She didn’t want to get up from the computer. She felt safe when she was doing school work, facing the wall in her little home-office cubby that was supposed to be the breakfast nook. She heard a car door slam below. “I hope that’s Clay,” she said to her cat, who a week ago would have been peacefully curled up on his kitty-mat beside her desk. Nothing was peaceful about his behavior the last few days. She slowly pushed back her rolling chair and eased to her feet, supported herself by one chair arm as she stepped around it and surveyed the kitchen.
“Oh shit, oh shit oh shit,” she moaned as she caught sight of Amos, fur spiking, tail huge, ears flat as he stared at a point above the kitchen sink to her left. “Come here baby, here kitty kitty,” she called. She sidled towards the arched doorway that led to the dining room. She didn’t want to follow her cat’s line of sight.
The pounding on her front door made her jump. She heard Clay shout, “Sam, it’s me…,” and she trotted past the dining table, calling, “I’m coming, just a minute!”
Clay was a large man–he’d gained some weight since their break-up two years before–and he could be stubborn, repetitive, and pushy, but he didn’t hold grudges and accepted their new status as “platonic friends.” Sometimes, when they went to a movie together, he’d be like jam falling off bread, oozing closer to her, his mouth brushing her ear and cheek. Sam didn’t like being blunt, but when she had to be, he took the rebuff with a laugh. Now he was half bent over in her doorway, gasping for breath. “I ran up the stairs,” he explained as she let him in.
“Clay, shhh,” she held up a finger. “Go very quietly to the kitchen doorway and look in. See what Amos is doing.”
His brows bunched and his mouth stretched but he didn’t say anything; he was obviously trying to keep his expression from reflecting his thoughts. He obeyed her, and she followed him. They could both hear the cat’s low, wavering growl.
He halted just inside the kitchen; she stopped a foot behind him. “What do you see?” she whispered without looking herself.
He grunted as he walked over to the light switch a few feet away. He flicked the overhead light on and off several times. “Hmmm,” he said, then dropped to both blue-jeaned knees and crawled close to Amos. “What is it kitty? What do you got there?” he said softly.
Samantha watched him for a moment as he approached the cat, and then reflexively, without realizing until it was too late, she glanced up above the kitchen sink, at the window and the flowery tiers and the crown molding that divided the realm of the ceiling from that of the wall. Her stomach squeezed, her heart slammed against her ribs, she forgot to breathe as her jaw seemed to lock, her teeth grinding together. She tried to speak, she pointed.
Clay hopped to his feet as Amos hissed and howled; in a blink of an eye the cat disappeared. “It’s just a shadow,” he said without turning around, without seeing her reaction. “It’s just a natural shadow….” He lurched backwards, into her, stepping on one of her feet.
That roused her, unset her jaw, and she shouted, “Ow!” as he bundled past, leaving her between him and the impossibly dark, vaguely human, legless thing that floated like a black-hole against her yellow wall and curtain roses. “Clay?” she turned in his direction. “Clay, help me.” But in a moment he was gone; she heard his heavy footsteps and then the front door bang open. “Clay, don’t run away from it!” she nearly screamed as the light-less mass collapsed into a small ball and shot after him.