Kelly had just come home from her boyfriend's house. The nightly hour made her bedroom pitch black. She flipped the light switch and was surprised at what awaited her.

Right beside her curtained window, there was a standing cage. Inside that cage was a large parrot. It sidestepped and stared her down when she approached.

"Hey," Kelly greeted warmly. The bird squawked, then repeated her. "Can you say other words?"

"Name is Polly. Polly."

"Hello, Polly. I'm Kelly."

"Kelly. Hello, Kelly."

"So, Polly, what else can you say?"

"Are you my owner? My owner?"

"Yes. I guess I am. Are you my pet?"

"Yes. I'm your new pet."

Time went by as the two of them went back and forth. Soon, the phone rang in Kelly's pocket.

"Hang on, my phone's ringing."

"Okay."

Kelly answered her phone.

"Hey, Kelly. I saw that you called earlier."

"Yeah, Mom. I wanted to let you know I'm home. And I found the bird."

"Do you like him?"

"Yeah! I was talking to the bird for a minute. It's fun."

"Did the bird talk back?"

"Yeah. He repeated almost everything I said. He even asked if I was his owner."

"Did he?" The woman sounded genuinely surprised.

"Yeah."

"But the guy at the pet shop told me it could take a long time for a parrot his age to learn how to talk. He said to not expect to have it talk back in one day."

"He was doing fine for the past ten minutes."

"Huh. Maybe the pet shop guy was wrong. Or he didn't know the bird could talk."

"I don't know, but at least you got a smart bird out of the deal."

"Smart bird," Polly mimicked.

"I'm going to take a shower. Then I'm going to bed."

"Okay. I'm on my way home, anyway. I love you, Kelly."

"Love you, too."

Kelly hung up the phone. "Talk to you later, Polly."

"Later, later." That response was followed by a squawk.


After her shower, Kelly returned to her room clad in sleeping clothes. She took one look at the cage to find it empty with its door open. Figuring her mother must have the parrot, she went downstairs.

The lights were all off, as they were when Kelly first entered her bedroom. Her mother was nowhere to be found. When she went outside, the driveway was still empty. She used the living room phone to call her mother.

"Mom, were you here a few minutes ago?"

"At home? No, I should be there in a little while. Why?" There was silence. "Kelly?"

The girl lowered the phone with a trembling hand and sat on an armchair. Her mind raced to come up with a logical explanation for why the cage door was open.

"Who was on the phone?"

Kelly froze, then let out a nervous chuckle when she recognized the typical voice of a parrot. She looked at the ceiling and on the furniture, but did not see her pet.

"That's a good impression, isn't it?"

Now, Kelly was scared. That last statement was definitely not from a parrot.

"Why do you look so afraid, Kelly? There's someone behind you!"

Kelly sprung off the chair like it was on fire and backed away. The voice did come from behind her. It now sounded like a human.

"Wrong way."

Even facing the chair, Kelly could have sworn the voice was still behind her. She spun around, but no one was there. One by one, she stared at the chairs, the TV, and under the coffee table, expecting someone to pop out from behind them. The voice was quiet; the only sound in the room being Kelly's beating heart.

Finally, Kelly decided to take a chance. Eyes on the smaller couch on her right side, the larger couch in front of her, the TV on her left, and the armchair behind her, Kelly slowly edged toward the doorway. The man still hadn't said a word. Nothing moved out of the ordinary.

Right beside the doorway, there was the end of the larger couch. The couch was just far enough from its wall for someone to fit behind, Kelly regretfully thought. But passing it was no worse than standing around and waiting to be attacked. Keeping as close to the free area of the left wall as possible, Kelly sidestepped toward the doorway. All the while, keeping an eye on the couch. To her relief, no one was back there.

Suddenly, a loud bang sounded right in her left ear. Kelly literally jumped and looked in that direction.

A clenched fist was pressed against the wall. Kelly followed it to see a burly man standing near the kitchen doorway. Before she could react, the man quickly reached out and put both hands around her neck. The girl was practically lifted of her feet, then shoved into the wall. He held her there for a moment, just staring with an odd grin on his face. It was like he found great joy in seeing her fear and pain.

"Where are you going, Kelly? Where are you going, Kelly?"

Even as those words were spoken, the sickening grin never left the man's face.