It was supposed to be a dark night, but the moon was shining very brightly in the sky and if anything at all, the night was far from dark. I was outside and alone on one of the huge branches of the old Apple tree in our compound. I was not supposed to be alone. Not that there was any reason for this, but because it was night and my father didn’t take lightly to children being out at night.
The other members of my family were asleep but I wasn’t feeling sleepy. The time had been a few minutes past eleven when I got out of the house for absolutely no reason and climbed to the top of the tree. Maybe it was the cool night breeze , or maybe it was the captivating night sky that spread out like a heavenly black blanket high up above the world, speckled with billions and billions of diamond stones that drew me outside, I couldn’t say. All I know is that that night was perfect.
At least it would have been perfect.
I kept no track of time and occasionally, I would pluck a leaf or two and throw it down.
It was a very beautiful night.
It fascinated me, how quiet and beautiful the night was, compared to the day. I could see no reason why the night was feared or why people thought that evil things happen at night. I had been sneaking out like this into the night even on darker nights since I was 13- that was 7 years ago, but tonight was different; and soon, I would come to know that.
Tonight, I would understand why.
It must have been around 12am- I told you, I wasn’t keeping track of time, and I was just about to get down from the Apple tree when suddenly my eyes caught something in the distant. I couldn’t make out what it was. You know, the normal thing for someone who’s been sneaking out at the dead of the night should be “At first, I thought it was…….or whatever it is that would sound normal”, but I kid you not, I didn’t know what it was but as soon as I saw the figure, I knew something was off.
My heart must have skipped a dozen beats and the only sound I thought I could hear was the sound of my heart hammering in my chest. I had no idea what it was but maybe somewhere inside of me, I had an idea of what it could be. Though the figure was still far away that I wouldn’t have been able to see it if the moon hadn’t been shining as brightly as it was, I couldn’t find the courage to climb down from the tree. So, I sat motionless where I was, cluthing the tree branch I held on to like dear life and trained my eyes on the figure in the distant.
The creature wasn’t motionless. It seemed as if it was looking around, trying to decide what way to go and I would have thought it actually was trying to decide what way to go but….even my heart knew that was the dumbest description I could give to what I was seeing. I didn’t want to believe it. It was scary to believe and unless I was going to lie to myself which would have been a very stupid thing to do at a time like that, I had no other option but to face the truth.
It was marauding.
And I knew I was in trouble.
Then suddenly, I heard the old wooden front door of our house creak open noisily, and my twin sister appeared at the doorway holding a kerosene lantern. My eyes popped like corns in hot oil. I opened my mouth to say something, anything, but nothing came out. Not a single word or the slightest sound; and it was then that my sweet little sister got it in her to shout out my name into the night.
I had been sneaking out into the tree for 7 years, yet not even my twin sister knew where I used to go on nights like that.
She called out again, and I didn’t answer. I was too scared to.
I wanted to yell at her to get the hell inside but I didn’t want to risk the creature finding out where I was. Finding safety would be easy for her, but I was sure to die if anything came chasing me off that tree. I imagined she would go back inside when she infers that my not answering her calls could only mean that I was not there but, I surely was wrong.
Even though the moon was shining brightly, the branches and leaves of the tree had blocked out most of the moon light and if I tried to get down from that tree hurriedly, let’s just say I’d have a fall greater than that the one Humpty Dumpty had and so again, I couldn’t get down hurriedly either.
My sister called out again and this time, it was louder. I didn’t want my parents to wake up too and also, I wanted my sister back in the safety of our home so again, I didn’t answer.
Why do smart people become stupid at the time of danger.
The inaudible echo of my quaking heart made it impossible for me to hear the whispers of advice my wit was making. I whispered back her name in a voice I knew she could hear and quickly, I looked back to where the creature was but……but……it was gone.
I shouldn’t have felt disappointed, but I certainly felt a certain amount of disappointment wash over me. It wasn’t a movie, not a story, but I was disappointed. If only I knew.
I scanned the surrounding houses and trees for movement, but there was none. I turned back to where my sister was standing gazing into the tree I was on like she had seen me and there, just right behind her, I found the movement I was looking for.
Adrenaline coursed through my veins and again, I was deaf to the whispers of my wit. Even if I hadn’t been deaf, of what help would it have been anyway.
I opened my mouth to scream her name but it was late. It was too late. Something, the creature slashed at her back and she fell to the ground screaming. The creature dug its claws deep into the fresh gash at her back and yanked sideways. The sound that emanated from her throat was nothing like a scream. I can’t describe it.
I don’t know how to.
I don’t want to.
I watched in horror as the creature sunk its maw into the open space it had made at her back and fed on my sister.
Seconds later, my parents came tearing through the door. My mother in her night gown and my father in an old brown boxers. The scream must have woken them but the sight before them was nothing anyone could ever imagine waking up to.
My mother gasped and fell to the ground, but my father took the bold step, and it was forward. I had expected him to dash back inside like the devil was hot on his heels for a cutlass but the step my father took that night was forward not backwards.
He moved in front of the insensible body of my mother, bearing his chest at the creature trying to protect her with nothing but that manly gesture from the creature. Instead of running for dear life or going to fetch a weapon that might take him a couple of minutes to do, my father chose to protect the insensible body of my too fat mother with nothing but himself as a shield.
My half dead brain came to life again and almost in that instant, the creature went for my parents.
No. No. Hell no. I let out the scream I had been holding in as the creature sliced my father in two with one slash of its talon, sunk it’s maw into his insides, pulled out back, tossed his near empty body aside like a piece of garbage and dug it’s claws into my mother. Father had let out no sound at all but as soon as the creature’s claws got into my mother, she woke up and tried to scream but her scream was cut short by the obvious passing of her soul.
I continued to scream like a mad witch. I jumped down from the tree without looking or thinking before I did but I didn’t fall at all. I landed on my feet and charged at the creature. It obviously wasn’t expecting that. The very ugly creature took one look at me and turned around.
And it fled.
Over the fence it went, but it didn’t make a sound or leave prints in the ground.
I ran to the carcass of my sister first, for that is what was left of her, a carcass and fresh sobs broke from my throat. What remained of my sister was only limbs and a head. My father’s body still had a few organs in it and my mother’s body was intact. Except for the soul which was obviously missing. I was the death of my family.
I sat down there beside the remains of my sister, crying and crying till I blacked out.
Written by Fatimah Al Zahra