Every night, at exactly 3 am, the same noise woke me up. It was a pecking and flapping sound at my window. On some nights it would be preceeded by shrill hooting, resembling shrieks of pain and anger. I would tremble in my bed, almost completely paralysed by fear, knowing what I would see if I drew back the curtains. A few months back, when it first started, I made that very mistake. The noise came from an unusually large owl, with bright orange eyes and dark feathers, desperately clawing and pecking at the window of my flat, seemingly attempting to break in. I fell back as I shrieked at the sight of the unimaginably horrifying creature. Quickly, I moved my curtains back to their original position, ran back to bed, covered my head with a large pillow and waited for the horror to pass.
The bird would only ever appear at that one time of night, unleashing its fury all over my window. As it was a sturdy, double-glazed window, I never even imagined that the creature could get past it, and gradually got used to being temporarily awakened each night, despite the terror at hearing the monstrous noises still persisting. In the mornings, I would continue with my daily routine, walking to work and going shopping, before coming back home each afternoon, just before the sky got dark. I felt at complete ease being outside, knowing that typical owls were only active at night, until the first disturbing event took place in the neighbourhood.
One morning, as I was walking to work, I saw a group of my neighbours gathering around a tall tree, not very far from my block of flats. Other, more elderly neighbours were looking out of their windows, with clearly shocked expressions on their faces. Something unusual was lying underneath the tree. At first glance it looked as if someone dropped a shopping bag full of meat after tripping over a root, but as I drew closer, I became speechless at the horror on the ground. It was my nearby neighbour, Mr Petal, or whatever was left of him. The face was grotesquely disfigured by an expression of a permanent scream, made even more horrific by the drying blood still glistening in the empty eye sockets. One hollowed-out eyeball was still partly hanging off on its ligament, its previous contents clearly missing. Almost all the hair had been plucked out, replaced by a mess of blood, bone and pieces of brain, yet still the shape of Mr Petal's head could be distinguished.
The body, from the neck down appeared to had been torn into shreds, the intestines spilling out of the stomach cavity, the remains of the heart torn up, the arms and legs missing their fingers, with chunks of muscle clearly torn out. While the surrounding neighbours spoke of whatever terrifying beast could have committed such an unspeakable deed, an icy shiver ran through my spine once I noticed several dark feathers sticking out of the corpse.
'It was the big owl' - I said. - 'It pecks at my window every night'. The upset neighbours glanced at me with disbelief.
'Owls are just average birds. No bird could have done such a thing. But I know a person who could be capable of this' - responded Mrs Crowe, an elderly woman who loved gossip, blatantly staring at Mr Petal's teenage son, known for his love of violent video games and often reanacting them with other neighbours' kids on the playground, which would often end in accidents and tears. While he was far from a perfect child, I could not imagine him being capable of such atrocity, more so, as he was obviously in shock, shaking as he looked blankly at his father's corpse.
'Can you not see that the boy is frightened? We all know he loved his father, even though he might have behaved badly towards other children' - I said, trying to stop the old ladies from destroying the teenager's life further, while doing nothing to stop the owl - 'Really, has nobody else seen that horrible bird?'
The neighbours looked at each, shaking their heads. It appeared that nobody believed me and I was disappointed. Once I was sure the police would be arriving, I walked away from the grotesque scene, hurrying towards my work place.
Walking back home in the late afternoon, as the sky was getting darker, once again I stopped by the tall tree, this time surrounded with little evidence of the unfortunate events of that morning. Looking up, I could see a slight movement in the branches, right at the top of the tree, yet it was too high up to make out any details. I walked on, at my usual pace towards my house, until my heart suddenly stopped as I heard the familiar flapping of wings and the terrifying shriek of the owl. I turned around to see as the monstrous creature was descending from the tree rapidly, like an eagle ready to catch its prey.
I ran as fast as I could towards my house, and just as I reached the front door, I screamed as the bird began to peck at my head violently. I desperately searched for my keys and managed to open the door despite the pain and dripping blood. I slammed the door behind me as fast as I could, yet it would not close. I slammed again and again, being unable to see what was blocking it, due to the blood dripping down my face, until finally it closed. I breathed out in relief, and slowly walked towards my flat, trembling in shock.
Just as I cleaned up the blood and was about to apply a dressing to the wounds, I heard a scream coming from the corridor. I froze in fear at the possibility of one of my neighbours being attacked by the monstrous owl. Despite the overwhelming terror, I decided to check and make sure that nobody else would die in the neighbourhood that night. As I came towards the front door, I realised that the scream was not that of fear of a living monster, but that of shock at the sight of the crushed, flattened, red mess of feathers, bones and eyeballs splashed out against the door.