This is the seventh chapter of Jenny and the Snowy Owl. If you haven’t read the first six, you should probably read them first.
Jenny finished her soda, staring quietly at the coffee seeping into the newspaper, like blood oozing from the wounded cup. The text from the headlines began to show through the page from the other side. She didn’t care if her father was mad. What was he reading anyway? Nothing really jumped out at her as the stories from both sides of the page bled together into an illegible mess.
Slowly, as if dragged down by the weight of her confusion, she carried the empty soda can to the garage and tossed it into the recycle bin. She cleaned up the mess on the table, and then trudged heavily up the stairs, tossing her pack on the bed and flopping down on her back next to it. The ceiling offered no immediate answers, but the bed felt good underneath her tired wings.
Wait! What? She bolted up again, clutching at her shoulders in shock. Thankfully, shoulders were all she felt, but across her bedroom, Snowy perched on the window sill as he had the night before. The sight of him chased the weariness from her body, replacing it with creeping apprehension.
“Hello! I’m glad to see you again,” she said cheerily, shaking off the feeling of feathers poking into her skin. Not, she added quietly to herself. She got up and strolled over to where she could touch him.
[we must go.]
“How did I know you were going to say that?”
Snowy didn’t answer, but turned and waited patiently for Jenny to climb onto his back. She heaved a sigh, climbed on, and they dropped away. There was going to be no getting used to the momentary nausea from the fall before Snowy’s powerful wings caught them, soaring them up and out over the park. The dark and moody ribbon twisted away underneath them now, leading them out to sea.
Through Snowy’s eyes, Jenny could see the tiny hummingbird-like creatures making up the endless flock. The sinister, murky ribbon below them was her beautiful rainbow bridge, only instead of shimmering reflections, their tiny bodies were swallowing the colors. Occasional flickers of orange only added to the ominous blue-black ribbon of darkness as it wound it’s way out across the Sea of Umann.
“How did I get back from Bandor, Snowy?”
[you are the traveler.]
“But I didn’t travel anywhere.”
[perhaps you did not.]
“It’s because I killed that poor, little bird, isn’t it?”
Snowy’s thoughts were vague. She could tell he didn’t think the creatures were birds at all, but she could also tell he didn’t seem to know what a bird was, entirely queer for being an owl.
“But they look like hummingbirds,” she said.
[you see them now?]
“Yes, millions of them. They were so beautiful before… I didn’t mean to touch one.” Her eyes stung at the thought of the fragile creature twitching on the ground.
[it is a good sign. you are watching with your heart.]
“If they’re not birds, what are they?”
[i am not for answers. they are...] She could feel him searching her memories for a reference. [...fabric. many woven together as one body.]
“But I killed one.”
[i am not for answers. i am to...]
“I know, I know, to bear the Traveler until all is fulfilled.”
Jenny could make out a shape following them beneath the surface of the sea. Nylise? It seemed to swim with a purpose, pacing them as perfectly as an orange, submarine shadow.
“How did you know I found the blue stone?”
[i did not know.]
“But you said I had it when you saw me on Bandor.”
[i said you had something you did not have before.]
How did you know?
[you have thoughts now that did not once belong to you.]
Jenny thought about the images she had seen in the stone’s surface, like tiny movies, showing her things. “Well, I didn’t steal it, like that Strange Man said. The sea gave it to me.”
[perhaps it did not once belong to the sea]
That made some sense, although Bart said the sea gave all things. The beautiful, blue, polished gemstone certainly didn’t look like anything that she’d ever seen on a beach before. Mr. Tomison’s queer behavior was nagging at her. She wanted to ask what the Keeper of Secrets looked like, but she was sure Snowy was not for such answers. As before, the long flight made her drowsy. She drifted off and soon she was dreaming, a peaceful dream, as only Snowy’s back seemed to offer.
She was sitting naked in the pool on Bandor. The handsome man with the golden brown hair stood watching her from behind as she bathed. Ashamed of her nakedness, she reached for her clothes, but they were gone. The stone! she thought in alarm, but she found it clutched in her hand.
Opening her fingers to reveal it, she gazed past the stone’s surface, and she could see him watching her. The image of him approached hers and stood by her side. He reached down to take her hand and stood her from the water, yet she sat still and when she looked for him, he was not there, though she could almost hear him and feel him in the depths of the polished jewel.
“A long time we have sought your prize,” he said gently. “We feared it lost forever.”
Jenny wondered why her own image in the stone allowed herself to stand naked that way. “It was a gift from the sea,” she said without speaking.
“A powerful gift indeed to be given into the hand of a mere child. And what might be your name, child?”
“Jenny,” she answered, resenting being called a child.
“How is it you have found your way to Bandor, little Jenny?”
Jenny bristled. “I’m not so little,” she growled in the dream within her dream. “I’m almost thirteen.”
“I forget myself,” he smiled. “The Talí say the Sea to Bandor may be crossed only by one whom they call the Traveler.”
“Why can’t anyone else go to Bandor?”
“Bandor is a place between worlds. You must belong to both worlds at once or Bandor would be one of…” He gestured with a wave of his arm. “…infinite points in each, as hidden as the very reasons for your thoughts. But that is only what the Talí say. They are a foolish people full of tales. Perhaps the Seeing Stone merely knew its way home. It must be a tremendous burden, Jenny the Traveler. You should give it to me…”
He reached his hand out to take the stone.
Grr! I’m just Jenny!
The angry thought startled her awake. The black ribbon of birds that weren’t birds descended now into a ring of clouds that must be concealing Bandor below. Snowy descended as well, soaring around the outer perimeter of the ring as he dropped, circling in until they were immersed in the wet spray of the hovering mist.
A sharp pain pierced through Jenny’s side. Snowy’s flight aborted, tearing him away from her, and he began tumbling through the air, disappearing completely in the clouds as she fell away from him.
“Snowy!” she shrieked.
Her body fell helplessly just as it did in her dream, but she hadn’t far to fall. Tree branches lashed at her in the dark, and vines, slapping her, clutching at her, tossing her and turning her, this way and that. The familiar taste of Bandor’s sand, stung her sinuses, as the ground stopped her like a wall of brick. Beaten and bruised, she tried to lift her head. Her mouth was full of the sand, and blood gushed from her nose.
Every rib in her body felt broken, stabbing her from the inside, as she tried to gasp his name. Feebly, she reached around to where she had first felt the pain. Her trembling hand closed on the shaft of an arrow. She was sure she heard it, the heavy breathing of a giant animal, echoing in the dark alleyways of her throbbing head. Instinctively, she dug her hand into her pocket, as she felt the weight of her wounds crushing her into blackness.
© 2013 Anne Schilde