Bob was somewhere in a dream, moving, no — driving, in a car, somehow having just come down from some great height with a jolt yet surprisingly still intact, sort of, and into a landscape — no a road, no not a road — sand and dunes, others all racing around him, and
Little Head-Bob awoke. Something felt, no — something WAS wrong. He couldn’t focus his eyes. There was something, sand perhaps, in the wind—in a wind that was blowing into his eyes and — there was no wind. Maybe not even his eyes, but still, something was not right. Something was wrong. The young owl could not get his eyes to focus, his. . . smell wasn’t working, the leaves of the tree, his tree, an ancient black oak, a black jack, they wouldn’t come right. They just weren’t right.
Something seemed to strike him in the head — on the inside of his head. He tilted his head, and tilted it some more and one of his feet, he couldn’t tell which one, let go of the branch. It Iifted of its own accord. He couldn’t make it come back down, couldn’t make his strong talons grip again the branch. He listed farther to one side, the leg kept lifting. In a panic he shook and fell, down and down and, so fast the ground came up, he knew he was dying and
Bob woke, something felt, no — something WAS — wrong. He couldn’t get his mind to focus. Someone was talking, he could hear words, coming across the room — he was in a room, and he could hear her speaking. He knew he should be able to understand the sounds she was making. . . words. She was speaking words. He could tell. And she was upset. He knew this, but still he could not make the words come into focus.
Reality was. . . not right. Time was moving wrong. It wasn’t moving backwards, but wasn’t flowing right, either. It was like sitting in a meadow, when the warm spring breeze that was drifting from behind was suddenly a stiff wind in your face, full of sand. And screwing your eyes shut tight, you suddenly couldn’t tell where you were and
It wasn’t that time, that reality, moving backwards, it was more like reality was a cat. Reality was a cat being petted, but the wrong way, against the lay of its fur, and the woman, she was upset. She was speaking, weeping, and he could not understand her words and. . .
He was walking, outside. He had just passed one of Claire’s vineyards, was coming up on Maeve’s orchard, he could smell the peaches, ripe and almost overripe. The thing was there again, just over his shoulder, his. . . left shoulder, he could feel it there, keeping pace with him, not pouncing, but just, almost, ready to. He was alone. No, I — I was alone. I am alone. Where am I? What day is this?
“Friday,” the thing, keeping pace with me, just over my left shoulder, says.
Bob blinked. Something had just happened. He wasn’t sure what. He couldn’t get a bead on where he was, when he was. Time, it wasn’t moving backward, exactly. It was more that time, that reality, was a stream flowing around him, and he was spinning out of control, moving, no the stream, the river of time, it was moving, at break-neck speed, and Bob was staying in one place, but spinning. “It’s all right,” she said, there, just over his left shoulder.
He was walking past Maeve’s Orchard, coming up on one of Claire’s vineyards. There, sitting on a branch in one of the peach trees, no – in a black jack tree, a young owl blinked, was looking at him and… just fell off its branch.