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The Tale of Cranky the Flash: That Which Lurks Above
My cat is a secret superhero, known to the world of evil as Cranky the Flash. I’d like to tell you a little bit about one of her adventures.
Above the third-floor of my house there is an eensy-weensy teeny-tiny crawl space. So small you’d think no living creature would be able to fit comfortably, but this is not so. Sure, what’s up there may not be living, exactly, but it’s definitely a creature. An old creature. A creature that makes you cry and scream and beg for the nightlight-oh please oh please this is the last night please please oh for the love of god please. This is a primordial evil that can be traced back to late nights, heading home to the cave after a long day of evolving and then a final flash in the dark. This is the sudden slick on the road, the click of the trigger, the ‘that’ in ‘what was that?’ This is the end of the line. This is what goes bump in the night.
And it lives in my house.
One evening as I was in my bed, falling asleep at 9:30 like a good girl, with nothing on my mind other than how grateful I was to be alive and how much I was looking forward to high school in the morning (I was gonna ace that math test), there was shake. A wobble. My mattress twisted and turned, the floor bucked and the walls writhed. From all around me came the thousands of heart-stopping screams as the subjects of my sketches ran for cover. My windows cracked. No, they did more than crack. They imploded, ricocheting throughout the space that had once been my room like small shrieking kamikaze pilots in the cloudy night skies. Under The Bed shrunk in on himself. In The Closet locked herself away. As for me, I was holding onto my pillow, having mistaken it for my last lifeline, though even my pillow was trying to gallop away to higher ground. The fear rose up from my toes, climbed my spine like a ladder and sauntered into my brain as if it owned the place. The terror lived and breathed and it held me tight, held me gently, it rocked me into space and sent me careening slowly past the planets and the stars and Pluto.
The universe is a very dark and very lonely place.
That’s where, for a time, it all ended.
Daisy the Cat woke with a jump. Something was bad. Something was gone. Wrong, gone, for far too long. The only question was, what? What was wrong? What was gone? And for how long would it continue? Of course, there was the lack of a paw-operated can opener, but that was an old familiar grievance. No, this was a new feeling. Now what…
Dear me. Daisy the Cat sat straight up in alarm. The Domesticated Things are snoring again. Daisy the Cat poked the offending Domesticated Thing in the mouth with her paw. When the slow silly creature snorted and blinked up at her groggily, Daisy the Cat put on her severest expression. We’ll have none of that now, Thing. Daisy the Cat said sternly. Either cease and desist or sleep on the floor.
“Gerroff, Daisy…” The Domesticated Thing muttered. Daisy responded to this attitude by poking the open mouth again. “Right! That’s it! Out!”
Daisy glared huffily at the now-shut door to the bedroom of Daisy the Cat, the Domesticated Thing and the Biggest Domesticated Thing. Now where was she to go? She needed her beauty sleep, after all. Daisy sat down and licked her paw thoughtfully. She could go rest with the Littlest Domesticated Thing, but that bed was too hard. She could go sleep with the Undomesticated Thing, but that one slept all the way up on the third floor, it was a long walk. Well, there was nothing else for it. She’d just have to go sleep with the Other Domesticated Thing. Daisy the Cat sauntered over to the door and-
Mess. Messy messy mess mess mess. Sure, the room had never been clean. In fact, Daisy the Cat remembered distinctly one day when the floor had been showing a bit. The Other Domesticated Thing had brought a friend home and when that friend had stepped into the room where the floor showed in just one patch, a patch that was smaller even than Daisy, the friend had gasped, stepped back, turned to the Other Domesticated Thing and said-
“Wow, it’s clean!”
That was how messy the Other Domesticated Thing kept her room. That was why creatures like In The Closet and Under The Bed had managed to develop consciousnesses entirely their own.
But this…this wasn’t just messy. This was…ruined. Ransacked. Shambolic. The room looked like it had been attacked by an angry swarm of scissors. Even the floor had huge gashes in it, gigantic splinters sticking up from underneath the wall-to-wall carpeting.
This isn’t natural. Daisy the Cat told herself as she looked around in horror. This is sheer madness. Something is wrong here. Daisy the Cat looked to the bed and saw that something very important was missing. And where is the Other Domesticated Thing? Daisy could feel herself becoming angrier and angrier by the second. Something was wrong. Something was gone. And even the tiniest moment was, in Daisy the Cat’s book, far too long. Something had to be done.
But what to do? What was to be done? Daisy the Cat would have to consider this carefully. Well, she said, speaking aloud in order to better organize her thoughts. First things first, I shall have to go find the Other Domesticated Thing, make her clean up this mess, and by then I suppose I will have thought of a suitable punishment. But where was the Other Domesticated Thing? Daisy the Cat sniffed around but could detect no scent that would give her a clue. She listened carefully but she couldn’t hear even a whisper of the Other Domesticated Thing’s movements. On the other hand, she did hear a pathetic whimper that she immediately recognized as Under The Bed. He’d always been a wimp.
Well, Under The Bed? Daisy demanded. What happened here?
Daisy the Cat had a way of speaking and staring that commanded obedience, so in a faltering murmur Under The Bed explained. He explained about the abject horror that had come, the black endless dread that had swooped in and taken away The One Who Sleeps On Top (a.k.a. the Other Domesticated Thing). He told about the impossibility of resistance. He told about how he didn’t know what to do. He told about the loss.
Daisy the Cat listened carefully, her tail twitched back and forth, and when Under The Bed had finished and retreated back into his silent aching sorrow, she gave a small huff and sat rigid. She was angry. She knew what had taken the Other Domesticated Thing. She had noticed its presence in the house some time ago and had been musing over how best to handle the situation. As long as it hadn’t been a bother she had planned to handle the matter delicately. She couldn’t really afford to make an enemy out of something like that, but now that it had attacked the situation had changed. This wasn’t a job for Daisy the Cat. No, this was a job for…Cranky the Flash! The beautiful cat superhero who could move faster than a speeding bullet train, who could lift one-thousand tons of solid iron with one paw, the feline knight of the home, the almost-literal lionheart, yes indeed, this was a job for Cranky the Flash.
As Daisy the Cat began to stalk out of the room (so as to be in private when she made her transformation) In The Closet creaked open one of her doors as the cat passed and whispered-
What was it?
That which lurks above. Daisy the Cat answered. But don’t worry anymore. I’ll handle this.
That which lurks above. Sometimes it lurks below. It lurks in ourselves, no matter how often or how loudly we claim that we do not fear the dark; that fearing the dark is for babies and we are not babies. It still lurks in us and we still fear it.
She silently stalked up the quiet dark of the stairs, her padding-paws making not even a whisper as she went. Her whiskers shone dully in the faintest moonlight, glistening a warning to any evildoers who might be about. Her coat was soft to the touch but hard as reinforced steel to any attack that might dare to come her way. She was…Cranky the Flash and tonight, she was out for vengeance. The Bogeyman had dared to take her Other Domesticated Thing. She would have justice.
Above the feline superhero, It waited.
With a leap, a hop and a bound the stage was set. Stringing clichés together was one of Cranky the Flash’s superpowers. So now everything was prepared, she was armed to the teeth and ready. Ready to take on the most terrifying enemy she had ever, and would ever, face. All for the sake of the Other Domesticated Thing. Not that the Other Domesticated Thing deserved it, but all in a day’s work was what Cranky the Flash supposed.
Cranky the Flash came face to face with her target as she padded up that last step. There it was, waiting for her, crouched down and leering a leer that silently sang of bad scary things. It was darkness and shadows and at the same time it was a spotlight so all other things disappeared when this thing entered your vision. It was the end.
Cranky the Flash was having none of it. With a vicious hiss she leapt into action, hurtling herself at it with the speed of a cheetah and the ferocity of a tiger, all stuffed into her little housecat body. The thing was surprised, and for a moment she had the upper hand but then it adjusted to her attacks. It took all Cranky the Flash had to fight on when she could feel the open talons swooping in from above, the drooling snapping teeth closing in from behind, the cold on her pads, the wet rising up around her, the heat burning her away to smoke and then the wind dispersing her soul into oblivion. Cranky the Flash was a superhero so she fought on, but against such a thing, such a fear, how can resistance be anything but futile? How can a person possibly win against the thing in the dark? Was all lost?
Never. Cranky the Flash was, after all, a cat. To be the enemy of a cat is to be, ultimately, defeated. Cranky the Flash glared up at the thing in the dark with her killer-kitty glare. Her tail swished back and forth with murderous intent. Her ears pointed forward, eyes widened, her whiskers crackled with electricity. The thing backed away slowly, sensing that a final blow was about to land. Cranky the Flash was not the sort to disappoint; with the speed that had gotten her the title ‘Flash’ she pounced and electrocuted that rotten punk of a monster. With a screech that rang with the screams of billions, the thing fell back into the dangerous parts of the imagination from whence it came. Cranky the Flash had once again saved the household from impending doom.
The next morning I woke up to screams.
“What have you done to your room?!” My mother wanted to know. I looked around at the chaos that surrounded me, and shoved Daisy the Cat off my chest where she had been sleeping as I jumped up to explain.
“It wasn’t me, Mom, honest! Under The Bed, tell her it wasn’t me!”
As usual Under The Bed said nothing (that guy never backs me up) and Daisy the Cat just gave me a disgusted look before prancing out of sight.
It wasn’t till much later that I learned just how much I owed to my cat.