Emerging from the Rubble 

Chapter 7

Owl sat at his desk. He drummed his fingers while deep in thought.


“Are you sure you won’t join us?” Anne persisted.


She sat with Sylvia and Harmony opposite Owl. They had sought an audience with him. There were no men patrolling the apartment block, nor guards on the door.


Owl remained silent, glaring at Anne with a stern expression on his face.


Anne looked into Owl’s eyes, searching for a glimmer of warmth. Owl was rarely seen in the courtyard now and had taken up residence in his lobby office almost permanently. He still tried to feign an air of superiority and control, but in reality, his world had fallen apart.


“Your colleagues let us know that it’s your one hundredth birthday, and we have found enough ingredients to make you a cake! Please come and have some with us?” Sylvia did her best to break through the icy exterior of the community’s patriarch.


Finally, Owl spoke, “I am in no need of celebration.” His expression was so wooden it was almost surreal.


Harmony surmised that Owl was experiencing conflicting emotions. She knew that Owl craved recognition and to be included in the community, but these were not his preferred terms. She attempted a different approach.


“Sir, you have protected this community for so long. You have given your life to serve this city. We want to honour you on your birthday. You deserve a party!”


Harmony did not realise how incensed Owl would become when she used the word party.


“That’s all this place has become!” Owl erupted, swiping his arm across the desk, causing a mug, an old lamp and an ashtray to smash on to the floor.


“A party! Where is the discipline? Where is the order? Where is the respect?”


The three women suddenly felt unsafe and quickly stood up to leave.


“Where are you going?” screamed Owl, his rage now coming to the fore. “I haven’t finished! Since you two arrived I have watched this community become soft. Do you know what it takes to survive in this world?”


Anne felt a tidal wave of anger swell within her. She shot a short prayer heavenwards for self-control.


“Owl, we are thriving. Don’t you see? The seeds we planted years ago have allowed us to build a working farmstead. We are eating well. We are growing more than enough. The people are happy. They are happy with each other and laughing. Owl, this has all happened on your watch.”


Anne bravely waited for Owl’s response. Harmony and Sylvia stood by her side.


Sylvia continued, summoning all her courage. “Before we were afraid,” she said. “Now we are not. You have given this place back to us, and we are so happy.”


Owl felt the temptation to crumble. He could imagine two paths forward. One was offering him a chance to let go and join in the celebration. The other choice was to remain firm and hold on to his sense of dignity. All the years of struggle, suffering, fear and the personal cost to him flashed through his mind. Before he could process everything rationally, he started to speak. “That’s right!” he spat. “I have given every ounce of my being to protect this group. If we go soft, we fucking die!” Owl felt hot justification pump through him, which pushed him even further into his own rhetoric.


“Who regrouped what was left of the police? Who fought off marauding gangs of looters? Who marshalled the people into efficient teams, so that we could survive this long?”


The more he screamed, the more he allowed every justification to become his reasoning. It was like he was disappearing into his own construct of who he thought he was.


“Ok Owl. We cannot force you to come, but please know you are welcome, and we will be honouring you.” Anne was determined to remain calm in the face of Owl’s fury.


The three women calmly walked out of the lobby office.


Owl was left short of breath. He slumped onto a chair, unlocked a drawer under the desk and reached for a cigarette. These were in very short supply, so he only had one when he felt particularly overwhelmed.


Alone and smoking slowly, Owl shut the doors to anyone and anything. After a few minutes, he climbed the stairs and walked up on to the roof of the apartment block. He always went there when he wanted to survey the community.


“I built this,” he muttered under his breath, exhaling the stale smoke from his tired lungs. A movement caught his eye. In the fields behind the complex, he could see Polecat tending to the crops. Polecat was singing to himself whilst fixing some newly repaired piping to the irrigation system he had built.


Owl felt a crushing sense of hatred toward Polecat. “Look at that lanky piece of shit!” he growled to no-one but himself. “He’d be dead without me, the ungrateful dog.”


Looking down on the other side of the apartments and on to the courtyard he saw people milling about. Some were playing a game of chequers with white and grey pebbles, and a couple sat romantically together, their limbs overlapping. In the corner, he saw Anne, Harmony and Sylvia congratulating a young man and woman on the largest cake he had ever seen.


The sight of that cake caused Owl to have a sudden realisation that he was consumed with a desperate darkness, unable to let himself enjoy the simple birthday gift. He realised his own bleak capability for hatred, and then experienced a sense of clarity. In a stunning moment of relief, he realised that he didn’t need to feel like that anymore.


Owl took a final deep pull on his cigarette, calmly stepped on the butt, walked to the edge of the roof, and fell forward. In the two seconds of falling, Owl finally felt free of all burdens. Then his head met the concrete beneath, and with a violently loud crack his body shattered, then lay still.




Polecat heard a loud thud and looked over to the source of the sound. A cloud of dust had been caused by something that had seemed to fall from the roof. Intrigued, he wandered over to investigate. As the dust settled, Polecat realised that the crumpled heap on the ground was Owl. Blood was trickling from his ears and a gaping wound was open across his head. Blood and brain matter were now matting his hair.


Polecat had seen lots of bloodied bodies, but there was something strange about this one. Owl’s face was turned to the side, but his expression was strangely peaceful. Polecat felt a confusing mixture of sadness and relief. This was a man who had beaten him, and bullied him. A man who had been feared far more than respected. However, this was a man who had used all of his energy to preserve a community as it had emerged from the rubble.


Unsure what he should do, Polecat stood for a while, watching the blood mingle with the dusty earth. He decided it was best to go and tell everyone.


Climbing up on a chair, Polecat cupped his hands over his mouth.


“Listen everyone,” he called out. “I have something important to tell you.”


After a few seconds, the courtyard turned quiet, waiting for his announcement.


“Owl is dead,” proclaimed Polecat.


There was a loud, audible gasp from many in the community.


“It seems that he jumped from the roof.”


Anne and Harmony looked at each other, unsure of what to think.


Sylvia spoke up first. “So there we are. He couldn’t live without being in control.” Her words were devoid of emotion as she stared into the distance.


There was an exodus from the courtyard as everyone followed Polecat out to see the body.


“We did all we could do,” Harmony reassured Anne.


Anne nodded, but looked sad. “We could not reach him,” she murmured. “What will Jesus say? Did we fail?”


“Did I reach everyone, when I first came?” Anne turned around to see Jesus standing behind her.


Jesus gave Anne a reassuring hug.


“Of course not!” answered Anne, wiping tears of relief from her eyes. “Many did not understand your message.”


“And so,” replied Jesus, “Javert couldn’t let his training and conditioning go.”


“Javert? Was that his real name?” asked Harmony.


“Yes. He was nicknamed Owl affectionately by his former superior, because he seemed to see clearly when everything seemed confusing and dark.”


“Where is Owl now?” asked Anne.


“He’ll be resurrected when Papa says so. His story is by no means over. We never give up on anyone.” Jesus gave one of his reassuring smiles. He sat and motioned for Anne and Harmony to sit with him.


“Death only happens now when an individual resolves to take their own life, or a life is taken by force. Let me ask you, how do you see this community going forward?”


Harmony offered her thoughts. “Things are so much better. Lightness and laughter are returning.”


“Where will the people look now for direction?” asked Jesus.


Harmony and Anne thought for a minute.


“I don’t know for sure,” said Harmony. “They will want a new leader, but the process of deciding who that will be could be complicated.”


“It will take a long time for the ingrained desires and characteristics to soften. Be patient with them. Do your best to be peacemakers. I know you love them all,” Jesus advised.


Jesus reassured the friends further, then he told them he had to leave.


“Who was that?” asked Sylvia.


“That was Jesus,” replied Anne.


“Where did he come from?”


“Jesus goes wherever he is needed. He’s an old friend of ours.”


“I feel like I know him,” said Sylvia, looking puzzled.


“You kind of do,” laughed Harmony. “We all do.”


Sylvia seemed satisfied with such an abstract answer and she was happy to have seen Jesus.