When I was a young girl, I developed a love for plush. Large, small, velveteen, cotton – no stuffed animals were off limits. I received one on every gift-giving occasion; before long, I had quite the collection. Though I loved all of my stuffed animals, one in particular stood out above the rest. One grew to be my favorite.
My pet cat, Harvey, died when I was ten years old. I never really paid much attention to him, having always preferred plush to the real thing. Despite this, his death hit me pretty hard. I regretted neglecting to give him the love and attention he deserved; so much so that I cried for almost the whole day when he passed. Luckily, plush came to my rescue.
My mom came home from work a little later than usual. She more than likely followed the sound of sniffling to find me in my room. Upon seeing her, I was overjoyed. In her hands was another stuffed animal to add to my vast collection – a cat, no less. She said she picked it up at the corner store near her office. It was sewn together with an unusual fabric and had two different sized buttons for eyes, with no mouth or nose. Its odd appearance gave it a healthy dose of character. It was perfect.
I named my new friend Harvey, after the cat I had lost. After a short while, I forgot all about the real Harvey and fell in love with the stuffed version. It was always there for me whenever I felt sad, distressed, or simply needed a friend to play with. I would take Harvey to bed with me every night. He was my best friend, for a time. Only one thing could drive a wedge between our friendship. Adulthood.
I lived with my parents until the age of 23. This is when I graduated from college and decided to move into my own place. My apartment complex was a couple of towns over, so I wanted to minimize the amount of trips it would take to transport my things. As such, I sat in my room for an entire day, going through everything I had ever owned. It was no small task, but it would be worth it in the long run.
After going through almost all of my belongings and filling up three large trash bags, I moved on to my final task – the enormous pile of stuffed animals in the corner of my room. It would take two trips to transport these alone. Luckily, I had a better idea in mind.
Without hesitation, I began shoving every stuffed animal I could see into bags. The things that used to mean so much to me would soon be heading for the town dump. I didn’t care – after all, I was a grown woman. I had just graduated from college, got a decent job, and was moving out on my own. Plush had no place in my life anymore.
After filling up a couple of large trash bags, I came across one stuffed animal that stopped me in my tracks. There, at the bottom of the pile, was Harvey. I had forgotten all about him. Good old Harvey; my best friend and protector. He would chase away my nightmares, and eliminate my sadness, no matter how I was feeling or what the reason was behind it. A warm smile danced across my face upon remembering all the good times I’d had with him. I supposed that keeping just one stuffed animal wouldn’t hurt. I took Harvey for myself and threw out the rest. He would be a keepsake from my old home; a reminder of my childhood.
After a long week of paperwork and signatures, I was finally the proud owner of my own place. I moved in quickly and set up most of my things within a day. I enjoyed the process of arranging and rearranging my new home. It was exciting knowing that I had finally entered what my parents and teachers had always warned me about – the real world. In reality, there was nothing to be scared of. You just had to know how to operate on your own and handle the hardships that sometimes came your way. So far, so good, I thought.
I had unpacked everything of mine by nightfall. After all was said and done, I decided to lie down on my new couch and take a nap. I was exhausted. Unfortunately for me, upon closing my eyes, I heard a loud bang come from over in the kitchen. I jumped up abruptly, wondering if someone had broken in to my new apartment on my first day settled in.
I crept over, slowly, so as not to alert the intruder of my presence. With each step I took, a new knot would make its way into my gut. By the time I reached the point where I would have to turn the corner, a flurry of butterflies called my stomach home – each one fluttering at a nauseating pace. I knew what I had to do to quell the panic.
I bolted around the corner, ready to fight off any would-be attacker. I found no such thing. There, on the kitchen floor, was a box. A few feet away from it was Harvey. A wave of relief came over me. I had left him in one of the boxes. It fell over, creating the loud noise. That’s all it was. Thank goodness.
I picked up Harvey and threw him in the box. I placed it back on the kitchen counter; this time in a spot where it would not fall over and disrupt my slumber. I then made my way to my new bed and fell onto it, falling back asleep almost instantly. While resting, I dreamt.
In my dream, I was a small child. I was at a birthday party for one of my friends, at a carnival in the middle of a clearing in the woods. My dream-self couldn’t make heads or tails over how I had arrived there, but I enjoyed the festivities anyway.
Aside from the location, there was one glaring absurdity in this dream. Harvey was there. Not the plush cat, mind you – the real one. He was alive and well, and refused to leave my side. I went to go get some cotton candy, and he was there. I went to see a magician perform, and he was there. I even took a ride on the Ferris wheel and Harvey came up with me. It was actually nice to see him alive again… at first.
Harvey came over with me to one of the tents to watch me play a game. I had three tries to knock over a stack of milk bottles with a pellet gun. My first and second tries were unfruitful. On my third try, however, I managed to successfully hit one of the bottles at the base of the pile, causing them all to tumble over. That is when I heard screaming.
I turned around to see what all of the commotion was about. Behind me was every single person at the carnival, huddled around and staring in my direction with troubled expressions. One man even held his hat to his chest in dismay. I followed their line of sight behind me. This is when my dream became a nightmare. I saw Harvey. He was lying in a pool of blood where the bottles had been. My heart raced as tears ran down my cheeks.
“He’s dead… and I killed him… but how…”
Before the guilt could set in, the man running the tent came over to me with a huge grin on his face.
“Here’s your prize!”
He handed me a plush kitten. It was Harvey; the stuffed version. An inanimate object, of course, but I could feel his button eyes glaring at me in disgust.
Dread and confusion overtook me, but I was soon distracted by the sound of movement. Looking back, I saw that everyone from the carnival had surrounded me. They were completely silent, but their eyes spoke. I was offered an unforgiving, collective stare that I will never forget. They inched closer and closer until I finally woke up. The dream was over, but the fear had only begun.
Upon waking, I heard more sounds coming from the kitchen. I jumped up out of bed and ran out there as fast as I could, unwilling to indulge in the nervousness of a slow approach again. What I found when I arrived was… strange.
Cabinets were open, things had fallen to the floor, and the box I had left on the counter was turned upside-down – but there was no one there. The door to my apartment was still locked.
Unable to explain my kitchen’s messy state, I ran back to my bedroom. Just to be safe, I locked myself in. After making sure the door was secure, I walked over to my bed, hoping to lie down and collect my thoughts. That’s when my blood ran cold. Resting on the center of the bed was a plush cat. It was Harvey.
Was I being punished for neglecting my cat as a child? Or for throwing out my collection of stuffed animals? Did Harvey really want my attention this badly?
No, of course not. These things can’t happen.
I walked over to the bed and picked Harvey up. I looked at him with a smile, remembering the good memories we shared together. He had always been there for me, no matter what. Even if he somehow had come to life, there’s no way he would cause me any harm.
I set Harvey back down on the bed, but noticed a cool sensation on my fingers. He was damp. But what from? I ran over to my bedside table and turned on the lamp. It was… blood. Bloodstains covered Harvey and the bed sheets below him. But how?
As I pondered and questioned my own sanity, my adrenaline tapered off, allowing me to feel a slight sting in my back. The pain grew fiercer with each passing moment. I walked over to my mirror and lifted my shirt. What I saw defied all reason.
There were scratch marks.
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