A Bear Called Owl
This story deals with issues of mental health. For more information about this story, click here
Once upon a time there was a bear called Owl. This might seem an odd name for a bear, but then Owl was not very much like other bears. Where other bears had fur that grew nice and neatly, Owl’s fur grew wild, sticking out in all directions no matter what he did with it.
When other bears were awake and playing during the day, he was often asleep, having stayed up late into the night. The times he ventured outside during the day the other bears would laugh at him for his startled expression and tired eyes.
But fur and sleeping habits were not the only thing that set Owl apart from the other bears.
Owl had a much deeper difference that not many people knew about. He had a fire within him that he struggled to control. Sometimes it was a smouldering ember, but other times it would burn hot, overcoming his good nature and sending him into a fit of rage.
It was not a happy secret to have, but Owl was sensitive to the other bears – not just their mocking, but his fear that someday this temper may emerge around others. His greatest fear was hurting others, so it was easier to shut himself away and try to cope with it on his own.
Over the years other bears had tried to befriend Owl, seeing past his wild fur and tired eyes to the handsome smile and genuine heart that lay beneath, but over time his strangeness and determination to remain alone meant they let themselves be pushed away.
Owl was not happy with his life the way it was, but until he found a way to fix his problem he thought it much better for everyone that he remain a loner, shut inside his little round house in the trunk of a very tall tree.
That is, until one day, when everything changed.
It was nighttime, and Owl had ventured outside for the first time in days. He was very tired, having had an attack of anger earlier that drained his energy. He had hoped the crisp night air would revive him, but it did not seem to be doing so.
Wandering around aimlessly for a while, he finally slumped down by a small creek, lost in his thoughts.
“What’s the matter?” a small voice said, startling Owl from his reverie.
“Huh? uh, what?” Owl replied, still a little dazed.
“You seem sad,” the small voice replied, “what’s the matter?”
Before he could respond, a small black cat leapt lightly down from a nearby branch.
Owl examined the cat, not entirely sure what to make of her. She stared back, her head cocked. With a start, Owl realised she was waiting for an answer to her question.
“I don’t know, really,” he responded finally.
“What do you mean you don’t know?” the cat asked incredulously, “if something’s bothering you then surely you must know what it is!”
“Well I guess I just don’t” Owl replied lamely.
“A-ha,” the cat nodded sagely, “what you mean to say is you don’t want to tell me what’s wrong. There’s a very big difference, you know.”
“Oh. Yeah, I suppose so,” Owl responded, “who are you anyway?”
The cat cocked her head to the other side in a jaunty manner.
“Changing the subject?” she said, a hint of laughter in her voice. “Never mind, I shall let you get away with it – but only because we’ve just met. I’m Cait,” she said, jumping lightly into his lap and offering her paw.
Owl shook her paw hesitantly.
“So what’s your name?” Cait asked impatiently.
“Owl? That’s an odd sort of name for a bear!” she replied.
“Well I’m an odd sort of bear, I suppose,” Owl replied lamely.
“Hmmm” Cait regarded him steadily. Owl sensed she had seen through his weak attempt at humour.
“Well,” she said suddenly, “I’m brand new to this area, I was just settling myself in for a long uncomfortable night sleeping in that branch. I suppose you have a house around here, would you mind letting me stay a couple of nights?”
Owl was caught off guard, he had never had a friend ask to stay before, much less a stranger.
“Well I er, um, that is to say, um, well, you see.”
“If you don’t want me to it’s fine,” Cait cut off his inane babble impatiently.
“No!” Owl replied sharply, surprising himself with the strength of his response.
“It’s not that I don’t want you to, it’s just that, well, I’m not very accustomed to having guests, I suppose.”
Owl let the sentence trail off. He wanted to tell her why, but couldn’t seem to find the words.
“Well that’s no problem then!” Cait replied brightly, “I am very easy to grow accustomed to. Now, which way is it?”
With that, she jumped down from his lap and looked at him expectantly until Owl got up and slowly led the way home.
That night Owl sat awake, watching as Cait slept soundly. Despite his urging she refused to take his bed, insisting she preferred to sleep on a small mat on the floor. She purred and twitched in her sleep.
Owl thought to himself that she must be having a particularly nice dream, and felt a little jealous.
The next morning, Cait was awake bright and early. She stretched herself out, yawned, and then bounced over to Owl.
“Good morning,” she said brightly.
“Morning,” Owl responded dully, lost again in his thoughts.
Cait looked more closely at him. “Haven’t you slept at all?” she asked.
“Not really,” Owl replied.
Cait looked thoughtful for a minute, then shook herself briskly.
“Right, well then it’s clearly time for you to go to bed. You look a mess,” she told Owl firmly.
Owl began to protest, but Cait cut him off.
“No, you need sleep. Get into your pyjamas and go to bed now. I promise I won’t look!”
She turned her back and gazed steadfastly at the wall.
Bewildered at being ordered around by a creature less than half his size, Owl began to get changed. Finishing, he began to climb into bed.
“You’re not going to bed without brushing your teeth!” Cait exclaimed in a scandalised tone, though she was still facing the wall.
“No, of course not!” Owl replied, and quickly got out of bed and went to the sink.
As he brushed his teeth, Cait wandered the house, jumping up on chairs and table and balancing precariously on window sills.
“Where are your blinds?” she asked presently.
“I ‘on’t ‘ave a-y,” Owl replied, his mouth full of toothpaste, then bent down to rinse his mouth.
When he straightened up, Cait was gone from sigh
“Cait?” he asked tentatively, but there was no response.
“Oh well… goodnight then, I suppose,” he said to no one in particular, and lay down in bed, pulling the covers over his head to block out the daylight.
Owl woke slowly, his eyes opening before his mind had even begun to stir. He felt different than usual, more rested and less sluggish.
As he blinked, wondering what was different about today, his mind slowly clicked into gear, and he noticed that it was dark.
Suddenly he felt tired again, wondering how he could have wasted the entire day asleep. Rubbing his eyes groggily, he sat up.
“Good morning,” a cheery voice said.
“ungh ungh,” Owl replied, then cleared his throat. “Uh… good morning,” he corrected himself.
“What time is it?”
“How should I know, I don’t wear a watch,” Cait replied smartly, “but it’s somewhere between 10 and 11… I heard the Cuckoo calling out a little while ago.”
“10 or 11… at night?” Owl asked, confused.
“No silly, it’s still morning. I found some nice wide bark to block the windows so you could have a proper rest. You look a lot better.”
“You’re welcome,” she replied brightly, “Now how about some breakfast? I can make french toast or eggs or pancakes or…”
At the word pancakes Owl’s ears pricked up and his stomach grumbled – they were his favourite.
“Well, that answers that question,” Cait said triumphantly, “Pancakes it is! You go and clean yourself up a bit and relax while I sort it out.”
Owl stood and watched for a moment as Cait bustled around the kitchen on all fours, dragging ingredients from the cupboards with her mouth, humming merrily to herself all the while. Bemused, he turned and headed for the shower.
Over the next few weeks Owl and Cait got into a rather nice routine. She would curl up and sleep at night while Owl stayed awake, distracted by his thoughts. When he finally got tired and headed to bed she would get up and go exploring around the area, before coming home to cook up a storm for when he woke up.
Owl would wake in the late morning or early afternoon to delicious aromas and Cait curled up at the foot of his bed purring contentedly.
They would eat, talk and laugh, then Owl would organise dinner for the two of them (he was rather a dab hand in the kitchen himself) and then sit up while Cait went to bed.
While their friendship didn’t make the dark times go away for Owl, having Cait’s companionship did make the good times better, and though Owl couldn’t bring himself to say as much, he was very grateful to have her there.
But one day things went wrong.
Cait, in her usual routine, had just gotten back from a nice walk outside, and was preparing to make her lunch and Owl’s breakfast, ready for him to wake up.
But it was not really Owl that was waiting to greet her. He had woken in a bad state, and the burning anger that was normally kept deep down inside was rising to the surface, taking over his usually affable personality. Owl felt it coming. He tried desperately to hold it back, but he knew it was futile.
“Get out” he snarled at Cait, who jumped at hearing this strange voice coming from her friend. She stared at him in shock, uncertain as to whether to try and help him or to run away.
Owl was desperate, not wanting her to see him, or to risk hurting her, in his uncontrolled state.
“GET OUT!” he roared now, and Cait obeyed, fleeing out the door.
As she left, Owl felt himself overwhelmed by the feeling and went into a demonic rage. But inside, the very small part of him that was still him was glad to see her escape safely, yet grieved for the friendship he had lost.
Several hours later, Owl lay on his bed, semi-conscious. Around him, the blinds that Cait had so lovingly chosen were in tatters, the walls had deep gouges in them and furniture was upturned and some pieces broken.
The rage had lasted some time, and when it had finished he had collapsed into a troubled sleep, filled with red hot nightmares.
As he slowly came to and saw the destruction around him, Owl felt something he hadn’t in a very long time – sadness. Now that Cait had seen him like that she would not return, and this demon he fought had destroyed more than he ever thought he could have, and the thought of losing her friendship was more than he could bear. Groaning, he went back to sleep, a more restful sleep this time.
When he woke again, Owl lay motionless, staring at the ceiling. He felt numb, still hurting from what he had lost. As he lay there, he slowly became aware of a strange rumbling noise. At first he thought it was his stomach, he had not eaten in some time, but it did not hurt.
Blinking to clear his head, Owl sat up, to see Cait curled up at the foot of the bed, watching him intently. Owl squinted, thinking he was imagining things. The rumbling sound stopped as Cait stood up.
“Good morning!” she said cheerily, “feeling better?”
“Uh…huh,” Owl mumbled back, confused.
“Excellent. Now how about some breakfast? Pancakes?”