A Rainy Night In

The first thing he heard was a thud. Not a dull thud, but a deep, resounding thud, which didn’t quite echo – that wouldn’t sound right, would it – but seemed to reverberate a few seconds after impact. He went outside in the dark and had a look around. Shining a torch up at the approximate site of the noise disclosed that there had indeed been a problem, if he thought he was imagining it, and he wasn’t sure of that until he had a look, and the roof had suffered a gash where once a couple of tiles had fitted neatly into their place.

Dogs were barking. Some may have heard the initial noise. Others reacted to pretty much anything and the cute but pointless one with floppy ears across the road would react whenever a front door opened on the street. This yapping would lead to other dogs joining in and before long the larger animals in the district had stirred and were adding to the discordant canine choir.

He thought it best to go inside.

He slipped off his slippers and eased himself back into his big bed and put on his eye mask and turned off his bedside lamp again. There was unfinished sleep business to attend to. Another item had been added to tomorrow’s agenda, but first he would dream. Hopefully it would be that one where he lay on a blanket and stared up at the clouds and the clouds actually turned into real moving figures, which danced and fought and came down to earth to laugh and sing and chase each other. Or the one where he was mountain climbing, and he would reach the summit and stand on top of the mountain, and look at all the other peaks. He looked forward to waking slowly and feeling revived.

It started to rain, and he listened to the pattering on the leaves, and sleep took him.

Jolting awake he tore off his mask and frantically looked around the room. In the shadows all he could make out were the furniture, where it had been hours before, and his books on a small pile on his bedside table. He wondered why he had awoken with such a start. Then the door creaked and he thought he heard a scratching noise in the hallway beyond, but it was faint and it seemed to die and he wondered if it was real in the first place.

So he placed one foot on the floor and he reached as far as his arm would allow, he turned the knob and opened the door, and was back under the covers in one quick movement. He felt silly, like a little boy. What did he suppose would happen? He didn’t know the answer to that, but he sat with his knees up under his chin, swathed in bedclothes, and he watched and listened.

Nothing.

He kept listening. Still nothing.

A sound, more a feeling than a sound, like swishing material at the hem of a dress, stopped as soon as he detected it. Could be a breeze, he thought.

His eyelids grew heavy and his body relaxed and he stopped looking but kept listening.

He turned to grab his eye mask from the bedside table and lowered it over his face. The last thing he saw, he thought, was two shining round eyes on top of his pile of books, and now he couldn’t see anything as he had an eye mask on. He buried his face in the sheets and instinctively shank from the creature, if it was a creature. He thought he heard a soft but persistent breathing as his posture became more foetal and he wriggled away from the reading stack.

This felt silly, but he wasn’t ready to look again yet. He admitted to himself that he was scared and wondered if the breathing he heard was his own.

The scratching had passed. The breathing was nothing. And it may have just been a breeze. The creature probably wasn’t a creature at all. But he remained where he was, not yet ready to act, but preparing to strike out, if necessary, or to laugh off his own infantile imaginings, if that’s what they were. He reached down to scratch his ankle and brushed his hand against the flannelette of his pyjama leg and the flannelette of the sheets and the fluffy socks … but he wasn’t wearing socks – there was something in the bed! Under the covers. In there with him.

He threw off the quilt and his arms and legs cavorted spastically. The only noise he could emit was a high-pitched grunt, which he repeated every few seconds for about a minute, gripped by terror, until he could compose himself enough to look down and observe his bed.

A small kitten was lying in a tight ball, approximately where his feet had been before the involuntary gyration of limbs, looking up at him with its big, shining, round eyes.

 

 

“This must be where the little fella got in,” said the man the next morning. The man was standing high up on a ladder and peering at the roof.

“Oh,” he replied with a frown.

The man frowned back.

He paused, and looked gravely at the ground. But he was pretending, and so he mustered the courage to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. How did he get in?”

The man explained that the cat had been stuck up the tree in the front yard, and when it began to rain the cat had walked along a branch and sheltered in the space in the roof which was created when the tiles slipped out.

“And that’s how he got in.”

“Oh”, he said, and frowned again.

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Published in: on February 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

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