PATCH – A Short Horror Story
By Fiona Dodwell
Patch is keeping me awake – again.
It isn’t his fault, really. I am, in a way, imposing upon his nocturnal territory. At night I have a very stringent routine (a shower, brush teeth, lock Patch in the lounge and then head upstairs to bed). Last night and again this evening I have foregone the above and instead opted to sleep on the sofa. The main reason for this disruption of my normal bedtime routine is simple: the bedroom upstairs seems to absorb the noise from next door. Lately the couple from number 12 have been arguing into the small hours; their taught and screeching voices echoing and bouncing around the walls of my room until night turns itself into a drab, new November day.
I can’t face another night like that. They are driving me mad, the both of them like cats snarling at each other, drink and whatever substance they’ve been inhaling certainly making them worse.
So, it’s me and Patch, the greying cat I’ve lived alone with for the past six years. He’s spoiled rotten and refuses to go outside at night. He’s the only damned cat I’ve ever heard of that refuses to prowl the dark streets. He traverses the town by day, and stays in once darkness hits. He’s not easy to sleep around, either. The night starts out quiet and restful, but it only takes a couple of hours before out of the darkness comes his paws, batting away at my face, mewling into my ears and scattering across the sofa as I lie in wait for sleep to come. Sleep. So easy to take for granted when you’re on a roll, but when those nights come that steal away your deserved rest, it feels like a taunting shadow – impossible to grasp.
I have been lying here for about two hours. It must be nearly midnight. The curtains are pulled over; every now and then a car swishes past outside, wheels churning up rain watered puddles as it whizzes through, a quick blaze of light from headlights slicing into the darkness through tiny gaps in the curtain. I can make out the shadows of the furniture in my lounge; the outline of the armchair situated across the room from me, the TV set and the cat’s scratching post. At night, everything takes on an unfamiliar edge.
I am sure I can hear the distant rumbling voices of the occupants from next door, their voices certain to erupt into a volcano of bad language and pulsing temper at any given moment.
I sigh. I’m getting fidgety now – I don’t cope well without sleep.
I twist myself onto my side, the cushions from the sofa piled up around me. I tuck the duvet around me until it’s tightly under my chin. I close my eyes and take a deep breath.
Instantly, just as I begin to relax, I feel feet gently land on me and begin a quiet, timid walk across the contours of my body. Patch! “Get off me,” I hiss in frustration. I nudge my elbow to the creature and hear him jump to the floor with a small thud.
I feel bad but I need to sleep.
I have to be up at six a.m for work tomorrow – Jarvis will go mad if I’m late in again.
I close over my eyes and try to block out the sounds around me. The pitter-patter of the cat’s feet as it treads around the lounge; the ticking of the large clock from the nearby kitchen wall. The voices from next door.
I begin to count in my head, anything to distract me…. 100, 99, 98, 97, 96, 95…
I feel Patch leap up onto me; his sharp claws pressing into my chest. His every scratch feels magnified as I lie here, he is snagging and tugging and pulling and grabbing at my t-shirt.
“Patch!” I shout, clenching my hands together. “Stop it or I will lock you outside!” The animal scampers away.
The room falls quiet for a moment.
I turn again, twisting the duvet into position with me, adjusting myself. I lick my dry lips, tuck my hair behind my ears.
Thud. Thud. Thud. A quick jolt and his feet are on me again. Up and down my body, walking, walking, walking. I feel that familiar pressing against my skin, the sharp nails digging into my flesh.
I grunt and sigh, then throw back the duvet. The cat lands with a dull whomph to the floor. I can’t see him but I can hear him scattering around the room now; I’ve pissed him off.
Well, he isn’t the only one who has had enough.
“You’re going out now, whether you like it or not.” It’s so dark that I am guessing my way around the room now, I take small, slow, deliberate steps. I place my hand on the cold wall and slide across until I feel the nub of the light switch. I slap it on and wince as light floods the room.
I am about to head over to the back door, to pull it open and encourage Patch outside when I pause by the doorway.
I stand still, my eyes blinking hard at the window facing the garden.
Patch is outside. Sitting at the windowsill beyond the pane of glass, looking in at me with wide, green eyes. He wants in.
But if he’s been outside all of this time, what the hell is that thing in here with me?
A small noise, then. Something that sounds like a laugh echoes around the darkness behind me. I see something dart quickly from the corner of my eye. A whiff of something sour and rotten reaches my nostrils. Patch, still outside, watches me with widened eyes then scampers into the night when he sees I’m not alone. What has he seen?
I’m frightened to turn around.