I don’t know how long the screaming went on before I noticed. When I did, I lay very still and listened close to determine what was happening, and where. I concluded they were still on the outside, probably at least a hundred feet away.
Moving slow and careful, I turned toward the clock. It was 3:17 on a pitch black night.
It’s hard to say which is worse, the howl of the pack or the scream of a big cat. We get both around here. So far, they’ve stayed in the yard. I’ve got a shotgun loaded beside me, in case they change their minds.
The house was silent, up until the noise started. Outside was a different story. Wind, rain, and the unknowable sounds of the night. When the clouds drop low, and the moon sets, you can’t see ten feet in a clear meadow. In the woods it’s even darker. There, you can’t even see your shoes.
Something big could grab hold of your leg, and you wouldn’t know until it was too late. Knowing that, I listened close and moved slowly as I walked down the steps and into the yard. Half expecting to see a dead animal or some other sign; a warning or perhaps a challenge.
I crept forward into the night, until I heard a rustle. It seemed to come from all around, but noises can be tricky. I looked up to the dark sky. It might be the wind, shaking the fall leaves from the trees. Or it might be something else.
After a moment, I kept moving. Every crack and pop makes you stop and listen when the predators are howling. No one wants to end up as some animal’s dinner.
I used to be the undisputed king of my property. These past five years, things are changing. Animals are taking back the night. I don’t know if it’s the chemical spills, the radiation up north, or something else. All I know is, they’re different.
They don’t back down so easy, and when they run, they only go far enough to get out of reach. Things have started vanishing, too. First it was the cat. Now the kid down the street. No one’s seen him for two weeks. Then I found a piece of shoe, out back by the creek. I showed it to Snake, but neither of us could recognize it. It was a size 14, though. Whoever he was, he was big. No one that size has gone missing that I know of, but sometimes homeless people take shelter in the woods, and when they get eaten, no one knows.
I’m gonna begin patrolling with night vision glasses and a gun. Getting a dog didn’t work. On the fifth night, I heard the noises, and all I could find the next morning was half a hind leg. So I’m down to technology. That’s the only way to level the playing field.
I wonder where it will end.