The crescent shaped moon hung high in the night sky, her silvery light shone down on the earth below, covering the leaves in an eerie white glow. It had been a long day and my every nerve was frayed from all the activity that had been swirling about me.
It had been scarcely more than an hour since the movers dropped the last box in our family room and pulled away in the van. The pizza delivery guy had even come, leaving behind a mouth wateringly delicious pie covered in cheese and olives. I should be relaxed, but still every little sound sent the hairs on my neck standing up and a growl forming in my throat.
I could tell Mommy and Daddy were getting a little agitated, but what can I say? I am a frightened dog through and through. It doesn’t help that my best friends are three scaredy cats either.
Speaking of those cats, I have not seen them in hours, in fact, not since this morning when we were locked up in the empty upstairs bedroom of the old townhome together.
Thud! Keplunk! Thud!
The rustling and bumping sent shock waves throughout my body. With a yelp I leapt to my feet and growled at the sound coming from the vicinity of the kitchen.
“Hey! Look what I found!”
Daddy’s form popped into the doorway, upon his face he wore a goofy, yet excited expression, happy that his effort to secure the remote to the television proved successful.
The quick and sudden movement almost knocked me over on my butt. A surge of adrenaline radiated through my sixty-five-pound frame. I thought I was going to pass out but managed to recover in time to make a graceful landing, providing the appearance that I was just laying down … with style.
“I heard The Birds are on tonight, you wanna watch it?”
He lumbered over to the sofa and plopped down next to Mommy, his eyes locked on hers waiting for an answer.
“Sure, I like Hitchcock, I’ll grab the chips and soda while you find it!”
She raced to the kitchen and back like she was a championship sprinter, settling into the sofa just in time to see the figures on the television go black and white. A rather chubby chap appeared on the screen and began to ramble on in a strange accent. Mommy says it is British, whatever that is. I watched, trying to focus on his words, but frankly I wasn’t all that interested in the movie, instead I wanted to explore the new house. Not alone though. That much was certain. Not alone.
Another glance at the television confirmed I was bored with this. The decision was made, I was on my feet and headed towards the family room on the other side of the kitchen. I tip toed through the dark room past the pantry and the stove and refrigerator until I could peek into the family room. A few feet inside sat three cat carriers nestled between some boxes and the wall. Two brown ones and a pink one, which no doubt was occupied by that diva Bella.
“Rapi,” my voice trembled out into the darkness.
I stood as still as dogly possible, listening intently for a response, but none came.
“Rapi? Yehudi?” I whispered with as much enthusiasm as I could muster.
It was silent for a moment. Then another. I was just about to throw caution to the wind and bark out my orange friends name again when I received an answer in the form of a squeak.
“What do you want Cindee?” Rapi’s deep latin voice came from within the nearest brown carrier.
“I want to explore the new house, you wanna come with me?”
Again, with the deathly quiet. This was beginning to agitate me.
“No. No I think I am okay right here,” the orange cat responded.
“Me too!” Yehudi’s unsolicited voice came from the carrier next to Rapi’s.
“Fine!” I huffed.
I stood for a few minutes longer, giving them one last opportunity to change their minds. It turns out their minds where pretty solidly made up.
“Fine,” I repeated, then turned and went back to the living room. I quickly found a spot on the sofa next to Mommy where I could cuddle and watch the movie.
“Hey Cindee! Cindee!”
My head popped up and my ears perked at the sound of the Cuban voice that called urgently from the other side of the house.
My own voice was hesitant in it’s reply. I mean, if it was a Spanish speaking ghost, who wants to disturb that right?
“We are ready to explore now,” Yehudi called out in a distant whisper.
I quickly scanned the room. The movie was still playing and Mommy and Daddy where staring at the television like a pair of zombies. Reassured that it was safe I climbed off the sofa and stretched before heading off to find my friends.
Trotting the short distance I soon arrived at the family room to find Rapi waiting for me, his orange head with the big chubby cheeks sticking out of the carrier.
“Can’t stay hiding forever, right?” he said with a wide-eyed expression on his face.
“I guess not,” I answered as bravely as possible, all the while scanning the room and thinking that it looked like a bomb had gone off. There were boxes and mattresses and tools thrown all over the place.
“You can’t be too safe in these old houses. No telling how many people died in here,” Yehudi said poking her black head out to look around.
“What are you talking about?”
The big orange cat was obviously perturbed by Yehudi’s comment. The way he kept his body low to the ground along with his head swiveling around on his neck like a bobble head toy belied his nervousness and the little black cats remark didn’t help matters either.
“This house, it is more than a hundred years old, and it is kind of creepy if you ask me,” Yehudi stated matter of factly.
Rapi and I looked at each other and intuitively knew that this was a bad idea.
The little black cat set off into the kitchen, disappearing around the corner. I looked over at the pink carrier and nodded towards it.
“Hey Bella …” Rapi began.
“I am not interested in going off to my death with you fools. Leave me alone!”
The orange cat sat there for a moment, mouth agape while taking in the rebuke he had just received. After it had sunk in, he let it go and shrugged.
“We doing this or what?”
Yehudi had circled back and was poking her head around the corner. Her visage was one of agitation.
I glanced over at Rapi who stared dumbfoundedly at me.
“Okay,” I mumbled.
With that, we were off.
The three of us stood at the bottom of the steps, staring up the staircase to the landing. A faint light coming from a nightlight dimly illuminated the space.
“This is nothing like our old stairs,” Rapi said with a gulp.
“No, it’s more like a tomb,” Yehudi answered with a halting giggle.
“Yehudi!” I admonished the little black cat, but not before Rapi let out a fearful moan.
I looked up into the darkness at what appeared to be two giant eyes staring back at me. I was startled for a moment, until I realized it was just the two windows set high in the wall looking out over the yard.
“Geez, enough dilly dallying, lets go already,” Yehudi grumbled impatiently.
Taking the lead, the little black cat began to ascend the stairs, which were enclosed by solid walls on either side. I glanced over at Rapi to see if we were really doing this, but all I got was a fretful shrug.
Feeling cornered I took the first step. The floor let out a loud creak, which said beware … or maybe it just said lose some weight … I am not sure which. At any rate I crept up the steps behind Yehudi, with Rapi following so close to me that I almost tripped over him on a couple occasions.
By the time we reached the halfway point of our climb I had been engulfed with a crazy mad case of claustrophobia. Just when I felt I couldn’t take it any longer the stairs opened up into a landing.
“Thank God, we made it,” the orange cat said, letting go of a deep breath of air, which apparently, he had been holding in since we left the first floor.
“Not yet, we have another flight to go,” Yehudi replied, only to be answered by another one of Rapi’s groans.
“Don’t worry, it’s only four steps,” the black cat squeaked.
This time it was me who was thanking God.
“We did it … we did it!”
The three of us celebrated our trek up the stairs. The hallway wasn’t any less tight and oppressive than the stairs had been. There were three doors to choose from. One to the left, one to the right and one straight ahead.
We all jumped in unison, then huddled together.
Our little group maneuvered so that we were facing the door to the right. Inside, it had stucco walls with thick brown beams and kind or resembled the outside of a tudor style home. The room itself was devoid of any furnishing, save for one small stuffed turtle laying on his back in the center of the space.
“Boop?” I gasped, shocked to see my stuffed animal that comforts me at bedtime all alone up here.
“Hey you,” the shrill sound filled the air again.
I ripped my eyes from Boop and raised them to the open window. Perched on the sill was a tall dark raven, his beady eyes fixed on us.
“Be gone and come back nevermore!”
With that ominous proclamation, the giant bird flew across the room and landed on top of Boop. We watched in horror as the raven plucked both eyes from Boop before grabbing the poor stuffed turtle by the neck and launching into the air. The dark bird soared across the room, out the widow and into the night sky, carrying away my beloved Boop with him.
I fell over onto the floor and began to weep. The two cats who had chosen to go on this adventure with me tried their best to console me, but I just wasn’t feeling it.
I had reached my darkest, lowest moment, or so I thought. A loud cracking noise issued forth from the door which was now to our left. All three of our heads craned in that direction in hopes of locating the source of the commotion. My eyes focused in the dark in time to see the door handle begin to rattle.
“W …w … we need to get outta here,” the orange cat stuttered.
Before he had the good fortune to take his own advice, the door abruptly swung open, missing hitting me in the face by a mere inch, instead, knocking Yehudi out of the way, her little black body landing on it’s back.
Rapi turned to flee, but before he could get even one step towards freedom two ghastly white arms shot out of the darkness and grabbed him. It all happened so quickly, I didn’t even have a second to blink. The arms had dragged Rapi clawing and screaming into the dark room, slamming the door shut after pulling him inside.
My own disembodied voice echoed through the darkness that surrounded me, interrupted only by the thumping of my own thundering heartbeat.
“Wake up Cindee!”
The soothing sound of Mommy’s sing song voice brought me back from dreamland. Slowly my eyes opened and through that blurry vision that you get when you first wake up I could see the nice blonde haired lady on television giving the news.
Slowly, I raised my head and looked around. I was still in the scary new house but curled up on the green Queen Anne chair across from me was Rapi, sound asleep. From the loud purring I deduced that it was a much happier dream then the one I had just endured.
“Ready for bed Cindee girl?” Daddy asked, rising from the sofa, and heading towards the stairs.
“Ready,” I said, hopping down and marching behind him.
Until we reached the bottom of the deep dark stairs.
“Come on sweetie, there is nothing to worry about,” he used his best coaxing voice, but it wasn’t going to work on me. Not now.
“Cinnamon,” Mommy’s voice floated down the stairs like one of those songs the robins sing outside of our bedroom window.
Lights flickered on, flooding the dark staircase with an electric glow. In that moment, the house didn’t seem so threatening anymore.
I stood contemplating climbing up to the second story, and while I did, a certain orange cat scooted past me and went bounding up the stairs, stopping on the landing to glance over his shoulder at me.
“Are you coming,” he said in that lovable tone of his.
“Look who I have,” Mommy warbled.
Boop’s head peeked around the corner, and thankfully, he had both eyes.
That was all the convincing I needed. I raced up the stairs and bounded up onto the mattress, making sure that I had my spot in the middle.
That night, I fell asleep with Mommy cuddling me on the left and Daddy snuggling me on the right and Rapi curled up between their pillows above me head. I was literally surrounded by love. What more could a dog ask for.
“Maybe a house that isn’t old and creepy to live in?” I mumbled to myself.
I let the thought ruminate for a while, then decided, that an old creepy house filled with love is all I need.