I struggled to see through the darkness as I stepped out into the backyard. The cold bit at my bare arms and I shivered.
“It’s time for bed!” I called out to the dogs, peering through the night.
A Husky and a German Shepherd bounded at me from behind the shed. I held my ground, they knew better than to bowl me over. They stopped at my feet, sitting perfectly still. Staring up at me with big eyes, ears forward and mouths hanging open as they panted.
“What were you doing behind there? You’d better not have been digging,” I said, as though they could understand me. I received no response. They had a gleam in their eyes and I dreaded the mess I’d have to clean in the morning. The Husky nudged my hand with his nose, the hand carrying the treats used to coerce them into the cubby for the night.
“Alright, alright,” I laughed as I stepped past them and headed for the cubby. They followed behind, occasionally stepping on the back of my heels, causing me to dance around them, frustrated, as they struggled to maintain a consistent pace. We reached the cubby and I ducked under the overhanging roof that acted like a veranda. They bolted inside past me and sat waiting. I tossed the treats into two opposite corners and they got busy devouring them while I shut the door and pushed the small bolt across, locking them inside for the night. All noise inside the cubby ceased as they settled for sleep. That was the last I’d hear from them until sunrise the next morning, it ensured that they didn’t get up to mischief at night; I didn’t want them hurting any other animals. Or getting themselves hurt.
I glanced up and spotted a large spider web spanning the underside of the veranda roof. Usually I resisted looking at them, but tonight I’d forgotten and the thought of being so close to whatever monster lurked in the crevasses, sent shivers down my spine. I stepped off the veranda and headed for the door, looking back across the yard. A low growl rumbled from a tree on the opposite side and I stopped dead. I couldn’t see anything, it was too dark. It growled again and I wished that I hadn’t threatened it; the wildlife around here may be small compared to a human but they were tough, tooth and claw always ready. Was it going to attack if I moved?
My heart pounded as my eyes darted left and right, trying to discern what else was with me in the yard. Of course the dogs were locked away, so they were of no use to me. My mind started conjuring up theories; perhaps it was a koala, I knew that they growled, but possums growl too. Maybe it was a bat.
And then the dreaded and inevitable thought; perhaps it’s an alien. The one thing that gets me quaking at the thought of having to walk through the house at night. The one thing whose motives and abilities humans have no idea about, they could do anything to us and we’d have no defence. Whenever I start to deviate down this train of thought, I feel ridiculous, but it doesn’t stop the fear.
It growled again and I raced for the door, ducking in to the safety of the house, refusing to look over my shoulder in case I saw it coming for me. I’d never be able to go out there at night again if I did.
I shut the door behind and stood panting for a moment, but curiosity still gripped me. I had to see what it was. Partially because I wanted to stop my imagination running wild for days to come, creating all sorts of horrors, all in my own backyard.
I grabbed a torch off the shelf beside me and cautiously stepped out the door. Flicking it on, I shone the beam toward the source of the growl and I scanned the trees. I spotted a large black mass at the centre of the fig tree and my heart stopped. It was nearly the size of one of my dogs, hanging effortlessly between the branches. What on Earth could do that?
It moved and I froze, staying as quiet and still as possible, never removing my hand from the door behind me. Slowly, it turned it’s head to face me and I was finally able to identify it.
It was a fully grown possum, red eyes gleaming in the light, broad grey tail hanging down beneath it. It was a beautiful creature, a formidable presence in this world of our weapons and wars. It stared at me for a moment before it bounded off into another tree. Disappearing into the dark, granting me permission to breathe.