Photo by Billy Brown
For the last 16 years I have been living in a near state of constant fear. A chilling sense of unease has pervaded all of our lives. Initially, I thought that it was some kind of presence that was in the house itself, but it followed us to the next three houses we moved into.
It was most unnerving because we never knew when it was going to strike. Sometimes you would feel something slightly brush up against your skin, or think that you would catch a glimpse of something moving in the shadows out of the corner of your eye, but you would never actually be able to see anything.
This was no “friendly” ghost. Sometimes I really thought it was out to kill us. It seemed to have favorite haunts. It lurked around corners lying in wait for just the right moment, when you least expected it—and then in a flash it would jump out at you and scratch your legs. You were left with a trickle of blood down your ankle. We started making a wide turn when we went around a corner to try and give ourselves a chance to outrun this beast. This “thing,” whatever it was—for lack of a better term, we named it Sassy—did have some sort of schedule that we became aware of. Like clockwork, at about nine o’clock at night, it would show up out of the blue and begin pacing back and forth, guarding the doorway to the bedroom. You would get the impression that it was some sort of gigantic beast, like a big cat, a lion of some kind, the way it would puff up. And its eyes: You could feel them watching you, staring you down, daring you to make a move, as if the very thought that it was time for sleep was at your own peril. Many a night I made a mad dash, running for my life and making it just in time to jump on my bed and get under the covers, escaping an attack in the nick of time.
“Sassy” seemed particularly interested in guarding doorways. Many, many times I ran in a frantic to the bloodcurdling screams of our children’s friends to rescue them when they were trapped by this beast as it was guarding the doorway and they couldn’t get out of the bathroom. Every one of them can tell you chilling stories of being frightened by this entity in our home. “She” had many different ways of making her presence known to us, and she had evil, plotting plans to do away with us completely. We had to be especially careful at the top of stairs. Just when you were about to take the first step down, something would quickly dart out the last minute and weave around your legs in hopes of making it all look like an innocent accident. Once or twice it almost worked.
Another one of the ways she had planned to do us all in was she tried her best to choke us all to death on her hair. We all coughed up hairballs way bigger than any she could produce. I’m certain that we haven’t eaten anything I’ve cooked in 16 years that wasn’t held together with cat hair. I apologize to anybody who ate anything I have ever prepared. In fact, cat hair has been the special, secret ingredient, the one I always left out whenever I shared a recipe.
I’ve read that a lot of evil spirits have a particular person they enjoy tormenting and this “Sassy” was no different. She loved to “bait” our daughter, Carlyle. She would sit outside her bedroom door looking cute and meowing sweetly, and then when the door was opened, she would dash in, jump on her bed, and growl, bite, hiss, claw, and run Carlyle out of the room. Carlyle’s room was her favorite room in every house we moved to, just for spite. She lay in wait for every opportunity to attack her, and anyone whom she believed was associated with her. Early on she had an obsessive disdain for our daughter’s long hair, and took a special thrill in jumping onto her back, attacking her hair, biting it, and sliding down her back leaving her claw marks along the way. She never, ever forgave us for capturing her and having her declawed. In fact, I was certain her goal was to live long enough to regrow them, which I am convinced she was doing.
Every morning I would wake up gasping for breath. Slowly I would become aware of a kneading sensation on my throat and open my eyes to see the cute face of evil staring directly over me, pressing just hard enough to cut off my oxygen supply but not so hard enough as to leave any identifying paw marks. That’s when I realized that she was growing her claws back, as well as opposable thumbs.
I’m not sure why we put up with the daily assault on our safety and well being. Whatever the reason, it’s over now. The days of dealing with our impending demise of death by Sassy have come to an end.
However, her mission in life still haunts us. I still go wide around the corners, I wear shoes to make the beds (she loved hiding under the beds), I look before I take the first step on the stairs, I wake up with a jolt in the mornings clutching my throat, and her hair still floats through the air, lingers on the furniture, and winds up in our dinner.
And we are still coughing up hairballs.
RIP Sassy Brown (July 1999–June 2015)