284 words, and I feel I hit it exactly right, that it does exactly what I wanted it to:
Neither Dexter nor Marie slept well that night.
They both tossed and turned, prevent from a truly deep sleep by something nagging at the edge of their consciousness, something that wasn’t quite right.
Marie awoke suddenly, convinced something was lying on her chest, a weight on her ribs that made breathing difficult. She brushed her hand against her body reflexively, but all she found were the covers tangled about her. She resettled herself, one hand on her chest, feeling her heart beat too fast underneath the fabric of her nightshirt, worn thin from age. She listened to herself breathe in the empty room, so aware of her own breathing that if she didn’t consciously think to breath in and out, she found herself not breathing at all.
Dexter awoke suddenly, hearing something unusual. She sat straight up in bed, the covers falling away from her, and listened. It was a hum that she felt more than heard, one that seemed to vibrate in her skull, in her skin, in the room around her. “Luke,” she whispered, poking him lightly on his shoulder. Instantly the hum stopped. He murmured, and pulled her back down. She curled up next to him, inside his warm arms, bare skin against bare skin, but she was wide awake, listening. In a moment, the humming began again. It was more like a purr than a hum, Dexter realized with a start.
It was a long time before either Dexter or Marie fell asleep again. But when they did, the last thing they saw before drifting off was the image of a small girl, no more than 8 or 9, skin pale against the darkness, holding a cat in her arms.