This story motivated by a writing challenge from Daring Discourse (http://daringdiscourseblog.com/2012/09/06/you-considered-it-all-for-a-second-and-put-it-down-to-slight-of-hand/). I think when I was a kid that I was scared of a lot. Anyway, if I were being critical of this story (which I’m not cause I wrote it), I think I’d call it “indulgent”. What the heck is wrong with that, I ask.
I often heard it scratching about on the roof, where it made its home among the shingles. It did this only when I was alone at night, snuggled under the blankets. Sometimes, I caught a glimpse of it in the window, but only the starry sky remained when I turned to see what was there. One time, I caught a strange scent, like that of an animal; but only once, and it could have been anything, brought over by the breeze.
As I grew older, I tried to capture the thing, but it was very quick. The creature always seemed to know when I was watching for it, always knew when to duck away.
Worst of all, it followed me everywhere. When my family took a trip, it managed to keep pace with us, and soon made an appearance at wherever it was that I slept. Again and again, there was the scratching on the roof and the fast movement at the window, then nothing. Though I crossed an ocean and many borders in my younger years, I was never able to lose the thing.
It scared me. Why wouldn’t it have? When a creature is following you everywhere, you wonder why. And then you start to wonder if it might come in one night and sit on your tummy as you sleep, play with your nose or scream in your ear. I took to keeping a light on in my bedroom. My family found this odd, especially since I would not tell them about my problem. But that light was all that kept me safe.
The years passed. I grew taller, stronger, smarter. More handsome, as my mom said; much uglier, as my sister often told me. I kept that light on in my room, for though I changed, the appearances of the creature didn’t. It was always there, scratching at the shingles. It was just before my twelfth birthday that I found myself looking at the stars and wishing that I could be comfortable under them. That was the moment that I decided that I would no longer hide under my blanket from the monster in the window.
The day after my birthday, I went to my room and slept under the covers with my clothes on. Darkness came; something skittered outside the window. With a flashlight in hand, I stole down to the garage, where I took my father’s ladder and carried it to the back of the house. From the bushes, I pulled out my father’s rope and slung it over my shoulder. Then I climbed the ladder into the night sky.
When I pulled myself onto the roof, I could smell the shingles. I picked my way to the base of the chimney, where the shadows were deepest, and switched off the flashlight. It was the closest I had ever been to the stars, and I stared at them for a long time. Hours, I think.
The creature came just after eleven thirty. I heard it fidgeting with my window, resting on the sill before climbing onto the roof. It was short, stubby, and had whiskers that curled around in loops. When it was close, I ducked into the moonlight and launched my throw. The rope caught the thing around the waist in what must have been the greatest throw of all time. In truth, I couldn’t have missed; there was no way that I could have missed. The creature didn’t struggle. Didn’t try to escape.
Even my flashlight couldn’t make the thing fully visible. All I could really see were the sad, old eyes. I thought I heard it sigh. Then the rope fell to the shingles. The creature had vanished, as I suppose that I knew it would. There was a smell in the air for a moment, of some animal, but the breeze took it. I stood there alone, underneath the stars.
After I put the ladder away, I went back to my room. When I slept, I left the light off.
I never saw the thing again. Ever since, I have often thought that it would slip completely from my memory. But now and then, during the night – when I am alone – I get a feeling that something is at my window. It has big black eyes, fur on its fingernails, and stripes of yellow across its back. It strokes the window pane, hinting that it might like to come in, because that is what it most desires and most definitely can never do. But mostly, it sits and whispers on the sill, sighing about the days when it was young, and so was I.