“No, I would not want to live in a world without dragons, as I would not want to live in a world without magic, for that is a world without mystery, and that is a world without faith.”

― R.A. Salvatore, Streams of Silver

 

There are places in the world, all worlds, where the night is a creature and it walks on four paws, places where it slips unnoticed through the cracks and holes of our perception.

 

On tiny paws it lurks and crawls…

 

Sometimes it passes a hobo, sitting under a bridge, clutching his bottle of little joy like a magic talisman. The hobo might sigh, sip from the bottle and mumble profanities at no-one in particular. The hobo might pause and feel ‘something’, a presence but not see the waling night crawling by…

 

On tiny paws it lurks and crawls…

 

In a bed somewhere an old lady might be lying in her own filth. She is bedridden, and with more holes in her brain than black holes in the universe. Such is the rare gift of Alzheimer’s, indiscriminally robbing poor or rich of their minds. The crawling night might pass her and for a moment the woman remembers something, long forgotten, a brief repast from the nothingness… but just a slight moment until the walking night pass her and the poor old woman falls into nothingness again…

 

On tiny paws it lurks and crawls…

 

*

 

Her name is Elsa. She is twelve and she has been blind since age seven, when her father accidentally drove over a bridge, an accident that took her eyes and parents from her. But who needs eyes anyway when there are ways to survive and the other senses gets stronger to compensate the loss of another. She smells him before she sees him, her animal friend, the special one, the one that is not like the other stray cats she diligently feeds at night.

He smells different, like old leaves that were pressed in books, like lavender and clove, but a world smell, not the artificial smells from bottles, and not like the city strays that wind up at her doorstep.

Elsa gave him a name like all the strays under her care, and the crawling night accepted this gift, a simple kindness… It does not quite understand why it likes Elsa, why she is different, special, and the name she gave him is not fitting for one that is the crawling night.

 

“Tulip? Is that you?” She reaches her hand out,” Come greet me, shy one”

The crawling night growls slightly but walks forward and places it’s face in her delicate hand. Elsa pats it gently and the crawling night closes its eyes, savoring the girl’s touch.

“Have you been a good girl?” Elsa asks, and starts to stroke the crawling night’s back. A slight grin appears on its face, maybe because our mysterious friend is not a he or a she… It tries to imitate a mew and Elsa smiles happily, suddenly she stops stroking his back and frowns.

“You should eat more! You are thinner than the last time! Bad Kitty!” She rebukes it and fishes a piece of jerky from a bag next to her. She holds it out to crawling night as an offering. It gives a cat-like shrug, takes it gently with its teeth and swallows it whole. It does not care for mortal weaknesses like eating but it humors the girl’s kindness.

 

A high-pitched voice breaks their moment. From within the little house.

“Elsa! Come in dear, Telephone”

She sighs. “I have to go Tulip, and knowing you, you will be gone by the time I get back,” She pats the crawling night’s head and leaves it alone on the porch.

 

On tiny paws it lurks and crawls…

 

And fades into the night, which it is…

 

© 2013 – 2014 allen ‘wolfie’ simpson

Photography and design: Allen Simpson

Dedicated to Lizette Snyman… and our midnight pies

I deliberately wrote its name crawling night, without capital letters. I also deliberately repeat the phrase ‘On tiny paws it lurks and crawls…’

 

The story was born in the 1990s when I met a cat that might just be the crawling night’s cousin. He inspired me as well as the Sandman Comics by Neil Gaiman and some stories by Agatha Christie and H.P. Lovecraft. The night might return… maybe there is another story about it in my arsenal… It is a fantasy horror story, and I wonder if you realize who the crawling night really is. Here is a tip, it is neither an angel nor a devil, neither a god nor … ah I said too much…

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