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Waking in a cold sweat is nothing new. He always does that to me. His presence stifles me in my sleep. For now, he is not here, and so I throw off the scratchy covers, my slick back meeting the cool night air as I sit up. I jump at a sound, my attention turning towards the window on my right, wind blowing through along with the moonlight, dimly lighting the room. He must have exited from there, and hopefully, will not return for some time. I ease myself slowly off the bed, opting to pull on sweatpants haphazardly discarded on the floor, fearing I may not be alone. I dare not close the window; I do not want to invoke his anger, to hear his cry.

I cross the room, my shadow dancing with those of the window curtains as I take hold of the doorknob. Gently, I turn it, cracking the door as gingerly as I can. It creaks and I freeze, listening. The house and anything in it remains silent, and so I open it fully and slip out while I still can. Alone in the long hallway, no light finds its way in as I shut the door behind me. All I can see are the stairs at the end, the faint twinkle of twilight from the windows below. I lean on the wall, hands tracing each bump as I am led to the other end. My feet step carefully on the wooden boards; with each creak and shudder I pause, same as before, waiting, listening, continuing. I reach the stairs, hopping soundlessly onto the banister and sliding down its length, avoiding any more creeks.

Now standing on the cold tile floor of the twilit kitchen, I turn from the messy counter full of stained dishes and ants, looking towards the dining room. There I find nothing where I left it. Magazines neatly placed and napkins once folded now litter the floor, pages scratched and torn out, some napkins completely missing. This was my own fault. Kicking myself, I bend over and clean up the tattered scraps for the third time this week. After the first week I should have known I cannot leave anything out; he’ll tear anything he can find, but on this third week, I’ve gotten careless.

Discarding the sad remains in a nearby trash can, I turn back to the table, spotting what I had come for, but even this is not how it was when I went to bed. The glass of water is discarded on its side, tossed aside by the prowling thing. Taking some of the torn napkins, I wipe up the spilled contents. He had claimed the glass, it is no longer mine; I dare not touch what is his. As this thought crosses my mind, so too does a shadow cross my path. Still as a statue, my gaze is the only thing that moves as I look towards the window to see his silhouette pass slowly against it. He is near. He is outside. I do not move, even when his silhouette has passed. I do not want him to know I am awake too, for all he knows I am still soundly asleep where I should be.

I leave the glass on the table, moving slowly back towards the kitchen, wincing as the floorboards creak on my way. I wait. Nothing. I continue my silent trek, opening the cupboard and taking up a new glass. I lick my dry lips, cursing the glutton. Opening the fridge, I take a moment, the bright light staggering me. With squinted eyes, I reach inside and find the pitcher I’d come for, closing the fridge quickly. I pour as softly as I can, but the sound seems deafening in the silent house. The water trickling into a simple glass cup sounds as if I’d just turned the shower on. It seems I was not the only one who thought so.

Moments after beginning my meticulous pouring, the worst of the sounds came. The scratching. Cursing again, I stopped pouring, taking up the cup quickly and staring pointedly towards the shadowy front door. It did not stop. Scratch scratch scratch scratchscratchscratchscratch. Then all at once it stopped, replaced by the light flop of the door being opened. He was inside the house.

I do not wait for him to come into view, abandoning my quiet quest and leaping towards the stairs. The creature gives as little pause as I, its claws following along the hard floor. Each step now groans as I ascend into the pitch-black hallway, and though they do not make a noise under the creature’s limber body, I can hear it coming all the same, a deep, throaty sound chasing me. Hand on the wall, I run, nearly losing my balance as I trip on my own feet, the creature getting ever closer, its breath on my heels. Reaching the door, I curse myself for having closed it and turn with hesitation to meet my fate head on. The creature pounces, its claws burying in my chest as I grab onto its soft body.

“Fluffy!”

The cat meows innocently.

“We have to stop doing this; you’re going to tear my chest to shreds at this rate!”

“Meow?” he rubs his head against my chest. With an exhausted sigh, I tuck the cat under one arm, heading back to bed after my failed quest, thwarted by the fluffy creature.

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