The Witching Hour

Gentle readers, insomnia has struck again.  In honor of the occasion, I thought it would be nice to share a bedtime story.

Tonight’s chapter comes from one of my all-time favorites books, The BFG, by my all-time favorite author, Roald Dahl.  The man could spin a tale like no one else, sucking me into his stories and making be believe that I was in fact the child hero.  Although The BFG is a children’s book, I still pull it out every now and again to reread it, which I may have done hundreds of times by now.

I always think of this passage on nights like tonight, when the wee hours of the morning are creeping along and sleep still eludes me, and my imagination, already quite overactive, starts working overtime, making monsters out of the shadows in the moonlight that cuts through the miniblinds.

Sophie couldn’t sleep.

A brilliant moonbeam was slanting through a gap in the curtains.  It was shining right on to her pillow.

The other children in the dormitory had been asleep for hours.

Sophie closed her eyes and lay quite still.  She tried very hard to doze off.

It was no good.  The moonbeam was like a silver blade slicing through the room on to her face.

The house was absolutely silent.  No voices came up from downstairs.  There were no footsteps on the floor above either.

The window behind the curtain was wide open, but nobody was walking on the pavement outside.  No cars went by on the street.  Not the tiniest sound could be heard anywhere.  Sophie had never known such a silence.

Perhaps, she told herself, this is what they called the witching hour.

The witching hour, somebody had once whispered to her, was a special moment in the middle of the night when every child and every grown-up was in a deep deep sleep, and all the dark things came out from hiding and had the world to themselves.

* * * * *

The moonbeam was brighter than ever on Sophie’s pillow.  She decided to get out of bed and close the gap in the curtains.

You got punished if you were caught out of bed after lights-out.  Even if you said you had to go to the lavatory, that was not accepted as an excuse and they punished you just the same.  But there was no one about now, Sophie was sure of that.

She reached out for her glasses that lay on the chair beside her bed.  They had steel rims and very thick lenses, and she could hardly see a thing without them.  She put them on, then she slipped out of bed and tip-toed over to the window.

* * * * *

When she reached the curtains, Sophie hesitated.  She longed to duck underneath them and lean out of the window to see what the world looked like now that the witching hour was at hand.

She listened again.  Everywhere it was deathly still.

The longing to look out became so strong she couldn’t resist it.  Quickly, she ducked under the curtains and leaned out of the window.

In the silvery moonlight, the village street she knew so well seemed completely different.  The houses looked bent and crooked, like houses in a fairy tale.  Everything was pale and ghostly and milky-white.

Across the road, she could see Mrs Rance’s shop, where you bought buttons and wool and bits of elastic.  It didn’t look real.  There was something dim and misty about that too.

Sophie allowed her eye to travel further and further down the street.

Suddenly she froze.  There was something coming up the street on the opposite side

It was something black…

Something tall and black…

Something very tall and very black and very thin.1

 


1Dahl, Roald. The BFG (New York: Puffin Books, 1982), 9-11.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Joy
    May 13, 2009 @ 11:05:44

    No wonder you can’t sleep!! LOL!! You’re supposed to read warm toasty stories before bed. You crack me up Megan. I’m sorry you can’t sleep though.

    Reply

  2. Gary
    May 13, 2009 @ 19:37:01

    Awwwwww, I’m sorry you couldn’t sleep too! I hope it doesn’t last long and you get some sleep soon Megan!! 😦

    Reply

  3. Beth
    Mar 12, 2011 @ 03:00:20

    megan,
    thanks for this chapter. dahl is my favorite, and i think about Sophie and the BFG all the time. i have insomnia, and one of my small comforts is that i fall asleep during “the Witching Hour” when the BFG is out delivering sweet dreams.

    Reply

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