Again, I awoke from a deep sleep and another nightmare. Consciousness slammed into me, like some sort of ghost train. I hated it every time-yet still subconsciously knew that it was coming. I only remembered it far too late to run.

My sheets were soaked with sweat. I felt cold and clammy all over. The room felt like it was spinning, but still I pushed myself up with my hands. I wondered what time it was, and why I woke up, but somewhere deep inside me the truth screamed itself, and I knew why.

The owl. The white owl. It peered at me from outside my window like a predator.

Ah, but not just any predator. It was cunning.

It was terrifying.

It was watching.

It was studying.

I daren't break eye contact. I didn't know what would happen if I did, but I suspected it'd be something unimaginably horrible.

There, by my bed-the rifle-like gun. It alone was salvation-even for a night. Even if the thing, the monster, outside my window killed me, then it'd be worth the risk. I was not about to be the victim again and again and again.

I felt the mock wood underneath my fingers. As silently as possible, I lifted the barrel off the floor. My cross necklace swung underneath my chin in a slow back-and-forth rhythm. It nowhere mimicked my heart beating like mad against my ribcage.

I slowly let out a breath I didn't even realize I'd been holding, and oxygen rushed to my brain. Along with it came new thoughts. Why did I care about an owl? I had another nightmare that woke me up. That was all. That was all….

The black eyes bore into my hazel ones like a scarily intelligent killer. It made not a sound-it just watched my every move, calculating, confident.

My hands started to shake and sweat. I was afraid I'd drop the gun and the tension would come crashing down on me.

I found one thought, the one thing that could possibly save me, and clung onto it for dear life.

Calculating the owl's sight range with an unstable mind, I raised the gun even further-and the owl could see it. But it didn't take it's cold, steely eyes off mine. It wasn't an owl at all. It didn't know about guns.

I put the stock to my shoulder and leveled the barrel. A shaky finger went onto the trigger, and I held it there for what seemed like hours, trying to gather up the courage and strength to break the silence and end the nightmare.

The one thought I'd repeated over and over in my mind played out on my lips.

"You will never win…"

I pulled the trigger. Time seemed to slow to a near stand-still. First came a barely audible click. Then a small BANG!

My heart nearly stopped. The glass shattered in a spiderweb pattern, with a little hole where the BB went through the glass.

And then, the owl was gone. Everything was gone. I didn't dare to breathe. My heart felt like it stopped.

And then, everything went black as the white owl's eyes.

"Mommy…" Ricky Ray half said, half moaned.

"Honey, mommy's on the phone."

"But mommy…"

"Oh…hang on, Susan, Ricky wants something. It'll only take a second." She held her hand over the receiver and turned to her son. "Yes?"

"They took Sadie." Ricky Ray said, with a blank expression and tone in his voice that alarmed his mother.

"…What about Sadie, Ricky?" she asked with a quiver in her voice, lowering the phone to her chest.

"They took Sadie." He repeated, the blank and unfeeling tone overtaking his voice.

"…I'm going to have to call you back, Susan…" his mother said without even knowing if her friend heard. She absentmindedly hung up and set the phone down on the kitchen island-all without taking her eyes off of her son.

"Who's 'they'?" she asked, walking over to her son and getting on her knees to come face-to-face with him.

Ricky Ray snapped out of his stupor and half walked, half skipped past her and into the kitchen to get some breakfast-leaving his mother in a state of shocked alarm. She stood up and mentally tried to shrug it off. Ricky Ray's five-he probably doesn't know what he's talking about, she thought. But panic started up like wildfire in the back of her mind.

She got up and started walking to the stairs. She reached the third step and started jogging. When she saw her daughter's door was ajar, she ran.

When she got in the room she stopped altogether. The coverlet was crumpled up on the floor in the corner, books from her bookcase were on the other side of the room.

Five shallow ruts were carved into the floor and led a trail around from the right side of the bed around it. Sadie's mother stepped cautiously over a book lying on the floor and followed the marks around the bed, to the window-one pane was shattered, with what looked like a circular hole in the middle. Her foot touched something, and she jumped a bit. It was Sadie's BB gun.

She looked back at the broken window pane, and made the connection. Then her eye caught a glint of light, coming from the windowsill.

It wasn't the windowsill. Sadie's mother picked up her daughter's broken necklace and saw the scarlet droplet on one of the links close to the cross. The chain had been broken when it snagged on the corner of the window sill.

Her mother thought of all the terrifying possibilities and then looked at the latch-locked from the inside. All the newfound information swirled around in her brain, making it harder and harder to think rationally until she was in a state of near panic.

She put her eye close to the hole made by the BB pellet and peered out. An animal's cold, intelligent eyes peered back.

She jerked her head back and looked out the window again. The white owl disappeared. She hung onto her daughter's cross necklace and shook her head, hoping that would help clear it. Tears brimmed up in her eyes and spilled out. Her breath came in irregular gasps, and she felt like she was suffocating. But nothing mattered when compared with what she found.

In the back of her mind, the owl had looked familiar. But she hadn't ever seen an owl-just two steely eyes. And there were no owls like that where they lived. Owls like that didn't exist. Didn't exist….

She ran out of the room and dialed 911. But in the back of her mind, knew it was too late for Sadie.