Short story number three from a list of 30+ story ideas pulled from a friend’s crowd-sourced plea for quick plot summaries. This has turned out to be a super fun exercise where I get to try out all kinds of different genre’s and writing styles. Hopefully you have almost half as much fun reading as I had writing.
“I’m not hungry.”
Anna scowled down at her plate. Her father scowled at her. Her mother fretted with a napkin. There was silence for a moment.
“You need to eat, Anna.” Her father growled, then shoveled a giant bite into his own mouth. “And we may not get any more for a while.”
“I’m not hungry.” Anna repeated.
“You will be.”
“Then I’ll save it. Just like last time.”
“And the time before. And the time before that. When did my daughter become so willful and obstinate?”
Anna just glared at her plate, unwilling to look up.
“Would…” her mother started, “would you like some cake at least?”
“Dammit Jess, if she’s not hungry enough for food, she’s bloody well not having cake!” her father thumped the thick wood table with his closed fist, clattering the place settings.
Another silence followed, and Anna cautiously stole a look at her mother. She looked chastened, eyes downcast, long black nose nearly at her chest, whiskers hanging down. Anna hated her father then, her anger coiling around in her empty stomach, making the hunger worse, along with the delicious smells wafting up from her plate.
“May I be excused?” she whispered, absently grabbing her thin tail in her nervousness. Glancing over at her father, she saw his large face, the dark eyes reduced to slits in frustration, the gray fur bunched up on his brow.
“Fine. Starve if you’d like. “ he growled. “I’m signing you up for the hunting party.”
Anna barely heard the gasp from her mother as her heart sunk lower than she thought possible. A hunter? Killing other animals and bringing them back for food? She could never do that.
“You’ll learn that it takes a lot of work to bring in the meals. Especially while staying safe from those damnable Hoots.”
“Charles, she’s too young!” her mother blurted.
“Not too young to make her own decisions, as you can plainly see.” her father’s anger focused and narrowed, aimed like a beam at her mother. “It’s time she learned all decisions have consequences, Jess. If she’s going to refuse to take part in meals, she can damn well take part in hunting them!”
“Excuse me” Anna couldn’t bear to watch her parent’s fight. She knew it would end with her poor, delicate mother in tears, her rotund father shouting, dominating, berating. And Anna hated herself for being the cause of tonight’s eruption. She quickly scooped up the contents of her plate onto a napkin and scurried out of the dining room.
“Two legs, Anna! No daughter of mine will be a scamperer. We walk on two legs in this house!”
Anna straightened, stiffened her back, and walked calmly into the hallway, projecting as much haughty disdain as possible through posture alone.
Once in the small, cramped hallway and out of sight of her parents, she went back to all fours, weaving quickly past the various “treasures” her father had accumulated over the years; a table with a missing leg, a rusted helmet presumably from the First Races War, a pile of polished stones that Anna still had no idea about, a large rolled scroll with weathered edges and small, worn holes.
She burst out the front door and scampered down steps towards the large tree in the side yard. The darkening skies had sent everyone else indoors. The fear of Hoots coming out of the night sky was ingrained, even though there hadn’t been one seen or heard of near town in years.
Which was all the more reason Anna had to keep her secret from everyone. Including her mother.
She came to the set of rocks arranged delicately in front of the tree’s hollow and the ground. Pushing them aside carefully, she wedged into the opening and pulled them back closed behind her. In the darkness she slowed her breathing as she edged downward in the earth. Silently she thanked her luck that Macey and she had discovered this small tunnel years ago. The thought of Macey sent a twinge of sadness and regret as always.
The tight, short tunnel opened up quickly into a small earthen room. Thick roots coiled down from above, and the space felt cramped and tight. Thin, feeble light trickled in from behind her, and in the twilit space she could just make out the soft, bulky shape before her. Anna laid the napkin on the earth, and sat still and quiet behind it.
The white and black-peppered mass moved, a dry rustle and whisper of smooth, strong feathers, the scrape of talons across hardened earth. Anna sat still, thrilling as always to the power and majesty of the motions. Into one of the trickling beams of light a single brilliant eye appeared, set above a shiny black beak; thick and formidable, it looked ready to crack stones.
“I brought you some food” Anna’s voice sounded small and inconsequential in comparison to the great owl in front of her.
The eye regarded her for a moment, searching, probing. Quiet and stillness descended on them again. Outside Anna could hear her mother calling for her distantly.
“You risk much, child” the deep voice filled the tiny room, even though the owl was speaking in hushed tones. “again I am in debt for your kindness. When my wing has healed, I will repay you.”
“It’s nothing, really. I’m not hungry anyway.” Her stomach rumbled quietly.
“You have said this before. Your lies are covered in kindness and selflessness. You have taught me much about your race.”
Above, Anna heard her mother call again.
“I… have to go now. I will come again in the morning. What else do you need?”
“Child, I cannot ask more from you. Go, and I pray you are not seen. For your sake and mine. Soon I shall fly again.”
Anna scurried from the hole, resetting the stones that hid the entrance. She walked calmly to her house, her mind awash with visions of the Great Owl, one of the Hoots she had heard stories about growing up, flying majestically above the town. If she allowed herself to dream unfettered, she saw herself on the Great Owl’s back, soaring over the tiny houses and trees of her people, the wind in her face, the dawn sun on her fur.
But she would never tell anyone that shameful vision.
Original story prompt: Little Girl grows up with a secret…she has a pet owl. why is it a secret? where did she get it? is it magical? what are her stories or adventures with her owl…GO
1.) Is opening the story without being clear that these are not people too jarring when it is revealed?
2.) Is it clear enough what kind of animals Anna and her family are?
3.) Is the age-old conflict between the races clear-enough, or is it confusing?