edges and then blacks out.
You wake on the floor. With a hand, you move to push off the wooden surface but the motion doesn’t feel natural. When you look down to assess why, all breath leaves your body in a high-pitched wheeze.
You’re oval shaped and feathery. Long claws flex out when you try to move your feet.
With a wing, not a hand, you finally gain your feet. You hear mom climbing the steps toward your room and you scuttle under to bed to hide.
You’re an owl. A very large, horned owl. Even getting under the bed proves to be difficult.
Mom peeks into your room and give a soft ‘huh,’ before closing your door again.
What do you do now?
The instructor might know how to change you back but that means getting to the school, as an owl. Or you could try to change back on your own but, since you weren’t able to stop the animation process on your own, changing back might not prove successful either.
Head to School?
Try to Change Back Alone?
Owl Shaped-Go to School as an Owl
You lay beneath your bed until mom and dad head out to tend the cows. When you have projects at school, it’s not uncommon for you to head out early before either of them rise for work. You thank your lucky stars for this because they simply assume now that you had a project you forgot to tell them about.
By the time you squirm your way from beneath the bed, you’re stiff and one of your wings tingles from a lack of blood flow. As you shake it to return feeling, you debate waddling down the stairs or trying to fly off the roof.
Every time the momma owl has babies, they learn to fly by basically falling from the nest. It’s an all or nothing kind of gig. You either jump, spread your wings and hope they carry you, or you waddle your way to the school.
Time decides which option you go with. By waddling around the room, you figure out that it’s just going to take too long to waddle to school. You’d never make it during the school day.
With returned feeling in your wing, you hop onto your desk and shove the top of your head against the base of the windowpane. Thankfully, you left it cracked the night before and it slides upward with only a few pushes.
You squeeze under and waddle out onto the roof of the house. Something catches your eye below. A curious ‘Whohoho,’ escapes you and you realize you’re eyeing a mouse for breakfast. With a shake, you return your focus to jumping off the roof.
The drop’s not that far, you’ve jumped it before, but at the time you were a human with a great deal more height.
Now you’re a two-foot tall owl. That drop looks a lot bigger this morning.
There’s a scream from out in the yard. It’s not human, but the angry challenge of the momma owl. She swoops toward you. If she had a problem with a human being near her nest, she’s furious that another owl’s close.
It’s now or never. You take two steps before dropping into the open air. Your stomach meets the top of your mouth in a sudden desire to vacate your body. You imitate the momma owl and spread your wings.
There’s a pull at the appendages, a not unpleasant pressure, and your stomach slides back into its proper place as your wings catch the air. A thrill tingles through you. The ground whooshes past before you angle upward toward the open sky.
The momma owl gives a parting screech and gives up the chase, satisfied that she scared you away from her babies.
Below, the road meanders its way south toward the school. You use it to navigate into town.
A harsh ‘caw caw’ comes from the railing of an upper story building’s balcony. There are answering caws from farther down the street.
A sigh of frustration escapes you. Crows. They like to mob the owl at home and you know from watching her that it’s impossible to fight their numbers.
You turn and swoop between several houses, then take a sharp left into the schoolyard.
Caw Caw. Cawcaw caw.
By now there are about a dozen of the black birds swirling around behind you. With a quick count of windows, you pick out the magick instructor’s room and barrel into the glass. Landing is a lot harder than you expected.
You sink long claws into the window frame and beat your beak against the glass. The crows are getting bolder. One dives toward you.
You flare your massive wings and the crow backs off again.
The window slides open to reveal the curious face of your instructor. Although you don’t want to be rude, you’d rather deal with his displeasure right now than with the crows. You dart inside, shoving him back from the window in the process.
He stumbles back with a ‘humph,’ and catches himself on his desk.
Then he stares in shock at the owl on his desk.
You pivot your head back toward the window, then look at him, then back toward the window.
Close it! You want to shout but all that comes out is a loud ‘Whohohohoooo.’
He reaches over without looking away from you and slides the pane closed just as a crow thuds into the glass. He jumps, shakes himself and then pokes you in the chest with a curious finger.
“WHOhohooo.” You glare at him.
He cracks up laughing a full, body-bending belly laugh. Tears start rolling down his face before he can contain his mirth.
Wiping at his eyes, he gasps in a breath. “Last time this happened I ended up with a hedgehog waddling across my floor, but a full horned owl! That takes the cake!”
Part of you wants to be indignant, but then you realize, he knows exactly what happened. You don’t have to try to get him to understand by speaking a series of ‘whohos.’
Your instructor helps you change back into a human after containing his amusement.
“I’ll grant you full credit,” he says, “because you obviously went to great lengths to see your owl and you created a full, flying owl with the clay. However, I won’t let you use animas clay again. If you ever happen to get it into your skin again, you’ll end up an animated object for life.”
This makes your magicks class very tricky because animas clay is used for lots of assignments, but your instructor helps you come up with alternatives and you avoid ever touching the clay again.
Well done! You not only survived your owl experience but you passed the instructor’s assignment =)
Thank you for joining this adventure. I love to hear your thoughts on the options and the overall story. Feel free to leave a comment with feedback.