There it was again. Her ears were suddenly wide awake. The rest of her tried to pretend she was still asleep, cuddled safely in the soft, warm cocoon of the bed. It was the wrong time to wake up; long before the alarm was set to go off, but too late to go back to sleep. She sighed and snuggled down again. Trying to ignore it, waiting.
The tapping resumed, tap, tap, tap. Almost inaudible but insidious, relentless. She hoped the warm hulk next to her would hear it and, assuming that she was still asleep, would get up and handle this unwelcome summons. It was his turn, anyway. He didn’t stir.
She lay there, thinking. When had it begun, this tapping? She tried to remember when she had first noticed it. It wasn’t there when, four years earlier, she had come into her man’s home to stay. She hadn’t made many changes, hadn’t tried to impress her personality onto his masculine surroundings. Some things over the years had inevitably come around to her way, though. Like closing the bedroom door. To keep them alone together, private. From what though? The rest of the house? The children of both had long since gone their own ways and they seldom had overnight guests.
The thought of intruders never bothered her. Anyhow the house was alarmed against “unlawful entry,” as they so coyly put it. Noises didn’t worry her either, usually. The living room ceiling creaked in the wind; the walls sighed and creaked, too. But these sounds she could identify. Knowing what they were, and that she could do nothing about them, she could ignore them. But this tapping in the dawn hours was something different, something unwelcome. Tap, tap, tap. It came again, gentle, insistent.
She raised herself slightly to look at the clock. Still not quite 6:00. The chill of the morning made her hesitate and look hopefully at her sleeping partner. For a fleeting moment she wondered whether he might not also feign sleep at times like this. Both had answered the summons before, and knew it could not be denied. A shiver went through her, realizing what she must do. When she came to this strange place, she hadn’t bargained for this. Ah, well. Pushing aside her reluctance, she decided she had better get it over with.
She slid silently to the floor, grateful for the thick carpet’s warmth under her bare feet, and pulled on her robe. Feeling the cold nylon wrap against her skin she shuddered, wishing she had kept her old, fleecy housecoat for one more winter. Surely Spring was due soon? At least it was almost light already. The summons always came just before dawn.
As she neared the bedroom door the tapping stopped suddenly. Had they gone away? She paused in the eerie silence, then accepting the inevitability, she turned the knob quietly and pushed the door open. They were still there standing in the dim hallway, silent, expectant, looking at her. Their odd eyes glowed in the half-light. She returned their look steadily as she closed the door behind her. “All right,” she said, resigned, “I know what you want.”
As they followed her, their feet made no noise. Apart from the soft rustle of her slippers, there was not a sound to be heard. A cold shiver ran up her back. It was too late to go back now. She had to give in to their demands. Sighing, she reached up and gathered what she needed from the cupboard. Laying it out carefully on the floor, she turned to the two small creatures staring silently up at her through their slit yellow eyes. They pushed against her, un-human sounds of anticipation and pleasure welling up from deep inside them. “Go ahead, this is what you came for,” she said. They bent their heads eagerly, their mouths open, showing their sharp teeth and small pink tongues. She leaned over and began to stroke them.
The cats paid no attention, they just ate their breakfast.