Dark storm clouds hid the moon and the stars, and the gentle patter of rain had started to tap against the windowpanes. It was a perfect evening for snuggling which was why I was lounging on the sofa next to Mommy. Unfortunately, I had to deal with Rapi, who had curled up on her lap. At least Yehudi gave me some space, having decided to stretch out on one of the Queen Anne chairs on the other side of the room. There was one of those shows on television where some poor soul is lost or kidnapped. For some odd reason, Mommy loves these kinds of things. Me, not so much, they scare the heck out of me, because it always seems to end in murder.
The gardens and subsequent dash through the rain had left me struggling to concentrate on the program. No matter what I did, I couldn’t keep my mind from wandering. It started with thoughts about Rufus Johnson and Mylo the white puppy. There was so much potential that they might like me that I couldn’t stop wondering what they were up to.
It took some time, but once I managed to get them out of my thoughts, I would move on to fixating on the cookie that Mommy bought for my snack tonight. I was about to ask her, but she shushed me before I even had the opportunity to get the question out. How rude is that right?
That is when I landed on the heart of my troubles … Rapi, and how things are still not right between us. Unable to resist the temptation, I let my eyes wander in his direction until he fell square in the middle of my line of sight. The cat appeared to be wrapped up in the story playing out on the television, and so he paid me no mind. Then, without warning, his head spun in my direction. His eyes squinted and then scowled at me. I had been busted. Trapped, I was about to explain, but I never got the chance.
A loud crackling boom exploded nearby. The roar of thunder rolled through the house, rattling the floor beneath us, and startling me something terrible. My heart leaped into my throat, and I vaulted into Mommy’s lap, displacing Rapi in the process. I expected to find him giving me the stink eye, but both cats had scattered to find safety elsewhere.
Just when things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse, the lights flickered, then died out, leaving us sitting in pitch black. My eyes needed a moment or two to adjust and when they did, I could barely make out Mommy stumbling around in the dark.
“I’ll be right back; I need to get some candles.”
Another rumble formed then dissolved, this time from further away. I cast a concerned glance out the window, then let out a deep sigh of relief and turned back towards the kitchen and squinted into the darkness looking for Mommy, but I didn’t see her anywhere.
“Mommy, where are you?”
I sucked in a deep breath and held it while I listened for a reply.
I scanned the gloomy room searching for any sign of activity. At this point, I would have been ecstatic to have seen Rapi. There was movement, or at least I thought I saw something shift out of the corner of my eye. It felt like a dark presence lurking in the shadows, peering out at me from behind the void.
Alone and trembling, I did what any self-respecting dog would do. I curled into a ball and began to count to ten while I waited on the sofa for Mommy to come back. Time passed slowly, leaving me with little to do but listen to the ticking of the clock until the roar of blood coursing through my veins became so intense that it drowned everything else out. There was a tumultuous upheaval inside me, clamoring to escape in the form of a scream. I did my best to keep it at bay. With the rhythmic boom, boom boom playing inside my head, I let my eyes shift from one corner of the room to the next, hyper-aware of the shadows and what might be hiding inside of them.
The icy cold breath of the night seemed to be closing in on me. The room felt like it was getting smaller. That is when I spotted two glowing red points of light dancing in the darkness, swaying ever closer. I had reached my tipping point and let out a howl that rivaled a boiling tea kettle.
“Don’t worry girl. We will get through this together.”
I knew that voice. It was Mommy and she was back with a candle in each hand. Carefully, she set one down on the end table nearest to me then began to run her fingers through the thick mat of brown hair that covered my body.
I released a lungful of stale air and then enjoyed the soothing massage. My eyes slid shut and I listened to the sound of my breathing. Each inhale and the corresponding exhale sounded labored. This continued for a few breaths before I opened my eyes again and homed in on the candle’s twinkling light. It seemed to help if I counted the breaths so I did that until my respiration had returned to its usual tempo.
Outside, the tempest had abated leaving behind the gentle tapping of raindrops playing a tune against the windowpane, the cadence worked to pull me into a deep hypnotic daze. My ears, which moments ago had been keenly alert had become accustomed to the sound and flopped over into their natural state. It was only then that I realized that Mommy was gone.
Once again, panic began to bubble to the surface. I squinted my eyes and peered into the inky blackness and quickly spotted a small luminous ball at the other end of the room. It was not until I had spotted that sphere of light bobbing along in the kitchen that I was able to put all the pieces together. Mommy was going from one room to the next lighting candles.
Being freely able to admit my lack of bravery, I jumped to my feet and padded along close enough behind her that she didn’t escape from my sight. Everything was going precisely as I hoped it would until I reached the family room. It was here that I would catch the glimpse of an outline of a cat. Not just any cat mind you, but a certain chubby orange cat.
My friend sat perched on the back of the sofa staring out of the window. The rim of his eyelids were swollen and red. The cat’s usual joyful smile had been stolen, in its place was a pained grimace.
His eyes inclined to take in the moon, which had become shrouded by clouds and was only a dim shadow of its true self. A guttural moan issued from his lips, exposing the depths of his agony. Unaware of my presence behind him, the orange feline launched into a dirge. The melancholy notes rose and fell, lavishing me with despair until I was no longer able to bare the sadness. Unable to stand up against the sorrow a moment longer, I turned from the pitiful scene to find that Mommy was no longer there.
My eyes flitted left and right, surveying the room in search of her. My stomach had become a pot, boiling with fear, guilt, sorrow, and any number of other emotions.
I took in a deep breath and was prepared to surrender when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a soft warm glow moving up the stairs and disappearing behind a bend in the staircase. I leaped to my feet and leaving Rapi’s lament behind I fixed a course for the staircase where I could catch up to her and let her presence blanket me in safety.
Once on the second floor, I poked my head into the office and discovered Yehudi, but she didn’t seem to notice me. The small black and white cat was hunched over an open book, which was illuminated by the soft glow of a battery-operated lantern, its light appearing to gleam and quiver in the darkness.
The feline wore a mask of concentration, her gaze was fixed on the text in front of her. From time to time she would stop to ruminate on a passage, and her face would illuminate with joy at each new uncovered discovery.
For the briefest of moments, I would experience exhilaration with her. I, who am but a simple dog and have not the passion to do such things as study. While I looked on, I found myself entertaining the passing thought that perhaps I should take up reading, but then, reality would return to its place, and thankfully I would come to my senses. After all, I am more a dog of action than of thought. Having settled my curiosity about my black and white friend, I looked up in time to see a new light being born in the bedroom across the hall.
I tip-toed over to the doorway and stood with silence in the entryway, taking stock of the room. Sitting on a nightstand on either side of the bed stood a white candle each inside an ornate lantern, its faux flame dancing about as if it were a living flame. Though the candles were false, the light was real enough, pushing back the veil of darkness that struggled to encroach and engulf the entire room.
The bed had been made, yet was mussed here and there, the result of two cats and a dog sleeping, talking and playing there. It was at that very second that I was besieged by a spirit of weariness. An intense desire to sleep befell me.
With the bed beckoning me, I crept across the floor and was about to climb into it when I became aware that Mommy, no longer with a candle in her hand, was pulling back the curtains to look out at the night.
A new curiosity took over me and I moved to stand next to her. In what had seemed like slow motion, she drew back the blue satin curtain revealing a starless night that was so dark that even the moon was struggling to shine. Clouds had formed around it, but still shafts of light had managed to spill through, bathing the earth below in a faint glow.
I spotted it first. A glowing blue-white light floating along the stone pathway in the backyard. It was shaped like a luminesce ball that danced and hovered between the decaying flower beds until it reached an open area in the garden where it stopped.
I tore my eyes away from it for a moment to look at Mommy. She too had seen it. Her mouth had fallen open, and her eyes had grown wide. She stood still and stared ahead as if being held in a trance. Her lips began to move, trying to form words, but no noise came out.
“What the heck?”
I turned to find that Rapi had followed me up the stairs and was on the bed next to me peering out at the unnatural light.
I didn’t have time for him. Not now anyway. Instead, I turned my attention to the garden below and watched spellbound as the shimmering beacon grew wider and wider in circumference until almost the entire backyard was steeped in bright whiteness. Then like a supernova, it exploded into shockwaves of blinding light followed by the most intense darkness.
Mommy let out a scream and then collapsed to the floor, unconscious. I did the only thing I could. I cuddled her, closed my eyes, and prayed.
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