She sat on a small stone chair, more like a throne. It was crafted from a single block of sandstone aged by centuries from its appearance. The back was higher then her head, cut like a fleur-de-lis with hole under the curled arms. The chairs legs too were curved but these looked like unicorns with their backs as armrests, head, mane, and single horn worn where hands had rested.
I looked down on myself expecting I’d be covered in blood, and worse. There was some, but not enough. When I examined the ground around me, I didn’t find his body, his remains. My head began to hurt, confusion drilling like duel migraines destined to meet in the center to explode and cripple me.
Darkness fell, and I wondered if somehow the moon hid behind thick gathering clouds, or if I accidently walked into a portal to a place of total night.
My eyes opened slowly. Fear now overshadowing life. What purpose?I thought and rubbed both eyes with my fingertips. Turning my head to the side, I saw a tiny window. Beyond was the forest I walked through to find her. Sunlight, red and orange crept along tree trunks not telling me if it was sunset or sunrise.
With effort, I sat, discovered I was wearing underwear only. My clothing sat piled on a small caned seat chair next to the table with the water pitcher and bowl.
My bare feet touched a cool wood floor. As I shifted my weight to stand, I nearly collapsed. The owl was standing on a shelf at the head of the staircase. Its eyes studied my movements, and I actually felt a brief embarrassment. There’s nothing wrong with me physically. I’m what was once termed a gym rat. Yet the owl had me yanking on my jeans like a schoolboy caught peeing in the woods.
Then I wanted to talk to it. So I said, “How did I get here? Did I walk, or did she somehow drag me here?”
The owl blinked, eyes quickly flashing from gold to blue, a line of red around its irises and then solid gold.
“Is that an answer?” I sighed loudly and cleaned up, finished dressing and carried my boots downstairs.
She was sitting in her waiting room, reading a true book. Not the one she gave me, which I had upstairs, but one with a blue cover and gold lettering on the front cover. She closed it and stood. “We should eat. You must be famished.”
My stomach growled in response. Together we went to the kitchen where again a meal waited. After cramming the last bite of buttered black bread into my mouth, I swallowed and said, “I don’t know your name. What should I call you?”
“At last you show interest. I’m glad. You may call me Attrea.”
By then I didn’t realize that slowly my life shifted from donor with a death sentence to someone giving control of, their life to a stranger. I’d spent two nights in her cabin, or I thought I had and when considering that, I decided she was right when she said I sought her not her me. Perhaps it wasn’t her exactly that I sought when entering the forest, but I was seeking escape. I felt a powerful desire to be as far from my town as I might manage, but hadn’t really considered the effort required.
No matter what, I thought, I’ll find a way, a place to be safe even if I’ll need to live alone until I die.