The Midnight Stage

September 19, 2020

Night falls on the hilltop like curtains closing on a stage. In a few moments the golden light is replaced with dark shadows, which fall on the soft moss.

At the window, she watches the hilltop-stage as it closes down for the night – her nose pressed against the window, fogging the glass slightly, and her hands gripping the sill.

“Bedtime!”– her mother’s voice calls upstairs.

She pulls herself away from the window and slips into bed, pulling the covers tight around her to warm up, even though she’s wearing long, fuzzy pyjamas. Her mum comes in and kisses her goodnight, the light goes off, and then –

Tiptoeing back to the window, she peeps at the shadowed hill, only a few hundred metres from her bedroom. She’s been reading constantly about the stories of the wilderness – an enticing blend of fantasy and reality – and now…

Gently, she pushes the window up carefully, only enough to let the fresh, night air in, and she leans out into the gentle breeze, letting it blow through her half-tied pigtails.

Closing her eyes, she feels the land and its soundscape fill her like the ocean: on her left, the newly-fledged Tawny Owls are waking up, calling in their adolescent screeches to their devoted parents. Below her, near the bins, there’s a Red Fox searching for scraps – she smiles at the idea of it finding the dog food she put out for it, in the second-hand pet bowl she brought two days ago. Above her head, she can hear the bats coming out of the eaves – their wing beats and scuffling so close to her ears it’s almost like she can touch them. And then –

She opens her eyes, and stares at the hilltop. The moon is just emerging from the clouds, and her heart pounds with excitement.

He emerges.

Tentatively at first: ears pricked and whiskers twitching. He sits on his back legs and smells the air – and the moonlight falls on him like a spotlight.

A midnight stage.

She watches, fixated on his every movement, as he lumbers around, sniffing the grass and moss. Suddenly, he stops. Alert. She glances around the darkness, curiousity burning through her.

And then –

A partner emerges: a softer brown, with pale, almost white, ears. She is beautiful – a perfect match.

They move towards each other under the pale spotlight, circling each other – sniffing.

The girl holds her breath – it feels like the whole landscape is silent in anticipation.

And then, they’re off – hind legs pushing them into a boxing match, like dance partners on the stage, they box in their arena. A smile lights her face as she watches her midnight Hares chase each other around the hill, until they disappear over the other side, and dissolve into blackness.

The night-time hustle and bustle returns to her ears, as she shuts the window on her midnight stage. Another night of hidden activity just for her.

Satisfied, she hops into bed and pulls her toy hare close to her chest – closing her eyes as she drifts off to a land of discovery and dreams.

And in the distance, under the soft glow of the moon, the Hares bound on – chasing, running, boxing – dancing into the night.

 

Alicia Hayden, June 2020