I hate lying awake in the dark.

Your mind plays tricks on you. And your ears abet your mind in exarcebating this hysteria.

Just the other day, in the middle of yet another sweltering summer night, I thought I heard a child screaming, prompting me to shoot right up from restless near-slumber.

There it was. Terrified. Anguished. Desperate.

My mind started reeling as the cries continued from somewhere down the river, about 1/3rd of a mile away from where we live. In a second, I conjured up a child molester dragging a boy of about four years deep into the banks. My heart squeezed in panic and I shook my husband violently to rouse him.

“Do you hear that?!” I whispered raspily because for one, our windows were wide open, And you know how thin the walls are between these ostensibly solid townhomes.

As if on cue, the child screamed again. Lokes opened his eyes, sat up and glanced over at our slightly ajar door. Our daughters were sleeping in the room across the narrow hallway. He’d wanted to make sure the screams weren’t coming from in there.

And it came again. Excrutiating. Raw. Tormented.

A drawn-out cry that would chill anyone’s soul, what more a parent’s.

We have many kids living in our neighbourhood. Quite a few little boys. It could be anyone of them.

My panic escalated.

“You hear it right?!” I asked.

My husband turned towards the windows, breathed in the night air, and waited.

Silence. No creaking of floorboards. No midnight flushings. No rustling of trees. It was as though even time had stopped to allow the the anguished screams to come through once more before we decided to do something. What, I didn’t know, but anything.

The cries had stopped.

He’s dead, I thought. The child molester drowned him. I reflexively clasped my hand over my mouth, unable to bring myself to imagine further why the screaming had stopped.

Two minutes later, Lokes pulled up the sheets and snuggled back into bed.

“Maybe it’s a cat,” he mumbled.

I must’ve sat there for an hour, straining to catch even a whimper.

And then it came.

A softer, less piercing moan. I would’ve cried from relief, had I not noticed that the ‘scream’ did sound as though it’d come from a cat.

And there are plenty of cats in our neighbourhood too. Maybe more than there are little boys.

God, I hate cats.

And I hate lying awake in the dark.