Of all the suicides from the Thessonal Tower, hers was the most graceful, it’s undisputed; any day you can see the footage at the Museum of Buentoilliçan Film. Today, however, you also have the option to watch it projected onto the side of the tower itself, looping over and over in regretful beauty. Around the base of the tower are scattered stills from the footage, alongside more formal portraits of Her Grace, and small collections of owl feathers and pellets. Next year a ghostly holographic image of Her Grace is planned, but this year festival-goers must make do with a two dimensional image.
Her Grace, born Julia Angle, was a wealthy Buentoillitant seamstress and clothier who, after quietly amassing a small fortune, founded the Cult of the Splendid and Graceful Owl. If the Cult’s stories are to be believed, Her Grace was out walking through a bare field one winter’s day, the grass long given way to half-frozen mud. She had expected an uplifting and beautiful walk, but all felt downcast and mucky. She was just about to turn and walk home, when an event changed her life.
According to her autobiography Grace, from a hidden hole by her feet suddenly ran a large rabbit: ‘I was so startled at first, my heart thumping like a jackhammer at this sudden intrusion. But before I could cry out another shape moved over my shoulder, silent as a ghost. It swooped down with such beauty and grace, catching the darting rabbit like a person would pick a cherry from a bowl. A snowy owl, pure white and beautiful. I was entranced, stupefied, in love. I knew then what I wanted from life. I knew then how to achieve True Grace.’
From that day on Her Grace swore a vow of silence, which she kept until her tragic death. She took to wearing a stiff ruff around her neck, alongside a cape made from owl feathers. She approached everything with regal disinterest. She wore pale makeup that made her eyes appear enormous. She moved through the City’s streets as if she hovered a few centimetres above the cobbles, and all instinctively got out of her way. When others saw her they were entranced by her beauty, and sought to emulate her grace; thus, the Cult of the Splendid and Graceful Owl was founded.
Despite her outward beauty, Her Grace was inwardly troubled. She felt that she could not properly achieve the beauty and grace she had observed that day. She turned her attic into a refuge for barn owls, and began to eat only raw meat. She spent longer and longer looking in the mirror in dismay and disgust, and eventually began to wear a mask shaped like an owl’s face. She almost killed herself trying to twist her neck all the way around. Her followers encouraged this harmful behaviour, yet did not seem to exhibit similarly extreme opinions of their own bodies. Their fervour and belief seemed to be focussed entirely on Her Grace, treating her as if she were truly the Queen of the Owls.
Since the death of Her Grace, there have been many unsubstantiated accusations that the Cult has turned to more dark and arcane practices, namely assassination. It must be stated that there is absolutely no evidence for this, and it is strongly refuted by the Cult. The accusers point to the large amounts of money that sporadically arrive as ‘donations’ from anonymous sources, and the Cult’s obsession in its pamphlets and books with ‘the Grace of the kill.’
Eventually Her Grace took up residence in Thessonal Tower, spending the last of her fortune and a large proportion of the donations given by her followers on the lodgings. Slowly she retreated from all but the presence of her followers. They brought her the carcasses of small animals, and showed their dedication with offerings of feathers and pellets. On her final day in this world, February the 17th, she wrote the last entry in her diary (later published as Grace): ‘I brought them around me, all my little owlets, and explained that I was better now. For all my life I had dwelt with wings clipped or broken, but now they were fixed, and I could stretch them once again. We gathered up all the feathers in my nest and dropped them from the balcony. They were beautiful as they fell, but did not contain that defining aspect of Grace: resolute purpose. I shall swoop through the streets and all will understand.’ It was exactly 2:34 when she leapt off the balcony railing, you can tell because of the clock face above her window in the footage. By the time she hit the ground, it had turned to 2:35.
Other festivals happening today:
The Super Chill Festival of Decent Vibes
‘My Municipality for a Torch!’ Festival
The Day of Good and Cheap Walking Boots