French: La maison du septième menuet
“No,” I whispered to myself as I watched the gold spread along the floorboards and mid-rails. “No, that was just a dream last time.”
But it was undeniable. The world around me– even under my feet– was taking on a golden shine, like tiles turning over, one side wood, the other side gold. Maybe I’d eaten something bad, and it’s making me have a repeat of that weird dream. Or maybe I stayed up way too late and fell asleep at my desk, and now this.
Then the house got quiet. The kind of quiet like when you stay at a tent, or a cabin out in the wilderness, or when the power in the city goes out. The only thing you can hear is what’s actually alive, no whir of electricity. There was the wind outside, and my own breathing. Then I realized that the only light was the faint golden glow coming off the paneling that had changed. I turned to look back towards my office, but the room was dark. I hadn’t actually shut down my computer yet, because I was letting it play a song while I got ready for bed.
“No,” I whispered to myself. “No… maybe it’s just the wind. Maybe the storm that’s about to start took out the power to my house.”
I hadn’t set up flashlights and convenient places around the house yet, so there was no going to inspect the breaker or anything else.
“Maybe I could just go to bed,” I told myself. “Let it be dark, and wake up in the morning with the sun. I can deal with things then…”
I was about to do just that when I heard scratching on the window again. Thankfully bird claws on glass aren’t as annoying as fingernails on a chalkboard, but I still wondered if I could come up with another way for the owl the signal to me that it was there if it planned on visiting me this frequently. Why would it want to come in so often, though? I really doubt that my great-uncle had domesticated an owl, and if I knew anything about Stefan’s advice, it’s that it was worth following. When he had a feeling about something, he was usually right. He wouldn’t tell me something that would just inconvenience me without benefit.
I considered grabbing my phone and my favorite pillows and heading over to a different bedroom to get some rest. I had to admit, it was strange for an owl in the mountain woodlands to want to come in. Unless I had a mouse problem that I wasn’t aware of, I didn’t want to encourage it to keep coming to me.
“Number one… trust what Stefan said,” I told myself as I tip-toed back into my room. “Owls are linked to the underworld.. Best to not attract that kind of attention. Just get some sleep… don’t let a forest animal affect how I live my life…”
I felt around for my phone, then turned on the light long enough to grab the bedding I would need for the night. The owl was still scratching at the window when I left the room, closing the door behind me. I went to the room across the hall, plopped down my pillows, then climbed into the bed. From there, I turned off the phone’s light and set it on the table; if the power really was out, I would have to conserve the phone’s battery. With a sigh, I laid down and closed my eyes.
The wind was picking up outside. Rain began pattering on the roof and the window, and I reminded myself to let it soothe me, to fade into its rhythm and drift off to sleep. After a few dreams, dawn would come, and I could use the daylight to unpack my flashlights and check the breaker box.
My first dream was of music, but everything felt wrong about it. I didn’t usually dream so soon after lying down, no matter how exhausted I was. And the colors were… Agh, this will sound weird, but didn’t look like a normal dream; it was too vivid, but also… I don’t know– it felt like it was in my face, demanding to be seen. And the music was terrible; the viola was frightfully out of tune, and the harpsichord–
The harpsichord broke when the musician tried to play it. It fell apart like it was old and barely hanging by… by a few molecules. The wood and strings and all its myriad parts came crashing down. A moment later, I was sitting up in bed, gasping. While I was trying to catch my breath, I caught a hint of lightning flashing outside. It caused thick shadows in the tree branches outside.
“What in the world was that about?” I muttered, trying to shake myself free from the dream.
I should have stopped myself from grabbing my phone to check the time; usually I’m able to do just that. I should have just rolled over and gone back to sleep like I usually do. After all, I’ve learned to love sleeping through the rain. Thunder was like a drumbeat; the pattering droplets were a pleasant white noise. The sky was alive, nourishing the earth–
Something hard was scratching at the windows again. Probably a tree branch. I thought Great Aunt Lydia had told me that the landscapers had been by not long before I’d moved in. It was hard to tame a forested area, but they at least helped trim key branches away from the house. I might have to see what I could do in the morning. Until then, maybe I could get the end of the branch away from the glass. If it was close enough to tap on it, I could just open up the window and reach out to snap off the end.
The problem with that idea was that it turned out that the tree branches where nowhere as close to the window as the lightning had made it seem. When I got out of bed and opened the window, I could make out just enough to see that the only thing that could bring a branch in contact with the window would have been a tornado, and those certainly weren’t going to happen around here.
Lightning flashed again as I leaned on the window sill, trying to figure things out. When I’d checked my phone, I’d seen that only twenty or so minutes had passed since I’d come into this room to lie down. That wasn’t enough time for me to fall asleep, let alone get to a deep enough state to actually dream. So how–
“Hey!” I shouted when the owl flew into the room over my head.
It hooted at me several times as it landed at the foot of my bed, loud and insistent. Then it shook itself out, rather like a dog when it gets wet.
“No,” I grumbled at it. “No, no, no, not tonight.”
Lightning flashed again, and it flapped its wings as though frightened, then hopped over to my pillow.
“Now you’re getting my bed wet,” I groaned.
It hooted again when the thunder came.
“You’re an owl,” I reminded it. “You were just fine living in the forest before I came.”
It didn’t move from its place.
“Come on, back outside,” I told it. “This house isn’t set up for birds, and I don’t need any owl-based surprises.”
Still it didn’t seem moved by my words. I sighed heavily.
“Do I really need to chase you out?”
I walked around the bed to see if I could shoo it outside with a minimum of fuss. As soon as I was close, it took to the air. It nearly had me thinking that it would simply fly on out when it turned and made circles around the room. It didn’t care when I shout at it, but when a particularly bright bold of lightning all but blinded me, I lost track of it.
“Where did…” Then I noticed that the door to the hallway was open; I had definitely closed it earlier. “Well, great.”
I glanced between the door and the window and shook my head. I wanted to leave the window open so the owl could fly out easily, but with the rain already sneaking in, I had to close it. The owl had gotten its way, but only for now. I closed the window and the curtains, then headed out into the hall– stopping only for my phone– to try to figure out where the owl had gone off to.