A Curious Conversation II
You eventually decide to keep asking the talking owl about the world as a whole, as you don’t know if you’ll get another chance to learn, and he comes off very sincere in his responses – you get the sense within that he’s genuinely open to helping you as he can.
“Do you have more you wish to know?” Archimedes asks.
You nod. “Am I allowed to ask about…” You gesture a paw at him. “What you are?”
Archimedes seems amused. “Do you not see that I am an owl, hmm?”
You rub the back of your neck. “Er, well, yes, but—”
“Oho, I jest, my friend, I jest,” the owl says with a soft chuckle. “You mean how it is that I am an owl, yet I am vastly larger than the owls within the real world, alongside the obvious fact I can speak despite the physical lack of logic in such a thing.” He nods as he says this last bit. “To put it into simple terms, I am not so different from you in a way.”
“You mean… you were a human?” you ask.
“Mm, no, I was not a human previously,” Archimedes replies. “Rather, I was an actual owl from the real world you come from, one that happened upon this realm, and upon entering it, I was eventually, shall we say, gifted with the ability to speak and think as a human does.” He cocks his head to the other side, his expression one of calmness and thoughtfulness. “Think of it less as a human putting on an animal costume to become a hybrid of that creature, and more as the opposite, of a creature finding their way into a human costume. That is what led to me and others like me becoming what you see.”
Your eyes go wide as you absorb this, and you can’t help but stare in shock.
“You were a normal animal before,” you say as you work through this. “Whoa…”
“The circumstances for how I ended up here are different, of course,” Archimedes says, and he gives an owl equivalent to a shrug. “I did not open any doors, nor did I choose a room to appear in this realm. To be honest, I don’t fully recall the exact method of how I came to be in this world.” He looks around for a beat. “I recall… some sort of path in the woods, where I once called home, and I believe I was chasing after a field mouse at the time when I flew through that path. I apologize, I can’t remember the rest very well.”
“That’s fine,” you say. “So, you and… Rosha, you said her name was?”
“Yes, Rosha,” Archimedes says. “And yes, we were normal animals at one point.”
You don’t quite understand how it is an animal would end up putting on a ‘human costume’ as Archimedes calls it, but, you are still fascinated by what you hear – it really opens up a lot about this strange realm, although it doesn’t answer the big questions…
“Do you know where this world came from?” you ask.
Archimedes frowns for a beat. “Truthfully? No. I don’t know where it came from, nor how it functions entirely, although my best guess is that this place is… well, it’s detached from your world enough that your human population is unawares of its existence, but it is also attached enough that, at random, humans are frequently drawn here somehow.”
“And animals, too, then?”
“Yes, occasionally,” Archimedes says. “You will find that there are, in fact, actual living, breathing creatures scattered about this realm that can be hunted if you so choose – I believe in most cases, they are from your world, but unlike myself, they are not granted the same level of human intelligence and sentience. Why not, I’m afraid I don’t know.”
“I take it you don’t know who, well, ‘runs’ this place, either?” you ask.
Archimedes taps his chin again. “That is a fantastic question to inquire about given the way this realm works, my friend. To be blunt, I do not, no. However… at the very least, I can offer that I have ‘seen’ something, several somethings, in fact.” He eyes you with a thoughtful look. “I am certain that some entities do indeed ‘tend’ to this realm, yet they do so without often interfering in what happens here. Think of them as an unseen force that relegates everything from the background, merely watching on and watching over.”
“Like… a god?”
“Mm…” The owl shakes his head. “Not quite to that extent, no, no. It is hard to put a word to what they are beyond benefactors that maintain the stability of this place, but I do not feel they are divine in nature. Granted, the fact that we are having this conversation, me an owl that is able to speak and think as a human, and you a human that stands there in the body of a mythical creature… I could very well be incorrect.”
He shrugs at this, and, you admit you don’t blame him for it.
You sigh. “Thank you for at least giving me something to work off. I don’t need to know every single thing, but, having a decent understanding is useful given… everything.”
“Oho, you’re quite welcome,” Archimedes says. “And I definitely do know what you mean, indeed – humans like to have a general notion of what something is and how it works, and I imagine being thrust into a strange world that seems to be both magical and realistic in unison can be jarring, particularly given the form you’ve assumed.”
You nod because he’s definitely correct, at least as far as you feel.
“As it stands,” Archimedes says, “it is very likely none shall ever truly know the exact nature of this world’s inner workings. I believe it falls upon those who run it to decide, and given that it’s existed for an apparent many, many years, I don’t feel it’s going to happen, at least not for an equally long time.” He gives a shrug. “That’s how I see it.”
“That’s fair,” you say. “I’m guessing they don’t want us to go and tell the world about it, either?” You pause as you realize this and it brings back something that had slipped your mind. “I forgot to ask about that as a rule, since the sign didn’t say anything there?”
Archimedes hums to himself. “There is no rule against telling your friends and families that this place exists, no. Then again, would anyone within your social circles believe you were telling the truth?” He eyes you quizzically, a sincere thoughtfulness in his humanlike eyes. “I imagine most would not accept the idea of a human putting on a costume to become part-creature or the prospect of animals able to speak as people.”
You don’t disagree with him on that.
“But,” the owl continues, “I believe it is highly… frowned upon to go and inform others about this world, for many reasons which I believe would be evident, such as the safety of those that live here and the possibility of some seeking it for ill purposes.” He shakes his head. “Now, that said, I couldn’t give you a concrete response on whether or not it’s something you COULD do. Perhaps it would be welcomed, depending on the sorts of people you inform if they believed what you said. Or, perhaps you would be able to return, yet they, meaning any you tried to bring with you, would be unwelcome here.”
You absorb his response and admit that he isn’t wrong – you can’t imagine how others would react if they suddenly learned about this place. Your friends and family… you feel it would be a mixed bag, but, you don’t dwell on it for now, since you’ve got plenty of time left to be a griffin before you’ve been told you can leave or change your costume.
“Was there anything else you wished to ask?” the owl inquires again.
For now, you feel that you’ve gotten a decent understanding of some things you were legitimately curious about – having that knowledge helps you to better comprehend at least some parts of the weirdness of this place and the rules it abides by… sort of. Still, you decide it’ll likely be better for your sanity to shelve any other curiosities.
“Yes,” you say. “Actually, it’s the thing I originally knocked on the tree about since the sign said to knock for help.” You rub the back of your neck. “I got carried away, though.”
“Oho, you’re fine, you’re fine,” Archimedes says. “I quite enjoy the chance to chat.” He offers a friendly look. “So what is it you wish for my help with, exactly? Let me know.”
You pause here and consider what you would ask for in terms of actual guidance – do you want to ask about the vixen, Rosha? Or do you want to ask about where you could go, or what each path leads you to? You could ask all of the above, if he allows you to (which you feel wouldn’t be a problem), but, you can also focus on one thing in particular if you decide. What do you prefer to do now, you think, and you go silent.
Written by Hollowpage on 22 June 2021