Residual Effects

 Northwood Forest, Dusk

The glossy black feathers on the wings of the sinister raven hugged his intimidating frame, even against the strongest gusts of the powerful winds that threatened to blow him off course. His ruthless eyes stared menacingly at the dark forest below. Except for one large clearing, where a shaft of dazzling sunlight pierced through, the entire forest floor was heavily shaded by the majestic, overhanging trees. That clearing has the potential to fit my needs, Raven thought arrogantly. For now, I must go back to that dreadful tree. I’ll return after nightfall.

*  *  *

The gentle, caring Great Gray preened his striking robe of dense gray feathers that had been ruffled while he slept. He cast his intense amber eyes in the direction of his beloved wife and enchanting little daughter, his pride and joy. Both were still sound asleep. Hopping onto a large limb of the oak tree, he puffed out his broad, round chest and checked out his reflection in the lake below. Then he rapidly beat his wings and took off for his nightly dusk flight. As he flew over the peaceful clearing, soon to be filled with activity, he noticed a large, black silhouette casting a dark shadow against the dimming sky. Owl kept flying, but was curious about the creature who had crossed his path.

*  *  *

Raven, camouflaged by the darkness of the night, hovered over the clearing, now filled with the hooting and screeching of young owls playing in the open field. His eyes scanned the forest’s canopy, looking for a place to land and an opportunity to observe. Why is it that something is always in my way? he thought to himself. This looked like the perfect place for me. It seemed so much better than that suffocating tree, but these useless owls would be in my way. Raven scrutinized the clearing more closely, still interested in claiming the land for himself. Of course, if it was really worth it, I could always get rid of them…


*  *  *

Owl flapped his wings as his sharp talons grasped the limb of the ancient oak tree that had been his family’s home for generations. He proudly glanced over the expansive landscape spread out before him. Opening his golden beak, he took a deep, satisfying breath of the clean forest air. It doesn’t get any better than this, Owl thought contentedly. I wouldn’t give this up for anything. His peaceful thoughts were interrupted by the sound of his young daughter, Cordelia, calling him from the clearing below. Owl immediately flew down to join her.

*  *  *

Three days later, the owlets happily hopped around the clearing, awkwardly trying to fly, while their parents proudly stood by. The joyous atmosphere was suddenly interrupted, as turbulent rumbling resonated through the sky and the earth began to tremble. Looking up, the owls saw an ominous silhouette of a large bird crossing the brilliant full moon. Chaos broke loose as parents and owlets scrambled to find each other. The chill of the night began to eclipse the warmth of the day and a sudden quiet soon began to eclipse the turbulence of the moment. Silence ensued as a powerful voice bellowed through the crisp night sky.

“Forever you must go away,

For neither night nor any day,

You shan’t come here and fly and play,

Against your beliefs that you may.

Beware, Nevermore.”

A colossal tunnel of wind began to reel from the sky with a force that sent owls into a frenzy of confusion and fright. The freedom of the day had turned into a demon of fear. Owls scattered throughout the clearing, frozen in a tableau of disaster and distress. Owl frantically looked around, searching for Cordelia in the midst of the havoc. However, the might of the overpowering impact paralyzed him and for the first time he felt devoured by his own impotence. Then, once again, the commanding voice surged from above.

“I claim this turf for me alone,

My strength and power have just been shown.

I reign upon my newfound throne,

So let my ubiquity be known.

Beware, Nevermore.”

Bereft, Owl’s thoughts were driven by the disappearance of his innocent daughter and the commotion that surrounded him. Where is she? My little angel! How will I ever find her in this devastation? And what just happened? Where did that voice come from? What does it mean? Did she find her way home?

*  *  *

The clearing was barren, not an owl in sight. At first, an eerie silence washed over the desecrated setting. Raven smugly closed his hateful eyes and took a moment to enjoy his newfound serenity, feeling satisfied with his effortless victory until the sudden deafening cries of hundreds of panicked birds flying above interrupted his self-complacent thoughts. A storm of brown, gray, and white feathers was strewn upon the expansive clearing. Pandemonium was everywhere. Disaster had struck. Families had been torn apart. Their community had been ravaged. They had been exiled from their homes. Where would they go?

*  *  *

Raven relaxed, as he luxuriated in his new, expansive surroundings. Finally, a home he could call his own. Spreading his broad black wings, he imperiously took flight through the fresh night air, soaring over the clearing, once more proud of his accomplishment. For the first time in months, Raven felt free and content. He swooped and spun until he felt as playful as the young owlets he had driven out before catching himself and reinstating his superficial air of dignity.

*  *  *

Owl frantically beat his wings, desperately trying to find his family. However, when he finally reached his nest, his mate and daughter were nowhere to be found. Distressed, he circled his home, checking everywhere, but with no luck. Owl realized that he was truly alone. A lifetime of friendships and family bonds, gone in seconds. There was not an owl in sight. He flew off to persist in his search.

*  *  *

In the meantime, Owl’s mate, Julia, stopped mid-flight when she realized that in the chaotic rush, and her haste to escape with the others, Owl and Cordelia had not flown off with her. She anxiously turned around, in a confused state, and headed back to her former nest. In this sudden panic, Julia failed to grasp the danger she was placing herself in, only focusing on her family, the most important thing in the world to her. She flew as fast as her delicate wings would carry her, trying to ignore the angst pervading every feather of her body.

*  *  *

At that very moment, without a worry in the world, Raven was rapturously indulging himself in a large pile of freshly caught centipedes, dripping with a delectable organic blueberry spread that he had just made. This is the life for me! It doesn’t get any better than this! Using a single owl feather that had fallen earlier, he delicately dabbed some remaining berry juice from his sharp beak. In a relaxed state of well-being, Raven closed his eyes and happily drifted off into an afternoon nap.

*  *  *

As Raven slept peacefully in the clearing, Owl was in a state of turmoil. Hunger clawed at his empty stomach and anguish clawed at his broken heart. He continued his search. Although his determination was strong, no matter what he did nor where he looked, it appeared to be a hopeless case. As time passed, exhaustion fought to overtake Owl’s weak body. In unrecognizable surroundings, his eyes slowly began to close as he was swallowed by his growing drowsiness and unbearable grief.

*  *  *

Trying to surmount the burden of despair, Julia flew tirelessly through the heavy blanket of mist and thick maze of trees. When she finally reached her home, a feeling of dread set in. I’ve come all this way. Please, please, please! You must be here. You have to be here.

*  *  *

Irritably, Raven awoke. What is that I hear? Is that rustling sound one lone owl that dared to stay? He won’t last long… Trying to fall back into his comfortable rest, Raven closed his eyes again, but this time, a loud rumbling sound kept him from his nap. Now what? What creature dares question my right to this territory? Still, this unseen animal pushed through his negative aura and grew closer and closer, the volume of the sound increasing steadily. Very well… A steely glint appeared in Raven’s eye as he flew to the top of the tallest tree. A surge of power emanated throughout his body as he declared…

“I claim this turf for me alone,

My strength and power have just been shown.

I reign upon my newfound throne,

So let my ubiquity be known.

Beware—”

Raven was cut off, as an unexpected, unfamiliar, massive, monster came into sight. It was rolling toward him through the forest at a steady speed, methodically shoving trees out of its path, leaving a continuous striated trail. The monster’s bright, metallic veneer momentarily blinded him and then it started coming closer. It’s big! And powerful! How can I defend myself? This creature will be difficult to deal with… how will I defeat it? The monster continued leveling the trees, chewing up every leaf in its way.

 

Anxiety began to grow deep within Raven as the strange creature decisively wended its way through the once lively and densely wooded forest, each tree begging to be spared; Raven’s beady black eyes widened as the clearing widened too. With each second, his self–absorbed omnipotence slowly slipped from his firm grip. For the first time, Raven felt powerless with no place to hide, and no place to go.

*  *  *

As the shiny, metallic intruder challenged Raven’s tyranny, Julia urgently searched her former home for signs of her missing family, but a loud, rumbling noise suddenly interrupted her pursuit and startled her as it neared. Nothing was going to stop her. Although frightened, she determinedly quickened her search. Her talons began to quiver uncontrollably, the delicate tree branch cowering under the increasing stress. When Julia looked down, she caught a glimpse of an owlet dangling from one of the low branches, a failed attempt at flight. The tiny owl had a distinguishing white mark on its right wing. She immediately knew it was Cordelia. Choked with overwhelming emotion, Julia closed her eyes and sobbed.

 

Hannah Reale
Age 13, Grade 8
Biting Writing
Silver Key

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