As I neared the bathroom, something raked across my calf. I jumped, teleporting against the wall, heart pounding.
Cottage in fog
Photo courtesy of Depositphotos
The wind rushed past the open windows, sending shivers along the screens and rattling the old aluminum casings. I pulled my covers higher around my ears, but Nature was not to be ignored. The room was the usual blur of grey and black shapes with bits of light the color of moldering paper where the moon peered between branches.
Not for the first time I cursed the impulse that led me to a house without a connected bedroom/bath. In the spring, the 1850s-era cottage seemed picturesque with grey-painted shutters the realtor called “distressed and vintage, dear” and flowering bushes and trees kissing the slightly rickety porch and eaves.
I hadn’t fully processed the impact of the seasons and my meager bank account on my dream home. The rambling drive across the bubbling creek in summer turned into a winter bog that effectively surrounded me with a moat. The flowers died and the branches turned to scaly fingers that scraped my roof and walls during dark nights. The porch lost a few boards and became a home for things that scrabbled and left songbird heads and lizard entrails on my doormat.
It may seem trivial, but I most regretted the bathroom situation. Relying on contact lenses is enough of a pain during the day, but in the night, nearsightedness turns familiarity eerie, moving walls and doorways, morphing chairs to lurkers in dark corners.
Nature would not be denied; the pull grew stronger.
I flung back the covers, feeling the air knife my body. Snuggling into my robe, I dangled my feet slowly to the floor where the cold boards oozed along my soles. Longing took me back to my crowded, warm house at the university; even music at all hours, with golden light pouring under my bedroom door and ramen-festooned dishes in the sink seemed cozy at 3 a.m.
But no, this house two miles from the nearest road and tucked back against ancient oak woods had been my choice. I had wanted solitude, and solitude I’d gotten.
Gripping the iron knob on the footboard, I made the turn to the dark void that was my door. The hallway light had gone out again, not that its blue glow was exactly soothing.
The call came stronger. Damn Nature.
The porch denizens scratched and emitted guttural howls from below while the wind strengthened its attack on my eaves. I pulled my robe tighter around my neck but didn’t pick up the pace. That’s how you break a toe.
As I neared the bathroom, something raked across my calf. I jumped, teleporting against the wall, heart pounding. Slowly bending, I reached out a shaking hand, feeling a familiar softness.
“Damn it, Nature. I was coming. You didn’t have to creep out like that.”
Nature bumped against my leg and burbled. “Freaky animal. Give me a minute.”
As I stumbled toward the doorway, my foot slid on something squishy. “Ugggghhhh… what did you puke up this time? Clearly you don’t need food right now.”
Dreading the flash, I squinted and clicked on the bathroom light. As my eyes adjusted, I looked down, attempting to decipher the blur of greyish red and beige at my feet. A metal glint caught my eye. I picked up the glasses and, tiptoeing over the mess, I washed them in the sink mumbling to myself about bad vision and wayward eyewear. Honestly, I didn’t even remember getting them out of the drawer where they usually live.
Slowly the blur resolved into entrails, some scraps, and a bowling ball-sized head. I touched the glasses on my face. Nope, they weren’t mine. I squinted down at the floor; the scraps were the remains of a flannel shirt.
Shivering I turned to my pet. “Damn it, Nature! We moved all the way out here because of you. Where did you find this one anyway?"
Nature’s fangs glinted, and she waved a tentacle happily. I groaned and went to find my slippers and a shovel. Glad the backhoe had come with the house.