Spooky | Verso.ink
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A Halloween Short Story

By Rae Sterling

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It was the day before Halloween that I found her on my doorstep. She was just too adorable, a tiny black kitten with huge green eyes just sitting on top of the Jack-o-lantern on my porch like some sort of Halloween postcard.

I was supposed to be leaving for work. But she didn’t have a collar, and she seemed too tiny and helpless to be left outside all on her own. She must have escaped from one of the houses in the neighborhood. I, being helpless against all cats and kittens in particular, had to bring her inside. She was so tiny and soft in my hands, and just about the most unbelievably cute thing I had ever seen. She was like some caricature of a kitten, her eyes way too big for her head.

Like the model employee I was, I texted my boss a picture of her at once. Deena immediately responded that I could work from home today as long as I sent her more kitten pictures. Classic Deena.

Surely someone was worried sick about their precious escapee right now. I should put up some Found posters around the neighborhood; her owner would be looking, and I bet they’d probably see it by the end of the day. I just had to keep her safe until then.

I didn’t have any cat food, but I put some milk in a bowl and set it in front of her. She refused to look at it, instead staring right at me--maybe into me was more appropriate--with those huge, unblinking green eyes.

“It’s for you,” I told her, kneeling beside the bowl and pointing at it. Did cats understand pointing? “Come on, drink up!”

She briefly glanced at the bowl, then returned to staring at me.

“Mmmm, yumm,” I said, making a show of bending down and licking some milk out of the bowl. Maybe she needed someone to show her it was safe to drink? Thank goodness my roommate Sara was out of town this weekend and not here to see this. The things you’re willing to do for an adorable kitten.

She still just stared at me, so I gave up. Guess she wasn’t hungry. I left her by the bowl, grabbed my laptop, and flopped onto the couch. I whipped up a Found flyer pretty quick, but when I got up to head out and print it, she was sitting in front of the door, staring up at me reproachfully with her huge kitten eyes.

I couldn’t leave her, not all by herself in a strange house she didn’t know. Phil was coming over after work, I’d just do it then.

“Okay, you win,” I told her, stroking her silky black fur. She didn’t purr, which seemed kind of strange for a kitten, just kept boring into me with those big bright eyes.

I pilfered some little pom poms from my craft bin for her to play with and parked on the living room floor, but she didn’t seem interested in anything that required her to look away from me.

“Come on, don’t you do anything normal kittens do?” I asked, laying on my stomach and batting one of the pompoms around in demonstration. She just tilted her head, watching me.

“Stop staring, you little creep!” I said, scratching under her little chin (my patented move for making kitties love me), but she didn’t even close her eyes in pleasure. I wasn’t sure she’d even blinked since she’d come in the house.

“You are one spooky kitty,” I told her, and then realized I knew what to call her. Spooky was the perfect name for a little black kitten I’d found sitting on a pumpkin outside my door at Halloween.

“Fine, your loss,” I told her as I went back to the couch and retrieved my laptop. I worked for a few hours, but as far as I could tell, Spooky didn’t nap or play or do anything but stare at me with those huge green eyes. Didn’t kittens spend 75% of their time sleeping or something? What was wrong with this one?

When all my work emails were taken care of, I took a few more pictures for Deena. I went all-out for Halloween so my house was fitted out from top to bottom, and Spooky looked too cute with all my decorations. She put up with it like a champ, sitting still and looking straight at the camera (although photographing black cats is pretty much impossible; she mostly ended up looking like a little black blob with two glowing orbs floating in it)

After another unsuccessful attempt to get her to eat or drink anything, I gave up and popped in a Halloween movie (Hocus Pocus, what else) so we could cuddle on the couch. Except Spooky didn’t really do snuggling. She didn’t want to curl up next to me, opting instead to sit on the far arm of the couch and--you guessed it--stare at me.

It was starting to get a little unsettling, all that staring, but I wasn’t about to miss the Sanderson sisters shenanigans because of it. I grabbed a bag of candy corn and got comfy. I must have fallen asleep at some point, because I woke up a little later with Spooky sitting on my chest, her laser eyes set to stun.

Caught halfway between waking and sleep, I was transfixed by those luminous green eyes. I couldn’t look away, mesmerized as they sort of shimmered in the late afternoon sun. I reached out and petted her, and she started purring at last, a kind of thrumming rhythm that was repetitive and soothing, and I unconsciously matched my strokes to it.

I could hear the movie playing in the background--You know, Binx, I'll always take care of you, and my children will take care of you too, and their children after that, and their children after that, forever and ever--but I couldn’t move my eyes to the screen. I couldn’t move at all, really, except for the hand that kept stroking alone her spine in rhythm to the rumbling coming from inside her…

And then I woke up again. The movie was ending, a glowing ghostly Thackary Binx saying his farewell before going through the pearly gates, and Spooky was sitting in her spot on the far end of the couch, watching me.

I rubbed the weird half-dream from my eyes--Spooky purring, now that had to have been a dream--and sat up. I felt kind of weird, but that was what happened when you ate three quarters of a bag of candy corn and slept too long in the middle of the day.

I checked my phone. Phil had texted to remind me he was coming over after work. I started to reply, but Spooky was staring at me accusingly. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. She was so little, and Phil would probably freak her out. She’d already been through enough today.

I texted back, letting him know not to bother. I wasn’t feeling well, and I was probably going to turn in early. I’d see him tomorrow--Halloween fell on a Saturday, so we didn’t have work and I’d planned a full day of Halloween fun for us. The whole Spooky thing seemed too hard to explain, and I was still feeling really tired and dazed, like I couldn’t quite wake up all the way from my nap.

I should probably eat something real to help all that candy corn settle. I tried to get up off the couch, but I guess I was more tired than I thought, because I couldn’t really stand. Crawling seemed a lot easier anyway.

The fridge was so far away, and the thought of having to take things out and cook was exhausting. The dish of milk was still sitting on the floor. It looked cool and inviting, just what I needed to settle the weird twisting feeling in my stomach. I drank it greedily, dropping my face into the bowl. It seemed vaguely strange, what I was doing, like I would look back on it tomorrow when I felt better and think it was weird, but right now I didn’t care.

The milk didn’t help. I curled up on the floor as something--or a lot of somethings--writhed inside my stomach. Something was really wrong. I should call someone. But my phone was still sitting on the couch across the living room. Way too far away. I couldn’t move move from my curled-up position on the linoleum. Dimly I noticed Spooky perched on the kitchen counter above, staring down at me.

I writhed on the floor as the somethings in my stomach twisted harder and harder, and above me Spooky loomed larger and larger until all I could see were those unblinking green eyes…

I woke up curled on the couch. Relief washed through me as I realized I felt totally fine. That must have been some pretty wicked food poisoning--mental note, next time don’t eat two pounds of candy corn and wash it down with lukewarm milk that’s been sitting out all day.

Light was streaming in the windows. How late was it? I wasn’t about to sleep through my expertly planned all-day-all-night Halloween extravaganza with Phil.

As if on cue, there was a knock on the door. Dang it, he was here already! Well, he’d just have to wait while I got ready. I stretched and hopped off the couch, but Spooky beat me to the door.

“Hey, gorgeous,” Phil said when he came in, giving her a peck on the cheek. I tried not to be jealous he was greeting her before me. Being jealous of a kitten was kind of ridiculous. “I missed you yesterday.”

“Sorry,” she said, flicking her hair behind her shoulder. Something was starting to feel a little off. Were kittens supposed to apologize, or flick their hair behind their shoulder? “I had my hands full with this little cutie who decided to show up yesterday.” She gestured at me.

“Hey, you’re the one who turned up at my doorstep,” I argued amicably, but my voice came out all weird and squeaky.

Thankfully, Phil didn’t seem to notice. His eyes lit up when he saw me, and everything started to feel normal again. “Well hello there! Aren’t you just the most adorable little thing?”

He grabbed me and hugged me, and I breathed him in, feeling better already.

“I was afraid I wasn’t going to be up to going out today,” I told him. My voice sounded better this time, or maybe I was just getting more used to it. “I got really sick last night, but I woke up feeling a lot more--”

“Quite the talker, isn’t she?” Phil laughed, patting me on the head.

“You two will have plenty of time to get acquainted later,” Spooky said, grabbing her purse--which looked a lot like my purse--from the table by the door. “Let’s go, we’ve got lots to do today. Halloween is the best day of the year, after all!”

Phil rolled his eyes. “Everyone knows that’s Christmas,” he whispered to me as he set me down on the counter. “Sure she’ll be okay on her own?” he called to her.

“Oh yeah, she knows how to take care of herself,” she said as she opened the door.

“If you say so,” he shrugged, giving me a last scratch under the chin before turning to go. “Man, those big green eyes. It’s hard to look away!”

Spooky laughed, looping her arm through his. “Oh believe me, I know,” she said, giving me a slow, deliberate wink before they turned to leave.

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