When my parents were getting divorced, there was a time when they handed me off to my uncle in Ohio for a few weeks. He lived by himself in the country and had previously been somewhat estranged from the family.
The first thing I noticed at his house, the first thing anyone would notice, was all the hunting trophies. They made me nervous when I was alone in the house, which was common during my stay as my uncle would go out to "do business" (get drunk).
He would leave me alone in the house for hours, sometimes days at a time. I was six years old at the time, but I was able to raid the fridge and entertain myself well enough. My uncle had two major rules: don't leave the house and don't let the cat out.
He had a cat that lived in the basement. He never let me see it, but he went down to the basement to feed it every few days. I was never to enter the basement, let alone try to play with the cat.
I spent much of my time alone playing with his Yorkie. One evening, while he was out at the bar, I decided it couldn't hurt just to take a look at the cat. My uncle always kept the door to the basement locked, but he must have thought that, as a six year-old, I wouldn't be observant enough to remember where he kept the key, or intelligent enough to use it. He didn't even bother to make it a place too high for me to reach.
Having retrieved the key and opened the door, I stared down the unlit stairway. I became afraid my uncle would find out and get mad, so I hesitated to venture down.
It was storming outside, and just then the power went out. I was immediately frightened, this being my first power outage in memory, let alone my first power outage by myself, and found my way to my guest bedroom, hiding under the covers.
Perhaps a half hour later, I realized my uncle could come home drunk at any time, and wouldn't be happy if he found the basement door open. I braved the darkness and went out to lock and close the door, making sure to return the key to its "hiding" place.
The storm was over, and the moonlight illuminated the house through the windows, but the power was still out, and the mounted deer heads were really creeping me out. As I was making my way timidly back to the guest room, I heard something that rocked my body with shivers.
A simple, feline growl. Like a regular cat growl, only just a little bit deeper and louder.
I was not afraid of cats, but something about this growl made me terrified. Logically I should have worried more about what my uncle would do if he found out I let the cat out, but something about this growl just seemed wrong.
It took me a couple moments to turn around, and when I did, my gaze was met with the biggest cat I'd ever seen. By "biggest cat," I am including only my six year-old concept of a cat, a house cat, not lions or tigers at the zoo, which weren't really cats to me.
The cat was the size of a German Shepherd. I would learn years later that this particular cat was a Eurasian lynx, but at the time it just looked like a massively oversized house cat, which perhaps made it somehow more terrifying than if it had been a lion. The most terrifying thing besides the creature's size was the fact that it was poised in a recognizable pounce-position.
I side-stepped just in time to avoid the pounce. It could have turned out much worse if I had made the mistake of turning around to run. The cat ran into the wall and had to take a moment to rebound. That gave me enough time to make a dash for the bathroom and lock myself in.
There was scratching and clawing at the bathroom door. I considered hiding in the shower for extra measure, but I was too scared to move. After a few seconds, the noises stopped.
I sat there on top of the toilet for what felt like hours. In reality, it was probably more like ten minutes. The power was still out, and my claustrophobia was getting to me. Eventually I had to get out of there.
I opened the door a crack and peaked out. Then, I opened it some more. The only source of light was still the moon, but it was enough for the coast to look clear.
I crept slowly, ever so slowly, to the kitchen to pick of the telephone, only to find that the storm had knocked that out, too.
There were two doors leading to the outside, but my uncle was serious about not leaving the house. They could only be unlocked with his key, which he kept on him when he went out. I didn't want to risk opening or breaking a window for fear of attracting the cat's attention, wherever it was at the moment.
I decided to try to make it to the stairs to get to the second story. This meant having to risk stumbling in the dark and encountering the cat again as I made my way to the living room. I left the kitchen area and decided to crawl my way to the stairs.
When I was exiting the bathroom hallway into the living room, my eyes caught motion. I saw the faintly glowing eyes of the cat, though they were not looking my direction, and as my eyes adjusted to the increased darkness of the windowless living room, more detail faded in, starting as just the silhouette of the lynx until I could make out its fur pattern. The cat was prowling, stalking in a way that told me it might have sensed my presence but hadn't locked in to my location yet, and the scariest part was just how silently, completely silently, it was moving. Its massive paws made no sound at all on the living room carpet.
Suddenly the cat pounced again, but this time it wasn't at me. As I looked on in startled silence, I realized it had lurched upon a taxidermied hare. Frustrated at realizing the prey had no meat after a little chewing, the cat growled a little and leaped onto the sofa. It licked its paw, stretched, and curled up into a sleeping position.
I decided it wasn't worth the risk of traversing the living room to get to the stairs, and started crawling back to the kitchen. Not wanting to lock myself in the bathroom again due to my fear of small spaces, but still wanting a secure refuge, I decided to try a compromise by hiding under the dining room table. As I crawled into the dining room from the kitchen, I smelled something that made me retch a little. Then I saw it. The bloodied remains of the Yorkie, the dog I had forgotten about during all this terror. The dog was all shredded up in a neat pile near an air vent.
I didn't feel bad for the dog, just more terrified than ever now. I decided to put up with the stench and crawl between the dining room chairs, under the table. I wasn't sure this was a good idea, as I would now be more physically compromised if the cat found me, but the chairs and table cloth seemed to provide enough cover.
I somehow fell asleep under the table, although probably only for a few minutes as when I woke up it was still night and the power was still out. The fact that I fell asleep made me feel more vulnerable in this spot, and I decided to try for the stairs again.
When I reached the living room for the second time, the cat wasn't there. But it did leave evidence of its presence, having torn the sofa and reclining chair upholstery to shreds. This intimidated me enough to once again head back for the dining room.
When I got back, I realized the cat was lying on the dining room table. It probably had been since I woke up. I decided this meant the coast was finally clear to get to the stairs, but just then the power came back on.
The lynx sat bolt upright, knocking over a vase and breaking it, found me on my hands and knees, and started growling. I let out a scream as it pounced.
I heard a gunshot, and although the cat did finish its pounce, it was dead by the time it landed on me. I had been mistaken in believing my uncle had gone to the bar that night, when really he had been sleeping off a bottle of whisky up stairs. He had heard the vase break, thought there was an intruder, and grabbed his revolver. He pulled the carcass off me. I sobbed, he hugged me, and kissed my head.
I was expecting him to be angry at me for letting the cat out, but for the rest of my stay he seemed to feel nothing but guilt for the fact that I was almost mauled, and he stopped going out until my parents took me back from him. The family fell out of touch with him over the next few years, and I never heard from my uncle again. I have my own cat now, and while I love her to death, I can't help but get nervous around her whenever the power goes out.
Written by HopelessNightOwl