The cold air of autumn caved in through the high window by the banister, pushing the curtains into the room to cast horrible shadows in the dying light of the fall. Louise, in her fright, had flown the coop through the door by the pantry, her loose day shoes clapping with panicked rhythm on the uneven linoleum tile in the kitchen. The screen door, with its rough, plank frame, swung shut with a wobbly bounce at the end, a loud smack against the molding and the creaking of old, gray hinges.
He stood eying the thing, for he dared not touch it! Where it had come from wasn't important, because it was there. Although, Hank had figured that it had somehow made its way in through the window from lord knows where.
It was there, then, in the cold, this thing with its many dark, thick feathers and its chattering beak, its voracious and horrifyingly unknown hunger. The eyes of it were beady and curious in nature. Hank wondered, days later, how something so hideous could be so calm of eye and frantic of body. It wasn't tall. That is to say: the thing wasn't standing tall. It was huddled into a bunch of wiry limbs that indicated just as well as its freakish nature the actual height of the thing. If it stood, it would be a man's height. In a ball and guarding itself and its true height, it hobbled around on the landing in the dark corner.
Much to Hank's dismay after gathering so much courage to exclaim basic, panicked rubric, the thing caught his eye with a cold blaze. Hank felt uncomfortable in his skin. Cold, empty. He felt the power of his self-encouraged expounding leave him like liquid through tight cloth. He brought his arms down from his head and let them hang by his hip. The thing barked and lunged forward threateningly as Hank took a step backward. He tripped on his own heel and fell two steps to the ground, hitting his head as he fell against the hard wood with a "BUKK!" sound. He noted, on the way down, the violent flapping of the curtains as the autumn came in.
He awoke at dawn in a cold sweat and with a large goose egg at the base of his skull. The window that had, before, been wide open to let the pre-winter chill in was closed tightly and locked firm. Lights had been turned down. The sun, which had been setting behind the house hours previous, was now coming back around and up above the trees past the front door. Light was spilling in and long over the hard cobblestone of the atrium like bright milk.
The house was still, stuffy. The air was hot and wet and thick, as if a large meal were being prepared busily in the kitchen. There was even the smell of food. Although, Hank could neither place it as any specific kind nor make any argument for it being a pleasant aroma.
The silence, which he had upon waking not given much mind to, was buzzing; or was it buzzing? It was peculiar. The floorboards that he had given much consideration to over the years as being loud and creaky creaked no more. Neither that, nor did the hard leather of his shoes' heels crack and stick against the floor. There seemed to be an audible and blocking tone that he couldn't quite make out, something thick for the ear that was previously absent.
He made his groggy way through the dark back hall toward his room. Though he was oddly calm, he had not forgotten the event that had brought him to this daze. He remembered that thing, that servant of hell, whatever it was. He remembered its eyes and shut himself in his bed chamber. It was much cooler in his room, and thank heavens for that, he remarked quietly.
He pulled the lock closed. He donned his warm robe. He pulled the shades open to allow for more light. He thought more on it and brought a chair over to the knob of the door. He secured the bright maple back under the shining gleam of the brass knob and froze.
He could see the stiff drift of dark shadow cast from nearby on the other side of the door. He could feel a slight weight, a slight shift of air as something mimicked his slow movements from the other side of things. He could hear it, whatever it was. He could hear it through the thin pine of the door, its careful movement and its blinking eyes. He could hear it.
It was breathing.