An owl rested auspiciously upon the roof of Tandilly Place; one, two, then three hoots echoed out across the dark and silent valley, hopping from mountain to mountain before losing shape to the deep of the lake. The creature’s deep round eyes zeroed in on a tiny grey critter crouched at the base of a weathered windowsill, above which hung a splintered and faded set of 2×4’s, clumsily hammered into place by an unscrupulous handyman. In the animal’s two little hands he clutched a petit morsel of bread stolen from beneath the kitchen table earlier that day; a rare prize, indeed. He stared greedily at his catch, his ignorance a risky affair. The owl took flight as the mouse dove into his stale and slightly moldy morsel. The feathered dance of the owl’s wings could hardly be heard from such a vulnerable and sheltered perch. The predator was sure to capture his prey without effort. His great spindly claws opened wide, prepared to squeeze the life from the bulging belly of flesh awaiting his grasp – but the mouse disappeared. The owl clawed at nothing but a bare and lifeless glass window, veering off to the side and returning an angered sneer in the direction of his escaped meal.
Behind the protective window sat a little girl, soft brown hair framing her seething visage, hazel eyes staring dark and loathsome, the owl’s succulent snack resting safe and sound in her hand.
The predator escaped into the night.
Tilly sat motionless, staring at the scratches on the dirty window. She was lost, a slave to the depths of her psyche, buried deep in her sinister machinations.
She pictures the owl’s carcass smashed against the glass window. She watched as small streams of blood dripped from his swollen and contorted neck, his eyes wide with fear. He stared at her. She stared back, driven to fascination by the set of soft feathers floating to the ground; the only moving piece of the creature’s dead body. She imagined the body hardening, growing cold, the maggots moving in to feast….
She shook herself back to reality at the sound of her mouse’s squeak – she’d been cuddling him a bit too tight! She sighed as she analyzed his tiny hands and cute little pink nose. She had rescued the object of the predator’s evil desires, but he was still free, prone to strike again, somewhere else, on some other animal with less-than-vigilant neighbors.
She released the little mouse onto her bedspread.
“You need to be more careful,” she scolded, “I’m supposed to be asleep right now. If it weren’t for my nightmare, you’d be in a belly right now.”
The little mouse crinkled its nose, all too unaware of the shadow of danger that had hung so closely over him, and so eager to finish his meal.
“Alright then, run along,” Tilly chided. “But make sure you stay hidden. No more sneaking out onto the window sill.”
She watched with amusement as the mouse scampered across the old wrinkled and stained sheets, searching for a safe spot to execute her descent. She finally slid down a particularly long tendril of sheets, hitting the ground with a thump, and then setting off for her small home under the fridge in the kitchen. Tilly sat back, relieved. She glanced out the window, still cracked just a few inches to provide relief from the scathing heat. I see why she likes it out there so much, she thought. The moon rested precisely in the middle of the window, casting rays of light across her bed and creating an artwork of shadows in the town below. It was beautiful and terrifying all at once – and one of the reasons she often struggled to sleep at night.
It just seemed so ridiculous to sleep when she had such a perfect and beautiful backdrop right out her window. It was so beautiful at night – deep and haunting shadows creating mysterious crevices where all sorts of depraved crimes could be committed. The faint light from the moon colored the rooftops in a perfect shade of copper and she could see herself hopping from rooftop to rooftop, watching the townspeople asleep and so vulnerable, eating the dead things left in the trash (the satisfying crunch of tiny bones between her teeth), and witnessing all manner of secretive individuals engaging in their private rituals. Her favorite daydream was one of children arranging secret clans in the streets while their parents slept; sick and dying townsfolk at every corner and only one way to save them. Only the children knew. Each night they’d crowd in the Square to receive the healing rays of the moon while they awaited the deaths of those too arrogant to listen to their pleas.
Yes, Tilly didn’t sleep much. She enjoyed the freedom of her window far too much. Even when she had run dry of her cistern of stories, she had The Mountain to stare at. The Mountain everyone talked about and that Grace found to be particularly loathsome. There were evil things in that mountain; things that made good people bad and bad people killers. The creatures that lived there could tear a human apart in seconds, she was told. They had no empathy, no humanity, and to enter their grounds was a death sentence.
There were people who had been there before, attempting to save the town by preempting the attack everyone was sure would come someday when those venomous animals ran out of food. Most never returned. And the ones that did came back soaked in the cloak of evil. They became liars, cheaters, murderers. They lived for themselves and no one else. They were completely cut off from normalcy – no thoughts to share, no empathy to offer, and no concern for anything or anyone.
Just like Tilly.