What Wakes the Rooster (Part 15)

On the fourth night after Winston’s death, a crash shattered the midnight silence. It came from the shed.

The next morning, the chickens waited in the henhouse with anxious imaginations while Ivan and a few roosters went over to the shed to investigate. Upon returning, Ivan declared the noise to have been nothing but an accident—just the wind blowing down a wobbly shelf; there was a fallen plank and a couple of old tins of dried paint on the floor, and no trace of any predator having been in there. This deduction pacified the chickens’ fears only momentarily, for a young chick came forward to confess. “I know what made the noise,” she said.

The adult chickens humoured her. “Go on,” they said.

“I saw it.” Her little wings trembled as she recalled the encounter. “Last night… I snuck outside—I saw a firefly and I wanted to catch it.”

The chickens laughed.

“Oh, sweetheart,” said one of the hens, “a firefly couldn’t have knocked down a shelf.”

The young chick shook her head. “That’s not what I mean,” she said. Her sudden disturbed look snuffed out the audience’s joviality. “I chased the bug up by the shed,” the little chick continued, “and then I stopped… I just wanted to look inside, that’s all. So I crept up and… I saw it. I ran away, straight back to the henhouse—I promise I won’t do it again!”

“What did you see?” asked one of the hens.

“It was… the owl.”

Pandemonium erupted. Wild clucks flew back and forth around the henhouse, all shocked and outraged and incoherent. Even Ivan, after snapping himself free from instinctive fright, was unable to bring order to the room. Amid the mayhem, no one noticed Rosie leave the henhouse. Sonny went to the young chick and tried to speak with her, but he couldn’t hear a thing over the tumult. “Be quiet!” Sonny yelled. “Will you please be quiet? I must speak with her!” He looked to Ivan for help but couldn’t get his attention. Sonny’s frustration grew until finally he stamped his foot and crowed as loud as he could. It was like a trumpet blast in that enclosed space, and every chicken stopped silent and turned their astonished eyes to the little grey rooster. “I need to speak,” said Sonny.

All eyes turned to Ivan. He nodded. “Go on, Sonny,” he said.

Sonny faced the young chick. He crouched down to look her in the eye. “You say you saw the owl?”

She nodded.

“What exactly did you see?”

The chickens leaned in to hear the answer. A floorboard creaked.

“Well,” said the young chick, “when I looked in the shed it was very dark, but high up, near the ceiling, I could see the owl.”

Whispers gained volume, but Ivan hushed them with a threatening cluck. “What did the owl look like?” asked Sonny.

“Um… well, it was dark, so I didn’t see everything—just its face. It was looking at me.” The chick shivered. “I saw its eyes—horrible, glowing red eyes!”

The chickens burst into panic again.

Sonny slipped out through the crowd and went outside. He ruffled his feathers then muttered to himself as he walked over to the shed; he could hear the rest of the chickens still clucking in fear. When he reached the shed, he stood at the door in surprise: Rosie and the terrier were inside. They didn’t notice him at first, but he cleared his throat and they turned around.

“Sonny!” said Rosie. “What are you doing here?”

 

© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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