The following story is based on a nightmare I once had. A long time ago. The dream was as real as dreams can be and it’s stayed with me ever since.
The Cat’s Hand
Black shadowy fingers shimmer on the thin drapes. The soft eldritch glow of the gaslight warms the far corners of the room as I lay in bed. The air is cold and my dry throat feels like a chimney, my lungs fanning the kindling in my chest. My heart is an open fire. And I’m drenched in sweat beneath the blanket.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Rain falls. The trees shiver in the wind, and in slow rhythm drops of water hit the window. The shadow fingers scuttle like a cluster of spiders feeding on mummified prey. The storm builds to a crescendo, swelling like an orchestra of drumsticks rattling the glass.
Something is coming. The paws of a four-legged creature pad along the gutter.
It enters the roof through the eaves and into the walls. And I sense it. It is in the room with me.
Muscles seize. Can’t move.
The monstrous, oversized feline jumps onto the foot of the bed. A silhouette form moving in a frenzied manner against the backlight from the street. Foot-by-foot it crawls on my rigid body, its black shape growing, pressing on my stomach. The weight on my gut makes me want to vomit.
Purrs murmur in the back of its throat. It bares its fangs and a vehement hiss escapes – a threat, a warning of what’s to come. Green demonic light glimmers over the eyes like two crystal balls signalling my fate is sealed.
My heart tightens like a fist, punching against my breastplate as the creature’s tail rises over its body; attached to it – a human hand.
I gasp. Sound catching in my throat. I’m unable to cry for help.
Its nails are twistingly pointed. Deformed talons. Each finger spreads and curls into a clawed hook, swiping the air as it comes at me.
Can’t move. Can’t breathe. Can’t escape.
There’s no way out.
Then everything happens so fast.
The cat’s hand swipes at my cheek.
Free from what felt like rigor mortis, my left arm shoots up and I snatch the end of the tail before the mangled claws gouge the flesh from my face. I cry out: “Father!”
My eyes flick open. I’m holding my clenched but empty hand in the air. The rain is no more. The cat has gone. And I am wide awake.
“Everything all right, son?” Father is standing at the door.
“I’m all right. Just a bad dream, that’s all.”
“Okay then. Goodnight.” Father closes the door behind him.
I steady my breath. My surroundings are deathly quiet. So quiet I can hear and feel the pulse thumping in my ear. Thank God, I’m all right.
The gaslight goes out and the room falls into complete darkness. Fear subsides and feeling stupid, I chuckle at how vivid and real the nightmare was.
Before closing my eyes, I scan the room and everything in reality is how it was in the dream. Everything but the cat’s hand.
© 2019 Mark Young. All rights reserved.
Story by Mark Young. Illustration by Grant Springford.
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