Another bit from one of my novels.
The upside down owl is significant.
As Tenser returned to the house, Michael took the opportunity to look around. The backyard was immense and could hold a nice-sized wedding reception party quite easily. He could see where small trails cut paths through the dense trees and walked toward one of them. He was about to examine some markings in the soft dirt of the trail when he heard a voice above him.
“It’s a game trail,” said the voice. “Deer mostly.”
Michael looked up and saw a teenage girl in a tree, her legs dangling from the limb she was sitting on. He smiled politely at her, but then noticed she held in her hand a red water balloon.
“Hello,” he said to her. “I’m Michael.”
The girl hefted the water balloon in her hand – its shape changing from tall to flat and back again with gravity. He watched her, not sure if the balloon was meant for him or some other victim.
She was dressed in khaki shorts that rode just above the thickest parts of her thighs. Her pale yellow shirt was barely sleeved and was covered at the shoulders with her long brown hair.
“Do you know who owns these woods?” she asked him, still menacing him with the balloon.
“I assume they are connected to Mr. Tenser’s property, but I might be wrong,” he guessed.
“You are wrong,” she replied. “These woods belong to no one.”
“I see,” Michael said. “Are you their guardian, poised to pelt trespassers with your watery defenses?”
She smiled a bit and then cocked her hand back a bit further, as if about to throw the balloon.
“If I am, then are you not destined to become my next victim?”
“Perhaps,” he said, smiling a bit more. “But after all, I am only on the grass.”
The splash of water from the balloon hitting the ground before him came faster than he could react to, but only a few drops hit his shoes and the cuffs of his coveralls.
“Then consider that a warning shot across your bow,” she said and swung down gracefully from her perch, landing softly in the grass. Casually, she grabbed a knapsack full of balloons from behind one of the trees.
“What’s your name?” he asked her.
“I don’t have a name when I’m outside civilization,” she said matter-of-factly. Readjusting her knapsack over one shoulder she began to walk down one of the paths. Michael watched her as she disappeared into the thickness of the trees and he then turned away, deciding to return to the house.
The vaguely tribal music still played its cacophonic melodies across the yard and lent the scene an enveloping macabre miasma of sound that made the house seem to threaten him with its urbaneness – wielding its clever color schemes like an ax over his head. Michael felt suddenly ill. He noticed a strange acrid odor and thought for a moment that perhaps Mrs. Tenser wasn’t that great a cook after all.
“Are you coming or not?” a voice spoke behind him.
Michael turned back to the woods and saw the girl with arms crossed, tapping her shoe on the path.
“I really should get back to the house, I’m expected,” he said, though reluctantly. The girl had changed in a way but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Her hair seemed to throw reflective sparkles from the sunbeams, making it appear that her hair was made of tiny rainbows. He was vaguely attracted to her in a very animal sense – a predator-prey sense much more than anything purely sexual. He could see the roles reversed suddenly, seeing her as the predator – a widow spider, luring yet another morsel of food into her forest web.
Suddenly, Michael realized he had been drugged. The balloon had held some quickly evaporating liquid, the fumes of which he had inhaled. His cohesion to reality had become tentative.
“Follow me, Michael,” she said. “I want to show you something.”
Against all the voices screaming in his head to run from this place, Michael took a step toward her.
“There’s a good boy.”
He followed her down the path, staying ten feet or so behind her. He noticed then, for the first time, that the back of her shirt had an upside-down owl screen-printed on it. He focused on this and let himself be led deeper into the woods.
“If you were Alice and I were a white rabbit you’d be falling down a hole by now,” she said, suddenly very close to him. He blinked his eyes blearily and was able to focus long enough to see her looking back at him.
“He’s going to destroy you, you know. He thinks you’re an anarchist,” she said to him. “He’ll play with you a while, letting you think he’s off the scent. It’s his favorite thing to do – crushing little people like ants. But we both know the real problem here is that you’re not an anarchist. You’re just special and he hates those that are special because he doesn’t understand how you fit into things. He sees you as illogical.”
He was in a state of complete inebriation but her words pounded in to his memory like cuts from an engravers chisel.
“You are special. That won’t keep you safe, though. I’ll protect you. Remember what you see here.”
“Who are you?” he said, his voice thick and too low.
“I’m his daughter,” she said, and disappeared.
A sudden pain erupted in Michael’s head and within a few seconds his vision was restored to normal. The drug was wearing off quickly. He looked around him, but saw no sign of the girl. He was in a small glade and sunlight broke through the boughs in mote-infested beams. The glade was circular and in its center a small yellow flower was growing. Michael had seen a flower like this many times before in botany feeds. The species existed only in a few laboratories in the world, and there in highly controlled conditions. Yet, here he saw one growing wild.
It was a dandelion.