The Iron Writer Challenge 103
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Challenge 102 Champion
A light bulb salesperson
A Bumper sticker
Post your guess who will win in the comments
(and tell us why!)
The Barn Owl Horror
He dreaded going on blind dates. He never knew of whom he was going to meet, or in some cases, what… he was going to meet. The last woman he met turned out to have a fetish with barn owls. He should have realized something was up when she showed up at the restaurant wearing a sweater with a large barn owl on the front of the sweater and it had large, blue, sparkling eyes.
The dinner went well and he was impressed with her up to this point. The night went very well, well enough for him to accept the offer of going to her home for a night cap. However, one he entered her home, he wished he hadn’t. There were barn owls everywhere the eye could see. They were stuffed, made of wood, made of ceramic, painted on canvas, and even in framed photographs hanging on the walls. Every wall. However, when she excused herself to get into something more comfortable and returned wearing a barn owl costume, he ran from the house and called her a freak, among other names.
As he drove to the restaurant, he was slightly amused by a bumper sticker he saw on the car in front of him. It read:
I MAY BE SLOW BUT I AM AHEAD OF YOU!
“Not anymore,” he said to himself, with arrogance, as he passed the car. The woman he met at the restaurant was a breath of fresh air to him. She was smart, beautiful, and she sells vintage and oddly shaped light bulbs. Being a buff of historical things, he was extremely anxious to see her collection. He was invited to her home and he gladly accepted. While they enjoyed a glass of brandy, she took him around to show him the collection of her light bulbs and then the magazine that she had made, of the light bulbs she has for sale. He pointed to a couple that he was interested in purchasing.
The night went well. Well enough to take it to the next level.
“I also have a collection of antique handcuffs, if you are interested,” she said with a wink.
They went into her bedroom and she helped him undress and then produced a pair of iron handcuffs from the mid-1800’s. When he lay down in the bed, she cuffed him to the bed and told him that she would return momentarily. When she returned, he looked at her in horror. She was dressed in a barn owl costume and told him that it was her sister that he recently shunned. The sister then entered the bedroom and she was dressed the same.
His fight for freedom was stopped by a needle to the arm. Slowly, he felt himself slip away into unconsciousness. When he awoke, he found himself in a large cage and his body was covered in owl feathers, that were super glued to his entire body. He then wept as he saw the two women dressed as barn owls and dancing around the cage as they made barn owl noises and laughed maniacally.
He dreaded going on blind dates.
The old barn came with the property. I wasn’t sure if it was worth keeping or not. “If it was going to be a danger,” I thought, “I ought to tear it down.”
That day, it was nice outside on the northern border of Georgia for that time of year. So I strolled across the pasture to see for myself what kind of shape the old barn was in. It was still standing; that said something for it.
From all appearances, it looked to be a stable for animals; there were stalls and a hay loft. As I explored one of the stalls, I kicked something metallic. Reaching down, I picked up a pair of old iron handcuffs. “What an odd thing to find in a barn,” I thought, bringing them back to the house.
Within a week, there was a knock on my door. A large, elderly, black gentleman stood before me, selling light-bulbs. Inviting him inside, we talked a little about light-bulbs until he noticed the handcuffs on the end table. “Where’d you find these?” he asked.I explained I had discovered them inside the old barn out back.
His eyes grew wide, and his voice perked up, “Do ya mind if I take a look inside your barn, Sir?”
We weren’t out there 10 minutes when he discovered several more pairs of handcuffs. As he poked around, he found some short pieces of chain, as well.
“This barn was a station on the underground railroad,” he told me, explaining it was used as a safe house to help runaway slaves get to freedom. A secret system of sympathetic people provided hiding places for slaves along the way north to freedom.
He turned to me, saying emphatically, “This barn needs to be preserved in the National Register for Historic Places.”
Then he told me I should have a couple light bulbs in the barn to provide some heat, which would help attract barn owls. I had no livestock to bring warmth to the structure. He told me barn owls, which also traveled in the cover of night, were a sign of encouragement to runaway slaves. Because barn owls can see in total darkness, slaves felt they, too, could see their way through the dark times they were going through. He added that since barn owls had exceptional hearing and discernment of their surroundings. Knowing this, slaves would feel encouraged to discern and navigate their way through their unknown situation.
As we strolled back to the house and he got into his car, he reiterated, “You get that barn preserved, and get some owls to nest in there!”
I never saw him again, but I couldn’t forget the bumper sticker on his car: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
Whenever I look at the old barn, I think of what it must have been like for a slave, running for his life, totally at the mercy of strangers, trusting God for his freedom.
“What is it?” she whispered.
“I dunno,” came his response.
The two children were huddled together behind a large, ash-covered waste bin emblazoned with stickers reading “Stop War” and “Say ‘No’ to the Nuclear Option”.
“Well, where’d ya get it, Dee?” she pressed impatiently.
The day was dark, and damp ash rained from the cloud-choked sky.
“The Inventor,” he replied, quiet as breath. “He gave it to me when he delivered mama’s light bulbs.”
She mouthed the name in awe. “The Inventor? That crazy ol’ man who lives on the edge of the Wasteland with all them owls?”
Dee nodded vigorously.
“I never seen him.”
“What do ya mean you never seen him, Ell?” he hissed.
“Well, papa says we don’t need no light bulbs, but… I think we just can’t afford ‘em.”
Dee ignored her confession, and she frowned at his dismissal.
“He’s old – I mean real old. And dirty. He’s got black rain dried in every wrinkle on his old face, and he wears these big goggles that makes his eyes look all buggy. His hair is white and long and dry, like rusty wire.”
Ell was captivated, her eyes wide and sparkling – wanting fires of wet wood.
“And he clinks when he walks, on account of these metal bracelets he wears. He don’t never talk, neither, just sells people stuff.”
“So why’d he give you this?” she asked, brandishing a finger at the device.
“Dunno. But he made this big wink,” – Dee gave her an exaggerated impression, which brought a smile to her dirty face – “and slipped it into my pocket when mama wasn’t looking.”
“So,” she lead, lowering her voice. “How does it work?”
“Dunno,” he repeated. “It’s got these things on the side, though.”
His ash-stained fingers fumbled with the black rectangle, poking and prodding the buttons until a crackling erupted from it.
“Before the war, I was an engineer,” the device sputtered. “And I thought I would be safe.”
A deep breath.
“I was wrong. Only months into it, I was drafted into a unit of military scientists tasked with improving the efficiency of nuclear weapons. At first, I refused, but they threatened my family.”
A stifled sob.
“I had no choice.”
“After a while, I defected, and was imprisoned. When we lost – humanity lost – the war, I escaped and returned home, but I never found my family. It’s been 35 years without them. I’d very much like to see them again. To the listener of this tape, I leave my remaining light bulbs to distribute freely and equally. They should illuminate many lives for a few months.”
Dee and Ell locked eyes – deep wells of mixed emotion.
“Live in the light, but never forget the darkness,” the voice continued. “Rebuild, but never forget the ruin.”
Another deep breath.
“Okay. It’s time for me to go.”
The two children sat in stunned silence, when Ell’s face suddenly beamed beneath the layers of grime and filth.
“I can’t wait to tell papa!”