The heavy old door complained at being pulled open in the midst of a gloomy night. Already filled with nervous energy, Celeste felt her senses tingle as she ran into the chilling darkness. She ran until she was breathless, stopping under a street light near an abandoned house over two miles from the creaky old door. Startled by the easy speed of her escape, she took a moment to look around and realized she had no idea where she was.
“What now, genius?” she asked herself, pretending not to feel the fear rising in her chest. Without a hint of daylight to be seen, she knew she would soon be shivering. She dashed to the back of the dilapidated structure and looked through a small window. All was dark. The back door was open, and cautiously, she stepped inside.
Frozen in place, her heart beating loudly in her ears, Celeste dropped her bag by the door and waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness of the small room. Soon she could see the shapes of a kitchen and discovered she was not alone. She also discovered the source of the powerful odor of urine that assaulted her senses.
Eight glowing eyes from four furry creatures stared at her from the opposite corner of the room. Cats, she hoped, though the huddled mass could have been a mutant creature. She did not move a muscle. Then, voices broke the silence.
“Of course we’re cats,” said the first voice.
“Mutant creature!” said the next.
“Silly Celeste,” said another, its eyes focused on her bag.
“Come, curl with us, sleep,” said the final voice, and Celeste thought she must still be dreaming. Perhaps she hadn’t yet left the frightening ledge of her nightmare, hadn’t yet run away. She knew her dreams could jump from scene to scene without making any sense. And how could they know her name?
The furry mass did not move, but the sound of a rumbling “purrrrrr” drew her, trancelike, toward the animals. They parted to let her kneel among them. Unafraid now and believing she was still dreaming, Celeste stroked the warm fur of her strange new friends and felt a pang in her heart when she realized there had been no animals at the children’s home.
There had been no talk of animals just as there had been no talk of anything before her rescue. How was it that she had forgotten about holding the plump puppy her father brought home shortly before the event? She had forgotten about many things, and now her mind raced to remember.
Memories of shaking and shouting and deafening noise came to her then, overpowering her. She began to cry. The cats rubbed against her, coaxing her to curl up in their midst. She crumbled to the floor, her cry turning to a soft whimper, and soon she was warm and fast asleep.