It wasn’t so much that the dark frightened him, the shadows suited him well; casting a cloak for his deeds in the middle of the night. It was just that, the darkness heightened what he already felt inside, desertion and loneliness.
The small town nestled at the bottom of the valley, cupped neatly in the hand of the dark hills that surrounded the collection of houses and farmsteads. The hills were high and the weather was dreary, casting a perpetual gloom over the small town. The lights burned away from inside the cottages, flickering eyes in the darkened face of a place mostly ignored from the rest of the world. The occasional dog would be heard barking out into the night, disturbed by the nocturnal animals which snuffled around the market place looking for vegetables and food cast aside from the day.
Andrew usually waited until around ten o’clock to leave his house. The locals were mostly tucked up inside their own homes by then, and he found he could prowl the streets with ease. Tonight, he hadn’t heard any dogs barking. Not a leaf rustled or car rolled past. Even the full moon, which burned brightly above him, could stir up the restless of the townsfolk or awaken the crazies. All aside Andrew, a fact that was lost on him as he unlatched the gate of Yew tree cottage and slithered up the path, keeping in the shadows.
He’d been here before of course, he’d been to nearly most of the houses in the village after dark. But he liked Yew tree, he was always guaranteed what he wanted when he came. He felt tonight would be no different. His stomach fluttered thinking about it as his found his way around the side of the house where the rubbish bins were kept. He hoisted himself up onto one of them, the one marked specifically for garden waste, a few stray twigs reaching out of the lid like fingers. His trainers squeaked slightly as the slipped on the plastic and he held his breathe in an effort to quieten himself.
They were both there when he looked up. He didn’t have to crane his neck at all, his raised view let him gaze easily into the top window of the small cottage which seemed to lean over to one side. They were usually in bed, Mr and Mrs Sampson. The elderly pair would usually turn in around nine o’clock, sat up reading books as the night-time swirled outside their single glazed window. Andrew couldn’t make out the title that Mr Sampson was reading, he sat further away and the words were too small, but he could see Mrs Sampson was enjoying ‘The Pale Horse’ by Agatha Christie.
The room looked cosy, the lights on the night stands they each had cast a comforting glow around them which seemed to hug their old bodies. Andrew watched as Mrs Sampson nestled closer to her husband, riding down a bit lower in the bed. Turning the page of her novel.
Usually Andrew would watch a bit longer, observe them closely as they hung in his eye line like creatures in a zoo. But tonight something within him stirred strong and he was eager to start. He pulled across the bag he’d been carrying, and pushed aside the hair which had fallen over his eyes as he turned. His keys inside jostled noisily, and he silenced them quickly, reaching in to retrieve the smaller clear bags. Two tonight. It was always two at Yew Tree.
Inside each bag was a small baby white rabbit, each beginning to stir now as the effects of the ketamine were wearing off. The bags had holes in them, allowing the small creatures to breathe but as he handled them carefully out of the bags, they felt limp and lifeless in his hands like small softs bags of bones. He stroked one of the small rabbits with his chin, lifting the tiny creature up to his face. He could smell the warm musky smell of the hutch he had his garden. He closed his eyes for a moment and pictured the other bunnies, nested under their mother. Warm, safe and content. The one in his other hand jerked suddenly and Andrew nearly let go of it. The muscles beginning to spasm back to life.
He must be quick.
He placed his phone carefully down by his feet as he crouched now on the bin, the two rabbits in each hand. He had their number of course, it wasn’t his first time. He hit the button of his phone which glared alarming out in the inky dullness of the night. The line connected. He heard the ring through his phone, and then moments later her head the returning sound coming from the Sampson’s house. He watched Mrs. Sampson look across alarmed to the phone. Her old fashioned sensibility on edge as she knew no good news came at such hours.
Andrew watched her reach across and lift the receiver, the copy of the Pale horse nestled now on the bedsheet between her and her husband who craned over to hear who the caller might be. This is when he had to be quick, this is when Andrew had to be focused. He held the two bunnies in his hand and waited, waited for the sound through the line in his phone and echoing above him through the window disappearing off into the night.
“Hello…’’ came the timid voice of Mrs Sampson, and that is when he began to squeeze. The more lively rabbit jerked frantically, but Andrew drew his thumb up into its neck and pressed harder. He could hear the old woman now, repeating her answer and he watched as her husband leaned over to listen down the line as if expecting his involvement could produce a response. Andrew stayed silent, slowly squeezing the life out of the animals he held in his grip like hands on a railing. His body shivered, a sense of connection travelling up and down his muscles as they tingled with every feeling of disappearance he craved.
And then suddenly, it was all over. He watched as Mr Sampson reached over and hang up the phone. Speaking hurriedly to his wife who seemed alarmed and confused by the intrusion to their evening. Andrew came back to where he was, the tunnel disappearing and the mist evaporating. He placed one of the creatures back into his bag, wrapped carefully in the small plastic baggy. He then hopped off of the dustbin and walked a few steps to the side door of the cottage. He lay the other dead animal on the mat by the door, it’s head flopping first to the floor as it’s small eyes gleamed up like a dolls. It had been the more restless of the two and Andrew stepped back and admired it there on the mat, forging it in his mind for the moment just as it started to rain. He then turned and left quickly, but just as silently as arriving, getting back at his house in less than ten minutes. He hurried quickly to bed, not changing out of his clothes, brushing his teeth or washing his hands; anxious to get to sleep. He did have school in the morning after all.