Four small houses stood in the midst of a grey forest. A river, bustled through the trees. The only other sound came from the birds.
A man and his wife along with their four small children lived in one of the houses. They were said to have lived there for the past three hundred years or so. Never aging. The people living in the village across the river never dared to cross to ask just how long the family had lived there: too many stories about people never returning from that side of the river.
But on a bright day, a little boy named Jack crossed the river.
His friends had been playing truth or dare, and after Jack had dared Tommy to tell Liza that he loved her (which he did) Tommy viciously dared Jack to steal a loaf of bread from the family of Missfits.
Jack grinned, “Alright.”
After gathering a rope, a watch, and a baseball cap, Jack struck off down the dirt path along the river. The river rustled faster than usual. A storm was expected to come down along the valley before the day was out, so Jack sped up his walk.
He took his time searching for the perfect place to enter the river. A small bush crushed under the weight of a log offered the perfect spot for Jack to begin. He pushed his way through the weeds along the river’s edge. The mud seeped through his shoes. Taking care to balance, Jack laid a hand on a solid rock, took a deep breath, and jumped into the flowing river.
His feet never reached the bottom. The river insistently carried Jack along with it, twisting and turning against it’s borders. Hands flailing, Jack’s head appeared and disappeared with each second tick of his watch. His blue baseball cap streamed along beside him. He reached out to grab it. Two fingers clasped to its edge. He pulled it towards him with all his strength. Water poured out of it as he replaced it on top of his head. The rope he’d kept safely tied around his waist. A few deep breaths later and Jack began to swim with the current.
The river widened at Water Creek Point, the farthest from the village Jack had ever been. Swimming in the middle of the river he side stroked towards the opposite border. His lungs burned for more air. Six strokes left, five strokes, four strokes, three, two, one.
Using both hands, he pulled himself onto the bank. His white shirt coated with mud as he slithered through the prairie grass. A brown owl hooted and flew across the river right over Jack’s head. He turned over on his back just in time to see the owl stretch it’s wings and fly.
Dropping a hand across his chest, he sighed, “Bastard.”
Jack lay in the grass while his breathing returned to normal. The wind blew his dark brown hair across his face, but he didn’t bother to move it.
The sun disappeared till nothing shined through the trees. Jack was left in complete darkness. Still lying on his back even as the hours roamed by, he continued to stare through the tree branches.
He was waiting for the white owl.
Across the river, on the other side, the safe side, there was a legend. The Legend of the White Owl. Jack had heard it told since he’d been littler than the grass he lay in.
The legend went as follows: A young man walked through the wilderness in search of game. He was a Nomad, a man who walked the world on his own terms. For three days as the man walked through the forest he came upon a white owl. Every morning, that same owl would stay with the man until he had arisen and then it would fly off.
On the third day the man called to the owl. The owl remained to explain that he was watching over the man – as the man had no tribe, no family. But, the white owl warned, he could not watch over the man forever and soon the man would have to choose a path: to return to the land of his ancestors or to continue on in the blackness of the forest.
The man laughed at the owl. He had been traveling for many years. No harm had come to him. He would be fine. The owl flew off without a response.
The next day the man came across a brown owl. Deciding to see if it also talked, the man followed it. Deeper and deeper into the forest they went until no light ever shined through. The brown owl slowly disappeared in the dark, and the man was eaten by the night.
For Jack, all that meant was if he saw a white owl he’d have peace and luck in his journey. To see a brown owl was just the opposite. He would wait for a white owl to come. Even if it meant sleeping the night in the grass.
As morning dawned, Jack stirred, his head throbbed. Propping himself up on his elbows he looked out across the river.
Only the river was gone. Instead, he saw the edge of a forest. Then his body was thrown left and right as the cart he was being carried in hit a stone.
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