The weather showed no mercy as night closed in. Windows rattled as rain pelted against them. The sound of trees creaking and the occasional crack of branches breaking echoed around the quiet rooms. The odd vehicle driving past the house at high speeds brought hope and disappointment every time. Lannor, in his feline form curled at the foot of the bed, listening to the sounds beyond the house. This pastime allowed Lannor to ignore the creaking of the walls and the constant reminder no one live there but him. Bitterness overwhelmed him every time he thought about the years, months and days he’d last seen another person.
The empty home, abandoned ten years ago left Lannor craving for company. The last occupant to live there, Elizabeth, would not give the house up knowing he would remain after her death but she had left in anger. Perhaps she intended to inflict loneliness on Lannor as punishment. Whatever her reasons for leaving, Lannor loved her.
The steady hum of another vehicle approaching the house drew Lannor’s attention once more. Accustomed to the sound reaching its peak at the front of the drive before fading into the distant, Lannor’s ear twitched as the unfamiliar sound of gears changing down startled him. The deceleration of the engine continued, drawing Lannor up onto his back legs, his ears alert and his heart racing. Another gear change as the car continued to slow and then the unmistakable sound of tyres on gravel coming down the drive towards the house.
Lannor bolted from the bed, jumping onto the window ledge with ease. The grey sky tarnished with rain made viewing the front drive difficult yet through the distorted flow of rain on the window Lannor made out a silver vehicle coming to a stop at the front of the house. Heart hammering, Lannor launched from the windowsill and through the doorway. Dust long gathered in the corners beside furniture and skirtings flew up as Lannor dashed past. His black paws threatening to slip as he turned sharply on the landing and jumped four steps at a time. At the bottom, in the foyer, Lannor darted to his right towards the living room, where he worked his way over and around the decades of stored items to reach the large window. Pressed against the musty glass, Lannor’s heart continued to pound with the prospect someone new had arrived at the house.
The vehicle sat silent several metres from the front veranda as Lannor waited with nervous anticipation for the occupant to show. Yet no one did and Lannor wondered if perhaps the driver had second thoughts. The rain assaulted the car and Lannor hoped the delay was due to the weather. For thirty minutes Lannor sat watching. Confusion around the situation put Lannor on edge and not until the occupant made their way to the house, bags in hand, did Lannor’s excitement turn to dread.
With the engine shut down, it took no time for the vehicle to begin to cool. Rain continued to steadily fall, with no immediate signs of letting up. Water worms streamed down the windows while tears streamed down Tyler’s cheeks. Parked in the front of the small two-story weatherboard home long abandoned by his family, hopelessness grew within Tyler. Overgrown lavender and rosemary bushes and un-pruned evergreen trees surrounded the house at the end of the long narrow lane. It was the perfect place to hide.
Discarded by his family and friends and left to survive in the harsh world on his own, despair engulfed Tyler. It was now late Thursday evening but four days prior he sat in the kitchen of his parents’ mansion laughing and planning his twenty-first birthday party. Then one truthful admission later his parents had disowned him. Tyler ceased to exist to either of his parents. Tears continued, and he did nothing to stop them. Head pressed against the steering wheel, gripped with both hands, Tyler questioned his reasons for living. His parents were always kind and understanding, supportive in every thing he had ever done. But when they had asked him if he intended bringing a girlfriend to his party, Tyler had decided it was time to tell them the truth.
His lover Damien, a great friend of their family, had warned him not to say anything, but Tyler’s misplaced confidence his parents would not love him any less led to a dramatic confrontation. They were all laughing one minute and the next Tyler’s father demanded he leave within the hour, even worse, his mother would not look at him in the eye. Tyler pleaded with them and then his father did something he had never done before in his life–he raised his hand and hit Tyler across the face. The sound of hand against cheek echoed throughout the kitchen driving Tyler against the wall in fear. The expression on his father’s eyes forced Tyler to flee.
Damien was Tyler’s pillow of strength and Tyler believed regardless of his parent’s disapproval, Damien would be there for him. They met two years prior at an event hosted by Tyler’s parents and immediately hit it off. Damien’s strong personality and sharp wit always balanced Tyler’s calm demeanour and soft manner. Yet the outcome with Damien had not gone as expected.
“Why the hell did you tell them? I told you not to say anything.”
Damien’s angry words continued to sting every time Tyler thought of them.
“You don’t think I wouldn’t know what your parents were like. I can’t believe you are so naïve.”
“My parents have never once shown they would have a problem with gays?” Tyler had tearfully argued.
“You idiot. Have you ever mentioned it to them before? I have, and they detest people like us. Have you any idea what you’ve done.”
“I didn’t know. I thought they loved me.”
“Did you tell them we were together?”
“No. I said nothing.”
Damien’s pacing of the room drew Tyler into unease.
“You need to leave.” The steady gaze in Damien’s brown eyes told Tyler he meant what he said.
“But where will I go? What about us?”
“There is no us. I can’t allow you to destroy everything I’ve built.”
“What! I made you what you are. You can’t abandon me now.”
“I’ll deny everything. I won’t you out of my life.”
“No. You can’t mean that.” The shock of being discarded by Damien proved worse than being disowned by his parents.
“Please leave. Now.”
For a second time Tyler fled.
With nowhere to go Tyler came to the only other place he knew. The rain showed no sign of rescinding as Tyler raised his head and looked at the ramshackle house. He hoped it looked as bad as is it did due to the time of evening. The house belonged to their family for close to two hundred and ninety years with tales of tragedy and death. Tyler had often heard stories about it being haunted or cursed. His parents use to say they would send him here if he were naughty when he was a child. Suffice to say, Tyler was a good child.
Tyler took a deep breath, wiped his cheeks dry with the back of his hands and reached for his bags beside him. His hand hovered the door handle before he pushed it open and dashed to the porch. Bags dropped beside his feet, Tyler shook water from his hair surprised at how quickly he became drenched.
“This weather is miserable.” Tyler murmured as he glanced around and decided almost immediately, the house definitely looked as bad as he imagined. The wooden slats under feet groaned and Tyler hoped they would not give way. The front door painted in remnants of flaking red paint and covered in dirt made it appear pitiful. Tyler reached for the top of the doorframe and retrieved the spare key, grateful the family tradition extended to the old house.
The lock unused for some years made opening difficult and with several attempts and a lot of jiggling, the lock clicked open. Tyler opened the door and stared beyond the entrance. Cold seeped through his damp clothes as Tyler picked up his bags and enter the house. At first glance, Tyler’s perception of his surrounds gave him hope. The little light penetrating through the door emphasised the millions of dust-motes silently floating in the air. The house stood deathly quiet. Tyler entered and closing the door behind him, he removed the light and sounds from outside.
With a pause, Tyler stood perfectly still, as his eyes roamed the foyer. A wide staircase to his right, with a thick sturdy balustrade made of dark natural woods led upstairs. At a glance, Tyler saw light coming at the top landing, casting shadows on the top few steps. Directly in front of Tyler, a long wide corridor, with two rooms leading from it; ending with a door at the end to the rear of the house. To his left, two large glass double doors stood open revealing very little. Tyler could barely make out the boxes and furniture covered in sheets before the room faded into the darkness. Tyler dropped his bags at the foot of the stairs and the sound rang out, sending a shutter down Tyler’s spine.
Engulfed in darkness, Tyler stood silent, as he pondered his next move. With a deep sigh, Tyler moved further into the house. At the entrance of the living room, Tyler stared into the darkened space. The room contained an assortment of out-dated furniture along with items that did not belong in the room. A 1950s blender sat on the sideboard by the door and a discarded wooden wine rack leaned against the wall. There were large piles of magazines stacked around the floor, some looked to date back before Tyler’s birth. The aged wallpaper highlighted pictures long removed giving the overall impression of the house as old, unused and eerie. In the silence Tyler expected to see the ghosts his mother frightened him with as a child.
Tyler continued past the living room, down the corridor, to discover a seventies style kitchen. Too dark to make out anything more within the shadows, Tyler moved to the door at the end of the corridor. The moment the door drew open; a cold draft seeped against Tyler’s skin. Windows along the rear wall let in enough of the fading light to show bare concrete floor and a single laundry sink. A narrow door to the left revealed a toilet. The rooms looked as though they’d been added on at some point and looked uninviting; cobwebs and spiders littering the corners of the walls and doorframes. Tyler closed the door behind him as he returned to the front foyer.
As Tyler walked past the living room doors, a terrifying screech rang out and Tyler stumble back against the balustrade, hand on one rail ready to tear it out as a weapon. Breath heavy, eyes dilated and heart pounding, Tyler scanned the living room were the noise came from. Within the shadows something moved and Tyler’s eyes grew wide as his childhood fears resurfaced. Only the sound of his breath filled his ears, as he strained to hear other sounds. The shadow continued to move and Tyler’s eyes darted around as he considered his quickest escape.
The shadow began to take form and then a black cat stepped forward, back arched, tall straight in the air as once more, an offending noise echoed through the corridor. Tyler had never known relief as his did that moment, as his body sagged and he released the balustrade.
“Did you have to greet me like that? You could have got yourself killed.”
The cat hissed again and although relieved, Tyler did not turn away from the cat as he manoeuvred towards the bottom of the stairs. Without taking is eye from the cat, Tyler picked up his bags.
“If you don’t mind, I’m going to head up stairs and find a place to put my things.”
Tyler sprinted up the stairs three at a time and on the landing, paused and glanced down the stairs. With no sign of the cat, Tyler turned to investigate the three doors to his right. The first room near the landing was dark and seeing nothing resembling a bed, Tyler continued to the next door. The second room revealed a bathroom and the third room at the end of the landing revealed a large bedroom. The cold damp room offered little comfort however the ready-made double bed, covered in a thick layer of blankets appeared inviting.
Bags dumped beside the bed, Tyler began removing his damp clothes. Leg raised in motion to remove his pants the cat, having made his way silently upstairs, hissed again in the doorway almost making Tyler fall.
“Will you stop?” Tyler demanded over his shoulder as he used the bed to steady himself. The cat sat in the middle of the doorframe, his bright green eyes menacing, making Tyler uncomfortable.
“Ignore it.” Tyler murmured to himself, as he began searching for his pyjamas in one of his bags.
“It’s only a cat. What more can it do but scratch me to pieces…” Tyler continued to talk to himself as he slipped on his pyjamas. “… or kill me in my sleep.”
The thought an unpleasing one made Tyler wearily stare at the cat as he pulled back the covers. Even as he lowered himself under the covers, Tyler did not take his eyes from the cat, should it suddenly attack. As he lowered his head to the pillow, the dusty odour distracted Tyler and he turned the pillow over, only to find the odour no different. Weariness overcame Tyler as his head hit the pillow ignoring the condition of the linen.
Once more the hiss from the cat in the doorway rang out around the room, and Tyler said, “I’m too tired to care right now. Bother me in the morning. Now goodnight.”