A Sunday Ghost
I promised you a ghost story, and here it is. But this is a ghost story with a difference. Every single word of it is true.
Some years ago we acquired a kitten. She grew from a timid, tiny bundle of fluff into a Cleopatra of a cat; beautiful, long and sleek. And jet black, even her whiskers were ebony. Rosie was frightened of nothing and nobody. At the time, we had a huge garden. She would spend hours stalking the wildlife, and thought nothing of having fun chasing all manner of intruders. She conquered everything, from mice and the odd rat (courtesy of next door´s wood pile) to stoats, stray toms and even frogs. The only adversary who drove her mad was the squirrels, who came every day to raid our bird feeders (strung high enough to defeat even Rosie). The squirrels were her nemesis. They were just too fast, too agile. And they tormented her. There was a very high, perfectly sheer wooden wall between our garden and the busy road that ran alongside it. Every other day, we would see a cheeky squirrel running along the top of the wall, a stolen nut in its paws, stopping every now and then to shake its tale at poor Rosie, sitting alongside the wall with her tail lashing in frustration.
Rosie had grown into a home cat. She rarely left the garden, and never missed a night curled up at home. That was why we knew, instantly, that something was very wrong when a night, and then another, passed without our lovely cat demanding her Felix. We searched everywhere. Asked neighbours to check their sheds. Put an advert in the local paper asking anybody who might have seen her to get in touch.
Nearly a week passed, and we had begun to give up hope. We knew she was dead when my husband came home from work and said that he had found Rosie. There was a black cat lying on the slip road leading past our garden fence. No doubt it was her; it was wearing the distinctive pink collar we had just bought for her. Before we could go and retrieve the poor girl, it began to rain. It rained as if it was never going to stop. We couldn´t go and get her, in those conditions it would have been suicidal to even try – she had been killed between two lanes of very, very busy traffic. But it seemed as if she was still determined to come home. Day by day, the poor little body was swept a little further down the road, until it came to rest outside our garden wall. Then, the rain stopped and we decided we were going to go and get the pathetic scrap of fur that was left.
And the day that black cat came home, Rosie came home.
She staggered through the back gate, and literally collapsed at my feet. We scooped her up and took her straight to the vet, who diagnosed multiple, very deep bites all over her body, all of which were badly infected. How she had many to survive for so long, we had no idea. Her life hung in the balance for weeks, until the results of a biopsy confirmed that she had been savaged by a badger. Judging by the pattern of the wounds, the vet thought she had been picked up by the badger, shaken violently, probably thrown aside and then picked up again. Knowing Rosie, she had probably picked a fight with the badger in the first place! Once they knew what they were looking for, she was fixed up with multiple drains and the right antibiotic, and she recovered. Slowly.
But that is just the start of the story.
The day Rosie came home, the black cat outside our garden fence vanished. Taken by a hungry fox, you may say. Perhaps so. But you may change your mind about that when you hear the rest Rosie´s story.
She recovered magnificently. The squirrels continued to taunt her, and she never caught one.
Then virtually a year to the day that she vanished for the first time, she went again. This time, I didn´t wait for my husband to tell me. I went and looked on that damn road myself. And yes, there she was. In exactly the same spot that the first black cat had come to rest. We braved the traffic – which was slightly less terrible at that spot - and picked up her sad little remains, and I swear to this day I felt her body relax when I picked her up. It must have been those squirrels, we thought. It had finally become too much for her and she had, somehow, scaled the smooth 15 foot wall and had been going so fast that she had either lost her balance or gone straight over the top.
Spooky? Oh, yes. But wait, there´s a little more to tell.
Rosie had a habit of knocking on our bedroom door when she wanted to come in for a cuddle. We could never work out how she did it with her soft, little paw, but tap she did. The night we bought her home for the last time, my husband was at work – at the time, he worked nights. I was too upset to sleep, so I was reading in the hope of passing a little time before morning. I was half way down a page when I heard Rosie´s soft little “tap, tap, tap” on the closed bedroom door.
And I am ashamed to say that I switched off the light and pulled the covers over my ears so I couldn´t hear her.