Not Scraps

It may not seem like it, given the usual contents of this blog, but most of what I write is actually fiction.  Below is a sample.  This was originally intended as flash fiction, a style that is intended to tell an entire story and be exceptionally short.  Short though it may be and story it may tell but it is not short enough to really be flash fiction.  I would really need to take an editorial razor to it.  I still think it’s pretty good, though.  This story is inspired by one of my wife’s many terrifying nightmares.

If you like it, you can find links to my long form fiction available on Amazon over at http://www.blackguardpress.com/

Oh, and don’t confuse this with my slash fiction.  That’s totally different.  You can find that under “Richochet/Riptide: Further Adventures in the Teacups.”

Not Scraps

 

Nell sighed in relief when she got to the top of the stairs outside her apartment and fished her keys out of her purse. It had been a very long day. But then, they all seemed to be very long days since she got the promotion. The extra money was nice, but didn’t balance the extra hours.

To save money, Nell left her apartment dark when she wasn’t there and an inky blackness filled the place and hardly seemed to budge at the light coming from the hallway through the open door. It took her a second or two to find the light switch next to the door and just before she flicked it on, she thought she saw one of the shadows that filled the apartment move, flashing away from its spot near the kitchen before disappearing.

The motion brought a gasp from her and started her heart racing, though she knew it must have been her imagination. After all, in the bright light from the living room lamp there was nothing there now.

Still, the feeling of fear didn’t go away, logic or not. So she wasn’t surprised when her voice wavered a little as she greeted her cat. “Heya Scraps, miss me boy?”

He meowed up at her, his one good eye focused on her briefly before he turned to look in exactly the spot she had seen the shadow. The trepidation built in her again, but a thorough examination of her apartment turned up nothing untoward. She did succumb to the urge to turn on every light in the place in the process.

Scraps waited with admirable patience for her in the kitchen, only letting out the occasional forlorn wail as he sat next to his empty food bowl.

After changing into some old sweatpants and a worn t-shirt, Nell returned to her pet. “You act like I starve you, brat,” she grumbled to the cat before pouring him a bowl of food. An accusatory meow was her only response before Scraps attacked his food with gusto.

Nell sighed. She couldn’t really blame the little creature. Before Nell found him, Scraps was a stray and probably hadn’t had a decent meal since his mother abandoned him or was killed.

When she found him in an alley on her way home from work one day, the tiny kitten was a few moments from becoming a snack for a hungry stray dog. She’d frightened the dog off fast enough to keep the kitten from coming away unscathed and even an emergency visit to the vet hadn’t kept him from losing an eye and having scars that would be with him forever.

“That’s not a cat, that’s the leftovers of a cat,” her mother had said after taking one look at the pathetic little kitten the next day.

Nell’s heart went out to the helpless creature, though. It didn’t seem fair that the world was picking on such a tiny little thing and she knew then that she would keep him even if no one else saw his appeal. Her mother’s comment did provide the perfect name for the cat, though. With his ragged appearance and courage, his official name became Scrappy and Nell, as well as everyone else, called him Scraps.

As the cat devoured his food, Nell headed for the living room. A night of mindless entertainment in front of the TV would be just the cure for the nerve-wracking, headache-inducing day she’d had.

A motion in the corner of her eye as she passed the hall stopped her, though. Her heart pounded again and she froze, her breath catching in her throat as the hair on the back of her neck rose. Slowly, she turned her head and looked down the hall.

There was nothing there. She could see all the way into her bedroom and the usual scattering of clothes and clutter of papers was there, but nothing out of the ordinary. Nonetheless, her heart continued to race and she couldn’t shake the feeling that she and Scraps weren’t the only ones there.

It took an act of will to calm down, go to the couch, sit down and turn on the TV. She was just tired, she reasoned. The stress from the day had set her on edge and left her jumping at shadows. Still, she felt better when Scraps joined her on the couch a few minutes later. Something about having the little mass of purring fur close gave her a sense of safety. Not that she really expected much protection from fifteen pounds of one-eyed cat.

As happened far too often lately, Nell found herself playing a balancing act between duty and fun. The dutiful part of her knew that she should go to bed early so that she would be ready for work the next day instead of being a zombie animated by far too much coffee. The fun loving part of her knew that the sooner she went to sleep, the sooner the next day and the grind that involved would come.

In the end, sleep won. She stayed up an hour later than she should have before her eyes drooped so badly that she couldn’t keep them open. Reluctantly, she trudged off to bed and settled in.

The feeling of unease from her earlier frights still lingered though and there was a certain sense of tension about her as she turned off the light. Even several hours of distraction hadn’t banished the feeling that something was in the apartment with her other than her cat. Still, the bed was soft, the blankets were warm and she was tired, so it didn’t take her long to drift off into a fitful sleep.

The night was filled with strange, ominous dreams. The feeling that there was something or someone else in the apartment with her carried over into her subconscious mind and tormented her sleep. She dreamed of being trapped in small places, like caves and cages with dangerous, vicious animals or lost in places she had never been while being chased by people who wanted to hurt her.

It was almost a relief when a strange rustling sound intruded on her sleep and woke her up. Fear gripped her again. Before her conscious, logical mind really started working there was that shimmering moment of confusion between sleep and wakefulness that left her vulnerable to her emotions and something primal in her made her freeze in terror.

Her senses sharpened as her heart raced, but her room and the apartment were quiet and still. Only the hum of unknown machinery and traffic outside disturbed the peace. A city born girl, Nell didn’t even hear those noises, and would have been more disconcerted if they weren’t there. True silence was simply not something a modern person expected.

Nell jumped when the rustling came again. This time the sound was followed by a sharp clatter before silence reigned again. Her breath came in short fast gasps, her heart pounding away in her chest. Her head spun as a heady fear filled her.

Cold sweat broke out on Nell’s body. She didn’t know how long it took her to calm down; it certainly felt like hours of excruciating tension, but since the sun didn’t rise, she knew that couldn’t be right. Finally, though enough of her reason returned to figure out what the noises were.

Scraps learned early on that he shouldn’t miss an opportunity for a meal. He often rummaged through her garbage for even the tiniest leftovers. It was an annoying habit, but mostly only because he liked to do it late at night and she always had to clean up the mess afterwards. It was also yet another reason why his name fit so well. Scraps was always after scraps. The rustling was undoubtedly the sound of the animal burrowing into the garbage bag and the clanging was probably a can falling to the floor.

“Scraps, get out of the trash!” she shouted in irritation toward the front of the apartment. Nell shook her head, chiding herself internally for getting so worked up over such a little thing. Her relief was so profound that when she lay back down, she fell asleep almost instantly. Her last thought was a nagging suspicion that something didn’t fit in place.

At first, her dreams were peaceful, filled with warmth and comfort. They quickly mutated into nightmares of being pinned down or bound and unable to escape while some unseen creature slowly stalked her. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t get away and her assailant taunted her with the slowness with which it approached as though it relished her helplessness.

That nagging voice in the back of her mind was what woke her up the second time. The night was at its darkest, and her apartment filled with a thick blackness that seemed to relish devouring the light coming in through the window.

Nell shifted her feet, trying to get comfortable so that she could at least attempt to get enough rest for work the next day. A familiar mass provided resistance and bound her feet under the covers, though. Scraps meowed with irritated indignation as she shifted him from his sleeping spot.

It was only then that she realized what had been out of place before. She was too sleepy to realize it at the time, but Scraps had been in that same spot when the rustling and clattering came from the kitchen. Her sleep-addled brain hadn’t noticed the incongruity between the cat being in bed with her and disrupting the trash in the other room.

A cold dread washed over her, sending icy trails of fear up and down her spine as the full implications of that realization hit her. Nell jumped when there was a rustling and a clattering in the front of the house again. She barely managed to suppress a shriek of fear into a simple squeak at the sound.

It took several long moments for her to gain enough control over her voice to use it properly. “Scraps?” she managed to call out softly.

Her wide eyes strained in the night seeking any sign of comfort. She could see the entrance to the kitchen down the hall and the shadow she saw earlier appeared once again. A deeper darkness in the night, it held ominous promise as it drew nearer.

“Not Scraps,” the shadow assured her in a voice filled with an unholy threat of violence and pain.

Nell just had time to give full voice to the scream she suppressed earlier.

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