For years, we always had some kind of weird thing happen in October. It was never the same thing, or even the same kind of thing, twice. We just knew that every year some piece of October would visit us.
So I was in my home office after midnight one October wandering around on the internet. It was a work night, and I should have given up and gone to bed earlier. When I looked up, I was the only human left awake in the house. That was probably why it was so easy to hear the noise.
I recognized it. It was the sound the bathroom cabinets make when a cat plays with one of them. Open it just an inch and let go of it, and it thuds. Thuddata-thud. Thuddata-thud. Ten feet to the left down the dark hall.
I stepped just out the door of my room into the dark hallway, and the noise wasn’t down the hall to the left anymore. It was down the hall to the right, in the kitchen, the same noise. Thuddata-thud. Thuddata-thud.
What the fuck? I thought. How’d a cat move that fast? What just happened?
I stepped back into my room, just over the threshold. The noise was back in the bathroom. I stepped into the hall and it was in the kitchen instead. Thuddata-thud.
After taking a deep breath, I strode down the dark hall, through the den, into the kitchen, and turned on the light. At which point, the noise stopped.
There was no cat anywhere in that kitchen. Believe me, I looked. I also listened for little claws scrabbling away on the tile, listened for the thunder a running cat makes on a pier-and-beam floor. Nothing. The house was completely quiet.
I went back down the hall to the bathroom. Maybe it was the acoustics doing weird things. One of the cats would be in the bathroom, paw prying at the cabinet door, staring when I turned on the light. Of course that’s what would happen. Everything is fine here. Nothing weird going on.
I turned on the light. No cat. No other way a cat could have run out of the bathroom.
Yeah right, I thought. Let’s try that again.
I went back to my room. That’s when I saw the cat asleep next to my chair. I remembered that she’d been there for awhile, sleeping next to me.
I ran back down the hall to the kitchen and checked the living room. There are cabinets in the living room, but they don’t have the kind of hinges that spring back. The other two cats were sleeping on the couch. They woke up and squinted at me as I turned on the light.
The house was still quiet around me.
I’ve never heard that particular noise again, at least not without a cat or a human causing it. I still wonder what it was. I will say that turning off the last light before I went to bed was one of the hardest things I can remember doing.