He hadn’t meant to do it. It was like all the other things that he hadn’t meant to do, but happened anyway. He had been wandering outside, trying to stay quiet, trying to behave. It was so rare that his mother let him out of the dark place, when his father was gone to who knew where. She had cried when she had taken the heavy collar off his neck, had sobbed into his hair about how she wished things didn’t have to be like they were. It was all he could do from adding his own howls to her cries.
He hadn’t been out long when he came across a soft chirping noise. At first he couldn’t pinpoint just where exactly it was coming from - being shut out from noise for so long and then being bombarded by sound had a sort of dizzying effect on him - but when he did, he saw that it came from the planting bed underneath an oak tree. Childish curiosity got the better of him and he squatted, his hands parting the flowers ever so carefully, fearing that if his claws caught on any that he would be put back into the basement prematurely. He wanted so much to be a good boy, to show his mother that she didn’t have to be afraid of him. He could smell it, that acrid smell fear and nervousness gave off. He despised that smell above all others.
As he examined the flowers, he unearthed a baby bird. It was scrawny and pink, with a neck that looked as if it were too long for its body and too weak to support its head. He glanced up, peering through the leaves of the tree he sat under until he saw a nest a few limbs above his head. The bird must have fallen out, he thought. Slowly cupping his hands around the small bird, as if not to frighten it, he lifted it to his face. It was slightly warm and Victor could feel its tiny heart drum against his fingertips. It was so fast, so different than the slow thump of his own heart. He smiled and pressed his ear closer to the bird to hear better.
Suddenly, he heard his mother call his name, panic evident in her voice. He could hear the sounds of his father’s truck coming down the driveway. He knew that he only had a few minutes to get back into the basement before he came back. If he knew that he had been out…
Victor tried to get his heart to stop beating so fast, to sound more like his own instead of like the baby bird’s that he held in his hands. That was when he realized that the bird’s little chest was not fluttering under his fingertips any more. In his fright, he had squeezed his hands into tight fists without even realizing it. Horrified, he shoved the bird back under the flowers where he had found it, wiped his hands furiously on the lawn. It had been such a little thing, and he hadn’t meant to hurt it. Tears blurred his vision as he ran down the stairs to his dark prison. His mother smoothed a hand over his hair, pressed a kiss to his forehead even as she clasped the collar back in place. She whispered that she wished he could have had more time outside. She told him that she loved him, then she went quickly back upstairs and closed the door, taking with her the warm yellow light that spilled from the kitchen.
Alone in the dark, the only regret that Victor had was that she had let him go out. He wished that he had never heard that bird in the first place.