There are certain realities I have come to accept over the years. Ever since I saw the preview to the 1991 horror flick, The People Under The Stairs, I have known that there are, in fact, people living under the basement stairs. I have adapted accordingly; if a basement door has a lock I keep it engaged, and I take a nice clip on the stairs when laundry duties require me to visit the basement. Living in California afforded me eight years of freedom from this particular, um, issue.
Another certain reality is the presence of skeletons in the closet. I don't mean this metaphorically; this is not a reference to some great sin I'm hiding. There are dead people in most (if not all) of those attics you access from closet ceilings. My first encounter with this hard truth was that summer in elementary school when my friend confessed she was certain that her grandfather had been the victim of foul play, and that his body was probably in the attic crawl space in her bedroom. We spent the summer trying to solve the mystery, never once actually summoning the courage to go explore the space for ourselves.
I have known for some time that the closets in this old house are absolutely terrifying for a person who is tuned into these realities. They are tucked under the overhanging roof of our deceptively charming Dutch Colonial; each one has access panels to storage vaults of varying creepiness. One is almost sweet, actually, paneled with pine. With a few light fixtures it could be a cozy reading nook for a little girl. Another is completely unfinished. I try not to think about its existence, and what might be in its darker corners.
Last night before bath time, I ran to grab a diaper from Genevieve's closet and failed to close the door. Later, Paris followed us into the girls' room, and immediately darted into the closet. Before I could stop her, she crawled into a hole in the back of the closet shelving. I was really worried at first, but after a minute her little white ears popped out. She came out grayer than before, but otherwise unharmed. I closed the shelf door, and the closet door, and because it doesn't latch I shoved a heavy laundry basket in front of the door for good measure.
Around midnight I was fast asleep in the girls' room (giving Ben and his flu germs a wide berth) when I was awakened by frantic cat scratching. I stumbled to the door of their room only to find that there were no cats in the hallway. The scratching was coming from the closet door. Let me repeat that in a way that might help you grasp the manner in which I processed this information last night: THE SCRATCHING WAS COMING FROM THE CLOSET DOOR.
Of course it was the cats, both of them. On the other side of the very tightly-secured closet door, impatiently requesting to be let out.
Even in my half-asleep and wildly freaked out state, I was able to connect the dots. There must be another entrance to this space. There is a whole hidden tunnel in my house that I did not know about, and there is something there that is very, very enticing to my cats. Indeed, this morning they were scratching at the closet door again - to get back in.
If I were not so well-acquainted with the certain realities of the world, I might chalk it up to mice.
But I know better.