VII

302 31 28

By noon on Saturday, not even 24 hours after she had arrived at Grandma's House, Teddy had successfully solved two of three major mysteries. There was, of course, the mystery of the ominous "third rule," the one that slipped the mind of Grandma Rose herself. Teddy had solved this one with a laugh in the upstairs bathroom.

The second great mystery was the strange Rule #2, "Do not kill the spiders," which she had just discussed with Grandma Rose. This one was only partially solved, because just as Grandma Rose had been explaining her rule, Mr. Poole walked in, and Teddy could swear he was acting strangely. Which leads us to Teddy's third great mystery.

The third great mystery relates to Rule #1: "Don't go down to the basement." Was it really because Mr. Poole enjoyed his privacy?

Teddy wasn't one to break the rules, however. She understood from some experience that the consequences of doing so usually gave her much more inconvenience than would outweigh the thrill of rule-breaking.

But her curiosity was fierce. As she wandered through the maze after breakfast, she pondered this dilemma. She was so absorbed in thought - little gears turning in her little head - that she didn't even notice the fat black cat who was desperately trying to get her attention.

It followed the girl, slithering through the shadows between the tall stacks of books and boxes, disappearing and reappearing mischievously. Its yellow eyes glowed, focused on its subject. Finally, as if tired of being subtle, the fat cat perched atop a high stack and abruptly pushed over a pile of old newspapers.

Teddy jumped at the sound and turned to find its source. Loose pages of newspaper fell to the ground around her, and she spotted the inkblot shadow of the ornery creature, still perched smugly atop a tower of books. Teddy jumped again at the sight of its glowing yellow eyes. The cat opened its mouth wide, revealing sharp feline teeth, and let out a loud meow!

Teddy smiled widely. A cat! She had discovered yet another interesting tenant of this little old house. She stared up at it, wanting to pet it. But the cat remained perched, statuesque, as if on lookout from above. And there was something strange about that meow, Teddy thought. It was a meow unlike any other meow she had ever heard. It didn't sound unusual, but rather, it felt unusual...

Unmoving, the cat emitted another confident meow! and that was when Teddy heard it. Although, "heard" may not be the best way of describing the sensation Teddy felt. She heard the meow, but there was something else there too, only it was deep inside her mind. It was a voice. And it said, "BASEMENT."

It wasn't exactly a voice, but that may be the closest way of describing the phenomenon. When the cat meowed, it was as if it was putting thoughts inside her head.

Teddy stared at the cat's yellow eyes. The cat returned her gaze, returned its intensity, and that's when she knew this wasn't in her imagination. The yellow eyes seemed to say, "Surprised? Get over it."

"What are you?" Teddy croaked through a tight throat.

The cat stared back at her, as if uninterested in conversation. It meowed again, impatient.

Again, from deep inside her mind came, "BASEMENT."

"No!" Teddy shouted. She quieted her voice, then said, "It's against the rules."

With a last look that told Teddy, "I am extremely bored with this conversation," the cat suddenly leapt from its tower of books and landed softly on the floor. As soon as its paws hit the carpet, it darted away faster than any fat cat had gone before.

Teddy jumped at the sudden movement. She hesitated, distrusting the strange cat and it's apparent power. But curiosity got the better of her, and she darted off too, in the same direction.

"Hey!" she called, as she weaved through the maze. She could see the cat waiting for her to catch up, but once she got close, it ran off again. She followed the cat through the house this way. It became a game, and her distrust for the creature was momentarily forgotten. She chased the cat, giggling excitedly, delighted by the creature who could put thoughts into her head.

But soon, the cat slipped into the kitchen. Teddy followed it, and found Grandma Rose humming to herself as she worked. Her back was turned, but she heard Teddy's gasping giggles and the stomp of her running feet on the linoleum.

"Hello love," Rose said, turning her attention away from the dough she had been working on the counter.

"Where did that big fat cat go?" Teddy said through breathless giggles.

Rose turned back to the counter and began patting the dough with flour.

"Oh, have you met Snickers?" Rose said as she worked. "That cat is trouble, my dear. Has a mind of his own, doesn't he?"

Teddy spotted the black cat - Snickers - perched happily beside the door that led down into the basement. She put her hands on her hips and smiled disapprovingly at the cat.

"Meow!" Snickers said, and Teddy heard the "voice" within her mind: "DEATH."

"Meow!" the cat called again. "SPIDERS."

"Meow!" louder this time. "BASEMENT."

Teddy stood, stunned.

"Oh, shoo!" Grandma Rose said, waving an oven mitt at the cat. "You ornery thing, go on!"

Snickers slinked off slowly, as if to say, "I'll leave, but on my own time." The cat didn't take its eyes off Teddy until it turned the corner and exited the room. 

The Face in the HouseWhere stories live. Discover now