Zeb crept between the cardboard moving boxes, his whiskers twitching. This old house had to be full of nightmares. He could smell it. Where were they hiding?
He paced the perimeter of the room, glancing back often to make sure Leisl still slept peacefully in her bed. For a moment he longed to go curl up on the blanket by her feet and take a nap, but that wouldn’t do. Right now was hunting time. The nightmares would be on the prowl. Where were they? Hadn’t they figured out that a little child had moved in?
Zeb knew he ought to stay in Leisl's room, but he couldn’t just sit there and wait for the nightmares to come to him. They were out there, lurking, somewhere in the big old house, waiting for him to let down his guard before they pounced. Well, he’d just take the fight to them, wherever they were.
Out in the hall, the place smelled of fresh paint. That made it hard for Zeb to know if there were any nightmares close by or not. He scanned the hallway, eyes wide in the dark, ears pricked, tail twitching. Then he saw one.
A velvet pool of darkness lurked along the baseboards, slowly creeping in and out of the shadows made by the streetlight shining through the trees out the window. It was a clever nightmare, trying to blend in with those wind-tossed patches of shadow. Zeb pretended he didn’t see it gradually moving closer and closer to Leisl’s bedroom door.
When the nightmare paused, as if finally realizing there was a cat in the hall, Zeb pounced.
The nightmare had been ready. It streaked down the hall with Zeb just behind it, racing over the floor, it’s misty black shape sometimes rat-like, sometimes snake-like, sometimes with wings of bat or bird, it was all the dark creatures of the world rolled into one. A claw shot out from the blackest part and snatched at the stair railing to make a sharp turn. Zeb skidded on the hall floor, then streaked down the stairs after it.
The nightmare made straight for the front door. Zeb watched it squeeze under the small crack and disappear. A cat-grin spread across Zeb’s face. That might have worked in Zeb’s last house, but this house had a cat door. That nightmare was going down.
Zeb leapt through the cat door, leaving it swinging behind him. Out in the windy night, the howling air filled his ears, so he flattened them back against his head and used his eyes and his nose to find where the nightmare had run to. He spotted it puddled among the roots of a tree, moving like a careless fog, just shifting a little.
Zeb slid into the hedge and moved silently along the outside wall of the house. As he got closer to the nightmare, it showed no sign that it had seen him. Closer, closer, close enough to strike, Zeb curled up and got ready to spring.
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