A couple of years ago I wrote this story for my nephews, Myron and Micah, to explain the reason behind a locked door in the holiday house we were staying in for Christmas.
I don’t think for one second that they actually believed this was what it was. But they enjoyed it.
I hope you do, too.
* * *
Myron woke up.
He didn’t know why he woke up. All he knew was that one moment he was dreaming, and the next he was wide awake, and it was the middle of the night, and his bedroom in the holiday house was dark and cold.
He looked over at the next bed, where Uncle Isaac was fast asleep, breathing deeply. He looked down at the foot of his own bed, where a bulging stocking lay, filled with presents waiting to be opened. The clock on the bedside table read 12:55. Myron listened, but there were no noises that might have woken him, only the deep silence of midnight.
He lay back down and closed his eyes, but after one minute he opened them again. It was no good. He was awake now, and he would not be able to go back to sleep. Besides, it was technically Christmas Day already.
Myron swung his legs out of bed and shivered. On the window-sill outside was a deep layer of snow, and Mum had said there would be more tomorrow.
Briefly Myron wondered what he could do now, in the middle of the night. Maybe Micah would be awake as well; he decided to go and see.
The corridor was colder than the bedroom, and Myron scurried across to Mum and Micah’s bedroom as quickly as possible. He pushed the door open. Mum and Micah were lying in bed, breathing deeply. Myron went over to Micah and shook him.
“Micah,” he whispered. “Wake up.”
“What?” said Micah; to Myron’s surprise he was already awake. He sat up quickly in bed.
“I can’t sleep,” said Myron.
“Me neither,” Micah agreed.
“What do you want to do?” said Myron.
Micah shrugged. “I don’t know. What are you supposed to do in the middle of the night?”
“You;re supposed to sleep!” said Myron, rolling his eyes.
“I know that!” Micah retorted. “I meant: what are you supposed to do when you can’t sleep?”
“We could go exploring,” Myron suggested, and Micah quickly agreed.
They explored the house, but that did not take long. They had already explored the kitchen, the dining room, the lounge and all the bedrooms the day before, and the house by night was much the same as the house by day.
In fact, the only thing they had not yet explored was the Door.
The Door stood opposite Uncle Matt and Aunty Folu’s room, and it was always locked and bolted. Granddad had told them it just led to a cupboard; but this explanation had never quite satisfied Myron, who had never heard of cupboards being locked and bolted. In his experience the only things that were locked and bolted were banks and front doors, and the Door was neither of these things.
They stood in front of it now, looking up at it.
Then Myron noticed something that made him feel a little bit scared and a little bit excited at the same time.
The Door was open.
It was not open all the way — just the tiniest crack. But it was open all the same.
“Micah,” Myron whispered. “The Door’s open.”
“I know,” said Micah. “What should we do?”
Myron thought about this. One half of him really wanted to know what was on the other side of the Door, and whether it really was just a cupboard like Grandad had said, or something else entirely. But the other half — the half that jumped when something went bump in the night, and made up dreams that lingered into daylight — really didn’t want to know what was through the Door at all.
The other half won.
“I think we should tell Mum,” he said.
But when they tried to wake Mum she just snored and turned over. Even when Myron shook her hard all she did was wave a lazy arm at him, mutter something under her breath, and settle down to sleep again.
They decided to try Uncle Isaac; but when they shook him the same thing happened. It was the same with Uncle Matt, and Aunty Folu — in fact, everyone in the house was in a deep, deep sleep from which (it seemed) it was impossible to wake them.
They retired to the lounge to try to decide what to do.
They were both as wide awake as ever, as if all the sleep had been taken out of them and put into everyone else in the house. Going back to bed was out of the question. But on the other hand neither one of them liked the thought of going through that Door all on their own.
Micah wanted to try throwing water at Mum to wake her up, but Myron knew this would just make her angry, so they decided against it.
Myron suggested making her a cup of coffee and waving it under her nose. Micah reminded him that they were too small to boil a kettle, let alone reach the coffee in the cupboard.
They argued in whispers for a long time, but in the end their minds were made up for them, when the Cat appeared.
It was Micah who first noticed the Cat. He was facing the door, and was shocked to see a whiskered face appear, followed by a long slender body, and finally a striped tail that waved back and forth. The Cat padded into the room and sat down between them, curling its long tail around its feet.
“I didn’t know there was a cat here,” said Micah.
Myron frowned. “There isn’t,” he said. “It must have come in from outside.”
“Here, cat.” Micah made soft kissing sounds and reached out to stroke the Cat, but it recoiled and fixed him with a harsh stare.
“Please,” it said, in a rich, deep voice. “No stroking. It always rubs my fur up completely the wrong way.”
For a second there was silence. Myron and Micah stared at the Cat, and the Cat stared back. No-one spoke.
But — and this was the strangest thing — neither Myron nor Micah were alarmed by the appearance of a talking cat. It was a shock, but
in the dark, cold house surrounded by their deeply sleeping family, with the mysterious Door standing open down the corridor, it was not the most unusual of things to happen.
The Cat wrinkled its nose.
“No stroking,” it said, “and definitely no staring. All Cats have a sixth sense, and mine is knowing when people are staring at me. It makes my whiskers stand on end.”
“Sorry,” said Myron. “But … how come you can talk? Cats don’t usually talk. Only people.”
“I’ve found that it’s possible to do just about anything if you put your mind to it,” the Cat replied sagely, then it yawned and licked its jaws. “Which brings me to the reason why I’m here.”
“Why are you here?” said Micah.
“If you let me talk I’ll tell you,” snapped the Cat. “Believe it or not, I need your help. I’m here to ask if you’ll come with me.”
“Come with you where?” said Myron.
“Through the Door,” the Cat replied.
Myron and Micah felt a shiver go through them — a shiver of fear mixed with excitement.
“What do you want us to do?” asked Myron.
“To start with, ask less questions,” the Cat retorted. “And then, follow me. I’ll explain everything else along the way.”
They followed the Cat out of the lounge and down the corridor to where the Door stood ajar. A faint wind blew through the crack and whispered past them, smelling of snow. Without a backwards glance the Cat padded through the Door and into the darkness beyond.
Myron and Micah looked at each other, and five seconds later they followed it.