“Daddy!” Seven-year-old Piety Robinson said in her loudest quietest voice as she stood next to her sleeping father. She shook him, “Daddy. We’re going to miss it.”
Edward Robinson opened his eyes to see the blurry outline of his daughter and son. He reached for his glasses. The clock on the nightstand read 3:30. He made a promise to take the children outside to view the lunar eclipse, but never thought they’d wake for it.
“How long have you guys been up?” he asked as he swung his legs out of bed, careful not to wake his sleeping wife.
“I never slept. Eddie did, but not me.” Peity said in a hurried whisper. “Can we please go now?”
Edward Robinson found his slippers and was reaching for his robe when he stopped and smiled at his two little adventurers. Peity, the chief instigator and science lover, and her five-year-old brother who hung on her every word. Beautiful, inquisitive children who were part of his perfect life. He donned his robe and said, “Let’s go see a lunar eclipse.” And they were off.
Once outside, Edward noticed that it was cloudy. Peity noticed too. But the low clouds were moving swiftly and allowed for clear patches of starry sky.
The previous day, the three had decided that the street lights would obstruct the full effect of the eclipse, so they agreed that it was best to view the phenomenon in an open field at the edge of their subdivision, a few blocks away from their home.
“If we don’t hurry up, we’re going to miss it! We can’t even see the moon yet with these clouds.” Peity insisted.
They walked faster. The clouds above opened and closed quickly. They arrived at the edge of their neighborhood and carefully traversed a rocky field until they were far enough away from the influence of the street lights to view the eclipse perfectly.
“Here, I brought a blanket.” Peity said as she spread a picnic blanket pulled from the backpack she wore. “Sit.”
They sat. And as soon as they did, the clouds parted. Above them they saw the last few moments of the earth’s shadow passing in front of the moon. Peity pouted. “I knew it. We’re late.” The moon looked like a Pacman with a rounded mouth. They were late. And it was Edward’s fault. Had he taken more care, he’d have researched the correct time to view the eclipse in its entirety. Instead, he was now sitting in a field at 4:00 a.m. with one sleepy child who he’d certainly have to carry home, and one disappointed little girl on the verge of tears.
They watched the Pacman’s mouth close just in time for the clouds to thicken again, this time bringing with it a fog.
“Missed the eclipse, did you?” A voice came, as a man with a cane appeared from the fog. As he approached, his cane tapped on the rocks around him. Edward stood, and his children stood behind him. Not that this man was threatening in any way, but at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a field, you don’t expect to see your neighbor. And as it turned out, this was no neighbor. Edward had never seen this man before. “Yup. You missed the eclipse. It was beautiful, that’s for sure. Terribly, moving.” He continued to walk toward them and stopped only a few feet away, as if he was expecting to make friends out here in the middle of the night. “Could you feel it?” He asked Edward, smiling.
“Feel what?” Edward replied.
The stranger laughed. “Why the moon, of course. It stirred me awake.” He then pointed out into the thickening fog. “Stirred them too.” Then, as if on cue, the howling of wolves began to wind up from the direction the old man was pointing.
Edward gathered his children into his arms and began making his way past the old man and away from the howling – toward the safety of his brightly lit neighborhood.
“What’s wrong?” The old man called. “It don’t matter if you run or not. You knew this was going to happen if you came out here tonight.”
“Daddy, I’m scared,” Peity said.
“Don’t be scared honey, we’ll be home in a minute.” Edward calmly replied.
They had gotten pretty far away from the old man when Peity screamed, “Daddy, the blanket!”
“We’ll come back and get it in the morning honey. Let’s just get home. I’m tired.”
As they approached the edge of their neighborhood, Edward felt relief wash over him. He put his children down onto the paved road to rest his aching arms. They walked quickly. The fog had grown so thick that the street lamps looked like little full moons themselves. As the trio made their final turn toward home, the sound of tapping rose up from somewhere in the fog up ahead of them–between them and their house.
“I told you it wouldn’t matter if you ran.” It was the old man.
By the illumination of the streetlights, Edward saw shadows move around them in the fog. He grabbed the children again and raced for their house. A second later, the attack occurred. Something jumped onto Edward’s backside and bit into his leg. He dropped the children and ordered, “Run! Run for your lives! Get in the house and wake your mother!” Both Peity and Eddie screamed as they ran up the sidewalk into their house.
Before Peity could shut the door she heard the sound of frenzied wolves in the street and the inaudible cries of her father. She slammed the door, screamed for him, and looked out through the mail slot. The fog lifted just enough for her to see the shadow of her father’s body being dragged away by two large wolves–who were following an old man with a cane.
Tap. Tap. Tap.