The Cat Lady
Tired of her noisy little urban apartment, Tammy Lawrence, a single woman in her mid 30’s purchases a house just outside the tiny town of Peaceful River. Getting away from the city has always been her goal. She finally saved enough for a down payment on a country home and is about to make that dream come true.
Moving day arrives and a few of Tammy’s close friends, Amber and Nelson, help her with the unpacking. While they are busy putting dishes away in the kitchen, Tammy cleans the windows. Each swipe of the cloth reveals the yard and landscape beyond.
The lawn is cut short, the gardens well tended. An old wrought iron fence along the back property line looks out of place against the modern side fencing. Beyond the fence stands the remains of an abandoned cottage. Its stone walls have survived the tests of time and the elements, however the roof sags and is dangerously close to collapse.
Everything unpacked and the windows sparkling the trio sits down to eat pizza. Nelson wipes a spot of sauce from the corner of his mouth. “How did you get this place so cheap?” He asks.
Tammy grabs a slice of pizza and floats it through the air toward her mouth. “Because people are way too superstitious.” She answers. “Something happened out here,” she says nodding toward the back yard. “You know that shack behind my property?”
Nelson and Amber nod.
Tammy takes a bite of pizza. “Someone died in there. Afterwards I guess the people who owned this house decided to move. It was on the market for awhile until they found a new buyer. The realtor told me those people didn’t last very long and the place went up for sale again. That’s when I came along”
Amber takes a sip of water. “But what happened to the cottage?”
“Unable to find any family or heirs, the place fell into ruin,” Tammy replies.
“Did you research how the person died, in the cottage I mean?” Amber asks quietly.
Tammy looks at her. Amber is a fan of the paranormal and can discuss the stuff for hours. Tired, Tammy shrugs and allows the comment to drop. Amber doesn’t push it.
After hugging her friends and thanking them for the help she watches as they walk down the front steps toward the car. With a final wave she closes the door turning back toward her new home. The quiet house settles with creaks and bumps around her.
“The noises will take some getting used to,” she thinks, “and with a week off work it should be plenty of time to settle in.
Changing into comfortable pj’s, she lights the fireplace and reclines on the sofa with a book. The warmth and crackling sounds mixed with a great story relaxes her.
The clock on the wall chimes, she looks up, 11 o’clock. Putting the book on the table she checks the locks before heading upstairs to bed. Turning back the quilt she gets in and snuggles under the warm blankets. In a matter of minutes she is asleep.
3 AM she rolls over and sits up. A cat is howling outside somewhere behind the house.
Snuggling back under the comforter, she giggles. “Sometimes my imagination is just plain silly. It’s only the wind.”
In the morning Tammy sips tea at the kitchen table. She looks out the window toward the iron fence. Most of it is covered in trees and bushes with the exception of one barren spot. Through the opening the decrepit cottage is clearly visible. A cold chill sends her upstairs for a nice hot bath.
After breakfast she visits the local nursery. It is late in the season for planting, but she manages to find a beautiful 6 foot tall willow tree on sale. She arranges delivery for the following day. Two men arrive at 8 AM. She directs them to the empty spot along the fence and watches as they plant the new addition.
“Hey lady,” one of the men say. “Can you grab us a garbage bag?”
“What for?” she asks.
“Looks like you got some animals bones back here. We can clean em up and take it away if you want,” the man says.
The men collect the bones and finish planting the tree. After tipping them generously she watches the truck drive away.
The sound of a wailing cat wakes her that night. She pulls a pillow over her head and falls back to sleep. A few minutes later the sound is back only this time it is closer to the house. Just as she pulls the pillow over her head again something scratches at the back door.
“What now,” she wonders
She looks out the bedroom window in an attempt to see the back door. The view is blocked by vines growing up the side of the house. Her gaze turns toward the willow tree. A pair of eyes illuminated by the moon light stare back.
“Really,” she says.
Grabbing a book she climbs back into bed.
“No more sleep for me tonight. Cats, rats, maybe racoons… what else?”
The morning sun brightens up the dull horizon. Tammy gets up and throws on a bathrobe. She walks through the kitchen and opens the back door. It is unseasonably cold for this time of year. She looks down at the bottom of the door. There are 3 scratches in the freshly painted facade. Her problems with cars and city noises now replaced by wild animals in the country.
“Just great,” she thinks.
Tammy spends the day shopping in town and seeing the sites. That evening she is washing up after a meal. The setting sun streams through the window. Something shiny catches her attention in the yard.
“There’s nothing there,” she says out loud in an attempt to calm the nerves beginning to unravel.
Intent on sleeping that night she reads until 1 AM and if very sleepy by the time she crawls into bed. She dreams someone is whistling. Her eyes open, this is no dream. She gets out of bed and creeps towards the window. Opening the blinds a crack she can see the yard. A woman is standing dead center of the lawn. Her form, filmy, and transparent. The ghostly apparition is holding something in her hand. It glints off the full harvest moon. Bringing two fingers to her lips the thing whistles.
Tammy’s mouth slackens and falls open. Terror turns her stomach and a wave of fear induced nausea forces bile to rise in her throat. “Get a grip” she tells herself, “this is not happening.” She closes her eyes and rubs frantically. She reopens them. The apparition is gone.
Before fear can destroy common sense she runs downstairs, through the kitchen and turns the latch in the back door. Yanking it open she can see the yard is empty.
Her mobile phone is on the table, she considers calling Amber. In no mood for witchcraft mumbo jumbo she stands at the window over the sink looking out, instead.
The clock on the wall ticks.
“I’m loosing my mind,” she thinks.
Too terrorized to sleep she turns on the T.V. in the living room. The shadows from the screen flick across her face . An hour later her eyes close and her head falls back against the couch.
The sound of metal scraping against metal startles her. Exhausted and disoriented she gets up.
The sound is coming from the kitchen.
Tammy isn’t a big fan of prayer but tonight that doesn’t matter. She puts her hands together and prays. “Please God make it go away.”
With legs like dead weight she walks toward the kitchen determined to get to the bottom of the situation. She see’s a shadow in the kitchen. “Get out of my house,” she screams, “I’ve got a gun.”
The woman’s figure appears in the kitchen doorway more solid and clear than when she had seen it in the yard. Her frame is frail and thin and in front of her she holds a pair of gardening sheers. The blades are open in front of her face. The long metal knives frame the apparitions face in a menacing v shape.
Tammy screams; the sound slices through the silent house.
The morning sun beams through the kitchen window and onto the floor where Tammy fainted. She gets up and tries to cling to regular routine. She stays busy with chores and cleaning glancing repeatedly out the window and passed the fence where the abandoned cottage sits in ruins. The hours tick by. It will soon be nighttime again.
“Enough,” she says out loud.
Jamming her arms into an old sweat jacket she stomps down the porch steps and toward the dilapidated shack. Her intentions to prove the place is empty and there is nothing there.
She walks through a gate hanging from its last screw and into the yard. It is a mess of overgrown weeds and shrubs. The front door of the cottage is missing. Holes in the sagging roof allow sunlight to illuminate the rotting interior of the structure. A gust of wind blows a shutter back. She hears a scurrying noise inside. Rational thought vanishes and fear gets the better of her. She jumps, turns, and runs back home.
“I’m loosing my mind,” she thinks for the second time.
Dropping to the steps on the porch she covers her face and starts to cry. Eventually the tears subside. She picks up the phone and calls Amber.
“Are you o.k.?” Amber asks.
Tammy breathes deeply trying to slow the thudding pulse in her temples. “What are you doing today?”
“Oh my god your scaring me, what happened?” Amber demands.
Tammy fiddles with the phone. “Please just come over, we can talk when you get here.”
Over lunch Tammy explains the noises and sightings. Amber listens intently with an understanding smile.
“Listen,” Tammy says, “you might believe in this stuff but I don’t. I think there is something wrong with me. Like in the brain I mean.”
“Before you go all psychiatric,” Amber says, “why not search the archives see if there’s any information on the cottage? We can go right now if you like?”
They finish lunch, clear the table and drive to town. The libraries parking lot is empty aside from the librarians car. Inside the place smells like musty books. Tammy breaths deeply, the aroma comforts her. After a brief chat with the librarian and directions to the archive section they find an old newspaper report. It provides the gruesome details of the death which had occurred in the cottage.
According to the article, a woman had been found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs in the cottage. There had been a bitter dispute between herself and the then owners of Tammy’s house. The old woman who lived in the cottage, Mrs. Brown, had cut down a tree in her neighbors yard. The woman tried to explain to the former owners of Tammy’s property that she needed to give her cats a quick escape route home in the event they were being chased by coyotes. She tried to explain how several of her cats had gone missing and she suspected coyotes in their disappearance.
The neighbors were unsympathetic. Mrs. Brown, frustrated by this, threatened to cut down all the trees surrounding their property. She had left the couple standing on the main level of the cottage and gone upstairs to collect her gardening sheers. The man and his wife, a young couple, became concerned for their safety and turned to leave just as the woman reappeared at the top of the stairs. Her foot caught on the carpet, she tripped. Tumbling down the steps she landed at the bottom impaling herself on the long metal blades. The couple were investigated for her murder but no proof of foul play was found. Mrs Brown’s death was ruled accidental.
Tammy looks at Amber. “Oh my god, there’s a cat lady haunting my property!”
Amber drives while Tammy babbles incoherently about ghosts and spirits.
“Calm down honey,” she says in a quiet soothing tone. “We can protect the house and you with some simple herbal spells. See how that works out, o.k.? I won’t leave you alone here until it stops, I promise.”
What else was left for Tammy to do? She accepts the offer. The duo stops at a local grocer to pick up what Amber needs for her spells and return to the house.
Amber bangs around in the kitchen preparing concoctions in a pot over the stove. Once it is ready they immediately begin the work. The house cleansing takes several hours and by the time they move to the backyard it is starting to get dark.
Amber stands in the middle of the yard, says a few words and scatters the herbs freely around the property.
“Amber” Tammy whispers, “do you see it?”
She follows Tammy’s gaze toward the willow tree. Something white and misty floats behind it. Amber’s eyes adjust to the dusky early evening and she can see the the long thin figure of a woman. She is holding something that looks eerily like gardening sheers in her hand.
“Ignore her, the cleansing must be working. I think she’s trapped behind the tree.” Amber whispers.
Tammy keeps a close eye on the ghost. Amber closes her eyes to complete the spell. The apparition vaporizes with the last line, “So mote it be.”
She opens her eyes and looks at the tree. “That seems to have stopped her.” Amber says.
They turn and walk toward the house, Amber is in the lead. The cat lady appears in front of her. Startled, she stumbles backward, falls to the ground hitting her head against a rock. She lies still.
Tammy covers a scream with her hands. The cat lady turns to face her. In a shaky weak voice she begs the ghost to leave them alone. The ghost floats toward her.
“I’ll move the tree if that’s what you want,” Tammy cries out in a moment of panic. “I’ll do anything you want, just stop this, please.”
The Cat lady stops. The whisper of a smile appears softening her angry, bitter face.
Amber moans and gets to her knees. She shakes her head attempting to clear the dizziness. Tammy kneels down to offer her friend a hand up.
“Where did it go?” Amber asks.
After ensuring Amber’s OK, Tammy explains what had just happened. They sit uneasily on the back porch in some wicker chairs.
Tammy’s back straightens. She notices a twin set of long sleek misty forms coming through the yard from the front of the house. They skim the ground floating toward the willow tree, slide up over the iron fence and disappear in the mangled yard of the cottage.
Amber and Tammy stand up in time to see the cat lady at the front door. She bends down and scoops up the two little balls of mist. She nuzzles each against her cheek then disappears through the door.
Amber and Tammy take a moment, allow what they are seeing to sink in.
“Is that it, are we done?” Amber asks.
“Ya,” Tammy says, “I think we are. Time to get some sleep. I need to move that tree first thing in the morning, wanna help?”
Amber wipes a tear from her eye. “Sure.”
The next morning Tammy and Amber uproot the tree and move it to a new spot in the yard. As they work a tiny mewling sound catches Tammy’s hearing.
“No please, not again,” she says.
They both stop and listen. The sound is solid not like the unearthly wails she had heard nights before. Tammy carefully steps through the gate separating the cottage from her home moving about the yard investigating the sound. Something on the front stoop catches her eye. There amongst the trash in ruined floor boards is a tiny kitten. His orange coat matted and dirty. Tammy reaches a hand toward it letting the frightened kitten sniff her. The little orange puff ball gets to its feet and nuzzles her fingers against his cheek.
“Well hello,” Amber says coming up behind Tammy. “Who might this be?”
“Amber grab me a towel from the kitchen please, I think we need to take this little guy inside and clean him up.”
Tammy continues to live in Peaceful River with her new feline friend. The cat lady was never seen again.