Witness – Short Story part 1
I loved the night. It meant the house was mine and mine alone. To do what I pleased; running, jumping, knocking things over. This house became my personal playground without the risk of being told “no”, kids trying to pick me up, the sound of screams and squeals, or any other obnoxious noises the small ones tended to make. I could definitely live without the Little ones, not that I had much of a choice. I suppose they were here before me. At least, the older of the two Littles was. “Michael” they called him. I didn’t much care for that one. He smelled like sour milk to me. He was always grabbing and pulling and poking. The smaller little, “Emma” wasn’t so bad. She didn’t do much. Just ate, and slept really. That was my kind of Little.
I sat in the dark on the windowsill, looking down at the sidewalk below. Nothing going on out there. I wonder if the Bigs remembered to fill my food bowl before they went to bed. I jumped down and ran into the food room. Launching myself onto the carpet, I could feel it slide across the tile beneath my feet. I came to a stop and stepped off the rug, leaving it in a crumpled pile behind me. My bowl was full! I lowered my body, bringing my face closer to the dish, and let my tail dance back and forth behind me. I began munching on my food happily. I loved the Bigs. Sometimes.
A little later, I sat on the counter cleaning myself. I knew full well I wasn’t supposed to, but at night, there were no laws. If I wanted to sit here licking my paws and cleaning my face, then that’s just what I was going to do. One of the Bigs would usually accuse me of being “filthy” and that my presence on the counter was “disgusting”, followed by a “shoo!”. I’d seen some of the things they do with their front paws, and how they could accuse ME of being the filthy one, I never understood.
My ears twitched and brought my grooming to a halt as I heard the low rumble of movement upstairs. thump thump thump There it was again. My eyes darted to the window to see if the sun was starting to come up. No, it was still in the dead of night. Far too late for the Bigs or the Littles to be up. Better go investigate. I hopped down off the counter and walked across the tile until I reached the stairs. I placed my front paw on the first step and waited, listening intently. My ears pivoted around, tuning in to hear even the slightest movement. Nothing. I darted up the stairs, my padded feet absorbing any noise. I knew exactly where the floor creaked at the top of the stairs, so I carefully maneuvered around it and stopped in the dark hallway. I paused, waiting again for a noise.
squeak My left ear turned facing the noise and my eyes followed. It came from Emma’s room. I walked down the hall and saw the door just cracked. I slowly stepped forward to peer inside. The light plugged into the socket on the far wall illuminated the tiny room with a soft glow. Casting shadows in every direction. Stuffed animals, rocking chair, dresser, changing table, crib….the crib. Something wasn’t right about the crib. I stepped in slowly to get a better look. Standing over the crib was Michael. He was standing on his tiptoes, hands clasping the railing and looking down at Emma. Just inside the door, I sat down staring at him, tail twitching in curiosity behind me. He hadn’t noticed me enter the room, and I could hear him talking.
“I know I’m supposed to love you. But I don’t. I waited and waited but I still don’t. I hate you. Before you, Dad used to play with me, and Mom would always tuck me in and snug me before bed. Then you had to go and show up. We don’t need you. Everything was better before. I hate you.”
Michael got quiet still standing over the crib. I thought maybe he’d fallen asleep. I’d seen him do it once, when he was smaller, right into a bowl of food. Face first, like some kind of beast. He hadn’t done that in a while, but he was still a beast. I, truthfully, wasn’t surprised to hear him say such awful things to Emma. That’s just the kind of Little he was. Sour milk, I’m telling you. I’d seen him pinch her when the Bigs weren’t looking, or push her over. He was always doing awful things. He once tried to cut my tail off with a pair of scissors. I wish the Big had eaten that one at birth. Some things just get born rotten. And Michael was rotten.
He apparently had not fallen asleep because I saw his arm reach down into the crib. I kept watching as he slowly grabbed hold of something. He stood up even taller on his tiptoes to lean further into the crib, this time with both hands. It looked like he was holding something down. What was this terrible thing up to? I walked across the room and jumped up onto the tall dresser. I was still behind him, to his left now, and up higher with a clear view into the crib. Michael was holding a stuffed elephant flush against Emma’s face. An odd thing to do, she’s too small to move it, how would she breathe? I could hear him grunt as he tried to balance on his toes, still holding the elephant down.
I walked to the edge of the dresser and leaned forward, feeling anxious about how long he’d been holding the stuffed animal against her face. I could feel the danger in the air, and I became very concerned for Emma. He would kill her if he didn’t move it. Finally, not being able to take it anymore, I let out a loud ‘Meow!’. Michael jumped, releasing the elephant and stumbling back onto the flats of his feet. We looked at each other for a brief moment, then he turned and ran out of the room. thump thump thump until I heard him push his door open squeak and jump into his bed thud.
I jumped down off the dresser, crossing the room until I was at the base of the crib. Peering back at the door, I checked to be sure he wasn’t there, then looked up at the rail and jumped, perfectly clearing the top of the crib and landing gently onto the soft mattress inside. Emma was lying on her back, arms up by her head, face turned facing the wall. There was a blanket by her feet, and the stuffed elephant lay by her neck, one stuffed leg laying across her shoulder. Standing completely still, eyes wide, ears alert; I waited, listening for any noises. Nothing. I watched her, expecting to see her move or a quiet snore to escape from her, but nothing.
I stepped forward and smelled her foot–smelled like Emma. She always smelled like soap and food. But there was something else too. What was that scent? I sniffed some more, still not recognizing that smell. I moved farther up the bed, slowly, until I got to her head. I looked down at her. She looked like she was sleeping, but…. something wasn’t right. I leaned forward and smelled her upper lip. There was no soft breath coming from her nose tickling my whiskers. I looked at her chest. There was no slow rising and falling of her sleepy, rhythmic breathing. I’d never smelled it before which is why I hadn’t recognized it, but I knew now that the underlying smell was Death.
READ PART 2 HERE