By, Henry Strayer
The office was small and cramped, rows of prefabricated plastic cubicles and faded, mustard-yellow carpet a small indication of the dismal atmosphere. The woman whose job it was to log the company’s expense reports sat at her desk that was indistinguishable from its fellows, the same smiling family pictures and quirky mugs that her coworkers had given her for lack of any kind of real understanding about her personality. The woman absent-mindedly stirred her coffee, the rhythmic clinking of the spoon on the ceramic a soothing sound. Her other hand danced on the keyboard almost of its own accord, typing the correct numbers into the required places. Her stupor was broken by the rap of knuckles on the wall of her cubicle, causing her to look up slowly.
“Are you finished with October’s data yet? I’ve been waiting since Monday for you to finish that.” The speaker was a man with an extraordinarily red face, almost as if he was constantly sunburned.
The woman nodded wearily. “Almost.”
The man huffed and puffed, rolling his eyes and groaning dramatically as he made it clear how inconvenienced he was. “Let me know the second it’s done.”
He walked off, and the woman rose from her chair, tired of the room that was almost stiflingly warm with the body heat of dozens of feverishly-working employees. She walked along the narrow hallway between cubicles to the stairs leading to the roof above, climbing them slowly as to prolong the time away from her desk. She opened the door at the top, feeling the cool kiss of autumn air that swept through her hair. The metal doorknob was cold to the touch, but she had never minded the cooler temperatures. She looked out across the roof of the office building, some thirty stories from the ground. There were a few plastic tables and chairs that would be used by her coworkers to eat their lunches when the weather was warmer, but for now they would sit abandoned. On the back of one of the chairs however, there was a bundle of brown feathers that turned to look at the woman as she approached.
Looking closely, she could make out the stunning golden eyes of an owl that seemed to be staring into her soul. The claws that gripped the seat were of a savage beauty, as was the cruel-looking beak. The eyes though, they were what the woman could not turn away from. They drew her in, step by step as she slowly approached the bird. It cocked its head and slowly unfolded its wings, hopping to the ledge that ran around the edge of the roof. It turned to look at her, and she followed. She stood on the edge looking downward, seeing the headlights of cars far below her in the darkness like shooting stars and the windows of other office buildings that rose up higher than hers. The owl launched itself into the air and circled overhead, gently calling for her to join her. After only a momentary pause, the woman leapt after it, spreading her arms and embracing the sky.