I came awake from restless dreams to check my phone for the time, exactly 3:00 am. I’d tangled myself most effectively in my blankets, overly warm, but casting them off of me I felt too exposed, too vulnerable. Exposed/vulnerable to what, though? My cat was noticeably absent, probably due to my wild sprawl across the bed. I found her familiar shadowed presence curled up on the rug. My touch served to illicit that semi-surprised “prrrp?” from her. Stretch, and she hopped up next to me, mashing her little face into mine.
Shouting from down the street. We both froze, looked at one another as though mutually questioning whether it had been a real voice at all, each seeking confirmation from the other that it hadn’t been imagined. More shouting, and my cat and I moved simultaneously to the window, both of us trying to peer through the same gap in the blinds. Nothing. We both angled our heads and craned our necks trying to glimpse further down the street. I glanced at my cat, hoping to catch her eye, momentarily amused by our mirrored behavior, but I was to her left, both of us looking to our right, and my eyes only met the back of her kitty head, her little ears pitched forward to capture the next volley of shouting.
Opposite side of the street, a woman streaked by wearing some sort of raggedy pastel club getup, the effect of her being largely yellow under the street lamps. She proceeded to skitter up the sidewalk in her pointy little heels, turning once to shout back over her shoulder something angry and distorted by chemical substances no doubt. My cat and I glanced at one another, confused, and looked back out the window just in time to watch the woman move up the sidewalk and out of view.
Quiet nighttime street sounds resumed. Minutes passed. A car went by. And then another. I quit the window, and so too did my cat a little while later.
The air seemed charged with something. I sat up in bed, glancing around the room. My cat crouched with her back to me, tail thrashing intermittently. I tried to identify what felt amiss, couldn’t. 3:15 now. I got up to pee and stubbed my toe on the flat-iron I’d left on the floor, cord stretched across the doorway as though thus intentionally placed so as to trip intruders, albeit intruders intent on intruding into the bathroom. My clumsiness only succeeded in feeding this growing sense of apprehension in me.
I came back to the bed, my cat having slipped away silently to be swallowed by bizarre portents and kitchen shadows. Too warm for blankets, but too spooked to go without. 3:19. I pressed myself into the seam between wall and mattress, cast a quiet “meow” into the darkness, relieved to see that round little shape slinking across the floor, earpoints catching stray lamplight through the blinds and seeming to glow.
Unsettling thoughts on nightmare things and other storybook creatures. I summoned my cat to me, even though I knew I didn’t really have that kind of power over her, just that she’d decided to indulge me for the moment, responded, curled up beside me. A comforting warm lump, tail still twitching because something was indeed amiss, but nothing either of us could point to.
Thus we bunkered down to wait it out, and by 3:42 we agreed, cat and I, that whatever it was had passed us by.