The massive white owl painted on the underpass surprised Nika as she drove on her way to the studio. The graffiti had not been there the week before. She would have noticed. The painting covered the entire piling from the sidewalk to the concrete cloverleaf it supported. The owl’s yellow piercing eyes nearly forced her into the guard rail. Nika slammed on the brakes. Her coffee spilled over the console. She looked around to make sure no one was behind her. The street was empty except for her small blue car. Nika leaned forward over the steering wheel and looked at the owl again.
“Where the hell did you come from?” she asked out loud. She looked around to see if anyone was around her. Then she realized half of her coffee had spilled onto the plastic and leather.
“Shit” she said leaning back to grab the tissue box on the floor of the back seat. Nika plucked the tissues and began mopping up the mess. Then, she rummaged around in her bag on the passenger seat for her camera. She found it and pulled out her red Nikon. Nika checked the street again before opening her door. It was strange for a Monday that there was no traffic. She shrugged and hurried around the back of the car to stand in front of the owl. He seemed to look straight through her. Nika shivered. She began taking photographs of the painting, trying to take in the details as she watched it through the lens. The owl sat on a white tree branch and an indigo blue background crept up around his shoulders. The owl’s head was slightly tilted to one side, watching.
Nika saw the artist’s tag in the bottom corner and focused in on it. She couldn’t make out the name. She frowned looking at it with her own eyes. She doubted that it was a name at all, but more a symbol that the artist used as their own stamp on their work. Nika sighed. Urban behavior fascinated Nika. She wished that she could find the body connected to the voice on the stone pillar but it was unlikely. They would be hard to track down, if she could find them at all.
Nika marveled at the curves and layers of colour. The owl’s wings were covered in a cape in turquoise and cherry. She noticed there was an intricate design on the cape. Nika photographed it. She had no idea how long it had taken them to paint it. This kind of painting, she knew, could be done in a flash, sometimes had to be to avoid being caught by the police. Graffiti was still illegal in the city, even though it was everywhere. Somehow, especially the very talented ones, managed to find a way to create masterpieces. Nika’s skin tingled. She touched the paint. It was dry. They had to have painted it yesterday, she thought. It was not there on Friday when she came to work. Maybe they had started Friday night, Nika didn’t know. It didn’t matter to her either way. The painting was a gem. She took a dozen more photos and then stood in front of it for a minute longer, soaking it all in. A truck rumbled overhead on its way to the highway. The traffic lights flipped on their cycle from red, green and orange. The sun was firmly hidden behind heavy grey clouds. A cold wind came up through the chain link fence. Nika shivered again.
“What do you tell me, Owl?” she asked quietly. The owl was silent. NIka looked at her watch. The shop was meant to open in fifteen minutes. If she didn’t leave now she would be late.
“I’ll be back to talk to you.” She said to the owl as she climbed back into her car. She hoped that they would leave the painting up at least for another day before the workers were called to cover it with dull grey paint. Nika tucked her camera back into her bag and started her car. At least she had photos, she thought. Something had triggered in her head while she took the photos. Something she couldn’t put words to, at least not yet.