Peer Review by Suri Purefoy (United States)

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The Hourglass Cage

By: Wynter

The owl was attached to a chair, the chain glittering as gold as the creature’s own mad eyes. A needle-point blade sat beside it, the tip as thin as the chain itself.

    Ten years had passed since it took its position by that chair. Ten years since it had felt cool air whistle pass by its wings. It wouldn’t ever fly. Not while so many people fixed their eyes upon it, stepping by it with caution manifested by fear. No one knew why it didn’t break the delicate bind to the chair, when freedom was so close. It had been imprisoned for a decade, each feather that lined its back remaining as still as the stagnant air in the cage. Unmoving. Watching.

    A decade had passed.

    Everyone could see the owl but one girl. One single child, age sixteen, with vivid red hair and electrically blue eyes. Eyes that couldn’t observe what others could. She only saw the rusted blade, sitting on top of an old wooden chair with white peeling paint and an antique glow.

    This girl, of course, had to be me. I had thought, for the longest time, that the blade had been caged. That it had perhaps been possessed by a demon of some sort, and must be locked up. But the idea that there was an owl? An owl, living and breathing and sitting and observing everything around it? Ludicrous.

    I’d seen insanity before. It’d hopped across my lawn in the form of a rabbit with a cone on its head, slithered up a tree with hearts and spades and clubs tattooed on green scales. Never had I experienced the eyes that people spoke of, eyes that held the very essence of lunacy trapped within them, mounted on a head of silver feathers.

    So life went on while my wall remained a mixture of framed photos and bullet holes from an encounter long ago, the one that convinced me no one was joking about it. About the golden eyes that glowed in the night like a pair golden moons, about the caged creature that started so many arguments. Even when it never moved except for a subtle spark of observation within it, when you knew it was looking and thinking about things.

    Along with the chain. And the knife, and the chair.

    All of the nonsense. Everything in this town was nonsense.

    So now the stars hung in the sky on a moonless night, giving off an eerie luminance which highlighted everything with gray. Colors swirled above unfamiliar silhouettes, among stars and clusters of light and the dark vastness of space. And my blue eyes glowed with the night, caught by the light which I saw in a reflection of myself in water. The water was invisible except for the mirror within it, spanning over the whole pool and showing the galaxy placed so far above it.

    The trees framed my path. Swaying, groaning, all around me, black lines that branched out from other lines and bent in twisted odd angles. Focusing on a cage in front of me, a glorified bird cage that no one had so much as touched over the years, my feet crunched over leaves that had strayed from the trees a long time ago and piled up among each other. Inside it, a knife, a chair, and a chain that attached to nothing. The door was open, as it had always been. Always.

    In the middle of the town square, where the most unusual things are always kept, the cage sat with hinges that hung at irregular angles. A breeze sailed lazily through the air, uninterrupted by anything but the chair. A moment’s hesitation passed before I stepped in the cage, my hands passing the iron bars' border, followed by the rest of my body. Locking me inside.

    Memories flooded into me at that moment, as the cage flashed by day and night and cold winds and warm breezes and people passed by at the same time. The square was filled with blurred colors as people walked by, simultaneously going the pace of a snail. A hoot sounded behind me, the only thing that made sense in the crack of space that I was standing inside of.

    Behind me, of course, nothing was there. I hadn’t expected anything. But the owl’s sound had relinquished hope. It was possible. And as the sun flashed by and disappeared in the middle of the sky, replaced by an eclipse that dissolved just as quickly, my hands tightened on the rusty blade.

    A bang sounded from the living room. Followed by the next, and another yet. The unmistakable sound that interrupted my day of gazing out the window to the oddities outside and thinking of all the new possibilities after my sixth birthday had passed. My father’s shotgun had gone missing from his usual resting place.

    My hands clenched tighter, knuckles turning white on the red-flaked metal. A tear emerged from the soil and flew up on my face, trailing into my eye before dropping back down.

    I walked into the room, where misshapen metal bullet shells already decorated the walls. The sounds continued on after an elongated burst of silence, one bang after the next. I looked up just in time to see a silver feather disappear through the window. “Time! Time! Get back in here, Time!” the man screamed at the window through unmoving lips.

    It only made sense, after that. The owl settled back down in its cage, as people told me. Resting from its first attack. And as the only time I’d ever seen the owl, just a single glittering feather, it seemed so obvious to me. It had been asking for freedom, and I was the only one who could give it. I was the only one who couldn’t see this owl called Time. And Time would never free itself.

    I stabbed the golden chain, breaking its delicate bond.

    And in one swift movement, an explosion that made no impact, that happened in only a split second and an hour as one, the owl emerged from the thin air. Broken wings, torment from the townspeople, mended.

    And in a flash of silver, the owl flew away from it’s real prison. One might call it reality, another a cage forged by men’s own unaware hands. But the phrase had been hidden amongst ourselves for quite some time now.

    Time flies.

    And the night continued.

Message to Readers

Do you think this qualifies for fantasy? And what do you believe the moral to be?

Peer Review

One thing, out of many, that caught my attention and that made me think was the cage in which Time inhabits.

Time. I loved the way you showed him, made his image stick in my mind and made me want to hear more.

Time, the narrator. Reading his made me want to hear the characters' back stories, to know more about their lives and how they came to be at this point where you start the story.

No. I didn't get confused, but I still wonder about more of this world that you created.

Wonder. Amazement. Joy.

Reviewer Comments

This was so beautiful! I don't have much to say; the wonder still clings to me and there aren't enough words to express what I felt and loved about this piece. It was just so amazing! I adore the way you told things, the way you started with the owl, then began into the narrator's life and perspective. The words you used, the language, the way you explained things, it was all flowing so perfectly and beautifully.