Spiral on my Mind 31:
hobo, Free Will, Cat, Strength, Loyalty, stick, The Unknown, fowl, and Plurality
I woke suddenly in the night, drenched in sweat, shaking. At first, I wasn’t sure what had awakened me, or even quite where I was.
I looked around, and slowly realized that the room was familiar. The TV was still on, but the station had gone off-air, leaving just the test pattern showing. It flickered, then suddenly went to just snow and hissing sound. I was alone, but that wasn’t unusual as I lived alone. The window was open, the curtain pulled back to let the cool air move through the room.
Except it wasn’t. The night air was hotter than I remembered, and perhaps that woke me.
I settled back down, determined to go back to sleep.
Then I remembered something.
My room doesn’t have curtains. And TV stations don’t go off air and broadcast the Indian head test pattern. They haven’t done that regularly in at least fifty years.
I look closer. The bedspread is not mine. The lamp is not mine. The body I’m wearing is not mine.
Who am I?
What is going on here?
There are noises outside the window, and I sit up and peer out. In the yard beyond the bushes, I can just see a hobo picking through his bindle.
With some effort, I pull back from the window at look around at the room again. Elvis posters on the walls are definitely not mine. The cat sitting on the dresser glaring at me in reproach, well, actually that is mine. I’ve always known cats are a little out of phase with reality. Maybe I’m sharing a dream of hers?
If so, this might be a place where I’m going to need all my strength to stay alive, given the amount of disdain most cats have for people. A glance outside the window shows a number of cats gathering in the darkness, watching the hobo, waiting for their chance. I suddenly wonder what he had done to deserve his fate.
I was always good to my cats. None of mine would wish too much ill on me, even if I had done things they hadn’t liked for their own good.
I heard a muffled scream. I knew I didn’t want to look, but somehow I knew I had to.
Where the hobo had been, there was just a roiling carpet of strays, his stick cocked out with his bindle still tied on.
I tried not to scream when Snowflake jumped on to the bed. Surely she was not going to call them up here to feed on me?
She stared at me, then seemed to be saying “I think you have seen enough” and turned away. She picked a spot on the bed and curled up.
As usual, her motives were inscrutable. But she was the cat, and we were clearly on her turf for now.
I laid back down, and closed my eyes for only a moment. Then the scream shattered my peace. A sound like a thousand strangled cats rent the air. Then there was silence. Then wings, as a large bird came through the open window and landed on the bed and screamed again.
Then a second.
Then my cat sat up.
The birds froze. One of them put up his tale in an absurd mockery of a threat display. Of course, with his tail up he was hardly able to move. The tableaux froze for a long moment as everything living held their breath.
The cat turned back to me, and in a clear voice said “you don’t want to see this.”
I fell back to my pillow, suddenly asleep.
A moment of blackness passed, then I shivered and rolled over.
It was cold. So cold. I pulled my covers up, groped for the window and closed it. My cat was at my feet in her preferred spot, and I settled back in and drifted into a peaceful sleep.
Several hours later, I awoke in my own bed. In my own body. In my own room.
Snowflake was there, but there was no sign of birds. Outside my window was the usual 20 story drop to a concrete sidewalk, not a grassy yard where something had happened to a hobo. Or had it?
Snowflake turned to me and said “you dreamed the whole thing.”
Smartest thing that cat had ever said to me.
Then I woke up.