Vicky woke in the middle of the night. She lay awake in bed. There came a scratting from the landing, just outside the closed bedroom door. A tearing at the new carpet.
She lay in the familiar bed in the unfamiliar bedroom; it was their first night in the new house.
The scratting came again. It sounded like a cat. But they didn’t have a cat. She sat up. She nudged her husband with her elbow.
Paul grunted in his sleep and turned over, away from her.
Again the scratching from behind the bedroom door.
Vicky got to her feet and padded to the door in the dark. She pulled the door open and was faced by a white cat with green eyes.
The cat turned and went down the stairs without a sound. She watched as its white tail descended the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs the tail turned left, towards the kitchen.
Vicky followed the cat down the stairs. She stopped in the kitchen doorway. She saw the white cat cross the kitchen floor. The strange thing was: the cat had no paws. The bottom half of its legs were missing, as though the cat was walking through black water and not on the newly laid slate tiles they’d had laid.
The cat then disappeared through the back door, through where you would expect a cat flap to be, but they did not have a cat flap in their new back door as they didn’t have a cat; Steve was allergic to them. Or so he said.
She approached the back door. Through the window she saw the white cat pad across the lawn, its paws now fully visible. Then, in the corner of the garden by the shed, it disappeared. Into the blackness of the night. She stared out of the back door window. All was dark. There was just the rustling of dry leaves. They’d put in their offer on the house at the start of the year; it was now near the end of autumn.
Her heart was thumping in her chest. She stared at the bottom of the back door, through which the cat had passed. She tapped it with her toes. It was solid. No real cat could have passed through a solid door. She had seen a ghost: a ghost cat.
She snapped on the kitchen light. Then she put on the kettle on.
When Steve joined her in the kitchen shortly after seven, she told him about the ghost cat.
Steve was sceptical. ‘Nothing could have walked through that door,’ he said. ‘It’s solid wood.’
‘But it did,’ Vicky said. ‘I saw it.’
‘I don’t believe it.’
‘I was standing over there in the doorway,’ Vicky went on. ‘It was white and had green eyes. It crossed the kitchen. But it didn’t have any paws. It was like the bottom of its legs were missing.’
‘You know they put two inches of concrete screed on the floor when they damp-proofed the kitchen?’
‘No,’ Vicky said. ‘I left all that side of things to you.’
‘Well, they did,’ Steve said. ‘That would explain why it had no paws.’
‘So you believe me now?’
‘I didn’t say that. I think you need to rest. We had a big day yesterday, moving in. Why don’t you go back to bed and I’ll bring you up a cup of tea?’
Vicky stared at him. ‘You don’t believe me, do you?’
‘I think there might be something in it. But I’m sure there is a rational explanation. I believe you may have seen a cat in the house. I don’t believe it walked through the back door… It must have got out some other way.’
‘They put a new back door in, didn’t they? The old one had a cat flap in it, didn’t it? …When we first looked round.’
‘It might have done. I didn’t take that much notice,’ Steve said, remembering the old back door with the cat flap sticking out of the skip in the driveway a few months ago.
Vicky went back to bed and later Steve took her up a cup of tea.
Back downstairs he spotted his new neighbour in the adjacent garden, burning old leaves on a bonfire. No time like the present to introduce himself, he thought.
Five minutes later he was chatting to his new neighbour over the hedge, acrid smoke billowing at them. Steve soon managed to bring the conversation round to the people who had lived in the house before them.
‘Retired,’ his neighbour told him. ‘They moved to the countryside. Must have been six months ago. I know the builders have been working on your house since the spring…’
‘They didn’t have a cat, the people before, did they?’
‘Oh, yes. A beautiful white cat,’ his neighbour told him. ‘Pandora they called her. Great big green eyes, she had.’
After his neighbour had gone back inside, Steve went and fetched a spade from the garage. He went to the spot in the corner where Vicky had said the white cat disappeared. The grass was sparser here, some bare soil at the surface between the clumps of turf.
He soon dug up the dead cat, white fur still stuck on her bones. Its neck had been broken. The collar around its neck confirmed that it was indeed Pandora. He left the dead cat lying on the lawn. He went back inside.
He was going to go upstairs and tell Vicky but he stopped in the entrance hall.
On a memo board tacked to the wall was a single note. On it was the forwarding address of the previous occupants, in case there was any post to forward. He stopped in front of the rectangle of paper, his eyes wide.
He took from the understairs cupboard a shoebox and then went back out into the garden.
‘Somebody’s been missing you,’ he wrote on the paper slip he placed in the shoebox on top of Pandora. He then set off for the post office, the package under his arm.
They never were visited by the ghost cat again.