Saturday 16 June 2018

Athena's Owl (Part Two)

Owl and Cat by Zelda's Slave

The story continues...

            I waited a few days before I put the second part of my plan into action. Part of me hoped that this wouldn’t be necessary, that fate would intervene on my behalf and engineer some kind of encounter with my neighbour, the Rock Star cat. But the thread of this feline’s fate was not to be interfered with.

            Let me explain first where the idea came from. It was born out of my own stupidity. But perhaps I’m being hard on myself – the human and cat eye are not exactly comparable, nor is the way we perceive the world. In any case, I had of course, become aware of the black box in the corner of the room, which seemed to pour out light and noise. The same one which my Slaves enjoyed watching for hours on end. Sometimes they were so engrossed they even forgot to feed me and I had to remind them of their duty.

            In any case, I hadn’t paid this thing much attention, until one day something darted across the box. The thing immediately caught my eye. It looked like some kind of bird thing. I immediately jumped off the bed, where I had been lying next to the Tall Slave, and set about examining the box. The bird didn’t appear for a while, but other strange things flickered over the box’s face. Eventually the bird was there, flapping around. I reached up and tried to touch the box’s face, but there seemed to be some kind of forcefield in the way. So I checked around the back of the box, but behind was all wires and dust. I moved back and carried on watching, intrigued by the bird. Meanwhile, my Slaves were watching me, waiting for me to click.

            Of course, I know now that this is a television. And I’d been tricked by the bird on its surface. But at the same time, this hadn’t been any old bird. This bird was some kind of metallic owl, from a famous film of long ago. I didn’t think much of the rest of the film at the time, but that owl caught my imagination. In fact, to the point that I wanted one for myself.

            Now, across the universes we inhabit, there are many different creative cats: there are writers, like myself; there are musicians, like Rock Star cat. But the diverse interests spread amongst the Caterati doesn’t stop there. Smith lived up to his name, and was a dab hand in metalwork, and clockwork. And, to fulfil the second part of my plan, it was Smith I sought out. Following the preceding paragraphs, I suspect you know why.

            ‘You want me to make you what?’ asked Smith. He was a burly ginger Tom, sporting the long leather overall of his trade. His expression was one of almost constant surprise, due to the singeing of his whiskers and face.

            ‘A clockwork owl. Which flies and everything.’

            ‘Right. And you want it to speak too?’ he asked, jokingly.

            ‘No, I’m not that fussed about it hooting,’ I replied, deadly serious. Noticing my demeanour he then brushed away the hilarity, mimicking my expression of seriousness. Good salesman, he was. ‘But it needs to have bewitching eyes. And it needs to come back when I call it.’

            ‘That’s not just clockwork, that’s sophisticated electronics, that is. So it’ll cost you.’

            ‘I’ve got the money.’

            ‘What was this film you mentioned it was from?’

            I pointed him in the direction of a relevant youtube clip and we then agreed on a price. It was steep, but what I expected from such a highly sought after craftsman. And he didn’t disappoint.

            When I returned two weeks later, the bird was complete. He nodded as I walked in, gestured that I follow him. He took me out into the yard of his forge, littered with old machinery and pieces of metal, some of which were draped in thick black covers. Perched on the corner of a large vice was the owl. When Smith clapped his hand, the bird fluttered into life and began to circle us, the technology within preventing it from hitting the surrounding obstacles. I instinctively tried to snatch the owl from the air, but it was too quick even for my lightning reflexes.

            Smith then made a whistling sound and the bird returned to its perch on the vice.

            ‘It’s perfect,’ I told him.

            ‘I know,’ he replied.

            He then showed me how to set it to come back to my command, how to increase the amplitude of its circling motions, how to track it to my movements, how to wind the thing up and so on. I left with my clockwork owl, the facsimile of that which I’d seen on my Slave’s television all those years ago, fluttering beside me.

            I had to wait until my Slaves had gone to sleep that night before I put the final parts of my plan into action. Under cover of night, I sat in the yard and let the owl free: it shot off across the gardens surrounding the buildings which surrounded my castle: a shard of glittering silver glinting in the moonlight. Keeping it company were other shadowy parts of the dark: the local bats, which darted about, sating their appetite on the evening’s insects.

            I sat waiting, watching the owl do its circuits. Occasionally, I’d miaow and it would return and I’d wind it up or change its settings. This went on for a week and I began to think that Beast had been right – the plan was crazy, and likely induced by the cat nip. Or perhaps it was too clever - too reliant on ancient Greek history – the human mythos of course reflecting that of the original feline.

            But then, during the second week, it happened. As the owl came to perch on our cast iron table, there was a noise in the alleyway behind our yard: a kind of scratching sound. And then she was there, tiptoeing across the top of our fence, eyeing both me and the owl suspiciously.

            ‘What is that thing?’ she asked, demurely.

            ‘It is a metallic owl,’ I replied.

            She jumped from the fence, landing gracefully amongst the beds of lobelia and peonie and scampered over to where I sat.

            I miaowed, issuing the command for the bird to take off. And we both watched as it rose up and darted behind the stand of bamboo.

            ‘Don’t worry, it’ll be back in a second,’ I replied, happy that I’d already broached the subject of time. At least in a certain manner.

            ‘I’m Athena by the way,’ she said. I’d known this of course.

            I told her my name, explained I was a writer. She said she’d heard of me, read some of my stuff. But at this point, I wasn’t well known, so I think she was just being kind.

            The owl returned and I showed her how to reset it, how to make it fly in smaller circles. She was transfixed, unable to keep her eyes off the thing. Eventually she told me she wanted it, in fact that she had to have it.

            ‘It isn’t for sale,’ I replied.

            ‘I’ll pay you. More than twice the amount you paid for it.’

            ‘It is one of its kind. There won’t ever be another,’ I said, resisting.

            ‘Four times the price. It’ll be perfect for the new stage show.’ The last she said more to herself than me, but I heard it anyway and knew the plan was working.

            ‘Well… four times the price… I suppose I can’t really say no.’

            She leapt up, excited and began to chase her tail. Such affected activity may work on humans, but it doesn’t cut the mustard for me.

            ‘There is one thing though,’ I said.

            ‘What’s that?’

            ‘Once the bird is programmed to your command. Well, you mustn’t stop time.’

            ‘Why not?’

            ‘Things get reset.’

            ‘And the owl won’t work?’

            I shook my head, gravely.

            Of course, you’ll realise that I didn’t actually speak or suggest an untruth. Stopping time would have done nothing to the metallic owl. I simply told her not to stop time and pointed out that it can reset things, as indeed The Architect had shown me. Athena made the link to the owl, because I wanted her to. And when she asked me if the owl wouldn’t work, I shook my head: she perceived this in context, not as the literal answer to her question.

            She bought it though, and the effects lasted. Athena and the Owl became inseparable, as in the myths of old. The Owl became, in many ways, her unique selling point, featuring on many of the following album covers. And becoming a cult amongst her multitude of followers.

            Of course, many years later, I told her about what I’d done, but she didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she seemed almost grateful. As if the time spent off line, where she’d stopped the forward motion of the clock, had somehow become addictive. It was almost as if my intervention, on behalf of The Architect, had somehow saved her. I wonder now if that was perhaps his intention all along…

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