You’re in Belize. It’s night. And you hear a sound that wakes you from your sleep. Listen!
It’s coming the sky. From the trees.
There it is again: an unearthly screech.
It could be a barn owl.
You wait. Listening for the sound again.
But now the screech dissolves into a rattle, like a bag of bones from the cemetery.
Too bad for you. You’ve just heard the Soch, the harbinger of death.
The Soch only flies over the house of the doomed. If you hear it, someone in your house will die. It will fly on the side of your house closest to the cemetery. If it is flying backwards, they you know a child will die.
If you want to catch it, place a mirror on the ground. When it flies by and sees its reflection, it will think there is a rival Soch, and come down to challenge it. Good luck trying to talk sense into it. The Soch doesn’t cause death, just announces it.
The Soch has feathers, wings, and talons of a bird, but its face-- good Lord, its face!-- human eyes, human eyebrows, and human teeth.
Timothy Hagerty and Mary Gomez Parham, eds., If Di Pin Neva Ben: folktales and legends of Belize. Cupola Productions, 2000.
Sharon Mazola, “Little Guy and Jolley Go to School,” The Belize Zoo Blog. March 22, 2011. http://tbzblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/barn-owls-rock-little-guy-and-jolley-go.html (accessed October 13, 2017)