There was a loud crash in the hallway. Carly’s fingers froze on the keyboard and she closed her eyes in frustration.
“Stupid cat,” she muttered as she got to her feet. She grabbed her mug of tea and headed for the door. Out in the hallway, a now-familiar scene greeted her. Dottie Allen’s hibiscus pot lay on its side, dirt scattered across the antique rug. Carly glared at the cat, who sat innocently by the door to the basement and meowed when it saw Carly.
When she’d taken Dottie’s nephew George up on his offer to house-sit while his aunt was in the hospital, it had seemed like the perfect opportunity. She would have a quiet country spot where she could write and make a few bucks on the side. All she had to do was keep the house tidy and feed Dottie’s cats. Unfortunately, this particular cat managed to knock the plant over every time Carly sat down to write. With a sigh, she set her tea down on the side table and went to get the dustpan and broom.
Dottie Allen was something of a town legend. She was the last of a dying breed—the spinster. Dottie had lived in this house her entire life and had never married, despite being one of the most sought-after women in town. The rumour was that when her childhood sweetheart, Andrew Gibson, had returned from the war, he was a changed man and he’d refused to marry her. In the end, Andrew had disappeared, leaving Dottie alone and broken-hearted. And though many suitors had come knocking over the years, Dottie turned them all down, vowing to stay loyal to Andrew until her dying day.
As Carly crouched down to straighten the plant and sweep up the dirt, the phone rang. It was George, calling with an update about his aunt. Once he’d filled Carly in, he asked her how things were going.
“Everything’s fine, George. Though I really wish your aunt’s annoying white cat would stop knocking her hibiscus plant over.” Carly’s eyes wandered over Dottie’s wall of photographs that lined the hallway.
“Wait. White cat?” George sounded surprised, “Aunt Dottie doesn’t have a white cat, Carly. She has three tabby cats.”
“Are you sure? This cat certainly acts like it’s at home here.”
“Yeah, I’m sure,” said George. “One of the neighbours’ cats must have gotten into the house. Maybe that’s why it’s causing trouble.”
Carly laughed, “Yeah, I guess—” she stopped as her eyes landed on an old photograph.
“Okay, well I’ll keep you posted about Aunt Dottie. Take care, Carly.” As George hung up, the cat jumped up on the side table and knocked Carly’s mug of tea to the floor.
But Carly was still staring at the photograph. It was a picture of Andrew Gibson, looking very handsome in his uniform. He was standing on Dottie’s front porch, holding a white cat in his arms. Carly looked at the cat, who now sat at her feet, then back at the photo. Even the black spot on his forehead looked the same. Carly shook her head.
“No way,” she said, but she looked at the cat again. It meowed and trotted back over to the basement door. Carly felt a shiver run up her spine. She walked over and opened the basement door. The cat darted down the stairs and Carly followed. The cat led her over to a pile of dusty boxes. It meowed again and jumped onto an old wooden trunk. As Carly drew closer, she noticed that what was left of her tea was dripping onto the lid of the trunk. She reached a hand out and brushed some dust off one corner. She could make out the words “Corporal Andrew Gibson” along with part of an address from somewhere in town. The cat meowed again and jumped down.
Carly’s heart was pounding now, and she considered running back upstairs to call George and cancel their arrangement. Instead, she took a deep breath and flipped open the latch on the trunk, then slowly lifted the lid.
Inside lay two skeletons, neatly curled together—one human and one feline. It turned out that Andrew Gibson hadn’t left Dottie Allen after all.
Carly turned to look at the cat, but it had vanished, as all good apparitions do.
This is my submission for the Speakeasy #143. We had to write a piece of poetry or fiction under 750 words, starting with the following line:
There was a loud crash in the hallway.
Our submissions also had to make some reference to the media prompt, which, this week, is the following picture:
There’s still lots of time to participate in this week’s Speakeasy, so come check it out.
White cat image credit: Google Images