I hated the new house.
I wasn’t used to big places. I liked small places. I felt cozy, comfortable, safe, with just enough space.
Then we moved here. The house is an older one. The hardwood floors are coming apart. I have to wear shoes to walk around, unless I want a huge piece of wood sticking out of my foot. The basement looks ancient; I didn’t even try going down those stairs. All dusty stone covered in cobwebs. There’s an old dumbwaiter in the living room. I don’t even know if it works anymore. Half the door is broken off; the cat climbs in there.
I like to pretend I’m practical. I like to pretend to be nonchalant. But truth be told, at night my wild imagination goes crazy. It’s worst when I get out of bed to use the bathroom. Even when I was a kid, I imagined something terrible waiting for me when I would get up at night. When I was younger, I would build up my courage (or, rather, desperation for a toilet) then go charging down the hall, skidding into the bathroom and shutting the door tight. Nowadays, it’s different. I tiptoe, holding up my flashlight and peering down the hall. Yeah, I carry a flashlight to bathroom. Shut up.
The bathroom here is near the stairs. Every single time I go down that hallway, I imagine something horrible (probably from that horror of a basement), waiting just around the corner on the stairs. I shut myself in the bathroom, calming down. But then I have to walk back down that dark hallway. I leave the bedroom door partially open. Easier to get inside. I know it’s ridiculous, an adult acting like this, but I can’t help it. At least I can blame all the weird noises on the cats. That’s an upside.
Yeah, I hear some pretty odd noises at night. Most people would say it’s the house settling. It probably is. But sometimes it sounds like shuffling in the vents. Sometimes it sounds like shuffling on the carpet out in the hall. On occasion, I’ll catch the cat hovering around a vent, staring at it with wide eyes. I’m guessing there’s mice or something down there. Hopefully mice.
Today, the cat is really odd. She’s been yowling, pawing at the vent, then yowling some more. At one point she was sitting at the door of the basement, completely silent. Maybe we can call the landlord, see if he can put some mouse traps down there. It’s mice. It’s just mice.
I head up to bed. The cat follows, as usual, sitting right outside the bedroom door, wanting in. I don’t let her in; she makes too much noise at night. Now, maybe, just maybe, I can sleep through the night…
But I can’t. I wake up, and nature calls. I pick up my flashlight, turn it on, shine it around the room. Nothing. The fan is on, but I thought I heard shuffling on the carpet. It’s the cat. I know it’s the cat.
I crack open the door. The cat’s nowhere to be seen. The hallway’s empty. I walk, as quietly as possible, down to the bathroom door. I cringe as I reach the stairs. I want to shine the flashlight around the corner, but I don’t dare. I dart into the bathroom and shut the door. I flick the light on. Sweet, blessed light.
Everything is normal in here as well. I do my business, then slowly open the door again. Nothing. I turn the light out, but then I get that overwhelming urge to look down the stairs. Just to check. This time, I obey it. I nearly jump out of my skin when I see two glowing eyes staring up at me. Stupid cat. Why do cats have to be nocturnal.
I turn to go back down the hallway.
The cat is sitting at the bedroom door, clawing at it frantically.
I hear the stairs start creaking behind me.