Pitch dark it was. Even the midnight shadows had sought shelter. I looked out the window again. Unsure if I really had heard something or just imagined. It had stopped raining. The water-logged street outside filled me with disgust. Rotting garbage swam freely on its surface making it look a massive pool of trash. Don’t people have dustbins in their houses? And then they blame the government. Is it the government’s job now to plant dustbins in people’s homes?
It was one in the morning. Only a half hour ago, I had retired to bed. When the house is full with people, I crave for privacy, for solitude. When I am alone, I can hardly breathe. What is that thing called – the anxiety that grips you on being alone? The separation anxiety. I was reading Stephen King’s ‘A Bazaar of Bad Dreams’ and hardly remember when I fell asleep.
A loud crack woke me up. I was sleeping with my arm folded over the book. The poor thing was in a bad shape now. But my worries were far greater presently. What was that noise this late in the night? But surely, the drunk neighbour has come home late again. I must speak to mother about this recurring late night disturbance, first thing in the morning. In any case, I couldn’t go back to sleep. It was as if whatever that noise had come from, was waiting for me.
The night was windy. The trees swayed with delight and their howls filled the house. It felt terribly eerie. At an utter loss of activities to do, my mind reflected back to the strange things happening around me of late. Just the other day, a man walking down the street looked up in my window and stared at me through his long walk. A few days before that, a one-eyed cat had followed me to school and wedged itself between the bench and my bag until few of my classmates jokingly asked if I was carrying a rat inside.
I was lying on the couch. A haunting chill that I couldn’t associate with anything particular was starting to grow. I shut my eyes and a mesh of memories clogged my mind. The flock of larks I see overhead every day. The same number of larks. Why does my watch stop working at the same time each day? And the cat? The mysterious cat. Just then the same loud crack rang again that broke my train of thoughts. I opened my eyes, and there sitting on the dining table, was the one-eyed cat.
It stared at me sending a chill down my spine. Wait a minute! Did it just smile? No. No. I shook my head. I must have imagined that, after all I am an ardent fan of Cheshire cat from ‘Alice in Wonderland’. I sprinted to my room. With a bang, I shut the door and slumped into my bed. It’s just my fear that’s making me imagine things and the cat’s just an illusion. Thus convincing the kid of a heart, I went back outside into the living room, and lo! The cat had disappeared.
To clear my head, I stepped out into the balcony. It had started to rain now. Light drizzles were soaking my skin. It felt better. When I peered over the railings, I stared straight into the eyes of the strange man. He was looking up at me, and what’s that? The creepy cat was perched on his shoulder. I stumbled from the shock, slipped my leg over the wet boundary that separated the balcony from the living room. Just before I blacked out, the cat trotted towards me, with a fat rat clutched in its jaws.
The last thought that lingered in my mind was – the accident was a blessing in disguise. For I didn’t seem to have the heart to want to know what happened next.
© Asha Seth