I was joking with someone that I didn’t want Charlie to become The Beast of Retford Moor, and proposed The Cat of Cullen Towers instead. And then that didn’t sound quite right, and Ghost Cat popped into my head, and anyway, now there’s a 500 word story. Both my cats are totally fine, btw.
The Ghost Cat of Cullen Towers
I should say at the outset that Cullen Towers is, in fact, a very ordinary, three-bedroom, mid-terrace house. The windows are sensibly double-glazed and locked, and the doors robustly bolted. It has no towers, wings, or mysteriously intriguing, huge oaken doors that open only with a long-forgotten key. But an Englishwoman’s home is her castle, and so – Cullen Towers.
I lived in the house alone. I thought, often, about getting a dog. But it wouldn’t have been practical.
It began, one day, with a flicker at the corner of my eye. Everyone knows that experience, I suppose. You walk into a room and see a shape where there shouldn’t be one. You look again, to find the shape has resolved itself into a shadow, or a newspaper you left on the floor. So that was what I thought.
My eyesight isn’t what it was, so after a couple more flickers I just went to the optician. Varifocals, he prescribed. I’d known it was coming.
But then, a few days later, there was a more definite something. What had previously been a flicker took on a more substantial presence. Something, still of indeterminate size and shape, darted through a door. It probably was a cat, I thought. It was a warmish day, and after winter’s relentless cold and rain, I’d left the back door open for just a foretaste of spring to find its way inside. One of the neighbourhood cats had taken advantage, that was all.
I assumed the same cat was responsible for the dead mouse I found the following morning. I stared at the mouse for a moment, and then stepped over it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel up to tackling bodies in my slippers, and certainly not before I’ve had coffee. But by the time I was feeling a bit more fortified, it was gone. Had it still been alive? And come to that, how had it got there in the first place? The doors and windows were closed.
As I turned, I saw the flicker again. I paused, and then slowly turned back to look at where the mouse wasn’t. Instead, and unmistakeably, there was a cat. A tabby, still a bit faint around the edges, sort of blurring into the morning shadows. He stared at me in standard unblinking cat fashion. I stared back. We stared at each other.
He wasn’t real, I knew that. But. He wasn’t not real either. He sauntered over and wove around my ankles, and I felt the memory of soft fur. Then the mouse was there again, and I remembered hearing that cats bring their owners presents. I said, ‘Thank you, ghost cat’, a bit uncertainly because I’m not used to talking to cats. Or ghosts.
That was that, of course. I haven’t been out for a few days, now. Once a cat claims you, your soul’s not your own any more. I know that now.