The first time I saw the apparition, it lurked underneath the shrub bushes outside my bedroom window.
It was late evening on a summer day. The sun had already disappeared along the westward line of treetops, but there was still enough of the bright orb’s shine to wash the hanging cloud cover in bright red and orange tie-dye colors.
This eleven-year-old sat with her cat, Whiskers, on her lap with legs stretched out across the small cement patio at the front of the house. Or was it the back of the house, since no one ever really used the door to enter or exit. Despite facing the pine trees which blocked the view of the house from the street, the door was only used to allow a refreshing breeze into the livingroom on hot days.
I sat there on the patio, my face wincing at her sharp claws as Whiskers gently kneaded my leg in pleasure at my caressing under her chin. I wanted to have some alone time with her away from the other ten farm cats I had - like visiting a grandmother I’ve never known. That was her other name, Grandmother, the oldest of felines in her nine years of life. Grandmother Whiskers.
Dreamily, I stared at the air and the buzzing insects feasting on the nectar from the lilac bushes. The bushes grew as weeds around the entire property, and my mother spared no expense to try to get rid of them. But their roots were set in deep underground farther than any weed killer could reach. A person also had to be careful where you spread the poison. In this farm country, the only water supply we had was from a well behind the bushes.
It was there that I saw the apparition.
My eyes had followed a particular bug skipping from leaf to leaf, when I suddenly stared past the foliage to notice eyes staring back at me. Two pink irises with deep-red pupils looked at me. The ghost was big, bigger than my cat, as it sat on back legs mimicking my posture. White fur covered its body from pink cat ears to pink rat tail. Two small raccoon-like hands hung before its body, much in the way a rabbit would hold paws when standing on hind legs scouting for enemies. Four pink fingers appeared ready to snatch up a small stick to defend itself from the looming giant (namely me) who could spring forward at any minute. A ferret snout hung motionlessly in the air with not even a quiver of a sniffing nose to catch a whiff of the other curious-looking creature (me again).
Oh, did I mention it was big, bigger than my sharp-clawed cat, which I picked up off my lap while tearing skin from my thighs in the process. I placed Whiskers before me and lifted her face so she could verify the strange sight hiding in the bushes.
Grandmother yawned. She stretched her feline body, dismissed the creature able to snap her neck in two, turned back toward me, and sank her claws right into the softest skin she could find. Biting my lip to hold in the scream of pain, I tried again. This time I twirled her about and pointed at the bush while shouting, "Whiskers, look!"
I pointed and shouted at nothing. The creature was gone, leaving no paw prints in its wake. One minute it had been there. The next second it had vanished.
Whiskers lifted her leg and started bathing herself in a very naughty place. Almost to say, "Ta-da! Not only can I bend in unnatural ways and lick my fur, but I can make things disappear. I deserve a treat. Do you happen to have a mouse on you, or perhaps a grasshopper in your pocket? I so do love to chase jumping grasshoppers."
Deciding to give Whiskers some privacy during her bath, I headed inside the house. I wasn’t going to search for the whereabouts of the creature in the darkening evening. I may be brave, but I wasn’t stupid.
The rest of the night flew by uneventfully. I perched on the daybed by the window, hearing Whiskers scrounging about hunting chirping crickets (she loved to chase them too) before she would retire to her warm bed in the hay loft of the barn. I sought my own rest, too tired for my mind to dwell on what I had seen in the bushes.
2:00 a.m. This was the time on the clock when I heard the scraping noise in the livingroom. With my purple nightgown wrapped around bandaged legs, I slipped from the blankets and crept to the bedroom door. Then I peeked around the corner as my hand came around and clicked on the lamp.
Two pink irises and red pupils stared at me from across the room. They stared at me sideways.
I approached the eyes, or rather the crack in the wood paneling of the wall. The white creature I had spotted outside somehow made its way into the wall of the house, as small teeth steadily chewed at the crack trying to make it wider.
I couldn’t figure out how it slid its large body up into the tiny space. But it certainly couldn’t survive on a diet of wood panels. So, young me, I decided to feed it. Cheese. I did remember seeing a rat tail on its backside.
I ran into the kitchen and pulled out a processed cheese slice from the meat crisper. Carefully unwrapping the bright orange food, I approached the crack and offered pieces to the creature. It was more interested in my fingers, as it snapped and hissed at me.
I giggled while snatching my hand away in play. I never gave a thought over how this creature could snap through the flimsy wood paneling and go all rabid Cujo on my ass. I was having too much fun shoving tiny pieces of cheese through the crack and then whisking my fingers away before it could take a nibble out of me. After about ten minutes, we both grew tired of the game. I stuffed the rest of the cheese into my mouth while listening to the scraping sounds as the creature crawled out from within the wall.
We never saw each other again. It (the albino opossum) never thanked me for the cheese.