Chapter 1:

Like the Owl


Another cold night in the city. The wind whipping across my face as the sound of traffic assaults my ears. You’d think at some point all of these people would go to bed, but newcomers take their place before a difference can be noticed. One of the more endearing quirks of living in a city I guess, you're never really alone.

Fort Lain is a big city, it has been my whole life. It’s in the middle of an economic boom right now so it’s only getting bigger. They just keep building, even after we ran out of floor space in the city. Instead of expanding out towards the suburbs or making a new district a little ways away everyone just wants to add on as close to the center as they can. Every new building is made for the now and not planned out for the future. It makes the city look like a M.C. Esher painting, everything wrapped in and around itself.

Grandpa told me when he was a kid the skyscrapers weren’t built yet and the harbor was filled to the brim with seals. Nowadays it’s rare to see any kind of animal in the harbor. Too many ships going in and out, and not enough restrictions to keep the harbor clean. The entire east side of the city is just factories, warehouses and docks.

There's something scary about the shipping part of town. It’s full of alcoholics and drug dealers, or at least that's what my mother says. I’m pretty sure it’s not that bad but it’s hard to go against 17 years of her nagging. It’s hard not to believe her with all the trash in the water. Walk the beach for five minutes and find 3 needles, 2 lunch sets, and 1 large trash bag that may or may not have a human body inside. The beach isn’t the cleanest part of the city but it’s also not the dirtiest, which is sad. I’m not sure if this “boom” is a good or bad thing for us.

Luckily I’m just doing some volunteer work, I can leave the docks for the police and actual heroes. All I'm doing tonight is keeping my eyes and ears peeled. It’s been a whole month since I've started my vigilantism and I've reported 3 robberies, 2 trespassings, 5 DUI’s, and 1 assault. 11 crimes in 30 days, a crime every 3 days. An average of 2 and a half crimes a week. This being the first day of the next week and me being awful at math meaning, absolutely nothing.

I’m glad I kept the crimes recorded in my OWL-genda but they aren't really doing me any good. Then again it's only been a month. Maybe they’ll come in handy once I've filled in a whole year's worth. Dates, times, streets, perps, and crimes comitted. Maybe I'll add in response times too. I’d hafta stick around and watch for the cops though. That's kinda sketchy considering I think what I'm doing might be illegal.

Sitting on rooftops for hours in a silly costume and spying. It’s probably just trespassing really if they did catch me. I’m not looking into windows or watching specific people. Just using my powers to catch things others might miss. I can hear ten times better than normal people, see with only one tenth to a hundredth the amount of light as them, and spin my head two hundred and seventy degrees around. Or that's what google says about owls.

I don’t have any actual way to measure my powers. Nobody to talk to about them, and no clue as to why I got them. That's part of the reason I suit up every weekend I guess. Aside from trying to be a hero, which seemed a lot more exciting online, I really want to find some kind of answers out here.

No traumatic event, no chemical bath or bite from a were-creature. Just wake up one morning with powers. Super hearing and sight are awful when you don’t know how to control them. Had to stay home from school that whole first week. Convinced mom I had migraines. Actually convinced is wrong, I did have migraines. They just were caused by my new super powers.

No clues tonight either. Day 31 has come to a close as my OWL-phone vibrates in my pocket. Another uneventful crime free night. It’s really hard to force myself to call it quits at 3 a.m. I think part of my powers might be enhanced nocturnal...ism. It’s really hard to get to sleep anytime before 5 in the morning now, my eyes don't want to shut until I see the sun. I've started taking melatonin on school nights to get to sleep, like a lot of it.

Tomorrow is already Saturday, meaning my hero nights are nearly over for another five days. I can grab a couple things at the store tomorrow to finish off my costume. It’s been a real pain taking the bus across the city to grab pieces for it. Waiting days between and making sure the stores are far enough from school that no classmates might be there. At least my maps have been getting filled out. Plenty of time during stake outs to make routes and plans for the days to come.

They don’t really show you how hard it is sneaking around a city, especially in and out from home. Unless you can fly or have some kind of enhanced movement it’s awful. The first night I was dumb and didn’t plan a route. I definitely didn’t and still don’t know the city well enough to just wing it. I got another notebook just for my maps, the Owl-map. Couldn't figure out a better name for that one.

I found a couple of abandoned buildings near my neighborhood during the day. I hid a cheap backpack from the thrift store with some spare clothes around each one. After patrol I change back into civilian clothes there. I also rotate between them so as to not form a pattern or weird habits.

Now my return trip is only about 35 minutes. I’ve mapped out every camera in the neighborhood and found the fastest routes, the least fence to bush and camera ratios. I swap between each route in a semi sporadic pattern leaving two weeks between each route. That way if i’m caught on tape the neighbors might find my appearance as a one off fluke of some drunken teen walking home from some party in the city.

It’s really funny. Sneaking back home is the most exciting part of this still. The adrenaline I get during this part is almost overwhelming. The price I pay for being such a nobody I guess. No sports, or group activities. Being such a boring homebody my whole life really makes this stuff exhilarating. I can’t even imagine how crazy mom would get if she ever found out.

Route 3B involves going through the Duxbury’s backyard, jumping over a small wooden fence into the Holbrook yard and following the hedge wall behind the condominiums. The hedges are my favorite route piece. They feature in a lot more route combinations of mine then they probably should. The height and thickness is just too perfect. Not to mention them being in the middle of the neighborhood really helps in their synergy with route making. Doesn’t hurt that none of the condos have any rear facing cameras. They have a big plastic white fence locking in their yards from the outside. My small frame fits with room to spare between the fence and hedges, allowing me to hustle pretty quickly for this portion of my journey.

After the hedges just gotta duck down and crawl under my neighbors dumpster. His name is Jeremy Delrimmy, I remember it because it rhymes. He owns a small business out of his garage fixing peoples tools, mowers, and random junk. My mom was really upset when he moved in. His stuff has overflowed from the garage and has stolen some of his driveway. Mom said it brings the neighbors' house values down and his backyard business isn’t even legal. She's such a pain about things sometimes. It’s not like we’re planning on moving anytime soon or she's home enough to even worry about the view it supposedly ruins. Personally I like his junk. Especially the dumpster, seems practical. You can store more and larger trash, plus lock the tops to keep away raccoons.

From the dumpster I can take a hard right and crawl under his second shed and right out under the big pine tree. Climb this big beauty and hop our painted white fence. Viola! Back home and in my favorite space, the backyard. It’s not that big, maybe 20 feet by 10. A Lot of it is taken up by my shed. My pride and joy! I store my costume underneath it in a safe I bought from an old army navy store across town. The safest place I could imagine. My mom would sooner kill a man than crawl 4 feet in the dirt. Burying the thing was really hard. No one told me how hard digging holes is, especially holes underneath sheds. I think I smashed my head six times that night.

7-3-2-8. It was really hard deciding on that combination. The first half of 9999 makes it too easy to get starting at 1, but 5000 being in the middle makes anything near 5000 lower or higher to easy. Then too close to 9999 makes it too easy if they start backwards. I ended up choosing the higher half in hopes most people would think I would assume they would think I’d pick the latter half and actually pick the smaller half to fool them. Or something like that, I got lost trying to outsmart them.

“Cluck, cluck coo” the soft sound of Penelope snuck out of the shed.

Penelope, what are you doing up at this hour? Looking through the window, giving me a perfect view of her nesting box, I can see her nestled in. Her white feathers slowly lift up and down as she breathes, happily asleep.

“Night night Penelope” I whisper “I’ll bring you a snack tomorrow before I do my errands. Sleep tight”

Penelope is my actual pride and joy, the shed is just her home. My perfectly white little Silkie. She's the best chicken you’ll ever meet. She clucks, eats, and loves hugs. I still can’t believe I was able to convince my Mom into letting me get her and the shed. Thankfully Grandpa paid for it and backed me up, it’s nice having one family member who listens to you.

I wonder if Grands would be mad finding out I sneak out at night and patrol the city? Doubt it, he’d probably just guilt me into stopping by claiming how worried sick he’d be. “Melody have you thought of what could happen to you out there? What if you're hurt, or worse!? What would happen to poor Penelope if you disappeared one night and never returned?” - Grands November 2nd 2022. That last bit makes me really sad. I can’t imagine Mom taking care of her. Mrs.Navarro would probably have to take care of her for me, she’s our house keeper.

Now getting into my window is a little tough. Being short at 4’11’’ even the first floor window feels really high up. Doesnt help our house has a stupid big foundation cause of the incline. The bottom of my window is 5’’ off the ground. I’m not athletic enough to climb up and be reliably quiet so I started using a small wooden stool. I leave it outside inside the bush by my window while I'm out and pull it up into my room with a rope I tied to it. Then I untie the rope and hide that in the heating duct on the floor. The stool just sits in my corner, I had it before all this sneaking around.

Cleaning up might be the hardest part of it all. Trying to clean off my black face paint is tough, I paint the upper half of my face to look like I'm wearing an eye mask. Looking in the mirror I can appreciate that others don’t have the same night vision I do. My costume looks so bad when you can fully see. A tan hoodie a size too large, hanging well below my waist. Dark grey thick sweatpants, super useful since the cold nights are setting in. finishing off my less than stellar outfit is a pair of brown boots and brown gloves. I’m thinking of picking up some stuff tomorrow.

I really want to add some fluff to my sweater somehow, add to the whole owl aesthetic. Since my powers kind of force me in that direction. Also it’s important as a hero to get a theme that fits your name. Makes you more memorable and in term marketable.

Surprisingly I can't come up with a better name than just Owl. Luckily I have a few years before I need to think of a name change, no rush. Unlike bed time for me. Even with tomorrow being Saturday I can’t stay up all night. Gotta get my errands done before mom gets home at five. She’d lose it if she found out I went shopping alone. Seventeen and she still treats me like a baby.

Last time I broke a rule she locked all the tvs in the closet and stole my phone for a month. That was for going outside and playing in the backyard without her when I was 12. Forced to really love reading that June. Can’t imagine how long she’d steal it all if she caught me in the city.

Thankfully she’s meticulous to a fault. She hasn’t been off, schedule wise, in the 7 years she's been lieutenant Governor. Got another year of that schedule left, I’ll be in college and free by then anyway, lucky.

I’ll set my alarm for 12:30, gives me about eight hours of sleep. Forty five minutes by bus to and fro, thirty minutes for lunch and fifteen for a shower. Three hours to shop, perfect. Love being early, can’t get caught if I have three hours of leeway for something that should only take forty minutes. Even if my bus breaks down and I gotta run home I’ll make it with enough time to catch my breath.

What's that noise? Footsteps!? It’s Mom. Why is she up this late. She's walking up the stairs from the kitchen. Was she getting a drink? She took a right not going back to her bedroom she's heading this way? Did she catch me already!? Came into my room unannounced while I was out!? How am I gonna get caught this soon!?

I was outside with Penelope cause I couldn't sleep, that only works if she hasn’t been outside to check. If she checked Penelope I was actually out seeing a boy, I’m so sorry for lying. I’ll have to suffer the grounding for that and whatever other punishment I'll get for not telling her who this non-existent boy is. She’ll be so much more annoying about me being alone. I might not be able to sneak out and patrol until after I graduate.

“Knock, knock, knock” Mom’s hand gently struck my door. “Melody, are you awake?”

“Y-yeah ma. Just using the bathroom.” trying my best to sound like i just woke up. “What are you doing up?”

“Couldn’t get to sleep, a lot has been going on” she said, sounding actually sleepy unlike me.

“I saw it on the news. The rise in gang violence, yeah?”

“Yeah.” she sighed heavily. “Not the easiest thing to work around and balance if I’m being honest. Nothing for you to worry about though, we have it covered even if it’s hard work.” a large pause hung in the air, it’s always been hard for me to respond to her, especially when she seems so drained and weak. Nothing like my usual mom. “Good night Melody, sweet dreams”

“You too Mom, see you tomorrow”

Her footsteps slowly crept towards her room. Her doorknob opening and door closing, if it wasn’t for my powers i’d never have been able to catch her walking around. Her footsteps are always light and ghostly, no matter how tired she is. Our house is kept awkwardly immaculate. Doors knobs, hinges, floor boards all replaced if they start having even a symptom of wear. She had the steps redone three times one summer. The first because they started creaking and the other two because they weren’t perfectly angled.

It makes for a lovely home if nothing else. Feels like a waste of money to me though. Mom’s almost never home to enjoy it. Only here to sleep and get changed.

Gramps told me that she's always been like that. She’d take charge and demand perfection, whether it be from her or someone else. Her job choice makes a lot of sense to me in that regard.

Aaaaaand there it is. The sound of her head hitting the pillow and her sheets being wrapped around her. Now I can go to bed soundly, her being up has always freaked me out. Feels like she’ll sneak up on me while I'm trying to sleep and find something wrong with how I’m doing it. Nine milligrams of melatonin and a glass of water, and I'm off towards tomorrow.