The owl watches. It stays completely still and silent and takes in the motions and movements of the mouse, studying its every twitch and turn. When the owl feels it has learned enough about the mouse, it makes itself known. Owl talks to Mouse in a soft, melodic tone, offering innocuous words about the weather. The mouse hesitates at first; it senses something, something not right, but the mouse, as always, pushes the feeling of foreboding to the back of its brain, where it can hide among all the other senses it discards so easily: danger, disaster, defenselessness. Those are not things to be dealt with. Those things get in the way of pursuit. And the mouse is pursuing a dream.
The owl continues to talk, all the time soaking in every nuance and detail about the mouse. It notes the grayish black coloring of the mouse’s tail, notices the way it tilts its head when owl says something interesting, notices that certain subjects cause the mouse’s shoulders to hunch and other subjects, sometimes even specific words, make the mouse relax, as if it were holding its breath and the mere utterance of something like “you look very nice tonight” will cause the mouse to unleash its held breath and soften like a deflating balloon.
The owl and the mouse continue to talk for hours, owl perched high on the branch, looking down, mouse nestled between rocks and dried leaves, looking up. They talk about life and love, birth and death, animals and insects. They talk as the noon sun shoots its rays through the trees and they talk still as dusk moves in on a carpet of darkness and continue talking until the dark of night makes the owl disappear from the mouse’s vision.
Mouse becomes nervous, the sense of foreboding comes back. The mouse knows the owl is predatory. It knows the owl is bad news, that most owls would see a mouse and swoop down on it, grabbing skin in its talons, carrying a squealing dinner through the air.
Owl senses the change in the mouse’s demeanor. It takes flight from the branch and lands close to the mouse, so close that mouse can see itself reflected in the owl’s eyes. Mouse waits for the grasp of the talon, waits for the owl to pounce.
Trust me, the owl says.
Mouse knows it should not trust the owl. Yet it does. The soothing voice, the comforting words, the way that owl seems to listen to everything the mouse says, as if it cares.
Danger, disaster, defenselessness. The mouse pushes the thoughts from its mind as owl smiles. It asks the mouse to come back in the morning.
Of course I will, the mouse says.
The owl dreams of the hunt. The mouse hunts its dream.