Pathologies of the Species: A Halloween Tale

It’s hard for me to write this. These events happened years ago, but they still linger in my mind. I’ve doubted myself, called myself crazy, not known what or who to believe.

It started on a regular day. I was home and decided to take a nap. I curled up on the bed in my favorite spot. The window was open and the last sunlight of the day made a triangle on the blanket. As I snuggled into myself and drowsed, I felt a presence enter the room. Probably my roommate. I rolled over. No one there. Weird, but ok. I snoozed again. A tickling sensation on my back. Then what felt like a hand touching me. I whipped around, ready to pounce on whatever was there, but…nothing. I was lying there, breathing heavy when my roommate came in and sat on the bed. “Hey there. Time for dinner.” I didn’t want to sound crazy so I just followed her to the kitchen without saying anything.

It was like that first incident unleashed whatever it was. After that, I couldn’t help but feel a presence in the apartment almost constantly. When I sat in my favorite chair. When I ate a late night snack. When I washed. It was worst in the bedroom. I’d be drifting off to sleep, my eyelids closing, when a sensation of being touched would jolt me awake. I found myself staring into the corner of the room, sure that there was something there, that if I looked long enough I would see it. I wanted to see it, to know what was making me crazy like this.

The exhaustion was incredible. I’d find myself yawning almost immediately after waking up. I was sleeping odd hours, throughout the day. I couldn’t sleep in the bedroom. My roommate would find me on the couch curled up nearly between the cushions, like I was trying to hide from something. Maybe I was.

Then the dreams started. In each one, I was outside in a forest. As I walked through the damp grass, I could feel my heart pounding. I started to run, something chasing me. A little bird appears on the path. It cocks its head to one side, then the other. Suddenly I rush at it, grab it, and — I can’t believe I’m telling you this — bite it in half. I feel the blood in my mouth. I hear the bones crunch. I never even liked going outside when I was young! I always preferred to stay inside playing with my favorite toys. I would wake up then in a frenzy, run down the hall nearly skidding, get a drink. My roommate would sometimes stumble into the hall and ask, “what’s wrong with you?”

I withdrew. I became moody, started lashing out at her, at her friends. I avoided them when I could, only coming out to eat or drink. Until the last night. I had fallen asleep on the couch. She was out late partying. When she came home, I must have been in the midst of one of my dreams. She touched me and I freaked. I jumped up, yowling at her. I even scratched her. Drew blood.

She told me that it was time that I either went to a doctor or she would have to put me out on the street. She made the appointment for the next day. She carried me there, I wouldn’t have gone otherwise. She told the doctor my symptoms, the constant sleeping, being sure that there were invisible creatures lurking in the corners, and then the time that I had attacked her for no reason.

The doctor adjusted his glasses. He cleared his throat. “You have to understand,” he said, “this is perfectly normal behavior for a cat.”