The House, Part 31/31

It is done. 8,287 words, if you’re curious.


If you think you understand power, you do not. If you know that you understand power, then you still do not, but at least you have the self-confidence needed to push your way through when your understanding fails. In the end, it is about somehow surviving when forces beyond your comprehension manifest.  If doing that require a lie, well, that is much more commendable than using blood.

Poor Wayne and his people would have used an imaginatively cobbled-together ‘ritual’ to free the Owl from the house.  Which is what I had done, of course; in fact, I had a copy of one written up, on the off chance that the cultists had been truly foolish and simply murdered me on the spot .  The difference between me and them was that I was self-aware enough to know that all rituals are meaningless, and that what really mattered was intent.  My intent was to free the Owl, without wrecking the neighborhood.

…Why would I want to destroy the neighborhood? What had the neighborhood ever done to me?  For that matter, what had the neighborhood ever done to the Owl? Nothing, as far as I could tell.  Men and women had trapped the Owl, to be sure. At the very least they had come upon it when it was weak, and kept it from escaping.  I assume that the descendants of those trappers ended up in my basement, intently watching the ‘ritual’ that I had put together as a distraction for a short but crucial moment. Intellectual descendants, at least.  If a genetic relative or two has fled from these idiots over the years, I can only offer my heartfelt approval for their wits.

I was actually a little worried about the number of cultists, honestly.  I asserted that one person would be enough to let the Owl feed properly, and even three would be merely a fine meal.  And I had guessed, reasonably as it turned out, that Wayne would supply the people my working would need. Which was good, because if Wayne had not shown up at all then I would have had to offer up myself.  I did not want to do that, but the Owl needed to be freed. I suppose that it may have planted that belief in my mind, but if it did it found fertile ground there.

But my worries that seven cultists would be too much of a meal were groundless.  They each had a moment to see a flash of terrible magnificence before the Owl swallowed each whole; but I could tell that the Owl was in control of its hungers throughout.  It ate the cultists for the pleasure of it, a satisfying hum of revenge that rose and rose until the sound filled the basement. And then the Owl looked at me.

Understand that by now I was willing myself to perceive the Owl as an Owl; I saw the flicker of terror on some eyes as they perceived the Owl’s true form, and I had no interest in tasting that madness.  Neither did I bow, or plead. I simply spread my hands, my back straight and the same chocolate on my breath that the entire neighborhood now sported. And I gave the Owl a smile. My true smile, not the one that I use because I have no interest in scaring small children.

“Welcome back,” I intoned.

Eight months later, Betty looked at my garden from the lounge chair that she had been claiming since the weather grew nicer. “You have to be mean to roses,” she finally said after some silent consideration, then turned herself over.

I did not bother to look back at her as I added fertilizer to the flowerbeds.  For one thing, she had merely said it as a pro forma reinforcement of her gender’s claim to supremacy in matters involving the garden.  For another, I quite agreed with her anyway.  

It was a bit late to be planting roses, but the rhythm of the house demanded it.  More accurately, the rhythm of the Owl. Once it was freed it seemed indifferent to the mice that I continued to provide (although it happily continued to munch on crickets), and no pets or people went missing.  As the months passed and nothing untoward happened, I even wondered whether I had fundamentally misunderstood what was happening as much as poor Wayne and his friends had.

So it had been a somewhat distressing shock for me that morning two weeks ago when I came down to the basement to discover seven quite bone-dry pellets of tangled clothes, metal, and carbon dust. Well, mostly carbon dust.  Fortunately, a little discreet testing showed that there was not a shred of DNA in the lot, which was a relief. Even more fortunately, Betty had decided by then that actually moving in with me would be inconvenient for her, and this was not one of the nights that she stayed over.  But it still left me with almost half a ton of carbon dust in my basement.

Thus, the roses.  And my silent contemplation of what to do next.  Obviously, I did not want the Owl to start randomly feasting on people; I lived here, after all.  Perhaps I could find out if there was a herd of deer nearby? — and then the phone rang, on the garden table next to the cold drinks that Betty kept insisting on making for me.  I stood up to pick it up.

It was from Wayne’s old real estate agency; I had been sending the rent as usual, but had not heard from them before now. They said that they wanted to have me come in, to talk about the next year’s lease.  All very well and good, but the voice on the other end reminded me of poor old Wayne, in fact, right down to the barely hidden desire to poke at the unknown and unseen, just so that they could watch it slop over onto the rest of humanity.  I had wondered if the cult had outlasted Wayne; it seemed that I now had my answer.

I turned my head so that Betty could not see my smile.  I fancied I could feel talons gently press into my shoulder as the Owl’s new, slightly hungry interest swirled around me.  “Of course we can meet,” I replied. “I’m sure we’re all eager to conclude our new business.”

Much better than a herd of deer.


  • Spegen says:

    Are you planning on unrolling this into a single easier to read format?

    • Moe_Lane says:

      After I revise/fix the living life out of it, yeah. It’s not bad, I think, although it started out as a writing-scheduling exercise. If I want to write books, I need to sit down and do the actual writing work every day, period. 🙂

  • Phil Smith says:


    And so it really is an owl. When you write the next installment, I’d be curious to know what it uses for gizzard stones.

    • acat says:

      .. I suspect it used the material trappings of civilization, in this case. Cell phones, shoes, belt buckles ..
      Also, I don’t think it’s an owl .. I think it’s willing to be thought of and perceived as an owl by our narrator, in defense of the narrators’ sanity, and therefore the narrator’s ability to .. Renfield, I suppose. A procurer of fresh comestibles.

  • Phil Smith says:

    Not that you asked for career advice, but as I sit here ventriculating this fine offering, I find myself very interested in learning more about the Narrator and his adventures.

  • Jon says:

    The smile, cryptic and frightening.

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