10:13pm CST, USA, Illinois, Springfield, Laketown Subdivision, 252 Circle Drive.
Katie was jolted awake by the frantic scrabbling of claws embedding themselves in the screen section of the dining room’s sliding glass door.
“Wuzzit?” she slurred from the recliner. She glowered myopically at the TV, the final scene from ‘The Devil Wears Prada,’ flashing Meryl Streep’s ending, secretive smile behind the dusty glass of the set. The music swelled in the glorious upswing that Hollywood movies were famous for ending with – the triumphant, jaunty music that says ‘Annnnd – now: HAPPY ENDING!’ as the picture fades to black and credits roll.
Katie’s sleep-mussed mind didn’t recall any cats in the picture, and certainly no cats with claws determined to turn the rather expensive screen into a pile of metal shavings on the hard wood floor. Unlike….
“MORRIS!” she shouted in the direction of the dining room, and the big orange tabby who was industriously working at widening the tiny holes.
“Mrrrrrow!” came the cheerful reply – along with renewed pinging as hooked claws snagged delicate metal mesh.
Katie growled as the recliner’s footrest dropped to the floor, along with bare feet. “That screen cost a fortune to replace,” she grumbled as she levered her sizable bulk off the well-serviced furniture. A snarled “Not again, furball,” accompanied the quick grab of the spray bottle sitting within arm’s reach on the coffee table.
Stomp, stomp, stomp. The cat, sensing an imminent dousing, made a mad dash for safety between her chunky ankles.
Horrified, Katie shifted her weight awkwardly, to avoid stomping on her pet.
Duckwalked in a broken parody of a graceful pirouette as she attempted to regain her balance.
And danced as gracefully as a crushed bird across the darkened dining room.
Well…so much for the screen door…
Katie reached out and pushed Morris’ whiskered muzzle from her lips, completely disoriented to why she was laying outside on the deck in the middle of the night.
In the shorts and next-to-see-through UIS tee-shirt she slept in.
And why everything on her body throbbed in time with her heart.
Clarity reasserted itself, as she took stock of the twisted bed of mangled aluminum and torn wire mesh which was currently between her and the wooden slats of the back deck. The screen door was, of course, ruined beyond repair.
“Oh, Morris!” she wailed, scooping up her personal orange menace and cuddling him close. It wouldn’t do to have him vanish in the night! “Why did you do this?”
A growl was her answer, as the lights and subtle background noise from the freeway cut off suddenly. Followed by 10 extremely sharp claws digging into her forearms.
Morris bounded off into the now very-dark night.
Katie disentangled herself from the ruined screen door, and trundled down the three steps to the cool, dewey grass of her back yard.
And into the leading edge of a maelstrom of orangy-red, black and sparkly particulate-matter storm.
She could feel the particles bouncing off her skin. Her hair, whipping wildly in the swirling gale, grew heavier as more particles tangled within the auburn curls. Her ears plugged up as the pressurized storm forced particulate matter up the canals to embed themselves in ear wax.
The worst part was the smell. Particles wormed their way up her nose, imparting a dry, cloying, sickeningly-sweet, coppery tang – the smell of rotting sawdust, over-ripe fruit, laced with a hint of freshly-spilled blood.
All around her, the storm raged in fury, the howl of the wind blending with…crunching noises, the groaning of bending wood, the tinkle of glass, and … in the very background, almost too low to hear … what sounded like maniacal female laughter.
Katie stood in the grass, too terrified to move…too horrified to scream … too overwhelmed by the raw forces battering her about to stop the warm rush of fluid washing down her inner thighs as her bladder voided itself moments before she inadvertently lost control of her consciousness for the second time of the evening.
Morris, emerging from the blackness, curled up at her feet.
“Mrrrrrr-Wow! Wow? That’s new.”
10:16 pm CST, Illinois, Springfield, Laketown Subdivision, 252 Circle drive. 2.1 miles from UIS.
3 minutes later. Precisely.