Encounter(2): Conclusion

In case you missed Encounter 1, see it Here

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Betty allowed her mother a more active part in taking care of the baby since she resumed work partially at the agency. Most times, she took James to the office, when she was sure her schedule would allow her pay adequate attention. The baby, being the only thing that counted as a suitable recompense for the death of her husband, was the absolute centre of her universe.

She began to wean her son in the seventh month, breaking his dependence on breast milk. It was a period in which her normal routine was interrupted with a melancholy whenever she remembered that James was not here during their son’s early development.

*

The first time Betty noticed that anything was off was when she was feeding the baby in the sitting room while taking long glances away from him to concentrate on the news. During these periods, it always seemed that she was not carrying little James in her hands. He always felt lighter and his sound of pleasure at being fed seemed to grow into a strange soft purring; a sound that was so slightly deviant from his normal noise that it did not usually cause her to look immediately. She registered this at the back of her mind, and whenever the awareness forced her to look at James in her arms; everything would seem to return to normal. She blamed it on stress, though she was not patently aware of being under pressure.

There was also the noise from his cot at night. James, unlike others of his age, began to lose sleep at night. Betty would always awake to slightly strange sounds coming from his cot. Her mind would always to rationalize it. Perhaps it was because he was sleeping on his back. She once mentioned it to mama and regretted it immediately. The old woman jumped into all sorts of superstitious conclusions, going as far as blaming some of her neighbors in the township. She even looked suspiciously at Robin now.

The dreams became more frequent. Betty always woke up in the middle of the night bothered but incapable of remembering why. Slowly, she became groggier and became more absent at her work. Insomnia began to slowly set in. Mama was scheduled to leave for the township soon and Betty didn’t want to bother her with any complaints. The woman’s dotting practices were almost incursive. She would probably find a way to relate it to paranoia connected to James’ demise.

*

It all came to a head when after a night of drug-induced sleep –exactly a week after Mama had returned to the township-, she caught herself creeping on the bed cautiously to check on her baby in the cot. The realization brought about a slight panic and convinced her she may be getting paranoid after all. What did she have to fear from her little child? It was a cause for concern. She set up an appointment with the doctor.

Days later, Dr. Kamsie told her it was probably some sort of stress arising from an innate fear  of raising the baby alone. He really wasn’t sure. She nodded grimly and left, still as burdened as when she had walked into the hospital; No, more bothered because even the doctor didn’t know what to tell her. She didn’t mother to reach across to the township and tell Mama; she was in no mood to be fretted over.

*

It was Sunday and she had a migraine. She seemed to be having those more often now, but she blamed the church speakers for it. Far too many speakers in that enclosure. It wasn’t like the congregation was tone deaf! As she settled on the bed that night, she played a little with James and placed him close beside her. She didn’t want him sleeping in the cot for the time being. Perhaps what she needed was a little more bonding with the baby.

She dreamed.

She opened her eyes and found the room dark. She couldn’t even see the outline of the white plastered ceiling. The migraine medication she had taken earlier seemed to be making her groggy. She slowly turned her blurry vision towards where she thought James should be, and drew in her breath sharply in slight terror.

There were pinpoints of blurry light everywhere on her huge bed. Her fear forced her vision to clear and she felt a chill as her sharpening vision caused the light to coalesce into small suspended dots. In a moment, she saw the big picture. Cats. Everywhere on her bed, with glowing eyes. The glow cast dim shadows around the assemblage, accenting their furry outlines and magnifying the ungodliness of the scene. Her wide eyes instinctively trailed down to where her baby should be, right beside her.  

Empty.

Her mouth opened in the beginning of a scream before her vision went dark again.

The room was brightly lit when she woke up again, beads of sweat covering her forehead. The AC was on low blast because of the baby. The baby! She turned her head towards her child and discovered the space empty. She felt a slight vibration on the bed and looked to the edge just in time to see a white furry cat jump down and scurry through the open door. Robin! Where was her child? Where the hell was James?! Her hysteria knew no bounds. She sprang up and off the bed and headed straight for the door, all the while screaming out ‘James!’, ‘James!!’

Her baby couldn’t have possibly walked anywhere! Had he been kidnapped? By who?

Her eyes frantically roved over every space until she reached the sitting room and switched on the Chandelier.

Then her migraine hit her forcefully, forcing her to squint in the bright yellow light. The time on the grandfather clock read Ten minutes past two. She felt suddenly sick to her stomach as her worry escalated.

“Jam…” understanding came to her suddenly, as her nightmare flashed through her mind in a moment. Was it possible that the cat had something to…? Mama’s words of caution concerning the cat suddenly rang loudly in her head.

Her maternal instinct rid her of fear and drove her into the corridor. She would rather die than let the accursed cat have her only child. Two doors opened into the corridor, she first barged into the room Mama had stayed in. Nothing. The bathroom was also empty. She was sweating profusely now despite the coolness.  Her silky nightgown was beginning to feel slick on her body.

She practically broke into the other room, bracing herself for whatever she might find there. It was also empty of occupancy. Where was James?! Where was the cat?!!

The kitchen was empty too.

This lack of progress exasperated her and her vision became blurry as tears welled up. She should call someone-the Police, Estate security, her mother…anyone. She headed straight to her room to get her Blackberry. She hurried to the side she had slept in and picked up the phone before it hit her.

She had unwittingly noticed movement inside the cot as she entered.

James! Why had she not thought to check? She might have carried him there sometime during the night without being aware of it. She hurried to the other side of the huge, her heart racing- and stopped coldly. Then the world tumbled.

Robin saw his mistress fall down. His impossible human-like smile was still playing on his small feline jaws, his teeth bared in the attempt. He sleekly jumped out of the cot and waited, looking expectantly at the figure inside the cot.

The kitten managed to wriggle out of the baby clothes and join the big cat on the floor. It looked at the apparently lifeless woman and seemed to want  to recollect something. It didn’t succeed. The big cat meowed, a sound a human would have found horrifying, drawing the kitten’s attention before going through the bedroom door, past the corridor, through the main door of the house which opened soundlessly on its accord and outside the residential estate, to the backdoor of a pet store. The door was opened by a bespectacled man after a few scratches by the big cat, allowing the cat to slid in, closely followed by the kitten.

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Ekwe.