The Nature of Things

Published 8:19 am Wednesday, November 18, 2009

(To be read only on moonless nights. When one is without company)

She was alone. Oh, she had been alone before, but tonight Becky felt alone. The dark seemed a little darker, as if seeping through the windows into the house. She checked the doors and windows. Again. “Jiggle-jiggle, jiggle-jiggle.” All seemed secure. “Rita is just down the street,” she reassured herself. A glance at the phone residing in its familiar place provided comfort. Picking up the receiver, she checked its faithful dial-tone. “Mmmmmmmmmmmm.” All seemed well.

TV blaring in the den, the game-show host introduced the next contestant as the audience clapped, its images reflecting off the opposite wall. Fluffy, Becky’s cat of seven years, dozed on the sofa, her tail, like a grandfather clock, swaying rhythmically.

Becky ambled to the fridge, searching for something sweet. Its light illuminated half the kitchen as she peered into the lower shelf, the cold touching her face.

Then she heard it. That familiar creak from the bedroom, made every morning when Becky made the bed. She froze. Was her mind playing games? Straightening up, the fridge door swung shut, darkening the room. She held her breath, sweat beading on her forehead as breaths became short and laborious. Like wild buffalo pounding the turf, “thumpa, thumpa, thumpa”, went her heart. Trembling, on tip-toes, she haltingly stepped to the den and peered in. There, on the couch, its head twisted in awkward position, lay Fluffy, staring up with glazed eyes, its body limp. In horror, Becky glanced back at the seemingly vast distance to the kitchen phone. “Creeeeaaaak” went the bedroom floor again. Running wildly, she whispered Rita’s number under quivering breath, “438- 6940, 438-6940.” The receiver to her ear, straining to hear a dial tone, the silence caused panic. “Click, click, click.” Nothing. The phone rattled on the floor as a limp hand let it fall.

The last thing Becky heard was a sickening chuckle emanating from the dark. The last thing she felt was four bony fingers sliding over her mouth, muffling her otherwise piercing screams, as the game show host announced the winner’s prize: “Ten thousand dollars!” he said. The audience cheered. The cat stared at the ceiling.

(To be continued. In the meantime, pleasant dreams)