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The Cat Lady
Before I tell you my story, I feel I must tell you about Imogen. Imogen is the crazy old lady who lives down my street. She is obsessed with cats, in the most warped, sick way possible. No one down my street has a cat, for fear of Imogen stuffing the poor creature, like she had every cat she had ever got her hands on.
There are many theories to why she does this. Some say she deserves nothing better than a padded room and straight jacket. Some say she is afraid of cats. But the craziest theory is that she herself is a cat. The small boy who lives next door to her swears he saw her transform into a feline abomination in the light of moon.
Do I believe these theories? I didn’t.
Allow me an introduction. My name is Catherine Donald. I am fifteen years old and I live at 17 Kings Street, Alebagne, with my mum and older brother Tony.
I was walking home from school when I saw the cat’s eyes in number 23’s window.
23 is were Imogen lives. The last person who claims they saw cat’s eyes vanished, and was never seen again.
I dared another look, just to be sure I wasn’t seeing things. Just to be sure I wasn’t as crazy as the owner of the house I now gazed upon, afraid of what I see.
The eyes glare at me through the window, two emerald slits in the shadow of the glass. I stare back, transfixed.
“Cathy?” Tony rests a hand on my shoulder.
I snap away from my hypnotic state. Tony observes me worryingly, his pastel blue eyes scanning me. “Are you alright?”
I glance up at the weathered old building. The eyes are gone. Perhaps it was just a split second of insanity. A mere moment of lunacy. I’ll tell the tale to my children, and they will laugh at my panicked idiocy.
But I know what I saw.
Tony links his arm around mine, dragging me home.
I toss and turn through the night, the cat’s eyes stalking my dreams. What if the stories are true?
It’s not true. It’s just a story, to scare the small children away from the psychopath down the street.
I rise around eight, still as tired as I had been the night before. I gather the post, flicking through it as I lazily wander to the kitchen.
Three letters and a parcel. Two bills, a letter to Mum from her Canadian pen-pal, and a parcel. Three letters to Mum, and a parcel.
A parcel addressed to Imogen Green, 23 Kings Street. A parcel for Imogen. I dread to think of its contents.
I have to deliver it. I could slip it through the letter box and run. I could leave it on the doorstep, ring the bell and run. But however I do it, the parcel must be delivered.
I stand at the front gate to number 23. I must be crazy. Suicidal.
Taking a deep breath, I open the gate. The hinges scream in pain, so desperate for oil, the metal had almost rusted away.
It’s not too late to turn back.
Ignoring my own advice, I take my first trembling steps up the weedy, overgrown pathway.
I step up to the door. I am about to ram the parcel through the letterbox when the door creaks open.
I freeze. There’s no sign of Imogen, or anyone else. So who opened the door?
I gently place the package in the doorway.
“Help me…” Imogen’s crackly voice echoes through the ancient building. “Please…”
“What’s wrong?” I call.
I cautiously step into the hall. I cannot breathe for the dust clogging the air. I turn back to find the door has closed behind me.
After desperately pulling on the handle, yet failing to escape this collapsing edifice, I turn to observe my surroundings.
“Somebody…please…” Imogen’s voice grew desperate as she begged for guidance.
I follow the sound up the shaky steps. As I reached the top, I could hear a faint sobbing coming form the end of the landing.
I leave footprints in the dust as I walk, as if I was stomping through thin grey snow. There were no other footprints, so how had Imogen got to the room with out leaving a trail.
Out of the corner of my eye, I notice paw prints across the table. I never knew Imogen had a living cat. I thought they had all been stuffed.
But I hadn’t seen any. The house should be full of them, stiff from their cruel filling.
I rest a hand on the metal handle. The door swings slowly on it’s hinge.
Imogen is huddled in the corner, her face buried in the skirt of her dress.
“Help me…” she whimpers, but her voice is no longer ancient. Her voice is that of a young girl, afraid, alone.
“Please…” she looks up at me; her green eyes blinking at me. I stifle a scream as I behold her inhuman feline face.
I turn and run. I stumble down the stairs to the door.
It still stubbornly refuses to move. I knock at the wood, screaming for someone, anyone, to come and open the door.
“They cannot hear you,” the girl stands at the top of the stairs, gazing sorrowfully down at me. “I have tried for years.”
I press my back against the wood as she approaches, trying to stay back.
“Please stay,” The girl begs. “I haven’t got anyone to play with.”
I gawp at the girl. She has been trapped in this house for years, an abomination, and she wants to play?
“Do you want to play dress-up?” the girl tilts her head, her whiskers brushing the shoulders of her gown.
“I can’t,” I stammer. “I have to go to school.”
“You cannot leave. There is no way out.”
The girl turns and begins to climb back up the stairs. I reluctantly follow.
The nursery is impressive. Unlike the rest of the house, it is clean and bright, filled with toys.
“I’m Imogen,” the girl introduces proudly.
Imogen opens a wardrobe filled with dresses. Ten years ago, I’d be thrilled.
Imogen hands me a 1950’s poodle skirt. As she eagerly watches, I slip it over my grey school trousers. She claps with delight as I twirl, feeling like a complete idiot.
Ten minutes later, I am stood with Imogen, staring at my reflection in the mirror. I look ridiculous, but Imogen is ecstatic.
Throughout the day, I play with Imogen, feeling more and more childish as the hours tick by.
I am playing with a pottery doll when I notice my reflection.
I am no longer fifteen. I am five again, happy and hyper, clutching the doll.
“What’s happened?” I reach out to my reflection in disbelief.
“Do not be afraid,” Imogen stands by me. “Come and play.”
“If you don’t play, you will grow old.”
Something scratched at the door.
Imogen caught my arm. “Don’t stroke the cats.”
“I stroked the cats. Now…” she gestured to her abnormal features.
The door opened, allowing three cats into the room. One ghostly white, one fiery red, the third a midnight black.
They ran round us, rubbing their heads against our legs, jumping up at us, yowling.
The black one begins to hiss at me, his back arched. He swipes a paw at my leg, leaving three deep scratches.
I yell in pain. Falling to the floor, I clamp a hand over my wounds. The cats purr with delight.
Imogen kneels over me. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” She pulls the doll away from me and tears the poodle skirt from my trousers. “You cannot play any more.”
Laying on the floor, I feel myself grow. My uniform seems to shrink onto me. My bones strengthen, then weaken, as my skin stretches and wrinkles over them.
Imogen stands, and gazes into her reflection. She reaches towards the mirror, a tear rolling down her morphing face.
She looks back at me, her now human blue eyes wet with tears. “I’m so sorry.”
She steps into the mirror and vanishes.
The white cat wriggles under my hand. Dismayed, I run my fingers down his fur. He purrs, then hisses as a smoky grey kitten steps from behind the mirror. She hisses back, the runs through the open door.
I drag myself to my feet and follow the kitten. She jumps cautiously down the stairs to the front door.
I open the door, but she doesn’t leave.
I look up to see Tony walking past, calling my name.
“Tony!” My eyes well up with tears as I limp hurriedly down the path.
A small child across the road screams with fright. “Watch out, the crazy cat lady’s gonna get you!”
Tony glances at me. I freeze when I see the fear written all over his face.
He runs down the street, away from me. My own brother is afraid of me.
The grey cat rubs her head against my leg. I pick her up, the bell on her collar jangling.
I read the tag, despite the blur caused by my new age.
I gawp at the kitten in disbelief.
I look back at the front door. A fifth collar is hanging from the door handle.
I do not need to read the tag. I believe I already know who’s collar it is. But I read it anyway. I want it to prove me wrong. I tremble as I read the ever-haunting words.
My name is Catherine Donald. I am fifteen and I live at 23 King’s Street, Alebagne, with my four cats; Tomas, Mary, Robert and Imogen. I am the crazy cat lady at the end of the street.
Why am I crazy? There are many theories to this. My favourite is that I, myself, am a cat.
Is the theory true? Come and play if you want the truth. But, my only advice to you is…
don’t stroke the cats.