I wake when I hear it, heart already leaping, eyes wide. Not any sound, but a sound with intent. A dragging that stops then begins again, as though whatever is out there wants me to think this isn’t serious, it’s random. But I hear– I cannot see, yet I know better.
This is when everything depends on choice. Covers pulled over the head, or slide out of bed? Pat husband awake — but if I do that he’s going to make noise and I won’t be able to hear what’s really going on. We’ll both be targets then.
I slide out, slip my glasses onto my cold face, push the blankets so husband won’t wake at the draft. Feels better to be on my feet, not trapped, not predictable. Cold winter floor, fuzz of carpet and I move breathing through my mouth for silence, out the door, down the corridor, pause sidled up to the wall so I make no profile in the doorway to the main room. Wait, let eyes accustom. The shapes of furniture I picked gain strange qualities in the gloom. No moonlight, only the spark of stars far beyond the glass of chilly windows.
And there’s something moving.
Not human. Low, bulky, unrecognizable shape. Deliberate, slow, and heading straight to where I stand. My brain tumbles, reassembles a recognition.
Damned cat. Cat dragging husband’s vest like prey across the carpet. front leg to either side so he can wrangle the bulk. He drops it at my feet and raises his head, cat jaws open in a silent precise mew.
Husband’s sleep-slurred voice from the bedroom…
“Everything all right?”