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  • Talon Stradley

S1E2 - S. Owen Sow

Owen grew up in the kind of suburban mountain town that only exists due to honeymooners and Pacific Crest Trail hikers. Contrary to the infinite flat of the midwest, Owen’s town couldn’t seem to stay still. The entire community was defined by the steep hills, ditches, canyons, and curves of the land. Owen lived at the top of all this. Unlike the city, where a higher apartment means a higher status, here being higher up on the mountain only brought hardships. First of all, the road was steep and impossible to drive  in the winter. Secondly, one couldn’t even enjoy the view due the sheer amount of other houses. His home did have its perks, however. For example, it was right on the edge of town. This meant that Owen could spend his days exploring the forest of his community.

His favorite place to go was called “The Canyon”- a large ditch sitting a little into the forest. In reality, The Canyon was a large drainage canal to prevent flooding. It ran all the way down the entire city. Owen knew this. He also knew that nobody else came to the section by his house, which made it special. What made it even more special was when, for Father’s Day, he and his dad went to The Canyon to build a swing. Owen’s Dad was a firefighter, a crucial job in the mountain towns, and earlier that week  the fire department had retired some of their old hosing that fell just short of safety standards. The two of them took this fire hose and a plank of wood and found a nice study tree. The tree’s branches hung over the ravine.

Owen’s Dad carefully climbed to the top of the towering tree and tied the hose on an outstretched branch. They fed the hose through  a hole in the plank and tied a massive knot on the end. Their swing was complete. Owen could now soar far above the bottom of The Canyon and return safely to the tree trunk at the cliffside. And he did. Many times. In fact, Owen would go there every day after school, rain or shine.

One day, though, something peculiar happened. I probably wouldn’t be telling you this story if it didn’t, but it did. And it wasn’t just one something, it was a couple somethings that all stacked into one big super something.

Firstly, there was the fog. The fog was particularly heavy this day. Very dense. Some of the townsfolk even claimed that their gas mileage went up as a result.  The scientific community didn’t verify this, but they never denied it either.

The other something was the hose. Over the months, it had begun to stretch under the boy’s weight. Nothing of notice, but steady. This added some unplanned length  compared to when they first built it.

Now, I don’t know if it was the grayness of the day or the excitement of the final day of school, but Owen was especially daring that day. He pulled the swing back further and further and went farther out and higher up with each swing. He continued in that way, further and farther and higher and up, until one swing… he didn’t come down.

The denser swing swung back through the fog, but the light-footed Owen was stuck on top. What’s more, he couldn’t get down. He tried digging through the fog to no avail, until he felt a cool wind that made him shiver and put on the jacket wrapped around his hip.  The wind also made the fog move. He couldn’t see through to the ground, but the peak of their mountain that poked through the clouds started to move away. The fog drifted along, with Owen on top.

As everyone knows, fog is not created where you see it. There are only 5 or 6 actual fogs in the world, they simply make their rounds. Owen, as a result, saw very much of the American country sides. It was a splendid sight. These serene images comforted Owen as he floated away from his home and family.

The countryside was soft and calm and perfectly content. Owen, on the other hand, had to be practical. He knew that he would not be getting off this low-lying cloud on his own. He also knew that planes tended to avoid big patches of fog, so it was unlikely that he would be rescued. He was stuck, which meant he had to survive.

Owen had nothing but the clothes on his back. Luckily, the dense fog was very malleable. He made himself shelter by shaping a mound of fog. He also made tools, namely nets. He used these nets to nab what birds he could. It was tough hunting, but possible. This was how he lived his meager life, thousands of feet above a scrolling earth.

One day, Owen saw something he had seen a hundred times before, but never truly considered until now. While the object in question was average by our standards, Owen’s unique vantage point gave him a new perspective. It was a rainbow - an arching and glowing by-product of the clouds - and it was massive. Starving from the measly meals of the birds and struck with a wild idea, Owen climbed on top of the behemoth and stabbed down with a cloudy knife.

Owen ate like a God that night.

Rainbow kept surprisingly well. Owen was able to store it and feast until he stumbled on another. Most of his adult life he was reliant upon these wild rainbows. And yes, I said adult life. It had been many years since Owen had set foot on solid ground. This was all about to change though.

As society expands and grows it is always on the lookout for new places to store its people. One real-estate agent heard somewhere that it could be possible to build foundations on clouds. He had the grand idea of finding a nearby patch of fog, hiring a helicopter, and dragging a developer friend of his up into the fog.

You can imagine their surprise when the real-estate agent, pilot, and engineer arrived to the top of a large fog bank to find a middle aged man in cloud clothes wiping rainbow from the corner of his eyes.

And you can imagine Owen’s surprise when, after twenty five years afloat, he  saw a human being again. They were much bigger than Owen remembered.

The group brought Owen back down to reality. Partly because they cared for his safety and well being, mostly because they needed to begin construction on a new high end condo chain. Owen, finally back on the ground, did the first thing most sensible folk tend to do when they find themselves back from a dangerous journey; He got his blood tested.

Remember, blood tests are very important. You’re stuck with your body more than you are stuck with anything else. It's crucial to know what is going on inside and  be sure everything is working ok. We tend not to think very much of it, but Owen was a smart lad, and he knew the value of personal health maintenance.

Now, Owen was already a remarkable person after having lived on a cloud for twenty five years, and his life was not about to return to normal. It turns out, having a diet of only wild rainbow has adverse physiological effects; when the scientists drew his blood, they were shocked to find a cornucopia of color. Upon further testing, it was found that Owen’s blood had 10 main colors, if you include black and white. What’s more, while most of his body had a mix of these colors, each finger only contained one.

Owen was inspired. He felt this was a gift- a sign from a sort of being even higher than clouds. He had seen the world, he had been gifted a ready source of color, and he wanted to show people what life was like on the clouds.

That’s how he ended up with us at Newton’s Dark Room. Peculiar people with something to say normally do. After he began his stay at our headquarters, he spent most his time trying to reconnect with his family. His father passed away during Owen’s journey. After a fight with cancer, his father died in a hospital bed surrounded by loved ones. Owen visits the grave at least once a month, always leaving one of his drawings at the tombstone.  

S. Owen Sow now happily resides at the NDR headquarters. He heads Green, our department of visual arts, where he creates striking paintings all through the use of his pin-pricked fingertips.

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