Nightmare in Forest Park

Photo by Hannah Troupe on Unsplash

Author’s Note: Tis the season! Decided to start this short story this afternoon. I’m pantsing it (AKA: not plotting it out with an outline). I’d love to hear feedback from anyone that reads it. I am trying to spend a good portion of October planning out an idea for the upcoming NaNoWriMo, so I’m trying to write little pieces on the side to keep the creative juices flowing. ^_^

Penelope made her way down the street at a faster than normal pace that left her forming sweat across her brow and made her heart race faster in protest—partially from the hurried walk itself and partially due to the rising pull her anxiety as she tried to tell herself that she was not, in fact, being followed by the black cat. Despite the thoughts that raced through her head trying to reassure her that she wasn’t be stalked, another part of her brain told her that she was.

            The obsidian black cat started following her as soon as she left her shift at the diner, and at first she thought nothing of it. She had just finished working a twelve hour shift, and she smelled like burgers and fries. She imagined the cat, hungry from being out on the streets of St. Louis, had picked up on her scent and decided to see if maybe she’d drop something better to eat than whatever it might be able to find in the alley dumpsters; however, after weaving from street to street and down her familiar path back to her small, one-bedroom apartment, the cat had kept up with her the entire way—stopping at a safe distance whenever she stopped to wait for traffic before crossing the street—and resuming its pace behind her whenever she started moving again.

            You’re being silly, Penelope, she thought, this cat is not following you.

            Actually, I am.

            The voice in her mind stopped her dead in her tracks, her heart beating ten times faster than it had been seconds before. She had tears forming at the edges of her eyes, formed from her skyrocketing anxiety at having just imagined that the cat had talked to her. She didn’t really want to, but she couldn’t help herself—she turned and faced the cat. It sat in front of her, casually licking its paws and making eye contact with her from the ground with its bright green eyes.

            Please go away. She thought, staring back at the cat. Her legs felt like cement, rooted in place on the sidewalk from fear that the cat might respond to her thoughts again. And seconds later, that fear was confirmed.

            Why would I follow you all this way just to turn away now?

            “Why are you following me at all?” She said.

            A homeless man with a torn and tattered flannel shirt and filthy, hole-filled jeans who happened to be sitting against the wall of a building looked at her with resentment in his eyes.

            “Bitch, who’s following you? I haven’t moved from this spot all day, and I’m just minding my own damn business.”

            Embarrassed that she had talked to the cat verbally and had been mistaken for lashing out at the old man, she waved innocently, realizing that what she was about to say would make her look crazier than the old man looked.

            “Oh, sorry.” She said. “I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to the cat.”

            He can’t hear me. Only you can.

            Confusion now pouring across his face, the old man reached behind him and pulled a brown paper bag, most likely containing some variant of liquor, out from behind his back.

            ”Here, lady. You need this more than I do.”

            Her embarrassment overtaking her fear, she started walking again—as far away from the old man, and, she wished, the cat—as she could get. But the faster she walked, the faster the cat went to keep up with her. Finally, she stopped once again, making sure that she was more alone than she had been before, and looked down at the cat.

            Why are you following me? And why can I hear your thoughts? And why can you think thoughts at me at all?

            The cat swiped at the air and hissed at her.

            Slow down, woman. The cat retorted, If you stop trying to get away from me for two minutes, I’ll explain everything. In short, though, you’re a witch, so was your grandma, I was her familiar, she just died, now I’m your familiar, and you’re being hunted by the same demon that killed her.

To be continued – Potentially

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