She wakes up to scratch, scratch, scratch on the bedroom door. Disoriented for just a moment, she thinks, This isn't a movie theatre... before she sees the glowing blue of the IKEA feet lamp and realizes it's her bedroom.
Scratch, scratch, scratch. Clunk.
Ah, yes. The noise.
The kitten's head goes up at the sound, her small honey eyes staring curiously at the door. She gets up slowly, stretching her tiny furry body, and skips in that adorable kittenish way to the foot of the bed. She wants to play.
Scratch, scratch. Clunk. Silence for a moment.
"Cat." It's a groan, as realization finally hits the sleepy one in the bed. Reluctantly, she pushes the covers back, and turns to allow her legs to slide to the floor.
IKEA bed; acts like the closet she lost upon moving into the basement. All her clothes fit inside, barely organized. She tries.
Opens the door. An oversized orange tabby waddles determinedly into the room, headed straight for the bowl of kibble placed out for the kitten: she knows it's there. And she will get some, despite the feelings of anyone else. She growls on her way to the bowl. She growls while she eats.
Cat, it is five-thirty in the morning. Please don't tell me you woke up simply to growl at the kitten and eat her food.
She walks slowly across the room to the pile of orange fur, the ever-joyous kitten prancing about her ankles as she moves. She squats down and reaches out to stroke her beloved old grouch. Fearing she may be moved, the orange beast growls louder as she nearly inhales the solid brown chunks.
The orange tail is twitching. The orange tail is twitching.
The kitten readies herself for a pounce: flattening herself to the ground, eyes open, pupils enormous. Her rear wiggles in excitement, and she leaps onto the unexpecting tail.
Instant reaction. The orange cat whirls, hissing in anger and surprise as she does so. She bolts from the room, angry that she is treated so. All she wanted was some kibble...
Closes the door. Cat is gone, can go back to sleep. Come, kitten, back to the pillow. Purr her to sleep.
Lying in bed with a purring kitten, back to the room. Scratches at a door, and muted sounds of eating. The orange cat leaps onto the bed, licking her whiskers.
Muted sounds of eating.
Who is that?
Fear. Terrible, petrifying FEAR.
She can't breathe. She can't move. She can't scream. She opens her mouth but no sound comes out. The orange cat is pressed up against the wall, ears back, eyes wide in fright. The kitten is startled and looks around, those birdlike movements of the head.
She cannot scream, but she must. She must...
She awakes with a weak yell, startling the sleeping kitten and causing her to waken as well, looking questioningly up into the dreamer's eyes.
Scratch, scratch, clunk. Clunk. Scratch, clunk.
She should have taken the green plastic Do Not Disturb sign off her doorknob when she went to bed the night before. It is loud.
She sighs and rolls over. She will ignore the gluttonous tabby for now. It is barely six o'clock, and she will not be bothered again.
However, she can't go to sleep now. The room is suddenly frightening; falling asleep will bring the dream back. She hates that dream.
She calms the kitten and strokes it until it purrs, filling her ears with the contentedness of her newest feline. Such a small thing, and yet so comforting to know that she is content; there is nothing to be worried about.
She has had them all her life. This bothers her. Her love believes that the spirit is real. She remembers the minutes of terror she felt while he spoke to it. She could not hear, but she was very afraid. The mirrored room, the dark room, the room with the unexplained dusty hole. They dared each other to touch it as children, they opened it once and could not see in, and even now she will not look at it.
The basement is frightening. But the animals wll protect her. They always have. Now she will call upon them in her dreams, with her mind, to bring the inanimate ones to life and fight off this daemon, this restless spirit, this angry ghost. She cannot sleep anywhere alone, or the dreams will come. She hopes that when the day comes that she moves out, it will not follow.
She has never seen it. She was beginning to doubt it, and had decided to stop telling people, when he saw it. He had not been told, and yet he saw it. It had watched him over the side of the fold-out couch. He had woken to see it and mistook it for her, but when it vanished, he became uneasy. She heard this in the morning and was relieved. Not crazy, then, but sensitive.
It does not bother her when he is around, but when he is gone she can feel it more than ever. It has never left, only receded a little.
But it is real.
The childhood fear is real.