My eyes flicker open and close like the shutter of a camera lens. My body shivers as something cold sweeps over me. I feel the goosebumps spouting all over my arms and legs as the sweeping breeze finally wrestles me awake. I sit up, allowing my tired eyes a moment to focus and adjust to the darkness. Seconds later, my retinas begin to adapt, allowing me to just barely make out rudimentary shapes in the distance. With a squint, I scan the room, searching, hunting for the perpetrator that has awakened me from my slumber.

I immediately zero in on the most likely culprit-the window. Until it hits me. I never opened it before going to bed. The stillness of the curtain confirms that it could not be the open window that allowed the assaulting coldness in. So, where did the breeze come from? My mind wonders as I silently ask myself looking around?

     Still bleary-eyed, I catch a glimpse of the time. The massive red-blocked numbers on the ridiculously oversized digital clock are almost blinding. The readout, though, informs me that it’s just past 3 a.m. I look down at my side to find my girlfriend still fast asleep. Nothing, and I mean nothing, disturbs her. A hurricane, tornado, and earthquake could all befall us at the same time, and she’d probably sleep through the catastrophic trio, not so much as giving a cursory peek.

However, I do find something noticeably off about the situation. The cat-or more so, lack, of the cat. On any given night, I would easily find her nestled either against my side somewhere in between my legs. Or generally, anywhere else that would make it impossible to move without disturbing the little furball. It’s always bewildered me why she selects those particular locations.

As I have always had a penchant for rolling around in my sleep. Typically dozing into a slumber lying face down, only to awake in a completely different position. So I know I have to disturb her multiple times a night. Although I also wouldn’t perceive to understand how cats think. In fact, I don’t think anyone can; they’re such finicky little creatures. But we love them anyway.

     So the fact that she isn’t around makes me wonder what kind of trouble that dainty little feline could be getting into at this hour. Such a mischievous species they are. Always plotting something. I flip off my portion of the blanket gently, feeling slightly parched, figuring since I am up might as well get something to drink and search for the cat.

     I clumsily feel around the darkened room until I find the door. I go to open it. It creaks loudly; I freeze in my tracks, hunched, listening. I peek over my shoulder towards my slumbering girlfriend. Not a single movement. What was I thinking? That little noise wouldn’t even register in her awakened mind, let alone asleep. My face screws, lips curling to one side, eyebrow raised, shaking my head. I have no idea what would happen if someone ever tried to break-in, or worse, actually succeeded.

She’d most likely wind up sleeping right through them, stealing all of our stuff. Still, nonetheless, I quietly slip out into the hallway, gingerly making my way down the stairs to the kitchen.

     Flicking on the light switch, I glide to the cabinet, retrieving a glass filling it up with water. I run an exploratory scan of the living room. No such luck finding my little Buttercup. Whatever that cats off doing, it’s probably some type of highly classified government stealth mission.

As long as it’s not the same type she ran last week. I don’t feel like waking up again to find another wayward lizard that unfortunately found its way into her mouth, presented to me at the foot of the bed. It’s not really on my list of things I want to spend my time cleaning up in the morning. I reckon she’ll be back when she’s done. I rinse and put away my glass.

     Before I slowly make my way back up the stairs, I stop. One last sweep of the living room for Buttercup. Still no sign, I shrug, ascending the stairs creeping back into the room to slip into bed. Sitting examining the surroundings, still, no clue where that breeze came from that aroused me earlier.

I go to lay my head down, something catches my eye in the corner of the room. It’s Buttercup. She’s sitting staring up in a trance-like state, all her attention focused on the corner of the ceiling. I call out to her softly, “buttercup, buttercup,” no response; she’s locked into something up there. As a last resort, I snap my fingers twice; she usually responds to that. Success. She turns her head slowly, her green eyes glitter back at me for a fraction of a second before returning to the spot. I shake my head, rolling my eyes at my little fur baby; cats are odd little creatures. I lay my head down on the pillow, closing my eyes. I begin to drift off.

A voice whispers in my left ear. “Buttercup.”

The faint noise hits me like a sonic boom, though. Sending a disturbing chill down my spine, my eyes spring open like a released jack-in-box popping out. My body tingles, tightening my skin. Terror grips me, holding me still. The voice isn’t familiar, and no one sleeps on my left side.

I hear it again, this time lower, more demon-like. I shoot up, panicked, covered in sweat, a cold chill pulsates.

     My eyes dart around the room through the darkness; my body is numb, limbs overtaken with weakness. I can hear my heart thudding away in my chest. Thump, thump, thump.

What was that?

The click of the menacing glowing clock’s numbers tick over; it’s 4 a.m. I feel around; my girlfriend is nowhere to be found. Neither is Buttercup. Trembling, fearing the worse, I throw the covers off, my feet hit the carpet, the fibers seep between my toes. I stand, my knees quake, shivers course up and down my body like speeding cars on a highway. That cold breeze once again washes over me, chilling me to the bone. The goosebumps return in full force. My skin feels like sandpaper as I rub my arms to warm up. I swear I can almost see my own breath.

     I fumble my way back out into the hallway, staggering to the head of the stairs. There, I find my girlfriend sitting mid-way down, ear pressed against the wall, rocking back and forth. I whisper down to her, no answer. I call out louder; she turns and shushes me. Bewildered, I shamble down and sit beside her, “what are you doing?” I ask.

     “Shush, do you hear that?” She finally says, ear and cheek returning to the wall.

     I stop moving, listening intently for any faint sounds in the house. After several seconds, “I don’t hear anything,” I confess. She pays me zero attention ear still suckered to the wall.

     “It’s talking to me,” she says, looking at me, but her face is devoid of any expression, just blankness, zombie-like. “They’re talking,” creepily raising a finger to her lips, signaling to be quiet.

     At this point, I’m thoroughly creeped out, but whatever, maybe she had a bad dream or something. I stand, picking her up as well, twisting her around to guide her back to bed, when I feel that coldness enter my body again. The hairs on my neck prickle, standing at attention. I sense that something is lurking in the shadows, watching, waiting. I don’t know how, but I feel it’s sinister in nature, like the voice that whispered in my ear a few moments ago.

That’s when I realized; that we were not alone in the house. Another malevolent presence is here with us on this night. I feel its eyes on me, on my back, staring at me as we approach the top of the stairs. I silently tell myself it’s not real. I am doing everything in my power to not look back. If I don’t see it, it’s not real; there’s nothing there. I convince myself. One foot in front of the other, that’s all. This is nothing but a bad dream-a nightmare.

     Just then, Buttercup rounds the corner, freezing in place. Spitting a hiss, followed by a low emitting growl as she arches her back, fur ruffling, at whatever is behind us, confirming my worst fear.

There is something there.

     A wave of adrenaline surges through my veins. I hurry my girlfriend up the last few steps. I can hear scratches on the walls, piercing my eardrums. It’s worse than nails digging into a chalkboard, a growl, followed by heavy breathing, and clods on the steps like hoves stomping after us.

     I round the banister, clipping my hip on its edge. Pain radiates up my side, but I ignore it, pushing through, guiding my girlfriend. I look back. Buttercup is hunkered down, ready to pounce on the encroaching spirit, protecting her humans.

I yell, “Buttercup, come.” For once, the cat listens.

She abandons her defensive posturing upon hearing the concern in my voice. She races past us into the room as I push my catatonic girlfriend in after her. I whirl around to close the door.

     That’s when I see it-the demon stalking us. It stands a frightful eight feet high, horns jutting out from the top of its head, red glowing beady eyes, its feet are like cow hoves, the creature’s hands have razor-sharp talons that come out afoot. It pauses regarding me for a second, leering at us. Almost as trying to decide which one it wants first.

It charges. Thunderous steps rock the foundation of the house.

     I slam the door, back peddling, grabbing for my girlfriend. She’s still in her catatonic state. I pull her back behind me, putting myself in-between her and the beast, waiting for it to breakthrough. Buttercup hisses, arching again.

     The demon crashes into the door.

I spring up, finding myself back in bed. A breeze flutters through the open window. My eyes shift around to see my girlfriend fast asleep beside me. Buttercup is lying at the foot of the bed. Head cocked, looking at me, annoyed. I disturbed her beauty rest. The massive red-blocked numbers on the ridiculously oversized digital clock tick over 3 a.m.

I release a heavy sigh, relaxing, laying my head back down. “Phew, it was only a nightmare.” I close my eyes, another gust blows inside, reaching me, rushing over my body from right to left.

     A growly voice whispers in my ear. “Buttercup.”

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