Hunching against the rain, Daphne hurried up the concrete walk till she reached the overhang that sheltered the apartment door. Her battered key rattled in the lock, stuck for a moment, then the knob turned and she was in.
She came inside, shook herself and flipped the light on, looking for her only roommate, the cat. The big Siamese was nowhere to be found, however.
“Dagoba– I’m home– come on out, girl.”
Putting her grocery bags on the stove and taking off her wet sneakers, Daphne padded back into the small living room. She meowed. It wasn’t the best feline impression but usually got a response. This time, though, Daphne didn’t hear an answer. Where is that silly cat? she wondered, her mind already starting to run wild from the stories she’d been swapping with her coworkers on that wet October evening. SHe grunted, lowering herself to the carpeted floor, She got on her hands and knees to check under the couch. That was Dagoba’s favorite spot to hide when the storms were too scary.
“Come on out, Neko-chan,” said Daphne, using her favorite japanese pet phrase for the cat. For some reason, Dagoba sometimes responded to Japanese words more rapidly than words in English. Daphne had wondered before if cats simply liked words that had fewer sibilants in them, but whatever the reason was, right now she just wanted her furry friend out from under the couch.
Two glowing, red eyes shone out from the darkness beneath the padded seat.
Fighting down the jangling from her already frayed nerves, Daphne called quietly. “You got me again, Dagoba,” she said. “Scaring me with those pretty eyes of yours. Come on out from there.”
That was when Dagoba’s warm, round head butted Daphne in the side. She stretched, blinking sleepily, as if to ask “why did you have to wake me up from my nap?”
Daphne glanced over at the Siamese. The cat looked at her curiously, as if wondering why she was on the floor. Her voice shook badly. “You were in the bedroom? Then who’s under there?” Or what? she wondered silently. Her blood was running cold in her veins. She most definitely did NOT want to look at those red eyes again. She got up and grabbed the flashlight that was stuck magnetically to the microwave and turned on its powerful 28 led beam. Slowly, shakily, she got back down on hands and knees. There was no other way to see under the low futon-style couch.
Feeling better with the light, she shone it underneath the couch. There was an old roll of duct tape. A wood saw. Some crumpled up grocery bags. A partial sheet of sand paper. A bottle of white glue, still in shrink wrap. An old radio. Some airsoft beebees. Lint, cat hair. Cardboard. And nothing more.
Dagoba mrowed questioningly.
“Nothing under there, I guess,” said Daphne. “Maybe the airsoft ammo reflected the light somehow?” Even as she said it, she knew it was a lame excuse. But her conscious mind fastened on any halfway plausible explanation. She wanted a normal evening. Life had just been too weird lately. She got up, scooped up her cat and hugged her. Instead of wriggling out of her grasp, Dagoba wrapped her long, brown forearms around Daphne’s neck, licked her cheek, and purred.
Two red eyes under the couch, blinked, waiting.