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No. Twenty-two.

Cody stirred in his slumber.

The adventures of the late afternoon involving that squirrel what wouldn’t leave him alone and now pigeons was exhausting for a simple house cat such as himself. He just wanted to keep enjoying the good life of Cat TV, getting fed anytime he gave a certain look or made a certain noise, and napping wherever and whenever he pleased. And right now it pleased him to nap right here, right now. His fellow house cats, however, had other ideas.

Because they had not bravely engaged in combat with a large pigeon, they were not nearly as exhausted and chose to play with a plastic ball with a bell inside of it. They kept rolling it along the home’s tiled floor, the cheap sound of plastic rolling across tile, clacking as it hit the grout every twelve or so inches, accented by the high-pitched tingling of a cheap, tin bell rumbling with its innards. The scamper of cat paws around (and the occasional whoosh of cat body over) him informed him of the goings on in the living room; he didn’t even need to open his eyes.

As he drifted in and out of sleep, he found himself wondering more about these owls. Sure, they were birds, but so was that pigeon. The feather he had found a few days prior, though, was huge. The feathers found from the pigeon after it had taken flight away from the danger that was Cody were a fraction of the size. Just how big were these owl things? And were they as easily distracted by doughnuts as pigeons were? And where did doughnuts come from and how did that insane squirrel manage to get one?

Cody yawned and squinted his eyes as a bundle of fur went flying past him. He stood and arched his back, squeezing his shoulders into his neck as he stretched out his long limbs, straining to release the lactic acid his muscles had accumulated after so much physical exertion earlier that day. Lying back down, he curled himself into a ball and rested his chin on his paws. Even with the commotion about him with the other cats and the ball, Cody was disinclined to the time or energy to move off the floor onto the furniture. Here, he was something to avoid; up there, he was something to investigate. Cats and their blasted curiosity.

Right now, though, Cody was only curious about just how much sleep he would be able to get if he just let himself. But then he heard it—soft at first and then clearly, like a bell that had been lightly tapped once before being struck with such precise, intended force that it resonated through your very being, letting you know it was still there even though its voice had long left, a ghost in the night.

“Hoot-hoot-hoo.”

Cody’s eyes sprung open.

That’s the sound I heard the last night I saw my bunny! Cody thought to himself. He had sprung up and was attempting to find a window that did not have the heavy wooden shutters closed, but it was no use. The house was secured against anyone from looking in and any cat from looking out. It was like all sight outside of the safe blandness of the house had been voided out to keep the inhabitants from getting any ideas and venturing out.

But Cody had been outside and experienced it. Sure, it was nice, but not near as nice as having a secure structure around you, climate controlled comfort, and Cat TV, and—

Cody snapped himself back to the task at hand: Finding the source of that noise. But by now, the noise had stopped. Cody strained and turned his ears in every direction, changed rooms and tried the same, but he could hear nothing.

What was that? he wondered. What maddening demonic creature on this planet sounds like that? But he knew. Cody knew it was the sound of an owl, a demon in its own right, silently stalking its prey from the air, whooshing down unannounced with outstretched claws to snatch whatever living creature was unfortunate enough to be at the other end of those talons.

A rattling of coows from the roof told him that something had startled the pigeons nesting under his people’s solar panels; there was action up above. Above the edges of the shutters, Cody could make out that the sky had lightened though not quite to daybreak, but he still couldn’t see outside. Unlike the earlier goings on with the other cats and the ball, Cody was completely clueless as to what was happening outside and it made him uneasy.

This was what happened to my bunny Cody convinced himself. At the time, he hadn’t cared enough or been enough aware to know what that hoo in triplicate meant. But now he did. Or thought he did. He knew it must mean owl and that owls mean death for anything smaller than them. Considering the size of the feather he had found all those weeks ago, too, Cody, too, would be counted among critters smaller than this owl.

Shaking his head, he made his way to the water dish to take in some cool, wet nourishment. But then he hear it: The horrifying shriek of a pigeon. He had heard it earlier that day, when he had first begun his attack on the pigeons. Though he had not intended to kill the pigeons, they certainly didn’t know that and had reacted as though the sounds they made would be their last. The pigeon emitting that sound just a moment ago indeed was making its last sound, of that Cody was certain.

He finished taking his drink and then hopped up on the table just beneath the windowsill to listen, to sleep. He would learn more about the sound and the fate of what made it once his person was up and had opened all of the shutters and other window coverings in the house. He just wanted to ensure he was there as soon as possible, just in case his person was there to throw open the shutters so very, very soon.

After not long of waiting, though, Cody reflexively curled himself into a ball and fell fast asleep, this time with his dreams haunted by the sinister bird screams, punctuated by soft hoots from a great horned owl that was not soft in its demeanor, something its prey knew too well, too late.

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