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Well, once again, the earth is trying to expunge us with a bout of violent weather. Nothing much is happening here (yet) except that the trees are stripping off their leaves eagerly in the wind while waving their arms back and forth like wild concert-goers.
In weather like this, especially so close to Halloween, there’s really nothing better than reading a scary story. So I decided to write one for you all. I decided to set it in this very house and make myself the main character. Nikki and Nate refuse to read it because they’re afraid it will scare them. I do hope it scares you all.
I also hope everyone is safe from Hurricane Sandy.
The Cat Lady
There was a year in my life when I felt I needed to get away from the bustle of the world, and so I went to live with two friends of mine – Nikki and Nate – in a little gray house on that little curl of land that stretches into the Atlantic Ocean known as Cape Cod.
On the day I moved in, Nikki and Nate told me how they had gotten the house for a very good price.
“The previous owner was a hoarder,” Nate explained. “She was this old woman who never threw anything away. Not even her trash. The house was full of old newspapers and empty glass bottles and moldy books. You name it. The place was a wreck when we bought it – piled to the ceiling with boxes of junk. And it smelled terrible. We had to rip out some of the walls that had started to rot, and the bathroom was…well, let’s just say she’d been living without plumbing for awhile. That’s why we got such a good deal.”
Nikki nodded. “Supposedly she’d had about fifty cats living with her, and I guess when the neighbor finally found her, she’d been dead for a week, and the cats had eaten off her face.”
“In the room where you’ll be staying they found a bunch of disintegrating cat bodies,” Nate added. “I guess she didn’t bury them when they died – she just threw them in there and shut the door.”
Nikki must have seen the look on my face because she added, “it’s been deep cleaned and renovated since then, so don’t worry.”
“I’m not worried.” I looked around, trying to imagine the small house teeming with stacks of trash and mobs of hungry cats. It was hard to do. Everything was very clean and neat. The kitchen table was clear, the living room furniture sparse. The hardwood floors gleamed.
“Everything looks great,” I said as Nikki showed me to my room. “It’s hard to imagine this place being a wreck.”
At yet, that night, when I laid down in bed, I thought I smelled a faint whiff of cat urine just before drifting off to sleep.
Life with Nikki and Nate was quiet, especially after Labor Day when the tourist season ended and many of the homes nearby turned dark and empty. As it was, we were quite secluded. Our house was set back from the road and surrounded on all sides by a thick woods. The closest neighbor lived on the other side of the woods, and we never had much to do with him since Nate told me he was usually drunk and surly.
The three of us didn’t really have any friends except for each other, which was strange at first since I had come from a life of dates and dinners and weekend plans with various acquaintances.
But as time went on, and I got used to living quietly in the small room in the small, gray house with Nikki and Nate, who were quiet themselves. In the mornings, Nikki crept around in the dark on her tip-toes, trying not to wake Nate, and at night Nate did the same thing, trying not to wake Nikki. On days that we weren’t working, I wrote and Nate read and Nikki cooked, and we were all content, at least somewhat, in our silence and solitude. The Cape was a good place to become a hermit.
I had been living with Nikki and Nate for several months when they made plans to go away for the weekend. It was the first time that I would have the house to myself, and I looked forward to having some alone time. I waved good-bye to them as they drove up the gravel driveway towards the main road and disappeared.
I spent the day reading and writing and watching a movie. It was the perfect day for it – overcast and cold with a strong wind that whipped the dead leaves from the tree branches and sent them skittering across the dried-out grass of our front yard. In the late afternoon, I went to the grocery store to pick up something to cook for dinner. By the time I got home, it was already dark, and I had forgotten to turn on the porch light. It had also begun to rain, and I picked my way carefully across the wet yard and up the stairs, fumbling with my keys in one hand and my bag of groceries in the other.
When I opened the door, I heard a strange noise, almost like an animal, but I thought perhaps it was just the door squeaking on its hinges.
The house was dark and cold, and as soon as I stepped inside the skin on the back of my neck began to crawl. I had the eerie feeling that I was not alone. I put my groceries down on the floor and went around the house turning on all the lights. As soon as I did so, I felt silly for wasting electricity and turned most of them off again. Then I took my groceries to the kitchen and made myself a fish fillet and spinach salad for dinner.
I sat at the table eating, and again I got the feeling that I was not alone. Across from me, the curtain-less windows were dark and reflected my own face. I imagined someone standing outside on the other side of the window, silently watching me each my dinner, and a shudder ran down my spine. I quickly stood from the table and made my way to the windows, yanking down the shades violently.
Taking a deep breath, I sat down again and took a bite of fish. Suddenly, I felt a brush of something against my leg, and my heart jumped to my throat. I looked down, but nothing was there. My arms pimpled with goosebumps.
Just then, I heard a cat giving a long, low cry. The sound seemed to be coming from the back of the house where our bedrooms were.
My heart began to pound quickly. We definitely did not own a cat.
But the sound came again. An unmistakable meow.
Walking slowly through the living room towards the sound, I told myself it was nothing to be scared of. Maybe there was a cat outside in the back yard, that’s all.
I flipped the hallway light-switch, but the light came on for only a moment before plunging back into darkness. The bulb had just burned out.
I heard the cat crying again, long and pitiful, and it sounded as if it was coming from my bedroom. The hallway was now pitch black, and I moved towards my room, feeling my way with my hand along the wall.
I reached the door to my room and stood there for a moment with my hand on the knob, my heart clenching inside my chest.
It’s just a cat, I told myself. Somehow a cat had gotten into the house. That was all.
I pushed open the door and flipped on the light.
But there was nothing there.
“Here, kitty-kitty,” I whispered. My voice sounded hoarse and strange in the silence of the house. I moved towards my closet and looked inside, but there was nothing there except my laundry basket and a pile of shoes.
The only place it could be hiding was under my bed. I got down on my hands and knees. Feeling exposed, my neck began to prickle. Quickly, I lifted up the covers and peered under the bed, bracing myself for the glowing stare of yellow cat eyes. But there was nothing under the bed except for dust and an old sock.
I moved to my window and peered out through the slated shades. The wind had picked up, and the trees tossed their limbs to and fro. I squinted into the darkness. Was there at a little cat out there somewhere, crying in the cold and rain? I waited and listened, but the only noise now was the whoosh of wind.
I went back to the kitchen and finished up my dinner, washed the dishes. Then I put on my pajamas, brushed my teeth, and got into bed, planning to read for awhile, cozy in my bed while the wind rattled against my windows. But I must have been tired, because I quickly drifted off to sleep with my lamp still on and the paperback between my fingers.
I had strange dreams in which I was in our little gray house, but it was darker and more cluttered. Instead of living with Nikki and Nate, I lived with an old woman who had one glass eye. She fed her cats cans of tuna and bowls of whole milk so that their fur turned sleek and glossy and their sharp teeth shone a brilliant white when they yawned.
I was awakened from this dream suddenly by the feeling that something had jumped onto the foot of my bed. My heart jolted, and I lay paralyzed under the covers with my eyes still closed. Something was moving at the foot of my bed. And then I heard the throbbing sound of a cat purring.
My whole body was tense as I slowly opened my eyes and sat up. There was a large cat pawing my bed, its claws digging into the comforter. I threw my book towards it, but I missed, and the book went flying over its head and crashed into the wall. “Get out of here!” I shouted.
The cat turned its head towards me slowly, and its eyes glowed blood red. I kicked at it, my feet still under the covers. “Get out of here!”It leaped off the bed and ran out of my room and down the dark hall.
Trembling, I got out of bed, flipped on the overhead light, and shut my door tightly. Then I jumped back under the covers and hugged a pillow to my chest, desperately trying to make sense of what I’d just seen. Surely, I thought, it had been a dream. Maybe I was dreaming still.
But then, from the hallway outside my room I heard a meow, and then another, and then another, until there was a chorus of cats crying outside my bedroom door.
“Go away,” I said, my voice trembling. “Go away!”
But they continued to meow, and then they began to scratch their claws on the door. The scratching and meowing grew louder and more insistent.
I was nearly paralyzed with fear when I heard the sound of cat claws scratching the metal of the door knob. I watched as the knob jiggled, and I wished my room had a lock. But it didn’t.
They’re just cats, I told myself. I wondered if I should call animal control, or Nikki and Nate. I glanced at the clock. It was ten after midnight. I suddenly wished I had my neighbor’s phone number. But I didn’t. I didn’t know anyone in this entire town.
The knob jiggled again, and the cat cries grew louder and more shrill. Suddenly, the knob turned and the door burst open. Cats poured into the room, all of their eyes glowing red. They jumped onto my bed, opening their mouths, their needle-sharp teeth sinking into the skin of my face and neck.
I screamed and screamed as loud as I could, but just like the old woman before me, no one could hear my cries.
* * *
When Nikki and Nate came home the following evening, they found me lying in my bed, and at first they thought I was only asleep. It wasn’t until they shook me and I didn’t respond that they realized I was dead.
The autopsy revealed nothing. I had no injuries, no illnesses – it was a mystery as to how I had died. The only clue was my bedroom door. The white paint had been scratched clean off in some places, and there were deep grooves in the wood as if it had been attacked by something with sharp claws. And, of course, the bed itself was covered in cat hair. Which was strange, because when Nikki and Nate found me, there were no cats anywhere to be found.