At the bottom of my garden is my office. It is a peaceful place. A busy place. A place to do quality work. Although I hadn't finished the tasks I'd set myself, I'd had enough. I turned off my computers, the electric fire and then the lights before I closed and locked the door behind me. The little grey cells, as Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Poirot would call them, were in need of rest.
I walked through the cold, still air and looked up into the night sky. The almost blinding light of the full Moon in the southern sky didn't quite render Venus and Mars invisible, though the spotlight quality of the light in the western sky from that small planet near the Sun was unmistakable. To the east and at a higher elevation the red planet Mars shimmered.
An occasional rustling of leaves disturbed the still night air sending vibrations to my senses. Fresh, powdery snow compacted and crunched underfoot in my steady and careful movement as shadowy figures darted about in the sharp darkness of the night. I thought that bats out in the cold night air very strange and disturbing. Did I imagine the shadows? I thought I heard a soft sound like the distant tinkling of a bell. I felt chilled, but not because of the cold, fresh air. I was nervous in the stillness. In the near silence. I quickened my pace just a little.
I heard the tinkling again. An inexplicable fear gripped me. More than a little ridiculous. In my own garden, I actually felt vulnerable. Christmas is supposed to be a time of good will and here I was nervous and fearful of being harmed. Peculiar.
I unlocked and opened the conservatory door and warm air flooded over me. The lights had been turned off and in the darkness I felt something brush against my leg. Maybe it was just the movement caused by the cold night air outside mixing with the warm inside air. I always lock this door when I disappear down to the bottom of my garden and into my office. To leave the safety of my house and go the safety of my office. My refuge. To remove myself from the reality of life and enter the world of my imagination. Once, I'd given myself a fright as I'd created a scene that had worried me, but that brief time of exposure between the two not now a problem. I closed the door onto the imagined dangers and looked out through the glass window.
The clarity of the white garden was incredible. The clear black sky dotted with stars even in the bright moonlight and the planets still looking down as they had done for billions of years. I put out of my mind the cold stillness of the outside. I could only think now of sleep.
That noise! Upstairs I heard that distant tinkling again. An odd sensation of feeling cold in the warm air and then dread creeping in. The cold had followed me inside. Yet the tinkling sound was ahead of me. I was chilled to the bone. The house was in darkness. I must have lost track of time and it was later than I had thought.
In the darkness, I saw a dark, long and narrow form writhing on my bed. The sound of a bell moving quickly towards me from behind. I felt hopelessly trapped between the two images: a dark form ahead of me and the sound rushing at me from behind. I switched on the room light fearful of what I might see.
I saw one of my two cats washing itself, stretched out on my bed. The other sprang up from the floor onto the bed from behind me to join his companion, his bell tinkling in the cool early morning air. And then they were gone. Vanished.
My cats hadn't been alive for over seven years now.
© Louis Brothnias (2004)