If you have ever spent a weekend with an owl god, you will know that it can be a character-building experience. I have vivid memories of the time Chalchiuhtecolotl, the night owl god of the Aztecs, made itself at home in my flat for three trying days. I live in a glitzy and gleaming block, of futuristic design, impossibly stark, with lots of exciting remote control hubs, but the fact is it is small, even pokey, and it doesn’t help that I have crammed into it the contents of my ma’s laboratory and my pa’s garden shed, together with much of the furniture thrown out when the local vet refurbished his waiting room and a jumble of junk from a hellhole.
That Friday evening I was crumpled on a settee, eating lemon meringue pie and reading Pebblehead’s bestselling paperback Brute Beauty And Valour And Act, Oh, Air, Pride, Plume, Here Buckle! when the front door sensor vibrated, the hub hummed, and the plasma display flashed insistently. I had a visitor, though no one was expected. Thinking it might be a goon coming to serve me with an Asbo, I depressed the locking knob on the entry pod, put down my pie plate, and tiptoed my way through some of ma’s alembics to the door. Peering through the tintin slat, I saw a hunched and somewhat shabby figure dressed like a bus conductor, if you can remember bus conductors. He – I thought it was a he – was not holding anything that might be an Asbo, so, being an affable sort, I opened the door.
He – or rather, it – almost knocked me over as it somehow soared past me and came to rest next to the settee. Before either of us spoke, it plucked my plate off the floor and scoffed what was left of the lemon meringue pie. Then it said:
“Good evening. I am an Aztec god. My name is Chalchiuhtecolotl and I am an owl god. Of the night.”
“You look like a bus conductor,” I replied, “And a shabby one at that.”
Then it screeched at me. It was the loudest and longest screech I have ever had the misfortune to hear. My ears did not stop ringing until Sunday lunchtime, by which time the owl god had completely taken over my life. Within the confines of my fab but tiny flat, it swooped, it pecked at things, it shifted shape, it did some strange rewiring manipulations to my stereo system, it fluttered and preened, it fixed me for hours with a cold inhuman stare, it sprouted tufts and feathers, it would not let me read my Pebblehead paperback, it hawked up gobbets of semi-digested pie, it smashed all ma’s lab equipment to smithereens, then ate the smithereens, it shifted shape again, it summoned some of its Aztec god pals and held a rowdy Saturday night party, it kept me awake by looming menacingly just out of sight, it filled the bath with wounded mice and stoats and weasels, it made me sit through a four-hour documentary about Spandau Ballet, its metabolism speeded up to the point where everything in the flat was shaking, it phoned up my friends and told them I had moved to Dawlish, it somehow managed to drag a live swan into the bathroom and savaged it with its talons, it screeched and screeched, drowning out the Shipping Forecast, it burned its bright incandescent fury into my soul, and on Monday morning it shape-shifted again, just as it was pulverising my bread bin, and turned back into what looked like a shabby bus conductor.
“I am leaving you now,” it said, and it sounded almost regretful. I watched it leave, and slumped on what was left of the settee. I took a nap, and then I went to see the priest to explain to him that I was renouncing the Roman Catholic faith, forever. He tried to lure me into the confessional box, but I threatened to tear his beating heart out of his chest and make an offering of it to That Mighty Orb, the Sun. That shut him up. I sashayed off through the glittering streets, past Pang Hill Orphanage and across Sawdust Bridge, towards glory.