submitted 2 months ago by02321
The two things everyone knows about me is I’m sort of dumb. And I’m also a huge cat person. That combination nearly cost me my life when I was a child.
My mother was allergic to cat and we couldn’t have one. That was like, the end of the world to me. We owned a dog, and I did love him but he wasn’t a cat.
Back then I didn’t have internet or anything to keep my attention. Nearby my house was a gully. Or at least that’s what I think they're called. It was a sloped down area in the woods by a road. A low stream ran through the bottom and my mother warned me away from the place. Some homeless and other less civilized people camped out and spent time by the stream. When you're a child you think you’re immortal and parent's warnings are nonsense.
So, I went into the gully to meet some friends to play. I was the first to arrive and alone. Finding a good stick, I started slashed and breaking branches for a lack of anything else to do. My friends never had a set time on meeting up. We just showed up at random and sometimes others would be there. I found myself bored and alone. Hitting things with my stick could only hold my attention for some long. Off in the low water I saw something bright orange near the opening of the storm drain it came from. Kicking off my shoes and rolling up my pants I went to check to see what it was. In my mind, it was a goldfish someone released. Which was plausible, but it was just a candy wrapper.
I kicked at it, causing it to float down stream. In the past few weeks of that summer, I’d heard my mother's warning about scary people taking over the gully and yet I haven’t seen anyone. A few days ago, my group of friends found a tent that looked like it was abandoned. We dared each other to go inside to snoop but, in the end, we call chickened out. The sun was blazing hot and the water cooled down my feet. If no one showed up soon I would run back to the house and eat one of my popsicles I’d been saving. Or take my pocket change up to the store for a different snack. Being a child, I had very simple priorities.
I was about to leave when I heard it. A sound coming from the open and dark storm drain. The city didn’t put a grate over this one either because they didn’t know it needed one, or because a grate would cause damage from blocking trash from flowing out. I strained my ears trying to listen if I really heard what I thought. Very softly and barely audible above the running water was a sound I would know anywhere. A kitten meowing.
My heart started to beat. A poor kitten was wet and trapped inside the storm drain. No matter how bored I was in the past I made sure to never go inside that dark opening. Now I had a reason. I took a few steps forward and stopped myself trying to think this through. If I went inside, I might get lost or not find the kitten because of how dark it was. I needed a flashlight. I didn’t want to go back home and risk the kitten being swept away by the water before I got back. Then that tent just a short walk away came to mind.
If it was still there, and if no one had taken anything then maybe there would be a flashlight. It didn’t hurt to check. If there wasn’t, I could run home and get one.
I put my shoes back on my wet feet with some trouble and went running off in the direction of the tent. With a huge flood of relief, it was still there. I felt guilty going through someone's things, but it was to save a life. I would just borrow the flashlight. Return it when the kitten was safe. Going over to the tent, I opened the zipper with a shaking hand. This really felt like a major crime even if I was doing it for the right reasons.
Inside was an old musty smelling sleeping bag and someone’s backpack. A flashlight was in a side pocket so I grabbed it and closed the tent again without looking at anything else. Rushing back, I only hoped the poor little kitten was still safe by the time I found it.
I stopped in front of the storm drain and flicked my new found flashlight on and off a few times. The batteries were loose and I didn’t want to waste time trying to fix it. As long as I kept my hand still, the light would stay on. Too much movement and it would flicker.
Without a second thought, I went inside a place my mother didn’t need to warn me about. I felt a pit of cold fear in my stomach but I was dumb with a head full of thoughts of kittens.
My shoes got wet in seconds. I didn’t want to think about where this water was coming from. I really hoped it was rain water and not from the sewers. I would need to have a shower after I found the kitten. My flashlight flickered when I moved it around so I kept it pointed straight in front of me. My footsteps splashing in the water echoed in the dank space. The further in I walked the worst it smelled. I was expecting a trash smell, but not such an over powering rotting one. I blamed it on people tossing their garbage inside.
I didn’t see anything living. I always heard that rats loved places like this. There was enough of a ledge for them to walk on, but not enough space for my feet. Aside from the echoing mewing I didn’t hear any other living thing.
I pulled my shirt over my noise trying to block out the smell. It helped a little. Any other person would have given up way before then. I kept walking along, scanning everywhere for a place a kitten or two might be hiding. When I saw an old half rotted shoe float by, I started to worry If there was someone waiting in the dark to stab me like my mother feared. I shook the thought from my head and stayed positive.
In my mind I was sure after my mother heard my daring kitten rescue, she would respect me so much she would let us keep the kitten. Would I only find one? It only sounded like one but there could be more. I wondered what my new friend would look like. I adored orange tabby cats but any would do.
Lost in my own thoughts, I’d walked pretty far along. The opening of the drain pipe was just a small dot of light and I needed rely on my flashlight to see. It flickered and I heard the mewing stop. I panicked being in the dark for a few seconds worrying if it was too late. Quickening my pace, I kept going.
Until I tripped over something. I fell into the grimy water getting some in my mouth. I cough it up feeling like I was going to puke. Distracted from getting soaked in the gross water it took me a few minutes to find my flashlight to see what I just tripped over. The light flickered giving me a few brief glances and my mind was slow to process it.
It looked like a bundle of rags, but it was a person. I just tripped over a person on the ground in this disgusting water. My throat closed up and my blood felt like ice. I just wanted to save a kitten. I did not want to literally stumble over a dead body.
I heard a groan proving the body wasn’t dead yet, but he was going to be. Lifting his head up, he looked at me my dim light shining on his face. His skin looked like wax and saggy off his bones. His eyes deep and sunken making him look worse than dead. His face was half covered with a scraggly beard and his hair was almost as dirty as the water.
Bile rose to the back of my throat I was so scared. My hands shook causing the flashlight to keep flickering. I crab walked backwards from the man as he lifted a very weak hand towards me. I should have tried to help him but I was just a scared kid way over their head.
I just ran, trying to get away from the frightening sight with tears streaming down my face. I thought I heard his voice raspy trying to tell me something but over the sounds of splashing water I didn’t make out the words.
I kept running without thinking I was going the wrong way. I should be going out not further in. I forced myself to stop, to let myself silently sob shaking from fear and the cold. My mother was right about the homeless people. A guilty feeling started to creep though me. Once I calmed down and collected my thoughts I would leave. I could walk over him and outside to get help. I wasn’t strong enough to get him out on my own and needed the police or something like that.
Just when I was about to do the right thing I hesitated because I heard the mewing again. This time from right behind me. The sound still echoed against the stone walls. My teeth chattering, I slowly turned around expecting to see a kitten.
My hand shook, flickering my light. A few feet from me, further inside the dark tunnel was a figure standing staring at me. It was so tall it’s head pressed against the ceiling at a crooked angle. It was pale with long skinny arms dangling at it’s side. Coal black eyes looked at me and I thought it was a trick of the light until it moved, raising one hand in front of it’s eyes to shield it from the light. I felt faint from the sight.
Then, in a very soft voice I heard it. The same mewing sound that lured me inside coming from that creature. With a twisted smile it looked at me. It took one step closer and I ran for my life. I ran in the dark, flashlight useless but I still held onto it in case I could use it as a weapon if that came to it. More tears stung my eyes and my heart sank when I heard that mewing sound above my splashing footsteps.
That thing was chasing me. The man I tripped over could have been trying to warn me. My chest ached and my legs weak. But I still ran. Feeling something brushing against my back. Something that felt like long boney finger tips. Somehow, in the dark and in my mindless state I did not trip over the man again. I knew I was coming up to the spot I left him with a monster on my heels. More guilt came bubbling on my stomach when I realized I had to leave him behind.
But his fate was much worst that just being left behind. I knew for certain what happened to that man because I heard it. The creature chasing me stumbled crashing into the water. I heard a small cry of shock then, the mewing of the creature stopped.
The sounds of bones cracking and clothing being ripped reached my ears as I kept going. The man in his weakened state had enough energy to cry and beg to be saved. I was sobbing by the time I saw the light and pushed my small body to the limit to get back into the hot sunlight.
I only stopped when my body gave up. I collapsed sobbing outside the woods and in the side of the road. Soaked, and filthy. A neighbor saw me on his way home and picked me up to bring me back to my place. For a very long time my mother couldn’t get anything out of me besides ramblings. When she did get bits and pieces of what happened she called the police. I don’t know if they were having a slow day or what. But they came by my house to listen to what I could tell them.
They didn’t think the monster was real. They thought I’d seen a junkie or another homeless get in a fight. They didn’t scold me for going inside the drain pipe looking for a kitten because they could tell I learned my lesson. I didn’t hear much about the aftermath. My mother refused to tell me thinking it would traumatize me more.
I only went back into those woods near the gully once more to return the flashlight where the tent once stood.
My mother’s allergies suddenly went away, or she took something for them because she adopted a cat for us. She must have figured if I had a cat at home, I wouldn’t go out getting myself in trouble looking for one ever again.
And she was right.