They carry around the brick of a field guide at school, daydreaming about the birds inside.
Their science teacher, a fellow birdwatcher, one day shows them a photo he took of a barred owl. Strix varia, with tree bark feathers and round dark eyes, a species they still haven't seen.
Seeing their wide smile, the teacher beams and gives them the photo to keep.
That evening in their room, they take out the owl photo and imagine being like that. A sleek forest phantom with princely wings, unafraid on even the most starless and hollow of nights.
While their parents fight and shred each other's hearts in the other room, they recite raptor names in a silent whisper. A spell to find and be found.
Falco peregrinus. Cathartes aura. Strix varia.
is an artist and writer who calls Tokyo home. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in ANMLY, Astrolabe, Strange Horizons
and elsewhere. Find them at laeastra.com/links