The owl always came at night, when the moon filled the endlessness that floated in on the breeze and rippled through the trees. Its feathers white except for the streaks of amber, it perched on the branch beside her bedroom window and shrieked its eerie call, beckoning her from the solitude of her bed. Thus each night, Luna rose and tread on bare feet to the open window, searching the barn owl’s golden eyes, as if therein lay some deep-seated omen that would bring fulfillment of desires for which she did yearn.
Tonight was no different; the owl was there. His echoing screech reverberated through Luna as she leaned against the windowsill, the sheer curtain a whimsy film behind her, silhouetting her figure. In amusement, Luna whispered the word ‘hello’. The owl twisted his head sideways, attempting to return her greeting. Luna’s smile grew, and she watched as the massive bird straightened and plumped its feathers, pleased by her warm welcome. With a loud shriek, the owl spread his wings and flew off into the night. She followed his beautiful image against the backdrop of the full moon until she lost sight of his flight. This owl was exceptional, both in appearance and intellect, and Luna admitted that the bird made her feel special by returning each moonlit night to visit.
She returned to the bed and lay upon its softness, pulling the covers to her chin to ward off the chill that had crept into her slender frame. It had been a strange day, and she had not felt herself. It was unusual for her to leave dishes on the table from a scarce eaten dinner, but she had told herself that she would clear them in the morning. Next to the dishes lay an array of flowers she had picked that afternoon but had not managed to place in the vase on the table’s center. Her strength had waned, and despite the desire to do much, Luna had instead sought the comfort of her bed early.
Luna drifted to sleep again, thoughts of the mysterious owl filling her dreamlike state. Was he truly a bird? A predator of the night? He seemed more like a mythical creature that Morpheus sent to her each night to fill her aching soul and need for love. Luna sighed. She knew that the owl had returned and watched her from his perch, as if to guard her while she slept. A smile upon her lips, contentment filled her as sleep invaded, and she dreamt a dream that arose from long held desires.
Luna walked barefoot through the forest, the brilliance of a full moon lighting her way in the warm night. It was as though her name had foretold such a magical time. She felt the coolness of the earth beneath her feet and the grass between her toes. A colorful plethora of flowers spread across the ground as far as the eye could see. Her fingers lightly trailed the tops of foxgloves and ferns that grew all about as she wandered. It was an enchanted world and her heart swelled with peace. She did not know where she was, but she had no desire to return to her former abode. This seemed to be heaven, and she was well pleased to remain here in the cradle of nature’s welcoming hand. She had never felt more at peace or at home in twenty-four years.
She came upon a small clearing, the moon shimmering to reveal a multitude of bloomed bleeding hearts and woodruff. She inhaled deeply and twirled in elation, her filmy dress mimicking her movements in a dance of visual delight. Growing light-headed, she paused the celestial dance, becoming alert as instinct told her she was no longer alone. She saw no one, but she knew someone watched her. Breathing hard, she continued to peruse her surroundings in search of whomever it might be.
She stood for long minutes, her rapid heartbeat the only sound filling her ears. Then, of a sudden, an eerie noise broke the stillness; a screeching echo, a foretelling of promises not fulfilled. Her heart beat faster still as she searched for who had made the high-pitched noise.
The leaves rustled, and she pivoted sharply to watch a perfectly formed, beautiful creature leap from the high trees to land a mere foot before her. He was tall and lean but gave an appearance of being massive at first glance. His hair was fair in color, the shade of fine-spun gold amidst streaks of amber, and his features were aquiline in a face that was appealing to anyone. His eyes, a deep gold, watched her in unabashed interest and her heart beat faster still. His eyes pierced with all-knowing awareness, and she shivered beneath his intense regard despite the warm evening.
The quiet hung betwixt them for long moments. Moonlight hovered all around, swirling with echoes of welcome. Luna managed a hint of a smile. “Hello,” she whispered, her voice softly lyrical as it floated across the dew-filled air.
The stranger straightened to an even more impressive height. He stepped nearer still, the intensity of his gaze never faltering as he turned his head to the side to gage her better. Oh, but he was a handsome creature, as though derived in golden beauty from the Gods.
He stood mere inches before her, continuing to watch her without interruption. His lips eventually curved in a broad smile as he straightened his head. “Hello, Luna,” he murmured with a voice as silky as fine woven fabric. “I have been awaiting your arrival.”
Luna managed a small laugh. “You’ve been awaiting my arrival? How so when even I did not know I would be arriving?”
He smiled that ever-glorious smile that only served to enlighten his already appealing visage. “My dear, time foretells all things, and your arrival has long been foretold.”
Not giving her a chance to understand, he moved past her, lightly touching her hand to encourage her to follow. “Come, my child of the moon. You must meet Aurelia and the others. They, too, have been anxious for your arrival.”
This man’s appearance, his words, and even his lithe movements mesmerized her. Without hesitation, she followed, noticing his stealthy, swift gait as he moved through the brush. It was as though his feet hardly touched the ground, so precipitous were his movements. She struggled to keep pace with him.
Questions flooded her mind. Where was she? To where was he taking her? She was blindly following someone she did not know to a place about which she knew nothing. Had she lost her senses? She did not think so. She felt a pull beyond understanding to accompany this beautiful nymph of a man through the forest to wherever he might lead. He had mentioned someone else. Aurelia? Who was she? Why was she awaiting her arrival?
“Sir,” she called. He paused only slightly, cocking his head to peer back as he continued.
“Yes?” he inquired.
“Whom might Aurelia be?”
He smiled. “She is one with the forest and with nature. You will be most pleased to make her acquaintance, as will Aurelia be to make yours.” He gave a small wink as if to promise more secrets yet to be revealed. In addition, perhaps to assure her there was nothing to fear. “Come, Luna.”
How could he know her name?
“Sir, might I impose upon you to ask another question?”
The man stopped, so suddenly that Luna nearly collided with his broad chest as he turned to face her. He cocked his head to the side, his amber eyes alert. “Yes?”
Luna attempted to steady herself, gather her thoughts, and catch her breath all at once. “Good sir, you know my name, but I fear I do not know yours,” she managed, keenly aware of his continued perusal.
“Yes,” he said with a bit of humor. “We have not been officially introduced. My name is Strix, a creature that inhabits the moon-filled night. Still, my dear, are you quite certain you do not know me?”
Luna observed the golden creature of a man as he watched her. She studied him closely, peering into the amber colored eyes, overcome by the darkness in their depths. She gasped aloud. She did know him. Here, in the flesh of a man’s body, stood her beautiful barn owl. “You?” she whispered, her voice filled with wonder and delight.
His smile grew, and his chest broadened to its full breath and scope. He was obviously very pleased by her recognition.
“We must go,” he said after a moment, taking her hand as he turned about, moving quickly. This was his home, and he knew exactly to where he was going even if she did not.
Luna could not diminish the smile on her face as she followed. Delight filled her until she thought she might burst. Her special owl was here, embodied in the guise of a man. And such a beautiful specimen, too. It was nigh unbelievable. She had always known there was something unique about the barn owl, but little had she known he was a creature who lived in an enchanted forest. Nor had she realized one day she would be in his world and able to converse with him.
They came upon a large clearing. The moonlight was bright here, filling its perimeter. Strix halted, pulling Luna closer. “Do not be frightened,” he said. She nodded, feeling his nearness. His touch was an oxymoron; firm and yet silky soft, offering the reassurance he intended.
Strix made a small sound, much like the shrieks she had heard before, but this time, much softer. Within mere seconds, the leaves rustled and shrubbery moved to reveal more than a dozen woodland creatures emerging from their depths. Leading them was the most beautiful woman Luna had ever seen. She wore a creamy gown that gleamed bright white in the moonlight. Her white hair fell to her knees, and she shimmered under a silver aura. Flowers filled her long hair and created a wreath atop her head. She moved with a delicacy born of woodland nymphs and fairies that flutter about the flower strewn English gardens. Transfixed, Luna could look at none other. This must be Aurelia. She was one with the forest and thoroughly divine.
Aurelia walked toward Luna, stopping before her to press a kiss upon her cheek. A sensation moved through Luna, warming her as much as any sun-drenched afternoon in the throes of summer.
“Hello, Luna. Welcome. We are delighted you have joined our enchanted world. Our home shall always be your home, my dear.” Aurelia placed a wreath of white flowers upon Luna’s head. “You are lovely,” she said, stepping back to survey her handiwork.
“Thank you,” Luna managed, her words feeling inadequate. She had never met the queen of the forest before, after all. Here was someone so unimaginable that she wanted to pinch herself to assure she was not dreaming. She had thought herself beyond further surprise, but she could not have been more mistaken.
Aurelia smiled. “You are not dreaming, Luna. We are all quite real and present in this moment. Come. You must meet our friends for they are your friends.”
Luna realized her thoughts were no longer her own. Here all was evident or at least evident to Aurelia. Still, she eagerly accepted the hand Aurelia extended, and they moved to meet the woodland friends in the flower-filled clearing.
Aurelia took her to a beautiful multi-colored creature who appeared light as a feather. “Here is Flutter, one of your garden’s loveliest butterflies. She speaks fondly of your gentleness, Luna. And this is Quodora," she gestured to another multi-colored creature. "She is the sweet hummingbird that flits about your garden, drinking of its flowers’ nectar.”
Luna stared wide-eyed in wonder as Aurelia moved with ease about the clearing, introducing all those previously known to her. They were now well-suited to different, humanlike forms, living in an enchanted playground. She met Lepus, the little brown rabbit she had watched hop in the fields. He was famous for eating her garden’s vegetables. There was also Equis, her beautiful stallion that loved to roam the meadows. As she met him, he bowed his head in a bid for an affectionate touch. And there, in the clearing’s edge, was Luce, the grey wolf she always saw in the far distance. He was still imposing in this form, but there was no fear in this wonderful place. It was a world ripe for newly discovered pleasures and there was nothing but love, joy, and accord was amongst them all.
There were also creatures composed of the earth’s elements and features. She met Peony, Fleur, Bumble, Estrelita, Ripple, and Lumina, whose sheer radiance embodied the sun. There were other owls but none as handsome. Strix was without a doubt more breathtakingly beautiful than the fairest creature she’d ever seen.
A little later, Luna poured a cup of wine and went in search of Strix. She found him lounging nonchalantly by a massive tree at the clearing’s edge, watching her. She wondered if he ever paused in his reflection, so intense was the look he gave each time she spotted him. She smiled and stood beside him. He cocked his head in that now very familiar way as he smiled back. She searched her mind for the right words to say.
“I wish you’d brought me here sooner,” she finally spoke, her nerves aflutter with something akin to exultation.
“You weren’t ready,” Strix replied without elaboration.
“You may be right, but I am ready now. I am so very ready,” she said with an astute awareness, returning the intensity in his amber gaze.
Luna knew the world she’d left behind held no more appeal. She could not leave this incredulous woodland family for it would be sheer devastation to do so. She feared tonight would end and tomorrow, she would find herself back in the grasp of reality. It would not do. She could not – would not – leave. Here was the family she craved with her entire soul and perfection personified. Peace and contentment filled her, sufficing her face with a new, brilliant light.
Strix reached out a finger and lightly lifted Luna’s chin, watching an abyss of light fill her eyes, covering her face in a new brilliancy. She was glowing, a true child of the moon. His golden eyes filled with undying affection. “Yes, my sweet child of moonlight. You have found the light and are at long last ready.”
Strix pulled Luna into the crook of his arm, covering her with his widespread pinions. Luna knew she was home at last, where she belonged. Here was her beloved owl who would always protect her, never leave her, and reside by her forevermore.
It was late, on the brink of twilight, the following day when Luna’s sister, Moira, headed to sister’s cottage. It had been weeks since she had heard from Luna, and the sister was concerned. It was normal for Luna, a dreamer, to stick to herself, but it worried Moira when she did not have any interaction with her sister for lapses of time. Luna had not been herself since her husband’s passing two years earlier, and Moira repeatedly worried about Luna’s well-being. Thus, this day, she had imposed upon her neighbor to watch her young children while she made the brief visit. She hoped to find Luna well, enjoying her solitary life.
Moira entered the cottage and immediately noticed an assortment of dishes and food upon the table. It was evident Luna had not finished her meal nor had she tidied up afterwards. There were dying flowers on the table. Moira lightly touched the flowers, aware they had been plucked from the garden only a day or so before. Worriedly, Moira made her way up the narrow staircase to continue her search.
The bedroom door was slightly ajar. With increasing trepidation, Moira eased the door open and gasped. Luna lay upon the bed in the twilight, a smile upon her lifeless face. Moira hurried to her sister's side and touched her cold forehead, unable to believe her eyes. She stood thus for long minutes until from outside the open window, she was startled by a loud shriek. As Moira moved to the window, she spied a most impressive owl perched on the tall tree’s branch. The owl peered inward with a look of curiosity before continuing to shriek his eerie cries, as if echoing the sorrow reflected upon Moira’s face.
After several minutes, with one final shriek, the bird turned and abruptly lifted in flight. Moira watched, transfixed by its majestic beauty despite the dismal situation. The owl flew high, creating a silhouette against the full, rising moon. The moon, the beautiful moon. Luna's mother had named her child for the moon, and Moira was sure that Luna was now at peace and one with the moon’s everlasting glow.
Moira leaned out of the window, tears on her cheeks, and whispered, “Fly away, Luna, with your beautiful owl. Fly over meadows and fields, high above the trees to the enchantment of what lies in the abyss of the light. I pray you find eternal love.”
Eventually, Moira lost sight of the owl in the distance. She gave a final glance at the full moon and then pulled the window shut and closed the curtains. Instinct told her the owl would not return. She wiped her tears. It wouldn’t do to linger or wish for things beyond her ken. She had to trust that Luna was in a place that would bring her much deserved joy now. Thus, with surety of purpose, she began to do what must be done.