He is a nice man, well loved by his community. He comes from a rich family, and owns a nice house at the edge of town. His property contains a little forest of small, wide spaced trees in the back, and a tiny creek runs through it. The creek is often dry in the arid climate of the area, but children love to play among the trees, climbing them and staging make believe games in their bright depths. He does not mind children, though he has no family of his own, and he always has a kind word for those who stop by to say hello. He has even built up a reputation in the community as being an ideal, unofficial babysitter for young, adventurous kids that mom and dad do not want to deal with for awhile.
Tonight is a full moon, and he is leaving town.
He leaves a few hours before sundown, and a few people notice him as he drives by their houses. He lets them know that he has a business obligation in the city a few hours to the north, and he will be spending the night. No one knows quite what it is he does for a living, but they smile and nod at his explanation. Several other townsfolk work in the city and know that sometimes, when work goes too late, a night in the city can be preferable to a long drive home in the black night of country roads. Especially if one has no family worrying at home.
A few miles south of town, a dark hill interrupts the scene. No one has built on this hill in many years, and it has remained wild for as long as the locals can recall. No one would buy property there, anyway. There is a curse on this hill.
The elders in town whisper the tale of the family who used to live there, many years ago. A wonderful family, it was, with two lovely children. The family lived on the hill. They were well liked by most, and they had many reasons to be happy. Nevertheless, the elders whisper, this family had a strange sadness that surrounded them, as though they knew of the fate that would befall them. Their odd yellow-brown eyes constantly held a mysterious pain that they brushed off with false smiles among others. A group of troublemakers found them one day when they went to play a harmless prank on the children. The mother and two children had been slaughtered, and the father was nowhere to be found. People whispered that the father had killed his family and run, though others swore he would never do such a thing. A few nights later, a terrible, wolf-like howling was heard on the hills, and whispers began of a demon that lived upon the hill.
Mothers warn their children away from the hill, and no one dares to live there. The hill is dangerous.
Tonight, howls split the night air, and children are tucked more tightly into their beds. Parents lock the doors. Elders whisper more urgently. The whole town becomes still, and wives wish for once that husbands will chose tonight to stay in the city overnight for work.
Yellow eyes gleam in the darkness on the hill. A shadow stalks the night, soft paws dancing to the timeless beat of moonlight and nightmares.
One little girl did not listen to her parents. She gets out of bed once they are gone from her room and sneaks out the back door, taking only her homemade slingshot and a thirst for adventure. The full moon, she has heard, is the best time for adventures, the best time to find monsters to slay. Because her mother has warned her away from the hill, the little girl knows that the hill must have the best adventures. All the storybooks she reads tell her that adventures can be found wherever no one else goes.
Small pebbles line a path that runs through her backyard, towards a little gate that opens out into an open area leading to the south. She picks up a few pebbles and stuffs them in her pockets in case she needs to use her slingshot. Then, she sets off towards the hill, her slingshot in one hand, and one of her rocks in the other. Her storybooks are full of monsters and strange creatures; she has read a lot about them all and knows how to deal with even the most terrible creatures. She is ready for anything.
More chilling howls cut through the air, muffling the sound of the gate closing behind the girl. She pauses, and moonlight glitters against eyes wide with sudden fear. But the warriors in her books are brave and do not run from danger, so she takes a deep breath and continues forward. Her yellow nightgown shows up bright against the brown dirt and grey-green scrub outside her family's garden. The walk to the hill takes nearly half an hour, and she is tired by the time she reaches it. Finding a nice flat rock near the base of the hill, she sits and checks her sling.
The golden-eyed shadow strikes without warning. Crimson spatters across the brown dirt at the base of the hill and gleams bright in the moonlight. A muffled thump is all the noise the girl makes as her body falls. The slingshot skitters from limp hands across the ground and stones spill from her pockets, but the stone she carried remains clenched in small, rigid fingers beneath her body. The yellow nightgown flares out around her tiny body, smearing with blood and dirt; her mother had always hated when she got her clothes dirty.
The shadow howls in triumph. The body is gone within the hour, leaving nothing but a bit of yellow cloth and a few crimson stains upon the ground.
When the little girl cannot be found the next morning, her parents are not too worried. She has always had a tendency to sneak out of the house at odd hours and play make-believe games. They do worry sometimes that her storybooks may turn her into too much of a recluse, as she dislikes letting other children join her in her games. She is a happy child, though. A little fun and fantasy will do no harm, and there will be plenty of time for friends in her life. She is young yet. A memory of howling the night before crosses her mother's mind, but she swiftly banishes the ridiculous speculation such memory brings. Surely even such an adventuresome child as hers would not be so foolish as to go near the hill.
A woman out for a morning jog passes by the hill when she notices a glint of yellow and jogs forward cautiously, slowing as she approaches the source of the color. Her screams are heard by half the town when she comes closer and sees the cloth and crimson blood in the dirt. The parents remember their daughter putting on her yellow nightgown before she went to bed, and new fear twists through them. A few weeks pass as they wait without hope for the little girl to return, and then they must admit defeat. Because her body could not be found, a funeral is held with an empty coffin.
He has returned from the city by the time of the funeral. He offers his consolation to the distraught parents, and lets them know that if there is anything he can do, he would be happy to help. They are grateful for his kindness. When the funeral date is set, they invite him to come. The little girl always liked playing in his yard, pretending that there were fairies in the dry creek and dragons in the trees. He helped her make a sword out of cardboard and construction paper once, to aid her in her dragon-fighting quests, and several of her books came from his library. She will never fight another magic creature in his yard again, now, or borrow another book.
He brings a red rose to the funeral. After everyone who wishes to has spoken and the coffin is lowered into the ground, he throws the rose on the coffin. When it falls, it makes a red stain on the brown wood, reminiscent of blood on dirt. He turns away to head home, and a smile twists his mouth as laughter dances in his yellow eyes.