In the Still of the Night by Gillian Williams

Molly awoke with a start. Peace within her shuttered bedroom had been torn apart by raucous shrieking. Now fully awake, she lurched from her bed and maneuvered through the darkness and into the hallway. Others would have thrown a switch to light the way, but for Molly there was no need. She had changed nothing in their home during the twelve years since her husband had passed away; so she felt completely safe moving around in the darkness. 

At one time the cabin had bustled with life. Four children, now scattered, had occupied the rooms upstairs. She and Tom had shared the main bedroom on the ground floor. On many evenings, as she sat alone, she sensed his presence in the stillness. On occasion she would talk aloud to him. Once, as she wandered from room to room when sleep had eluded her, she had told him wryly,

 “It’s an unnecessary waste of energy to turn on the lights, Tom.”

As she reached the front door Molly gathered her nightgown around her knees and groped for boots that stood ready, like sentinels. She stepped into them unsteadily. A thick woolen cape hung from its hook on the back of the door, an old flashlight already in its pocket. In the darkness she grabbed the cape, threw it over her head and shoulders and wrapped it tightly around her small frame.

Reaching for the latch she lifted it and slowly, silently, opened the door. Cold air and bright moonlight swept across the thresh-hold. She paused, poised, listening for a return of the blood-chilling sound. Were feral cats fighting? Had she heard a Screech Owl? Or a human cry? Was it safe outside?

“Molly my dear, you’ve been watching too much television!” she could hear Tom saying.

With gnarled hands she drew her cape around her, pulled the flashlight out of the pocket and stepped outside. She knew that Tom would be watching with her.

Trees and bushes remained dense and dark along the fringes of the grassy yard. The road that passed the end of their property was silent. Twigs snapped suddenly in the underbrush to her right. Clutching the flashlight, she moved cautiously towards the sound. Suddenly high-pitched snarling and chattering echoed off the walls of the cabin, accompanied by the chattering of smaller voices. Mollie’s flashlight revealed low branches tossing and flailing. All the while animals hissed. She played the beam of light into the branches above, moving it slowly in an arc, until she saw what she was now looking for; three eerie, disembodied pairs of eyes suspended among the leaves; quite small, pale green and shining, looking straight at her.

Three young raccoons were high up in the safety of the trees, while adults fought below.

Molly switched off the flashlight. Something moved on the grass between her and the bushes. In the moonlight a dark profile, short-legged with a high humped back, was scurrying away. It was a large male raccoon.

“That’s right!” she shouted after him, “Run away with your tail between your legs!”

As Molly turned to re-enter her home, the loser’s assailant, the mother of the kits, appeared from the bushes and watched him go. Accompanied by the voices of the little ones, she chattered quietly to herself.

Molly and Tom reentered their cabin and closed their door on the world outside. She would put on the kettle and make a cup of tea before returning to their bed.

 Gillian Williams is a retired Quebec high school teacher. She and her husband now live in rural Ontario. This is the fourth piece that she has shared with sunday@6mag. As one who was a contributor and also instrumental in the production of Glengarry, My New Home, a collection of tales told by immigrants to Glengarry County 1945-2012,(WIN Publishing, 2013) she is also the author of that book’s Foreword.

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