My Summer break had finally arrived, and was filled with many joys. One of the great thrills it held was a very energetic and lovable kitten, who I enjoyed playing with immensely. Unfortunately, the kitten wasn’t mine, and instead he belonged to my roommate, or ex-roommate I should say. He was the one who had offered me a place to stay after the College dorms had kicked all the students out at Spring Semester’s end. His name was Hobbes and he was 9 months old, although I wouldn’t have known at first glance that this monstrous cat was only a mere 8 months in age when I first moved in. He had white fur all over with auburn patches that swirled around, and black, innocent babbles for eyes with a curious and dazzled expression on his face. It felt just like there was a small child in the apartment, and when I’d pet him or he’d follow me around, his gaze and body movements resembled a young child’s playfulness and shy uncertainty of the world. He hung to my coat tails to be guided, supported, fed, and cared for. His rightful owner, Andrew, now lived with his girlfriend but Hobbes remained behind. I questioned this move, but each time I pressed my room mate he simply replied, “I’m sorry, I simply have no where else to put him” and that was the most I could get out of his reasoning. I even recommended that Andrew look into finding some alternative if any existed, like in loving company of other family members that lived far away so that the option of Hobbes remaining at the apartment could be a last resort. Don’t get me wrong, I am very attached to Hobbes as he is to me, but as I’ve mentioned I am not the rightful owner. But alas Hobbes remained behind, and I evidently had been granted full custody. The end of the month arrived and once again it was time to collect my roommate Luis’ money so that rent could be paid. There was an ATM where I could deposit the money on campus and have it in my account to pay rent by the next morning. The ATM machine was a good 25-30 minute walk from my apartment. With the checks in hand, I gathered my belongings and prepared to make a some what lengthy trek. Hobbes meowed frantically before I could leave the apartment, and ran in usual circles around me. I adored Hobbes, despite the times he had awoken me early in the morning yearning for human affection. He then motioned slowly toward the door and sat with his round, white furry belly bunched up around his hind legs. Hobbes wished to be let outside, which was exactly where I was heading. It was not unusual for me to let the kitten outside for hours at a time, for it was obvious he knew where his home was and never wandered far from the front door, weary of anything else that moved outside the apartment. I cracked the door and the kitten squeezed through, beyond my control to keep him from getting out, not like I wished to restrain such actions. I closed the door behind us and once I had gone more that a few paces beyond the steps, I looked over my shoulder to see the kitten perched by the oak tree, sitting in his usual sturdy, upward posture, observing me fall from sight. I reached the busy street bordering the University and crossed the curvy road on campus through the luring bike path running adjacent to the Arboretum, which was a warming and comforting sight even in the dark of night. I didn’t check the time before I had left the apartment though I knew it was evening; the color from the sky had almost completely faded. Beyond the first few fancy lamp posts, I noticed I was walking into complete darkness, and every light beyond it was off; I found this quite odd. I had walked down this bike path countless times before and often times at night, and before tonight it was always perfectly well lit. I will admit the dark makes me a little uneasy but I have no major phobias for it, so I decided to keep walking on this path as normal, temporarily leaving behind the light of civilization. The bike path arched around for a little while, and eventually when I looked back I found myself surrounded by darkness, but I could still make out the various overgrowth and tall trees leaning over the fence. I still felt a small level of comfort, but the tense feeling of unease was rising inside of me. I began to feel like someone or..something was approaching me, but when I turned around I could only see blackness and no noticeable movement. A few more paces toward my destination..I heard it, but it was very faint. The sound seemed far away but was certainly coming from behind me. I froze, and without turning around I heard it again; a cat’s meow. I felt chills, it was very odd because I had never encountered a single cat on this bike path. Not only that, this particular cat seemed to be following me, coming straight away, and I could not tell for exactly how long it had been doing so. But aside from even that, the main reason I felt so chilled was that it sounded EXACTLY like Hobbes, in that same manner of frantic cry for attention. I heard it again..again.. coming closer towards me. I finally spun around, and squinting in the bleak darkness, I could make out a small silhouette that was drawing nearer, but it wasn’t close enough yet. When it finally came within arm length, I could see from its immature bodily and facial features that it was in fact a mere child, a kitten, while also the same size as a full-grown cat. And..there was that same expression on its face; curious and dazzled, with two black innocent babbles for eyes. Its fur was brighter than the colors around it with the same swirly patch shape of darker fur. I doubted that this could be Hobbes who had followed me all the way from the apartment as I wouldn’t deem him possible of such a thing without sooner being hit by a car, but the resemblances were eerily similar. As I looked down on this kitten, I simply stared at its face peering back at mine..those two black babbles acknowledging my gaze. I didn’t dare pet it as I didn’t know the kitten at all, and I found myself suddenly losing interest and turned away. As I did, the kitten ran in front of me toward a grassy patch of land hardly still within sight by the fence, and clawed and nibbled on a few weeds, beginning to chomp away. After a lengthy pause, I finally began heading in the same direction as I had been this whole time. I still felt creeped out but I decided on the kitten’s resemblance as only mere coincidence. I felt curiosity growing on me and finally got the better of me..I just had to go back over by that fence to get a second look at it. To my dismay, I saw no movement, and I was sure I was looking in the general direction of where the kitten was. As I backtracked further, I confirmed that the kitten in fact had entirely disappeared without a trace. It probably had silently climbed over the fence or sprinted away quickly into the heavy darkness, but I still wished that I would’ve caught sight of that kitten one last time. I finally reach the main part of the campus by the book store, student center, and library, where the ATM was waiting for me. Between the main gym area and the path leading to the ATM machines, a few young feminine bodies emerged from behind the corner of the pool area wall and were suddenly right in front of my face. I was taken aback in surprise, but what made me feel particularly creeped out was that eerie silence as they stepped solemnly one foot in front of the other, with not even a hint of response from the cement when their shoes made contact. A few became many, proving the first women I saw were only the mere front runners of a long line of them…the cement still made no sound. These women were all draped in black dresses, similar to what you’d wear to a funeral, and seemed to all be about high school age. Their expressions were mostly blank and seemed pale, and what I found particularly odd is not a single one of them even acknowledged my presence even though I stood only a few feet away from them. Even this was distancing myself from the position I had first encountered the figuration of ladies. I suddenly felt quite invisible as I noticed a uniform emotionless expression on them, with those same downward angle eyes starring at the ground as they solemnly trekked on. I took a few more steps back slowly, noticing how I could audibly make out the sound of my steps immediately, while the tens of bodies that had just intersected my path mere second ago were..deadly silent. They continued to follow a straight path right past the small gym in the distance now, and I could not make out where the front of the line was anymore from where I was standing. I couldn’t imagine what their purpose was being on campus..I mean, from their formation and odd, silent behavior. Any time I had seen groups of people from a high school age group, it was clear they were either attending sports, taking a tour exploring the campus, or celebrating an event. I could only assume by these women that they were rehearsing for some weird act or play, but whatever they were in fact doing, they seemed very..serious. And all those steps with the sound turned completely off, like watching a silent movie, I just…I couldn’t make any sense of it. I slapped my face on both cheeks to confirm I was still real and shook off my second spook of the night. At last I arrived at the ATM machine and very quickly sealed the envelope with the deposited amount I needed. The exchange was successful, and my one chore for the night was now complete. I could now turn back and begin my long trek back to the complex. As I made my first crossing past the student center, I was amazed to see a homeless person standing there. My body actually jolted back in shock, for I had not been more than a few steps away from this person before I even knew he existed. The homeless man did not even acknowledge my surprise, and stared blankly in my general direction. I responded by keeping my eyes straight forward and trying my best not to appear alarmed; my heart was still pounding out of my chest. “The cat…” I heard the homeless man mutter under his breath, and I felt my eyes widen a little when I heard it, but I still did my best to not acknowledge the man. “The cat…” I heard faintly again once I had made it a few paces past him, at which point I began to power walk. I did not take the bike path again, and I decided instead I’d take a different scenic route back to my destination through the on-campus dorms. I realized I had not seen a single rabbit this entire time I’ve been walking on campus, which was bazaar. I always saw at least a few before tonight, and by these dorms most of all but even here..nothing, totally dead. But of course, nothing this night was occurring as it ordinarily should, so I was beginning to expect the unexpected, and as I did, the unexpected kept happening. I was on the other end of the arboretum now, on the opposite adjacent fence, and once again there was a cat in the distance. It was well lit this time, and it was clearly an all black cat and its eyes reflected the light of the same fancy lamp posts like glass as it watched my approach. This time, I could not even get near the cat before it fled, and each time it would stop after a short distance and then darted off again and again, peering back at me as I progressed at a normal pace, or perhaps slightly faster than my normal pace. I realized I had not taken my gaze off of it for awhile, and when I did I began to notice that I was..surrounded by more black cats. They were not drawing any closer to me or seemed curious by my presence but they just..watched, as if they had expected to see me. If I tried to even take a few steps towards any of them they would dart away, and I knew I would never catch any of them. Stranger still, each black cat appeared an exact replica of the other, like cat quadruplets..quintuplets..sextuplets. I then saw something that triggered me to panic…a dead rabbit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to freak out at the sight of dead things, but for some reason this felt completely different. It’s not even like it was eaten because there was no evidence of guts or torn ligaments, or at least from what its backside revealed. The rabbit was just motionless and limp and I couldn’t see its face…it didn’t appear as if it even struggled before it died. But there was just something so incredibly uncomfortable about the whole thing, and there was that…that grotesque stench. I just tried to collect my thoughts in my head to make sense of all this, to process the information. I suddenly bolted out of there, and I didn’t expect myself to react in this way but I just did, my legs just sprang into action. As I did this, I saw another dead rabbit and I focused my eyes straight ahead of me without moving another muscle in my neck another centimeter, refusing to observe any more murdered or deceased animals that were laid before my feet. I was really unsure what the real scoop of the story was; did these rabbits just expire, or was there a more hands-on explanation to their deaths? I really don’t know what I found so uneasy about it, but I just felt incredibly vulnerable and insecure, and my breathing became heavier and I began feeling queasy. The black sextuplets had dispersed as I ran as if for dear life towards the student parking structure. I felt like a coward and gathered myself together; I had to refocus my bearings and get my brain working again. I remembered to breathe, and suddenly I wanted to get back to my apartment so badly now; I was just so creeped out by what I had seen thus far tonight. I wished I could at the very least see just one student walking about in the dorms so I could share my experiences with them and get it off my chest, but there was no one to be found. Suddenly, I squinted through the narrow alleyway between the back of the doubles dorm building and parking structure. “What the hell” I said aloud looking on; my body became a statue. What I saw were the same configuration of girls in their dark outfits from before; it was unquestionably the same girls I saw when I was near the ATM. A part of me felt curious and wanted to walk through the alleyway to see if they would talk to me. But another side of me, the part I listened to, told me to take the long way around through the parking structure. I hurried before the girls could beat me to the windy road bordering the freeway, and as I crossed the street into the sawdust and elm trees opposite the fence, I could not resist a glance at the face of the one of the girls in the line formation. I could see from this viewpoint that each one of the girls had a cold, lifeless expression on their face, and were staring down at the same level as my feet were. I swallowed my own spit, and began to realize the fact I was craving a meal was not helping the situation. Not a single one of the girls..and I mean NO ONE, even glanced up at me ONE TIME, and the overwhelming sense of being invisible I felt from earlier told me that these people would take no notice of me if I just bolted away from them up the curvy path ahead..which is exactly what I did, slipping back into the darkness of the night. I also confirmed what my ears could not tell me earlier when I was mere feet away from them, and from the soft chirping of crickets that were more audible, I could tell that their steps made no echo into the night. But it still was unexplainable, especially for such a large crowd motioning forward ever slowly, their feet would give some hint that they were walking and not floating. And they weren’t floating, they were WALKING, and I just- just, didn’t want to think about it. I did not even look back this time, and I began wondering what else could possibly scare me, lurking on ahead and waiting for me in the shadows of obscurity. Even with the mysterious line of female figures not far behind me, I could not shake the images of what I had seen before from my psyche; they were now burned into my memory. Even the encounter with the kitten that appeared to be almost a clone of Hobbes on the bike path…trying to erase these images from my head would prove difficult. I suddenly realized as my mind was racing that there was in fact something else that I found rather unsettling, which was that the freeway that I was right next to seemed eerily quiet. A wall running along the freeway blocked my view of the passing cars, and each time I progressed about 10-15 steps, the windy sound of cars passing in the opposite direction down the freeway gradually decreased in volume, even though this freeway followed closely to the wall that separated it from the path. I mean, I was moving parallel to the freeway, it wasn’t getting that much further away from me…was it? I was still practically right next to the freeway before the concave road became more twisted, seemingly more than I remembered. As I progressed, hoping to see the straight away soon enough, the road only became more concave and more twisted still, and it seemed as if the bend in the road was copying itself multiple times over, and I got an alarming sense of deja vu. I peaked behind me and the girl formation line was covered from view behind the curved fence, as it had been for awhile. It felt as if the path should’ve taken me in a full circle by now and I felt incredibly uneasy as the only thing I saw behind and in front of me now was a seemingly endless bend..what in the hell was going on? Where was the straight away? At last, I let out a sigh of relief as the straight away finally appeared in view. Perhaps I had been walking slower than I thought, perhaps out of fear, hunger, and paranoia that was getting the best of me by now. I almost thought I would find myself surrounded by black cats before I saw a straight path again, and the immense relief I felt almost overpowered the eerie feeling I dreaded just a little while before, and I felt a smile etched on my face. Man..what a creepy night this has been! My relief, however, proved to be short lived, as another realization occurred to me..where were all the cars? I had not seen a single moving vehicle in at least the last few miles; I had only seen parked cars. The clearing past the oak trees and sawdust trail revealed the same street as before I had made my way onto campus except..what the hell! The road was now completely void of moving vehicles and was dead silent. It was supposed to be a busy street and it couldn’t have been much later than nine o’clock by now, yet the street was clear except for two bodies standing stationary at the turning lane. At this point, not too far from returning to my place of hearth now, my mindset about these seemingly unnatural occurrences radically changed. Could I be dreaming, or had I somehow entered another dimension or parallel Universe? The thought seemed preposterous of course, but just..what the hell was this? I felt like the world was pulling a big prank on me, and it just seemed too realistic to be a dream. I could feel cold sweat on every inch of my body, especially my back and forehead, and the warm night air felt hot against my cheeks. I felt more sweat trickling down my brow and I could feel my heart pounding, but my sprinting from before probably contributed to this cold sweat more than anything. I shook off these thoughts for but a moment, and I had only taken a few steps up the hill that led to the bridge over the freeway when I decided that the two people standing motionless in the middle of the street were just bothering me too much. Even though there was still a chance of being spooked, I had to assure myself that these people were the first normal people that I would encounter tonight. As it turns out..I was wrong. I had to shake off the realization that there were no cars coming on either side of the normally busy street as I walked up to these people. I felt a small amount of relief again as I noticed that these two seemed to have a conscious like me, and actually acknowledged my presence. However..one of these two people still had his arm up and was pointing at something off in the distance, and I also noticed that this arm was motionless. Yet, they still did not speak to me, but simply nodded when we exchanged glances. They were two young men and had buzz cuts, and one was a good six inches taller than the other in height. Both men were wearing clean hoodies and jeans, nothing too out of the ordinary about how they dress, at least. The shorter man kept his arm up even as he kept his head tilted toward my direction. After a short frame of silence, still neither one spoke a single word to me..only to each other, “hey man…I think its still over there, do you see it?” The shorter man was almost whispering, pointing at the opposite end of the street leading into more University apartments, “How can you see it? I don’t see anything” “Don’t you see where I’m pointing? They are still over there, I don’t know what’s happening.” By this time, curiosity got the better of me, and I decided that I must make one final stop before heading back to my apartment, and I braced myself for what lay waiting for me at the opposite end of this street. One of my friends lived in this complex, so I figured if this little adventure ended at nowhere that I could at least stop by his apartment if he was there. Perhaps we could even hang out then, and I could finally share my tale with someone. The road reached the gate and I saw nothing at all, so I shrugged and decided to let myself through the gate into the University apartment complex. I just needed to speak with somebody about my weird night, and my room mate would certainly be getting ready for bed in order to wake up early for work by the time I got back there; at least I knew my friend would still be awake. I began to regret the decision not to open my mouth and at least try to communicate with the two weirdos, I mean whose to say what would’ve been the result? Worst case scenario I get something off my chest but get no response in return, I mean..right? I suppose I trusted my story better sharing it with my friend. I was barely inside of the complex when I caught something moving in my peripherals, in the direction where the shorter man had been pointing. I caught an image of a shadow slowly vanishing behind the back of one of the apartment buildings, but I was confused that what I saw appeared so dark, considering how well lit it was around that area. Behind me, the road was still silent, and I was fed up trying to discern any logic from earlier events. I wanted to hurry over and examine the area of my little sighting, but I noticed instead that the the tall pole in the center of the courtyard seemed different. I remembered joking to my friend about this tall pole because there were so many cameras attached to it, appearing to hold no purpose but to ruin people’s privacy. I noticed the light illuminating it was dimmed and flickering, and I also noticed the cameras attached to the pole, the glass had been..smashed. Every single camera, on every side of the pole was broken, with glass pieces scattered around in the brown and yellow grass. I made a big circle around the pole, just in case for my own safety, and I suddenly felt concern for my friend’s safety as well. I could hear..something off in the distance, but very faintly. Perhaps there were people partying and having a good time I could only hope. This complex was, after all, home to mainly the University’s foreign exchange students. I hurried over to my friend’s apartment on the far end of the courtyard and as I came near the front door, I discovered that it was in fact wide open, with one light in the kitchen illuminating the rest of the apartment. A lot of other doors were open, either with or without the lights on, while others remained closed with the blinds shut and no light laying beyond it. I ran inside his apartment, even though he would have no idea I was coming, and I felt on the verge of insanity. My friend’s bedroom door was unlocked and I found beyond that the light and his laptop was on, but he was nowhere to be found. That is when I heard it, faintly off in the distance…the chanting. As I left the courtyard square, the voices drew closer and sounded more evil with every step. I still could not make out what a single person was saying. Just a few moments before, I had thought I’d heard people having fun and socializing, but the tone now evidently appeared dark. I had given up, and I ran toward the noise, regardless of what could be waiting for me. I just needed something..someone, to talk to before my head exploded, but through the labyrinth of more and more buildings I was getting lost. My mind began wandering, trying desperately to fill myself with happier thoughts, “I wonder if Hobbes is getting hungry by now” and just imagining lifting the kitten up playfully and squeezing it gently, saying that I missed him. As these thoughts flashed through my mind, I was instantly pulled out of my daydreaming by an agonizing, horrible high-pitched scream, piercing deep into my ear sockets. This terrific nightmarish sound insinuated a direct response to my thoughts, pulling me right back into the madness and taunting me. This cry did not belong to a human but they were instead the distant, wailing shrieks of a single creature…a cat. I ran in a zigzag around every barrier in my way, drawing closer and closer to the shrieks. The chanting became more haunting and aggressive, and there were no discernible words to be heard, all in some different language. More buildings..more buildings..I could only wince at the shrieking that ripped through my eardrums but I needed to see so badly just what the hell was happening. I could only wonder what was left to the imagination; what could I possibly stumble upon next that was worse than the horrors the bleak night had already presented to me? At last I came to a clearing…and I could not have prepared myself for what I saw. Those same black gowns…and there were black suits too, with the same emotionless expressions as the girls walking in formation as I had already seen twice before. But they were chanting now, joined with men as well. There was no sign of my friend, not like I would ever expect him to be a part of a cult, but expecting the unexpected had been working for me thus far. I figured out pretty quickly that I was right about the cries, and again I felt that same loss of control from before when I found the dead rabbits. Suddenly, I covered my eardrums and went fetal. My mind yelled at me, “why did you have to bring yourself here? You know you didn’t want to see this! This will now scar you for life!” Despite my vicious thoughts, another part of me, that…other side to my psyche, forced me to look, and I now felt as a slave to stare at the madness unfolding from a distance. In the center of the circular formation, by four tiny blood spattered stakes, were three cats lying on the ground as lifeless corpses, drained of life from a single stab wound in the chest and covered in their own blood. There were also four cages with three cats inside, making none of the hissing noises I would expect in attempt to defend themselves. Instead, they appeared to be sleeping next to a single, florescent lamp, the type used to light a picnic table when camping out in the woods. One cage stood empty, and a young woman stepped solemnly forward from the darkness to present her prize, murmuring her chant pattern as the others near her took their turn to chant the same repeating, unknown phrases. I apparently had a death wish, because at this moment I sprang forward, compelled to halt her progress. I marched straight up there without a second thought to get a close look at her face and see what she was holding. But wait, this isn’t right…no, it can’t possibly be…Hobbes? “Hobbes” I nearly shouted, but the kitten did not turn toward me…it could not turn toward me. Like the cat in the cages, it had been evidently drugged and was motionless. The woman or rather teenage girl turned slowly towards me, presenting both her arms, and the present they held. “Does this one belong to you” her voice sounded surprisingly normal, but was still lacking in a natural speech pattern. “Yes…I mean it has to be, the kitten looks too similar” but again I could not know if my words held true, but everything about this kitten matched my image of Hobbes with the same uncomfortable expression on its face holding his eyes tightly closed, and at any moment I expected his eyes to open up. He felt the same as I remembered, brushing my arm over him, with that same soft and fuzzy fur and the matching auburn swirly patterns over a white coat. The same white and auburn colored face with the curious look upon his face, and even the lining of his mouth…it all matched like a photographic copy. And then, after a few more moments…the kitten’s eyes opened up and saw me. I expected him to leap out of the girl’s arms and dash away before I could catch him. He didn’t, and even more surprisingly, the kitten seemed to recognize me and batted my nose as I leaned against his paw, letting him sniff my face. That face…it was Hobbes, it could not have belonged to any other kitten. After I saw the kitten in his conscious state, I became overtaken by the thought of how the kitten that belonged to my ex-roommate Andrew could’ve possibly landed in this mysterious stranger’s hands, and I lashed out at her in anger. “Have you lost your mind? You would’ve killed him while he was wide awake! How could you possibly do this to him?!” The cultist girl had a rather unapologetic expression on her face, even ignoring my anger entirely. “He seems to take a liking to you, are you his owner?” “No I’m not, I take care of him” I said, with the kitten still patting my arms with a bewildered look on his face. I just wanted to snatch the poor soul out of the mysterious girl’s arms and rush the hell out of there without turning back. The girl stepped slowly toward me and then leaned down as I held my arms out, and the kitten quickly scrambled out of her arms into mine. Now that I had him, I couldn’t let him fall back into the girl’s hands, and I starred into the girl’s emotionless face with the exact opposite expression. I hissed at her in almost a whispering tone, letting her know my hatred for her; “no cat deserves to die in your pointless ritual.” She was stirred by no attempt at reason, and at once I think I realized the hint of love I felt for Hobbes carried in that same moment as well. What she told me left more more in shock probably because of the hint of emotion it carried, “such a shame, he needs a more deserving owner.” I suddenly felt empowered by her answer, like I could actually rattle what little emotion she felt. “Why the hell are you killing cats? What the hell is this? You and the rest of your…people, will answer for this and I demand to know why I have to rescue the owner’s kitten from a premature burial?!” I was drained, and began panting from this short duration of yelling; I felt so strongly attached to my words. But the problem with these words is the amount of attention they drew from the crowd, to the extent I perhaps had not wished it. I was now surrounded on all sides by at least a dozen curious faces now, blocking my exit, trapping me like the cats in the ritual circle. Every emotionless face with that same uniform cold expression was just so…infuriating. “Leave now” one of the boys in a suit bellowed at me. “You are disturbing the cycle, tainted one. We do not require your presence” a younger girl told me, and this certainly disturbed me most of all. This message felt out of a bad horror movie, like The Village or something, and I felt I was being pranked all over again. Just what the hell was this cycle? Are you kidding me, I mean I know nothing else tonight makes any sense but just..what the hell, god damn it somebody just tell me what the hell is happening! My jaw dropped when I realized the crowd looked just as serious as the girl who said this, and I lost all words and attempts at reasoning. I could only stare between two of the dark figures standing before me at the poor helpless cat in a cage that were about to be slaughtered. I could feel the temptation of my next thought, a scheme that was forming in my head, but I tried desperately to fight it. Why did I believe that I could rescue the cats in the cages, at the risk of Hobbes’ life? I was responsible for him, and I would be making a terrible risk, and probably I would be cornered by the disturbing figurines in human flesh and they would eat my insides…just like the rabbits. But no, that’s not what happened to those rabbits, I never saw any guts I…couldn’t possibly know that. I was visibly hitting myself on the head trying to wake myself up and slapping my cheeks, but I forgot about the kitten that was between my arms. I pushed two of the figures in the circle out of the way and they did not fight me, just letting me go to chase the kitten down. Try as I might, I could not catch up with Hobbes as he faded into the darkness. The chanting returned, like they had forgotten all about me, like I had not existed at all. It grew gradually louder, more aggressive, more…evil. I prepared myself for the exact moment another blade met with cat flesh, and I made no attempt to even run back in there, abandoning my original plot. I didn’t even move an inch in fact, just standing there, and then the horrible howling cry hit my ears and I covered them as I heard the pounding of my heartbeat, beating heavily, like it had before with the dead rabbits. Soon, that heartbeat was racing as fast as it possibly could, and I couldn’t handle any of it any longer. “Wake up” I whimpered to myself; still no sound of cars off in the distance, “please…please wake up.” I listened harder, moving or, rather sprinting to a quieter spot where the dying cats couldn’t cover the sound, but there was nothing to be heard. I thought maybe I made out the breeze as one passing car hurried by in the distance, but it was so faint it seemed more likely I had heard it inside my head, and my mind was toying with me now. There was nothing but the noise of my clattering teeth, that constant heartbeat that wouldn’t beat any slower, despite how many breaths I took, and the sound of my panting with the screeching cries of dying cats and chanting. Suddenly, the individual noises, as they circled and danced around in my head, they imploded into a singularity as the background noises all blurred into a single horrific, vociferating roar. It had all closed in on me…and that terrible sound, sucking me into the depths of my own mind. Even louder still…growing louder still somehow it was just, beyond unbearable now…LOUDER! I finally snapped, and I left Hobbes, or at least the kitten deemed to be his clone, in the shadows to rot in that place. I was running now, and I panicked when I finally realized that there were no cars…there were none, even at the next intersection and beyond off in the distance. When I finally came to the bridge over the freeway, my body became completely paralyzed. I could not move, I have never seen such a petrifying sight in my entire life. The freeway it…it was so empty, not a sign or a single trace of any metallic, mobile human inventions that traveled along it thousands of times every day. I was frozen there, I forgot my legs existed, the empty lanes as far as the eye could see toward the hills off in the distance. Those hills were laughing at me, taunting me, telling me I would never escape, as I observed those freeway lanes that disappeared only over the curvature of the Earth. Even in movies set in the Zombie Apocalypse, there would be hundreds and thousands of overturned cars in sight and an obvious reason for it known…but this? Complete emptiness? It was just completely unexplainable to describe the emotion, there are simply no words for what it feels like to discover that the impossible appeared to have invaded reality, or what I perceived was reality. It made as little sense as anything else I had encountered that night, and from my viewpoint I could see more parked cars over in the University shopping center and on the streets. It was the creepiest feeling that I had ever felt, and those parked cars told a different story as what I knew to be true, “everything is normal, there is nothing wrong.” It defied and twisted logic just like the concave road, appearing as a bend for all of eternity. As I remained as a solid statue, I knew that someone was standing behind me, but I just could not move. I could not take my eyes off of the barren emptiness that lay beneath my feet, barren far into the distance towards a single vanishing point. “It’s too late now, you are trapped in this world” I heard a girl’s voice tell me, “you and the kitten will never leave this place.” I struggled to turn and face her but I still found myself in a stun lock…my body’s muscles were not responding. I felt a sudden surge of warmth that extended up from my toes toward my head. It felt so…peaceful, a relieving, soothing, powerful calm that enveloped me in such a way that I can only describe it as complete solitude. It felt as though I had accepted my fate with grace..but I was still paralyzed, not a muscle in my body would move on command. “You must come back” she urged me, and I was overcome with the need to yell like before, but somehow, this time I knew I would not be able to muster a sound, and I gave up. I was in dismay; is it possible she didn’t know I was in a state of complete paralysis? Suddenly my answer was revealed as I hear a car engine fast approaching and it squealed to a halt behind me. A car door opened up, and I was hurled into the backseat by two of the ritual boys as my joints still did not budge. I was lobbed just like a statue; I had been reduced to an inanimate object. The car engine whirred and my eyes began flooding. I had not cried, albeit joy or sadness, in years…I was mesmerized by the tears, as they had no hot or coldness about them; I could simply not feel the tears. I could not tell what my emotion was now, it was all just too confusing. Was I really here, was I real, were these ritualists real, was the ritual..real? Was I ever in reality to begin with this night, and if so where did it all go so horribly wrong? I still felt solitude, but at once I felt an incredible force…a piercing headache that clawed into my brain, scrambling my thoughts, squeezing them. It juggled them around, beat them to a pulp, just any act of bullying I can describe inflicted upon my head. It all came at once as quickly as receiving a splinter scraping your hand along wood; it attacked me, from the inside out, and the pain affirmed that all of this could not be a dream. It felt as though the car ride was lasting for days, turning seconds into hours, warping the duration of time in ways that are impossible to visualize. I just felt so lost in it all…still none of my joints would move, not even an inch, and I stared out the corner of my frozen eye sockets at a glimpse of the palm of my hand, hoping to give some definitive sign of movement. I could no longer tell how long I had been frozen this way, how long the night had lasted, or what day it was. But they were still in the car, those cultists, the driver and our vehicle zooming off into oblivion, I could see them in my peripherals. No one made a sound, and since I couldn’t turn my head, I was pinned staring out the side window, watching the passing buildings, props, tree, light posts, trash cans I..I couldn’t differentiate them anymore, it was all one big sweeping blur. Because of how oblivious I was to time, I can’t tell how long it took exactly, but eventually a non-existent force let me lay down, and for the briefest moment before I drifted to sleep, I swear I could feel something small and fuzzy nestled between the palms of my hands. We never arrived at our destination, or at least I don’t think we did. To be honest I still don’t know where I am, or how I am writing this. You might be wondering then: how did you manage to write anything before this then, when did your paralysis leave you, what type of prank are you pulling on us, where are you now? I was always bad at pulling pranks, and I was never the type that dared to dream, doing something stupid instead like steal the pencil away from my classmate’s desk and watch them act baffled at its disappearance. But a prank like this..no, I would not imagine. I am so shocked at everything I have told you that I am now convinced it was all real, and not an act of the imagination. I am not crazy, and my reality, my..own reality, has been reduced to a blur and shadows. And yes, my paralysis faded off when I awoke, and it faded along with the world I left behind. If I stop for a long while, the kitten still follows me, although I refuse to still call the creature Hobbes. I still hear their chanting, but it is always off in the distance, so taking care of the kitten is proving not to be much of a problem now, and the dried cat treats are no longer necessary to feed him. As for the other cats, I never see them anymore, only when I close my eyes. It often makes me stop and wonder what my roommate would conjure in his head to explain my disappearance, how he nor anyone else realizes that I have vanished from the face of the Earth. I’m sure the image he would produce to explain where I’ve gone wouldn’t come even close to…this. And the family I left behind: my brother, Mom, Dad, friends and acquaintances, I doubt I’ll ever see any of them ever again, and certainly not that treacherous University, the one that betrayed me, forced me to dive into the pits of the World beneath it. All I wanted was to pay my bills and enjoy the rest of my Summer evening; I wonder how it would’ve looked to see Luis’ face when he realized I had apparently ditched the rent and left all my belongings behind. I never could’ve imagined any of this could happen, I mean how could anyone have predicted this? How my life could end in a single, seemingly harmless night. In quiet moments, when I hear no more chanting, I take a seat on the ground and just stare into the kitten’s face, sitting cross-legged and motionless on that..smeared canvas of the Earth. Which is where I leave myself now, oh how I wish I could take it all back and escape this place, back to before it all started. ——————– Chris stared into the convicting eyes of those black cats, staring back into him, fading away as he re-open his eyes, replaced by image of Hobbes, his kitten. He tried to keep his eyes open for long lengths of time, but eventually saw them again…those cats, the same black cats, oh how they tormented him. Opening his eyes again, he discovered something was dreadfully wrong, but didn’t know quite what it was. As he continued to sit there, staring in the kitten..Hobbes’ fixed eyes, staring right back into his eyes, he could feel his soul trembling. He closed his eyes again, seeing those black cats’ eyes, opened them again, seeing Hobbes’ eyes again, closed them, re-opened, closed them again…re-opened them. “Oh my God” Chris’ voice quivered and trembled, and his skin turned clammy and gray from the legs up to the shoulders and his face, the same color as the monotonous floor beneath his feet. Hobbes’ eyes seemed to glow brighter, more gleefully cheerful, at the same time turning into that same convicting stare…the same as the black cats. The stare of the kitten and the cats merged, and together they pierced through the discolored flesh into Chris’ mind, all of their eyes together becoming black pearls… Off in the distance, the Cultist chant slowly became an audible cry.
Original Author: Chrizm