Halloween approaches, and while its not quite my genre of choice, it seemed appropriate to write something a bit chillier than normal. This short story is titled ‘Purr’ and depending on your taste for scary situations, you might want to avoid reading this in the dark of your bedroom, when you’re all alone.

Purrrr

Susan’s phone vibrated for the umpteenth time that night, its flowery wallpaper casting a hazy hue across her dimly lit bedroom. She stared down at the screen, sick dread settling in her stomach. Jason calling again and again. He didn’t know how to deal with the word ‘no.’

Outside, a tentative breeze pushed tree limbs against her window like so many dark fingers stroking the glass. Fluffy sat in her lap, purring contently, accompanying her while she waited for her kettle to boil downstairs. Susan glanced down at her cat and shuddered. Jason liked to purr too, when he was feeling content or flirtatious. It used to be cute, then protective, then possessive.

Then he got worse.

Downstairs, a shrill whistle startled her into a gasp of surprise. Fluffy glanced up at her, irritated at the interruption.

She forced herself to take a few calming breaths. Nothing settled her frazzled nerves like a cup of hot, peppermint tea. Pocketing her phone in her sweat pants, she set disgruntled Fluffy aside and headed downstairs.

Again her phone buzzed, she pulled it out, saw his name in the dim glow and shuddered, hitting ‘ignore’ once again. When would he get the message and leave her alone?

She reached the bottom of the stairs when a cool wind brushed her face. She paused, glancing around the living room and back up the stairs. Did dad leave a window open before leaving on their road trip? Or was the air conditioner acting up again?

The insistent tea pot hissed all the louder, so she shrugged away the mystery and hurried into the kitchen. The steamy air set her skin at ease, pushing the odd breeze she’d just felt into distant memory. She put the pouch of herbs into the steaming hot mug and swirled it with a spoon, staring lazily out the dark window with a content sigh. How nice to finally have a night off work.

Again her pocket vibrated. Taking courage from the light and warmth of the kitchen, she answered it. “That’s enough, Jason. I don’t want to talk to you.”

“You don’t need to say a word, Suzzie. Can I just see you? We’re so purrrfect together.” His words slurred drunkenly, but he rolled his r’s well. She’d thought it so cute when she taught him how to do that. “Don’t tell me you just bought a cat to replace me with.”

The alarm on the oven beeped at her, a reminder to retrieve her mother’s casserole from the oven. The repeated beeps hissed at her twice, once from the wall and once again, through her phone. She stared at Jason’s name on the screen. Her breaths turned to short gasps, her hands clammy. No, she’d locked the doors and windows long ago. She was safe here.

“Come on, babe.” Jason whispered. “It’s warm up here. Come on over and play.”

“Stay in your loft.” She hissed back, sounding braver than she felt. Her hands trembled so badly she feared he could somehow hear it through the phone. “Leave me alone or I’ll call the cops.”

“Don’t be like that.” Jason said, as if she’s slapped him. “I was just talking to that waitress last night. It wasn’t purrrsonal.”

“Shut up.” She spat, hanging up the call. Pocketing her phone, she retrieved her tea. The kitchen didn’t feel warm now, all cold linoleum floors and hard marble counter tops. They must have made the small echo when the alarm went off, which she’d mistakenly heard from Jason’s phone. She put the casserole in the fridge and headed back upstairs, careful not to spill her hot drink.

The light in her bedroom was off. She paused, hands trembling, thoughts racing. Somehow she still managed to pull her phone free. Call the cops? Her blood thumped in her ears like dual bass drums. She’d fell like a fool if they arrived, only to change out a dead bulb for her.

Another chilly breeze slid across her skin like a corpse’s fingers. She shuttered. “Just a dead light bulb.” She muttered aloud. “No reason to freak out. Stupid air conditioner’s on the fritz again too.”

It took her three tries to turn on the flashlight app, on her phone. She swallowed her fears and marched into her room. Her phone threw a stark, white light over the thick carpet and the bottom half of her princess jasmine bedspread. Something moved in the darkness, scratching against the far wall. She took one step closer, turned and let loose a wordless scream.

Fluffy lay pinned against the wall, soaked in blood. A bone-handled knife held her cat in place, just below the jaw. Nausea washed over her, her head swam. Her muddled thoughts tried to grasp some meaning behind it. How could this have happened? It all seemed to unfold in slow motion. It didn’t seem quite real, like a nightmare when she was on the cusp of waking up.

Then Susie saw the jimmied lock hanging uselessly from the torn window frame. A puddle of water and blood just below it thinned out into individual foot prints leading— to the closet just behind her. Glancing up at her reflection in the window, she saw another long, bone-handled knife flickering back at her like a thin quarter moon. Then she noticed the row of white teeth, lips peeled back in a smile, and dropped her phone.

“It’s okay Suzie.” Jason purred from the shadows, all feigned drunkenness gone. His voice serious, businesslike, as if collecting his due from a debtor. “You won’t have to say a word.”

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