We were talking about how often we’ve been truly scared at work yesterday and the one moment that always surfaces was brought to light. I can’t believe I’m about to admit this, but we don’t have to go back too far in the annals of history to find the last time I was scared shitless. Not even being threatened by a guy holding an axe or being robbed at knife point had the same skin whitening, teeth chattering, “oh my God I need to change my shorts” gumption as that one moment in the fall of 2004 did. And I will tell you all about it.
I had recently moved in to a loft apartment above a local chiropractor’s office. The rent was cheap, no one was in the house in the evening or weekends, and it had a full kitchen, bathroom, and the basement had a laundry room that I had full use of. It was small, but the romantic in me reckoned it was the perfect place for a writer to live. The pipes stuck out of the walls, the old wooden floor creaked with the wind, the small windows more like portholes than windows. Plus, it was a nightmare moving things up the narrow staircase so it came furnished with everything but a television or computer.
As in most major cities, certain parts of the downtown core should be avoided after dark; while my new loft accommodation wasn’t in one of the worst ones, it was in a very quiet, secluded part of the core that was a haven for druggies and struggling junkies willing to sell their abused wares for their next hit. After having the door of the chiropractor’s office knocked on at 3 am on more than one occasion, I thought it best to sleep with my trusty 5-iron under the bed. Of all my golf clubs, I hit my 5-iron most consistently and that knowledge soothed me on many an evening.
On the Monday I was woken up by the sound of yelling outside my window; Tuesday night came banging on the door. Wednesday was quiet, but Thursday brought more yelling and banging, and Friday, well, let’s just say some lucky junkie earned enough money in the bushes under the window of my place to buy her next fix. I thought two cats going at it sounded scary – the sounds they were making were downright eerie. By the time Saturday night came around I definitely needed to go out and see a movie. A group of us met at a nearby restaurant and then went to see The Grudge starring Sarah Michelle Gellar about a young American girl and a rather creepy Japanese boy and the hauntings that follow.
The movie itself wasn’t too scary. It had its moments, much more suspense and anticipation driven than most modern horror movies that rely on buckets of blood and grotesque images and figures. The character of the young Japanese boy, who I have always called the “catboy” because for some reason I found him very feline and he always made a “creaking/mewing” noise when he opened his mouth. I’ve heard my own cats make this sound when they’re stalking bugs so it’s not a stretch for my imagination.
The creepy little cat boy!
We all went our separate ways, even though I had an invite to spend the night somewhere else. In a rarity for me, I declined. I had just begun my children’s novel and my head was swimming with ideas I wanted to capture before I forgot them. I sidestepped three junkie prostitutes on my way into my loft, and after making a snack and grabbing some cola, I headed upstairs to fire up the computer. I hammered out two chapters in an hour, in between yelling out my tiny window to the junkies below, “chiropractors don’t have medications that other doctors supply.” Finally, when I had heard nothing for around 30 minutes and my eyes were blurry from my computer screen, I headed for bed.
I remember hearing the door buckle amid shouts and curses and clearly remember rolling over to grab my 5-iron from under the bed. The staircase leading up to the loft was steep and narrow, no more than one person could climb it at a time, and was surrounded by a solid railing I could crouch behind if necessary. One hit is all I would need. I lay and waited; anxiously hoping I would not hear the deafening creak of old wooden stairs under foot. My grip on the club turned my knuckles white, my muscles stiff, and my knees would most likely give out should I have to move from my bed.
Outside, the trees long devoid of foliage, scratched against the tired walls of the homes that surrounded me, that enveloped me from sight of others. While snow was still a few days away, the crispness in the air carried voices, transported sirens from distances rarely covered in horror movies. I was 12 paces from the top of the stairs, 12 paces from where one swing would buy me time to call the police, but those 12 paces seemed like a never-ending hallway at that moment.
When my 5-iron hit the floor, the blood red digits on my alarm clock screamed 5:04. Hours had passed and I had drifted. The outside world was still dark, still quiet, still lifeless and angry. The junkies and bums had crawled away, hopefully far away, but I couldn’t be too sure. I rolled to reach onto the floor to pick up my security blanket both on and off the course and felt relieved when I felt the cold metal shaft in my hand. I rolled back, soon cradling the club against me, allowing my momentum to take me to the center of the bed.
I do not have a word for the sound that escaped me. It wasn’t a scream. It wasn’t a yell. It wasn’t a combination of the two. To my dying days, I will fail to come up with the exact words to tell you the exact sound I made when that cat, the cat I shared a building with but had never seen, greeted me with a friendly mew that dragged on long enough for her my heart to nearly explode and my butthole to pucker more than the 18-year old buxom blonde in the kissing booth.
He sat staring at me, his oval face cocked to the side, the shiny white paws stretching out towards me. I was breathing heavy yet hardly breathing. My eyes didn’t blink. He stuck out his head and rubbed it against my trembling hand, purring like the happiest cat in the world. He curled up beside my chest and purred himself to sleep. I lay there all night afraid to take my eyes off him.
The next time I saw the chiropractor I asked him about the cat that appeared in my loft. He told me he forgot to mention him. His name was Denzel, after his favorite actor. He spent most of his time laying on the couch in the chiro’s office, and since I never went in to the office, I had failed to see him, his food dish, or his litter tray. Unfortunately, Denzel saw and smelled my litter tray that night.