I wrote this story last week after my daughter told me of a nightmare she had, that night she slept with her hand on me the entire night. So some of the idea sprung from her imagination.
It wasn’t a cat, but it wanted you to believe it was. A black cat, what else?
They are why the black cats get bad reputation. It’s only through the power of the real black cat, that they still have managed – somewhat – to keep their good reputation. And that is one they deserve.
“Mommy, it’s waiting, it’s sitting there waiting for me. Please, I have to hold on to you!”
Laura picked her little girl up and put her on the hip. Nova was getting a bit heavy for this, but she managed for now. There was a sign of utter relief on the child’s face .
“What is it, Nova?” Laura asked her daughter.
“It’s waiting to get me,” Nova said. “It’s going to pull me away.”
“Did you have a nightmare? You know the things you dream about just exist in your dreams and not when you wake up?”
Nova just shook her head and put her arms around her mothers neck, looking over her shoulder.
It was getting late. Laura carried Nova to the car, waved at the kids in the window who were still waiting for their parents to come get them from daycare and then she put Nova down in her carseat.
Nova became hysterical immediately. She flailed with her arms and legs, screaming from the top of her lungs.
“Nova!” Her mother said with her sternest voice, “Behave yourself! We have to go home!”
The child jumped out of her chair and held her moms arm the hardest she could.
“I have to hold on to you, it will get me otherwise! It will get Nova.”
She hadn’t referred to herself in the third person for a long time but something had clearly happened to upset her. Laura was on the verge of going back inside to ask, but thought better of it.
Laura sighed. She had had a long day at the office where she’d had to sit in a long meeting letting the piles on her desk wait and when she had been about to go to take care of the other those she had been cornered by creepy Carl who had asked her to do him one last favor. She had reluctantly agreed and when had patted her on her behind, his lingering hand very unwelcome she had done nothing, said nothing and this angered her still. She needed to start standing up for herself, but Carl had the power to move her to a worse position in the company if not fire her so she stayed silent.
“What is it that will get you?” She asked Nova.
“The black cat!” the child screamed.
“Cats are nice, they love people, they don’t do anything to hurt them unless you pull their tails. Did you pull a cat’s tail?”
“No, but it’s not really a cat. Not a real cat. It’s just pretending!”
Laura took a deep breath. She wasn’t in the mood for this, but she would try her best not to loose her temper. Tried to tell herself that it wouldn’t help.
“Look Nova,” she said as calmly as she could. “I will sit and drive and I will keep my hand on your foot, is that alright?”
“Promise momma, not to let me go?” the child asked, and she could see the panic in her eyes. Where did this come from? She had been fine in the morning, happy and playful and not a sign of any nightmare.
Somehow she managed to fasten Nova’s seatbelt, pull forward her chair and sit down in the driver’s seat without pulling her hand away from the child for more than a second.
It was a bit of an acrobatic act to keep the hand bent backwards, holding Nova’s leg as the child sat behind her, but she managed. She pushed the car in R with her free hand and managed to get the car on the road without too much problems.
“Is it alright I let go now? We’re in the car, it won’t get us?” she asked calmly, hoping this would settle as they got driving. Nova usually loved the car. She could sit watching the scenery fly by for a long time without getting bored, but not this time.
“NO!” she screamed, “It will get me!”
Laura was on the verge of letting go, letting the kid scream bloody murder in the car. It wouldn’t be for the first time, but she didn’t. She could tell that something was really bothering her daughter and knew that if the temper tantrum got too wild then she would never be able to get her to bed in decent time.
And she really needed the evening hours for herself. She was exhausted. Tom was away on business and the days always became a lot harder when he wasn’t around. But it did mean that she got some alone time in the evenings and she did usually find a way to appreciate that.
She managed to drive home without pulling her hand away from Nova even once. And somehow she managed to get both herself, the groceries, her handbag and the kid into the house without ever letting go of Nova.
“Is it better now that we are home?” she asked, putting Nova down on the floor. The kid held her mother’s pants and looked around.
“I’m not sure,” she said. Then she shrugged her shoulders, and let go. “I guess so.”
Nova had never been a frightened child. They had never had much problems with nightmares or fear in general. Laura knew that the time might come, but so far she had been more worried about Nova’s fearlessness than anything else.
Nova didn’t leave her side though. Usually she would be happy playing in her room while Laura made dinner. But this time she pulled out her big box of Duplos and emptied the crate on the kitchen floor.
Laura didn’t have the heart to argue. Just told her that she would have to clean up after herself and continued to make dinner. When they sat at the table, Nova moving her chair from the place she normally sat at beside her dad to sit beside her mom. Laura wasn’t sure if it was because her dad wasn’t home, or because she was still afraid.
“What were you so afraid of before?” she asked quietly as they ate.
Nova looked at her and sighed.
“It comes for me,” she said. “It looks like a big black cat, but it’s just pretending. It’s something else. And it’s going to pull me into the walls.”
Laura shivered, she had never heard her speak like this before.
“And then what? What will happen inside the walls?”
Nova looked at her for a while, contemplating the matter.
“Either it will leave me there and I won’t get out. Or it will eat me!” she exclaimed enthusiastically. “But if you hold a growup, or a growup holds you, it can’t get you. Because growups are too big.”
“So grown-ups can’t get caught?” Laura asked, accenting the word grown-up to subtly try to correct her daughter.
“No. It can’t get them.”
“Well, it can’t get you either. No cat or whatever it is can get in here, you know?”
“It’s sad, cats are cuddly and cute and nice. And it steals their look and makes Nova afraid.”
Laura sighed. They ate their fish and potatoes in silence and Nova continued to play on the floor while Laura put the leftover fish in the fridge, hoping they would get to it sooner or later. Then she put the dishes in the washing machine. When she was done she helped Nova put the duplos that hadn’t been used in the castle in the box again. They lifted the box and the building into Nova’s room and she sat with her on the floor for a while, mostly looking at her phone, while Nova built and told her stories from her day.
Laura listened, tried to be enthusiastic about what Nova told her and tried to assist in the building of the castle thing, but she found her looking at the phone, browsing Facebook, waiting for a text from Tom.
Then it was bedtime for Nova. Laura stood up and declared, more relieved than she would admit, that it was bedtime and that Nova needed to wash up and brush her teeth. The child didn’t protest, she got to the bathroom, washed her hands and willingly let Laura brush her teeth. Then she found her jammies and quickly jumped onto her bed, anticipating a goodnight story.
Laura and Nova carefully chose a happy book with no cats, nor monsters in it. It was a book about a sad Platypus that needed friends and found them. Nova asked some questions, but she was tired so after the goodnight song she quickly fell asleep.
It was a relief. Laura loved her daughter, but being alone with her wasn’t always easy. She couldn’t for the life of her understand how single parents survived. She was exhausted after just a few days with Tom away. She managed, but it exhausted her.
She kept the door to Nova’s bedroom open and tip-toed into the kitchen, poured herself a glass of red wine and pulled out a small bowl of ice-cream. She shouldn’t indulge but it had been one of those days and she figured she deserved it.
She took her findings into the living room and turned on the television. A stern man in a grey suit with bad hair met her on the screen talking about the latest political scandal with a bored blond woman in a blue jacket.
She turned Netflix on and continued watching Supernatural. She had seen all the episode before, but she wanted to watch something easy, something she didn’t have to be too focused on.
She had apparently turned off the last episode prematurely, because on her screen she saw Jensen Ackles climb out of a car to lip sing to Eye of the Tiger.
The scene made her laugh. She was sipping her wine when she saw something out of the corner of her eyes.
She turned to look, but there was nothing there. She got up to see if Nova was already wandering out of her bed to get to her bed, but Nova was fast asleep, holding her Bunny Longears tightly.
Laura went back to the couch and continued watching.
“I’m pulling demons out of innocent people,” Sam Winchester tells her in a determined voice.
She finished her wine. She shouldn’t have more, but still she went into the kitchen and poured herself another glass. A little less this time. It was Thursday, after all.
When she was getting comfortable in the couch she glimpsed something. She looked, quickly. And for a split-second she was sure that there was something there, underneath the table by the window. Something black and staring.
She got up and pulled MumboJumbo out from underneath the table. It was a rather big Panda teddybear that Nova had received from her grandparents for her third birthday. It had been left in the dust recently and Laura fantasized about putting the damned thing into a big box and keep it in the attic for a while, but each time she had suggested it Nova cried and said MumboJumbo was her bestest friend and then she abandoned the bear as soon as Laura gave up on her mission. She’d thought about just letting him disappear, she’d done it before, but it seemed a bit premature. The bear could be around for a little while longer.
She put the bear on the couch beside her and continued watching. The episode was good and she couldn’t quite recall how it ended so she sat plastered to the television, finishing her bowl of ice-cream and her second glass.
She needed more than that to feel drunk, but it relaxed her and gave her that settling nice emotion she liked to have at the end of the day. When the episode ended she had fallen asleep. Her head lulling forward, her mouth open, a quiet snore escaping her mouth.
She didn’t notice the thing lurking where the bear had been before. She didn’t notice it glaring at her and then into the child’s bedroom. Didn’t notice that it snuck quietly over the floor, tip-toeing like a cat, silently.
She woke up to a sheer shriek. She was on her feet and in Nova’s room before she could even register that she was awake. But Nova wasn’t there. Bunny Longears was gone as well. She ran into her own bedroom, thinking maybe the kid had crawled into her bed half asleep and not minded that she or her father wasn’t there.
But Nova wasn’t there either.
“NOVA?” she screamed. She ran into the living room, wondering where the child could have gone without her waking up. Nova could hardly move in her own bed, while Laura slept in the other, without her waking up. She always woke up before Nova crawled into bed with them, woke up from the creaking sound Nova’s bed made when she climbed out.
She ran into the kitchen. Maybe she had gone for a glass of water and not wanted to wake her up? It was a long shot, because she had never done it before, never felt the slightest bit concerned about waking her parents up for whatever reason.
“NOVA?” Laura screamed again.
And that’s when she saw it.
It was huddling by the wall in the hallway. It’s eyes glaring menacingly at her. It wasn’t moving, just sitting there hiding its paws underneath its face, as if it was preparing to catch a mouse.
“Jesus,” she exclaimed, “What the HELL is this? Get out!”
But she knew already that this cat hadn’t just snuck into the house somehow. She knew already what this was. So she stood there staring at it, unable to move, unable to think the thought.
The cat rose up, cocked its head and she could see a pair of red eyes glaring at her. This was no ordinary cat.
“NOVA?!” she screamed again, louder this time. Her heart was burning in her chest, burrowing itself out, the panic rose and when she thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.
The black cat didn’t growl. It backed up towards the wall and she could see a slow transformation happening, beginning in the tail and slowly running through the cat like a slow wave up to the face.
Before her stood a thing. Something she had never seen before. It wasn’t much bigger than the cat, but it didn’t remind her of a cat at all.
“What have you done with my daughter?” she screamed at the thing. She was terrified, but the thought that her daughter had been dragged off somewhere by this… this thing, whatever it was, terrified her more. Nova would be so afraid, unable to reach her. Maybe even unable to call her.
That’s when she heard the muffled screams.
“Mommy!” she heard. “MOMMY WHERE ARE YOU?! I’m AFRAID!”
Her heart sank.
“Please,” she whispered towards the thing, “let her go”.
“MOMMY!” she heard the scream again. It sounded as if Nova was farther away, but trying to scream louder.
She couldn’t be afraid of this thing. She couldn’t let her daughter be taken, by whatever this was. She couldn’t just stand here petrified and wait for whatever was happening to stop. Couldn’t stand here and wait for the worst to be over, she had to act, had to stop it, had to revert it somehow. Had to make sure nothing happened to Nova.
She lunged at the thing, not knowing what she was going to do, but she didn’t have time to stand here and think about it. Her daughter was in trouble and demon, or no demon, she would be damned if she’d just stand there and let it take her daughter.
She grabbed a hold of it as it was morphing into the wall. She managed to grab a hold of its tail, just before it vanished entirely. She tried to pull it back, but despite its size it was extremely strong and she couldn’t budge it. Instead the thing dragged her forward, and just when she thought she would get leeway on the wall she noticed that she slipped right through it. She held the demon’s tail as hard as she could, but it scuttled forward as if nothing was holding it down.
She suddenly found herself in darkness, but she held on tightly, feeling her clothes tear as she was dragged forward on the ground, her skin would be next and the beast wasn’t slowing down.
She saw nothing, but felt a cold wind in her face.
“NOVA?” she screamed at the top of lungs and when she heard the answer she wasn’t sure if it came from behind her or in front of her. She thought of letting go off the tail, but figured that in this darkness the beast was her best bet.
After a few minutes of being quickly dragged on the rough ground the demon slowed down and she could feel it poking at her. Proving her as if it was trying to get rid of an irritating parasite, which she guessed she was.
She didn’t let go, but tried to raise herself. It shook its tail, her hand flailing with the movement, the unlikely strength of the beast still confusing her.
She was just starting to see a hint of something, a hint of the beast in front of her, maybe a cliff before them, or was it a wall?
“NOVA?” she screamed. And she could hear her daughter answering her. She was closer now. She stood up, but hunched down as she wasn’t prepared to let go of the demon yet.
Its bite came suddenly and unexpectedly. It bit her hand so hard that she was forced to let go of the tail. She felt the blood ooze out of her hand. She tried to grab a hold of him again, but it was gone before she knew it.
“I WILL NOT GIVE UP. I WILL NOT LET YOU GET HER!” she screamed after the thing and stood up.
“NOVA?” she screamed.
And when she heard her daughter’s screams she started moving, trying her best to stop her hand from bleeding. She could see better and better as her eyes slowly got used to the darkness. It was a rather rough terrain, sharp-edged rock everywhere. She called again and listened to where the sound of her daughter came from. She yelled for her to keep calling and then she started running towards the sound.
She found her in the middle of a ring of black cats. She wasn’t fooled, however, she realized what they were. They wouldn’t fool her in this strange place.
“MOMMY?” Nova cried, “I’m really scared.”
“I know, honey!” Laura said loudly and clearly. “This is really scary, but it’s just a kind of a dream. And I’m going to get you out of it.”
She wasn’t sure if she could keep her promise, but she would do just about anything to get that look of sheer utter horror off her daughters face.
“Are you hurt?” she asked, while pushing one of the cats out of her way. The animal transformed quickly into a small demon and she could feel the thing biting her legs. And then another. And another.
“Come Nova!” she urged her daughter and the child came running. An expression of utter relief on her face as she realized that she was not alone anymore, that no matter how scary the situation then at least mommy was here.
She put the child on her hip and started walking away from the beasts that were clinging to her feet. Their sharp teeth biting, their claws scratching. They weren’t cats, their teeth were larger and their claws sharper. One of the monsters tried to climb her leg to get to Nova, but Laura pushed the thing off her and started walking quicker. The pain was bad and she could feel blood seeping out of her wounds, but she wasn’t going to give up here, not now.
She started running, which wasn’t easy with a four year old child on her hip, but she did the best she could and she kicked the beasts out of her way.
“What stopped them?” she asked Nova.
Nova had been sitting in a circle with all these beasts around her and yet they hadn’t attacked her. Laura knew that that was exactly what the beasts meant to do.
“Bunny Longears,” Nova declared and held out the stuffed animal.
“Hold on to him,” Laura said firmly and kicked another demon off her shin. She was starting to feel a little dizzy, unsure if it was from blood loss or from the way she was pushing herself.
She didn’t know where to go, how to get out of this place. It was dark and she couldn’t see very far, but she tried her best to get back to the place where they had entered. It was hard to tell, though, in what direction exactly the beast had dragged her.
She heard the beasts following her, but they kept their distance.
“Can you imagine what happens to children who’s mom doesn’t wake up?” Nova whispered and the thought horrified Laura, not because she could picture what happened to them, but because she really couldn’t. It was incomprehensible.
She found a dark stone wall, and she tried to follow it, hoping that the stone would have an opening big enough for them, or at least for Nova.
After a while she found an opening, but the beasts had anticipated her move and they were standing in rows in front of it, some had even climbed the wall and were waiting above the hole, ready to jump down on them.
She stood in front of the crowd of beasts, relentlessly tired from holding her daughter on her hip. She moved Nova to her other side and told her to hold Bunny Longears up towards the beasts.
She heard them hissing, a quire of strange, harsh voices growling at her all at the same time.
“They’re not cats,” Nova said firmly.
“No, darling,” she said, “They’re no cats.”
“How will we get home?” Nova was crying again.
She stood waiting. Nova held her Bunny toward the beasts and they seemed to despise it, abhor it.
“Don’t ever let go of Bunny Longears,” she whispered in Nova’s ear. Then she put the girl down on the ground and hunched down beside her.
“When I go that way, you run through the hole and get home. I’ll be right behind you”.
“NO mommy!” the girl said firmly, “They will eat you”.
She looked at her. “I can’t see any other way,” she said.
The girl looked at the beasts, took her mother’s hand and prodded forward Bunny Longears held high.
“They can’t get kids who are holding their mommies, and they’re not supposed to take mommies,” the girl said calmly. She moved forward slowly, keeping her hand held high and the other firmly in her mothers.
And the beasts moved away from her, scurried away, the sound of their discontent ripping through every nerve, like when Nova used to drag her fork, harshly, agains her plate. But they were soon by the hole in the wall.
“You go first mommy,” the child said, but Laura shook her head enthusiastically. “We will go together, we’ll manage.”
Nova nodded her head and they squatted down. Nova still holding the bunny before her, to ward off the monsters.
“I didn’t know Bunny Longears had magic powers,” Nova whispered as they were crawling, backwards, through the hole. When they got to the other side, safe and sound in the hallway of their own apartment, Laura sighed of relief. The hole closed as Nova pulled Bunny Longears from the wall.
Nova stood up and looked at her mother.
“Blood,” she said pointing and went into the bathroom to fetch band-aid. Laura got up and followed her, unwilling to let Nova out of her sight. She was wounded, but she wasn’t bleeding as much as she had thought. She washed her wounds and tied an old sheet around the worst areas. And then she let Nova put about a gazillion band-aids on her.
“Do you need to go to the doctor?” Nova asked seriously.
Laura shook her head, “I think I’ll be fine”.
She took Nova in her arms and carried her up to the bedroom.
“Do you think they’ll be back?” she asked Nova.
The child shook her head, “But we should get a cat,” she said, “They won’t ever come here if we have a cat.”
“Good, then tomorrow we’ll get a cat,” her mother said.
She didn’t sleep that night and Nova refused profusely to let go of Bunny Longear, which she was just fine with. She suspected it would be a while till she did.
The next day she called creepy Carl told him that she would take the day off and that she would report him if he get behaved inappropriately again. Then Laura drove half the day to make sure that they would have a cat in the evening. Tom would have to understand.
It was a small kitten that Nova chose and quickly named Spaceboy.
It was completely black.