9. Shadow in the Garden

That night I had a vivid dream. So vivid, it was almost as though I was awake.

I was standing in a beautiful garden. When I looked around I realized it was the garden around our house, but it was as if all the flowers that had ever grown there were blooming at the same time. There were thousands of flowers in the most glowing colors – much more vibrant than I ever remembered seeing them. The house had almost vanished in their midst. It was like something out of a Disney film.

I felt someone approaching and turned around.

It was Kitty. She was visible only from the waist up, but it was her. When she moved it seemed as though she was wearing the garden as her dress – the flowers followed her movement, flowing with her like an evening gown. As she moved through the scenery, the garden became a supernatural fabric that fitted to her and revealed her form. If you have ever seen photographs or videos where scenery is projected onto a living person, you’ll get the idea.

She was almost exactly the Kitty I had known, only somehow… clearer. Her colors were bright, but translucent.

“Kitty!” I shouted with joy, “you are alive!”

She said something but there was no sound. I concentrated, bending closer so that I could listen better. Her lips moved but I heard nothing. Also it seemed as though she was constantly falling backwards away from me. The only way I can describe it was that it was like having vertigo, I can’t explain it better than that.

“I can’t hear you!” I said, frustrated.

She stopped talking. She was not looking happy, nor was she smiling like she always did. She looked at me and closed her eyes. She stood there, and then opened her eyes. She pointed at her eyes, then closed them again, and I understood. I closed my eyes too. I felt drowsiness take me and I began to fall, but in a strange way, I heard her. I didn’t hear her words with my normal hearing – instead I got them, if you can imagine it, like a ball of thoughts straight into my mind, and when I concentrated on the “ball” it opened and I simply knew the words, without hearing them. Again I just can’t convey this in any other way.

“Beware of the shadow.” I felt roses falling down around me and somehow they were important. They were like the white roses that grew under my window.

I woke up with a jolt.

It was still night.

I knew I had really met Kitty. If the old book was right, I had been there, in the buffer zone, in my dream state. And Kitty had come to meet me. To warn me of a shadow. What shadow? And what were those roses about?

I thought I heard something outside. The slightest of sounds. I would not have paid attention to it, but then I saw Nugget. He was sitting on my bed and all the hairs on his coat were standing up. He was growling very quietly, every muscle tensed.

I felt a spasm of panic, as all my childhood fears reared their ugly heads. The shadows hiding, trying to catch me… It took all my courage to get out of bed. I moved very quietly and took my bathrobe from the back of my chair. I had socks on, so I could move quietly. I knew all the creaking floorboards – the house and I had grown up together. Instead of stepping I slid my feet forward like walking on thin ice.

I slid across the floor avoiding the creaky boards, and got to the door without a noise. The door handle was another thing – if you just pushed it down swiftly, the lock made clicking noises.

I must have spent an eternity pushing the door handle down ever so slowly. But I did make it out of my room without making a sound. Then I had to stand there in the darkness and let the handle rise just as slowly as I had pushed it down. It took forever.

I went past Grandma’s room and into the living room. I made myself slide into the shadows next to the window, though the darkness there set my nerves tingling and pulse racing, and very slowly inched myself so that I could see into the garden.

And there it was. The shadow. I did not notice it at first, because everything was so peaceful and quiet. There was no wind, and that is what revealed it to me – the rosebush under my window was shivering. It was not a very dense bush – it hadn’t been pruned properly, and as a result it had grown veritable trunks that did not have too many leaves near the ground. Because of this, you could usually see the white wall through it, but now you could not. Something was blocking the wall from being seen.

Nugget had followed me with stiff legs, his back arched, and his tail thick. Now he stood on the arm rest of the couch right next to the window, hissing. He licked his lips nervously, and started to growl.

“Shut up!” I said to Nugget quietly, but if you have ever tried to control an infuriated cat, you’ll know they don’t take orders. The electricity coming off his coat was almost visible. I know that if I’d touched him, there’d have been a snap of static.

And of course the shadow reacted to the image of the cat clearly visible through the window. I saw the shadow move and pressed myself against the living room wall, hoping I could not be seen from outside. I stood on tiptoe so my feet would not be visible.

From the corner of my eye I glimpsed something very dark glide past the window. I could not see anything clearly, but I thought that it moved like an animal, on all fours. I did not see any glowing eyes or anything fit for a horror movie, but this something was certainly not like any animal I had ever seen. It stood up on its hind legs, and that’s when it almost looked half human. I felt terror rising up my spine.

Nugget’s voice was turning into a wail, and soon he would give that horrible scream cats do, when they chase something out of their territory. He’d wake the entire household.

“What is it?” I heard Grandma’s whisper.

“Something in the garden…” I whispered back.

Suddenly Nugget calmed down. He stood for a while and stared into the garden. His bushy tail slowly returned to normal. Then he jumped down from the sofa and ran to the kitchen. Obviously the shadowy animal was gone. I saw the wall behind the rosebush again.

“Did you see what it was?” Grandma asked.

She appeared surprisingly elegant considering she had just woken up. Her hair should have been a mess, but no. She looked like she’d just returned from a hairdresser’s appointment. Did she sleep standing up? Or use a neck-rest like the ancient Egyptians so that her head never touched the bed?

“No. Some shadowy figure.”

Much to my surprise Grandma froze. I could see her figure against the light of the summer night showing through the kitchen window across the hall, and her slight movement stopped as abruptly as though she’d walked into a wall.

“Shadow?” Her voice revealed no emotion, which was in odd contrast to her stiff posture.

“Yes. It was funny, really. I had a dream about Kitty and she warned me about shadows. Or a shadow, to be exact. I could not sleep after that and came to get some water from the kitchen,” I lied, “and then I saw Nugget hissing at something.”

Grandma remained quiet for a while.

“Oh well, it was probably a stray dog or something like that. Better go back to bed now that it has gone,” she shrugged eventually and turned to walk back to her bedroom.

I was absolutely certain she was lying. You know when someone you know well is playing a role. Grandma was too careful to appear as though she was no longer interested in the subject. She knew something about that shadow. She knew about Kitty as well – it was she who had said Kitty would try to contact me, without knowing about Kitty’s letter. The strange book warned about… horrible creatures. Kitty had then warned me about a shadow, and suddenly a shadow was lurking under my window. Too many events were falling into place as parts of the same puzzle.

But I couldn’t ask Grandma now. Our conversation would wake up my parents.

I walked back to my bedroom and closed the door. I would ask her when we were alone.

I could not sleep anymore, so after tossing and turning a while, I put the bedside lamp on, picked up the small book and continued reading.

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