Patsy arrived home with the same thrill she felt when she first moved into her new flat only two weeks ago. If she only knew the amazing adventure that would begin in the next few days, she would also have been nervous, a little afraid and several other emotions besides. An unimaginable magical force was about to enter her life, and everything was about to change for her, for her family and even her cat Willam.
She was proud of her new home because she saved hard for several years for the deposit and was finally here. On the seventh floor, it had views across London, and it was her own space. Until she moved, she spent her whole life living with her parents Jean and Alec Miller in a large house in Wimbledon Village. She was sad to leave but excited to have her independence at last. She brought her cat Willam to live with her because she couldn't bear to leave him behind. Her mother said it was cruel to keep a cat locked in a flat in a busy city all day when he’s used to a lovely garden in the suburbs. Her father had similar feelings but agreed to fit a cat flap in the balcony door so Willam could go outside if he wanted. She opened her front door to find a single letter on the doormat and knew immediately the brown envelope was her amended driving licence. She walked through to the living room and could see Willam sunning himself on one of the chairs on the balcony. As soon as she called him, he came darting through the cat flap and brushed lovingly against her legs. After giving him a few cuddles and a plate of food, she sat with a cup of coffee to check over her new licence. Patricia Akilah Miller, that unmistakable collection of names. Her middle name had been a great source of amusement at school and sometimes she’d resented it until she was told by her Grandmother that the first daughter of every second generation had been given this name and it was a great honour, she should be proud of. The story was that they'd been named after a princess from ancient times. The name should be continued through the family as one day in the future, a treasure would be revealed to a woman bearing the name Akilah. No one, including her Grandmother, had any idea if the treasure was a pirate map or the deed to a gold mine, but it was exciting and made it easier to accept the name. Her mother was from the skipped generation and didn't want to give her child that meaningless weird name, just to carry on the old-fashioned tradition. Grandma had been named Margaret Akilah Stewart and was fiercely adamant. Throughout her daughter's pregnancy, she insisted if the baby was a girl then Jean would have to give her the name. They had fought, had periods of not speaking, being angry and a range of other emotions. One day Jean's husband Alec asked her why it was such a big deal to give the old lady what she wanted. Jean could find no real reason and knew it would not make much difference to the baby, so she agreed. When she was born Jean could see the family resemblance to her mother and it seemed natural to give her the weird name.
It was Jean who decided on the name Patricia although to her dismay, everyone who knew her daughter, including her father, called her Patsy. Patsy was a beautiful girl with long curly dark hair, olive skin and deep brown eyes. She looked very much like her grandma although Margaret now had greying hair and kept it somewhat shorter. Margaret was eccentric and wore strange hats with feathers stuck in the top of them. When she was younger, Patsy asked why she had a cushion on her head, much to her granddad Andrew's amusement. Margaret remained confident and happy when her husband died but she missed him and there was a sadness behind her eyes that Patsy could always see.
She surveyed her small domain with great pride, she had bought most of the furniture herself, she avoided allowing her mother to choose more traditional items and instead purchased a modern Italian style that she adored. Her Gran had kindly given her some money as a moving-in present, and the odd vase that Patsy had seen throughout her childhood. It was kept high on a shelf, but she’d never been allowed to look at it. Grandma explained part of the tradition was that the vase should be handed down from every second generation. It was quite a plain-looking thing with a normal vase shape, no handles just straight but sloping sides. It was made of metal with a finish that looked like velvet. No one had ever recalled seeing it before, causing wonderment as to how such a finish had been achieved. She wondered if it was only the finish and suggestion of velvet that made it feel warm to the touch, unlike most metal objects. It had a kind of sand inside that you could shake about but it would never tip out no matter how you shook it. It was an oddity that caused a lot of attention over the years, but no one knew its origin or ages except for Gran who wouldn't talk about it. Patsy treasured it, mainly because she had desperately wanted to look at it when she was a girl, and because it reminded her so much of her eccentric Grandma Margaret. Also because of the history of it having been handed down through the family and because of its odd design. She wasn’t allowed to play with it as a child so she gave it pride of place at eye level on a shelf in her living room where she could see it.
Willam came to join her on the sofa and pushed the paper licence away to get himself onto her lap. She stroked him and he purred contentedly. She told him she hoped he was alright in his new home; she would take him back to Wimbledon if he was unhappy. For a few nights, since they moved in, he was restless, walking about making strange clicking and meowing noises that kept her awake. Even when she put him next to her on the bed, he only stayed a while then went back to his wandering, making his noises.
Tonight, Patsy was determined to get him settled because he was keeping her up every night. It was worrying to her, and she was trying to hold down an important job in the laboratory of University College Hospital London. She had been working there for the last seven years on the analysis of the human endocrine system and genetics, but she also performed DNA analysis on a variety of tissue samples on behalf of the hospital. Her work was important and took a lot of skill and knowledge, not to mention several years of study and the all-important qualification. She had to be able to concentrate on her work, but a lack of sleep was making it hard to do so and people had noticed. Until now she had an impeccable reputation with her colleagues and was highly respected by her boss Evie. It was mainly because of her intelligent approach and her uncanny knack for spotting patterns or sequences in her results that would probably have escaped others.
Unfortunately for Patsy, it was going to be another disturbing night with Willam again wandering around the flat making his mewing chattering and clicking noises. Not only that but a strange whispering noise seemed to wake her up just as she was falling asleep, although she could hear nothing when she woke herself. That night Willam knocked the vase off the shelf making a loud noise. Patsy woke immediately, ran into the living room in shock fumbling to switch on the main lights. The vase was on the floor in the centre of the room and Willam was staring into it making his weird noises and patting something with his paw. Patsy saw what looked like a strange grey stick being pulled back into the vase. She grabbed it looking into the top and she could swear there was a sad face made of mist or sand that gradually disappeared. The smoky vision completely disturbed her, so she put the vase into one of the drawers and took Willam to bed. Although she tried her best to sleep, she was unable to do so. Suddenly, she realised she could hear Willam making his chattering noises back in the sitting room. Annoyed, Patsy went to find him, ready to put him on the bed and shut the bedroom door but she found him on the floor with the vase again and the drawer open. Again, he was looking into the top of the vase and making odd noises. Patsy grabbed at the vase and looked inside to see the same sad face disappear like smoke. Eventually, with Willam safe and the bedroom door closed, she convinced herself it was a half-dream or imagination. Willam eventually cuddled next to her on the bed and they both fell fast asleep.
She was shocked to hear her alarm clock buzzing loudly; it had been buzzing for some time and when she checked the time was ten thirty-seven. She was two hours behind and she had to get washed and dressed and travel to work which would take at least another forty-five minutes. She dashed around and dressed, not forgetting to leave food and water for Willam who was still selfishly luxuriating on the bed. She scruffed him gently as she walked by and berated him for keeping her awake, but he simply made a gentle trilling noise and rolled over. It was Friday and although her boss Evie was normally gentle with her, she would be annoyed with her for being so late.
That night she decided to have an early night and watch TV in bed until she fell asleep. She had supper and gave Willam a good feed, then carried him to the bedroom and made sure the door was shut. Earlier in the evening she put the vase back into the drawer and was determined he wouldn't get to it. That night they both slept although she still had vague feelings that someone was whispering to her on the edge of her dreams. When she woke on Saturday morning she was feeling much better for a good night's sleep.
Willam was off the bed in a flash and from his actions, Patsy knew he needed to go out on the balcony to his litter tray. She opened the bedroom door and noticed that the vase was in the middle of the living room floor. She was stunned because they had both been on the bed for the whole night with the door closed. When she thought about it, she realised a cat couldn’t open a drawer anyway. She picked up the vase and put it back into the drawer then went to take a shower. She was deeply worried. Was she losing her mind because of the lack of sleep? She began asking herself if she really did see a face in the vase, what it was made of and where it came from? She would talk to her Mum on the phone, that would usually help to ground her, just listening to her mother talking about everyday things would bring everything back to normal.
Patsy called her Mum who spent the first ten minutes or so, as predicted, chattering on about their noisy neighbour and that vile woman in the post office. Jean was a sixties chick, but she’d kicked against sixties fashion and style and kept to her own taste. She wasn’t against free love and peace, hippies and bells but she just couldn’t wear the fashion herself. She didn’t follow popular bands like the Stones and the Beatles, instead, she listened to classical music and dressed very smartly and formally for every occasion and never owned a miniskirt in her life. She was still an attractive woman and although she didn't have the dark brown eyes of her mother, she was lucky enough to have the dark hair and curls that made styling it so much easier. She was very self-contained and had been lucky enough to meet her husband Alec who truly was her soulmate. Jean was an amazing cook and an even better baker who loved nothing more than having Alec’s friends or colleagues round for dinner. She’d always wanted a son but instead had given birth to a beautiful daughter although she was never disappointed because they loved each other dearly. Her daughter was not only attractive but highly intelligent like her father and Jean was very proud of her.
Jean's only problem was that she had become bored with life and had begun to get irritated and obsessed with other people, particularly neighbours who she felt were inconsiderate, badly educated and aggressive. Sometimes she caught herself complaining to everyone about a trivial matter and for a while would try to stop herself. As there was nothing else happening in her life, she would inevitably return to her only source of interest. This was one of those times, she had been complaining about something trivial when she realised that Patsy was noticeably quiet. She stopped mid-sentence and asked if anything was wrong, apologising for not asking before. Patsy attempted to explain but she realised it sounded weird and crazy. In the end, Jean couldn't be bothered to listen, she couldn't understand anyway, so instead, she continued with her gossip.
When Patsy put the phone down, she couldn't tell if she felt better or worse for having talked to her mother, but she resolved herself to just get on with things. When Jean put the phone down, she realised that Patsy was deeply troubled about something and felt guilty for not taking her seriously.
Within an hour of her call, the phone rang, and Patsy half thought it could be her mother calling back to check what she’d told her. Instead, it was Phil, a work colleague, calling to ask her out on a date as he had several times before. Patsy couldn't think why Phil would be so persistent because she’d done nothing to encourage him. He was a nice guy and whenever they went out, she had a good time, so she agreed.
The rest of the day was uneventful and when Phil came to collect her, she was ready and waiting and looking forward to going out. As Patsy was getting her coat and settling Willam down, Phil noticed the vase on the shelf and picked it up to study it. He was immediately struck by the way it felt and asked Patsy where she had found it. Patsy told him the history of how the vase had been handed down for generations. She decided to tell him how she had been finding it in the middle of the room with her cat talking to it. Halfway through she suddenly felt foolish so instead, she implied it was only a dream she’d had and smiled at the confusion on Phil's face.
Phil took Patsy to Chinatown, they had delicious food then went to a local comedy club. The show was exactly what Patsy needed, she laughed loudly and soon forgot about her sleepless nights. They had a lovely evening, a few drinks to round things off then headed back to Patsy's apartment for a nightcap and coffee. At her front door, they heard Willam making noises, but Patsy also heard the strange whispers and creaking voice. She turned the key in the lock quickly and they both burst into the hallway switching on the light almost in one movement. Directly in front of them on the floor in the hall sat Willam and the vase. She caught sight of the same grey stick-like object pulling back into it and quickly bent down to grab the vase. They both peered into the top of the vase and Patsy again saw that strange smoky face slowly disappearing. Phil could neither see the face or the grey stick and could only hear Willam chattering strangely. He was completely spooked, although he tried not to show it. He reminded Patsy what she'd said earlier about dreaming of the vase and she trembled visibly as he spoke. "It wasn't a dream Patsy, was it?” She couldn't answer because she was afraid to say it, so she just shook her head.
They went through to the living room and Phil took the vase from her and placed it on the shelf where it normally sat. Patsy asked him to put it into the drawer instead and went into the kitchen to pour them both a stiff drink. She was obviously shaken, and Phil asked her a hundred questions about the vase. Did her grandmother have any problems with it and was it just the cat being unsettled that was causing the problem? She gave him one-word answers and was afraid she had already said too much, thinking he would assume she was weird, a freak or something. He knew she was afraid of something and agreed to stay the night with her. It delighted him as he’d never been asked to stay before. Unfortunately, Patsy was too tense for anything more than hugs and no one could sleep properly except the cat who lay on top of the bed with them and curled up peacefully. Although she didn't tell Phil, she could still hear the whispering voice. What she didn't realise was that although Phil couldn't hear it, he was listening to her whispering answers all night in her broken half-sleep. The next morning, he rose early, took a shower and made her a coffee before setting off for a football match. Neither of them spoke about the previous night but Phil was convinced it wasn’t only the cat who was disturbed by the move to the new flat, Patsy was also unsettled and maybe a little afraid of being on her own. He put the whole thing down to her getting used to being on her own and dismissed the vase thing as just Willam being playful and maybe a bit vengeful because he'd been left alone. He gave the cat some food and fresh water, then kissed Patsy tenderly on the forehead and silently crept out. She had finally fallen asleep without drinking her coffee.
When she eventually woke, she felt quite groggy and wondered if Phil was still there. She wandered into the living room and found a note from him on the table that simply said, “Thank you for a lovely evening and I'm sure both you and Willam will settle in your new home soon enough.” Willam was outside on the balcony sunning himself with his eyes closed. She tapped on the window and he jumped from his perch on one of the chairs and came in through the cat flap to rub around her legs. She lifted him carefully and hugged him, putting his head under her chin the way he liked it. He rubbed his face against her cheek, his way to kiss her and Patsy kissed the top of his head. "Willam, what is your fascination with that old vase, can't you just leave it alone and go to sleep because I’m so tired I've started seeing things?” He just purred even louder and gave her a squinty-eyed smile.
She decided to wrap the vase in several layers of newspaper and put it in a trunk in the hall cupboard. Her plan worked and for several nights both Patsy and Willam had slept soundly with no disturbance. Willam seemed to be settled, he was eating like a horse and back to his normal self. She fell into a routine of work, shopping, and eating and began to enjoy living in the centre of the city. Her mother called a few times and was more attentive than usual, but Patsy assured her everything was fine. Jean decided she’d merely been homesick in the early days and she was convinced that all was now well.
At work things went back to normal except Phil seemed a little less interested in her since that night. Previously she would catch him staring at her across the room but now he only looked at her occasionally. When she smiled back at him, he still grinned but Patsy was sure he turned away much sooner than he used to do. Evie came to talk to her one day and she’d been talking to Phil. She made suggestions about extra bolts, chains on her door and how they were good for making you feel safe and secure. It explained why Phil had been sheepish with her, he knew she’d be annoyed that he’d discussed her personal life. Then one evening when she arrived home from work, she found Willam talking to the vase again on the hall floor with its newspaper wrapping undone. Her first reaction was to be cross with him. She picked him up and scolded him for getting the vase from the trunk in the cupboard and his little face showed discomfort. As she said it, she realised how absurd it was of her to suggest that a cat could open the hall cupboard then a trunk and lift out a vase. "I'm sorry Darling," she told Willam and kissed his head which he responded to by nudging her under the chin. She then worried that someone had been in her flat and moved things around. Nothing else appeared to have been moved and she looked cautiously around the rest of the flat, subconsciously carrying Willam as protection. She heard a noise in the hall and realised it was the vase rolling around the floor. She peered around the door and watched it pulling itself along, heading for the sitting room using the strange grey stick-like finger, sticking out of the rim. She dropped the poor cat in shock and backed away but Willam casually walked up to the vase and sat talking into it in his weird cat chattering and meowing voice. Patsy could hear responses coming from the inside the vase and was both shocked and terrified. In one quick movement, she picked up the vase holding it at arms-length and wrapped it tightly in the sheets of newspaper, threw it back into the trunk and slammed the cupboard door. Her heart was beating out of her chest and she realised she was panting with fear.
Her fear of the vase was growing, and she spent the evening with the door between the hall and living room firmly shut. Willam seemed quite happy and not at all disturbed by the weird events in the hall. Nonetheless, she was going to make sure he kept away from the vase from now on. She suffered another sleepless night and was sure she heard that creaky voice and whispering. Willam slept blissfully on the bed and only moved to stretch out periodically. The next morning Patsy was feeling awful, so she called Evie to tell her she was feeling too unwell to come to work. She felt and sounded awful, so she had no problem convincing her. She then called her Grandmother Margaret who had given her the vase. They chatted normally for a moment and then Patsy became serious. "Gran," she said, "You may think this a little strange, but I need to ask you if there’s anything weird or mystical about the vase?” Her Gran was silent for a while then quietly she said, "Patsy there are things I need to tell you and I have some documents I need to show to you, but we’ll have to meet somewhere private. I've been waiting for the right opportunity to talk to you about all of it." "I called in sick today," said Patsy. "If it's alright with you I could catch the next train to Edinburgh and come to visit?” Her Gran agreed and said she’d collect her from the station when she arrived. Patsy packed an overnight bag and booked her train ticket online, leaving herself enough time to take Willam to her mother's house.
Her mother was concerned and knew it wasn’t like Patsy to take a day off work, let alone catching a train to Edinburgh so spontaneously. Patsy couldn't reassure her because it was obvious that she was behaving in an agitated and anxious way. She held her mum's hands, looked her in the eye and said, "Mum, I need to talk to Gran about something that only she knows about, but I promise I will explain everything to you when I return." Jean wanted to ask why she couldn't tell her mother what was wrong, but she thought better of it, she knew that Patsy was already very afraid of something. If talking to her Grandmother would help that, so be it and she would wait until her return for an explanation. In the meantime, she consoled herself that she would have Willam for company.