I am a walking- talking scaredy cat.
My life is beset with countless phobia; fear of sudden gush of water. Fear of high pitched sounds. Fear of cats, dogs and every animal. Fear of dark places. Fear of being alone. Fear of anything that could be feared. Fear of fear itself.
I wasn’t always like this. Once, I was brave and fearless in the way of most 5 year olds.
That evening, as I chased after Fify, my cat, oh yeah, I used to have a cat. I had only one single goal; get Fify before a car ran her over. Earlier, I’d stepped out of the house with mother’s shouts of ‘Don’t wander off’ accompanying us. With the cat tucked under my arm, I’d replied, “We are just going to be outside, on the swing.”
She let out a deflated sigh. “Don’t wander off. Don’t talk to strangers.”
I knew she couldn’t see me but it didn’t stop me from rolling my eyes at her. “But I never wander off or talk to strangers.”
She tossed me her don’t-get-cheeky look. “I am serious. I want to be able to see you each time I look out of the window.”
Muttering a wry “Yes mummy,” I walked out.
You see, I had every intention of obeying her. I’d planned to just play on the swing while listening to the soft whispers of the evening breeze. I swung lazily back and forth, one arm hooked to the old rope that attached the swing to the beam, the other gently stroking Fify when she went very rigid, her ears stood out like antennas, she let out a loud drawn out hiss, jumped down from my lap and began to run. I jumped down forcefully, feeling a sharp pain shoot through my calf. Ignoring that, I hobbled after her as she made her way towards a hole in the fence, maybe she’d seen something across the fence.
The fence was an old, flimsy thing that looked about a thousand years old. It was dotted with cracks and crawlspaces big enough to fit a scrawny five year old, this old thing separated us from a house nobody had lived in since before I was born. Mother said an old woman used to live there and after she died, her children haven’t been able to sell it. I crawled through on my knees, finding myself in a compound overrun by weeds. The house was huge, bigger than the one I lived in, the paint was peeling, some windows broken, overall, the sense of decay, of lost grandeur overwhelmed the house. I hesitated, casting my eyes around the compound till they settled on that naughty cat, standing by the door, mewing loudly as though beckoning to me. I stepped forward, feeling the tall grasses caress my face harshly as I made my way to her.
She moved in, into that yawning darkness that was the house. I sucked my teeth in mild irritation, already tired of her games. “Fify now. come back.”
She ignored me, moving deeper into the house. I followed her, the darkness was like a tight cocoon drawing me in and enveloping me.
That’s all I remember.
Mother says she found me later on the swing, my body criss-crossed with scratches and bleeding in places. I wouldn’t tell her what happened. Fify was never seen again. Mother says for months afterwards, I would wake up screaming and crying. Till today, try as I can, I only remember walking into the darkness.
And that was when I began to fear.