The first time I heard the scream something inside me knew it wasn’t human, and that it wasn’t human was a good thing. It screamed once, off in the distance, then went silent. A farm animal, maybe a dog. I wasn’t really listening enough at the time, but as I closed the gates I did it slowly and quietly, keeping an alert ear to the night air.

It screamed again, and I listened. Down the road under the tunnel of tall trees something was crying out in pain and desperation. It screamed again. The first option was maybe a raptor of some kind from the high pitch. An owl maybe? It screamed again, and the scream was following the road and getting closer. It screamed again. It was following the road and was down low on the ground. Not a dog or badger. A fox, definitely a fox. A fox’s mating call is quite chilling, but this was on another level. It was troubled, and pain, and fear. I assume it was the victim of being hit by a car. It screamed again. It was only fifty or so feet away, loud, and unsettling. I stood there in the dark with no torch and a half moon above me somewhere, hidden by stubborn clouds. I could see nothing and as silently as I could, I turned my back to it and headed for the cottage. Silence.

With my head torch in hand I opened an attic window and listened. Fearing that it would remain silent if it heard me approach, I intended to judge its position and then venture out. I lent out of the window and pondered how horror films probably start this way, “I wonder what that blood curdling noise is? let’s go see.” Silence. Maybe it gave up and curled into a knot of fear in a hedge. Crawled inside itself and waited. I wonder how often this tragic scene plays itself out unseen and forlorn.