Here’s a tale about what your cat’s really freaking out about when it stares at the corner and yowls.
This is the fifth and final week of Chuck Wendig’s latest Flash Fiction Challenge – one person writes the first 200 words of a story, another person writes the next 200, and so on, until a collaboratively-written (and hopefully coherent!) 1,000 word story shows up at the end.
The cat stared at the corner of the bedroom. Her eyes were black disks with only a rim of yellow showing. She was stock still and it was creeping me out.
She didn’t respond, not even an ear flicker. As I watched her, goosebumps popping up on my arms, she moved. Rather, her fur moved. Her tail puffed out like a bottle brush and a ridge of fur rose up along her back, unfurling like a hoisted sail.
A low keening noise made my heart jump. A sound of fear, pain, and sadness, it was coming from Shadow. I’d never heard the cat make a noise other than a chirpy sort of meow or a raucous purr.
The keening continued, rising and lowering in pitch in an awful melody. I got out of bed, walked over to Shadow and knelt down. She ignored me, still staring into the corner. The keening got louder and her body vibrated with the effort of producing that ghastly noise. I lowered my head until it was on a level with hers, forcing myself to turn my head and look at the spot hypnotizing the cat.
And I saw what she saw.
The light from the street lamp across the way lit the corner with a bluish tint, highlighting the object of Shadow’s attention in the corner.
At first I thought it was a doll. It was propped up, stiffly leaning to one side.
I assumed it was a girl doll. Its hair was standing out in all directions under an acorn cap worn low over her eyes. She wore a dress with a tight bodice and a flared skirt like a tutu. Looking closer I saw the skirt was made from the leaves of an oak tree. Her arms were bare as were her feet. She stood with a knitting needle in her hand the pointed end to the sky and the end braced against her foot. Her face was dirty and like all doll eyes hers stared into nothing over my shoulder.
As I looked Shadow continued her keening
“Shadow. It’s just a doll. Look.” I said reaching out to pick the doll up.
The cat suddenly hissed and spit and backed up, while what I had thought was a doll lunged, knitting needle braced under her arm, shrieking in a high-pitched tone. Her mouth opened displaying a set of serrated teeth.
I fell onto my butt, crab-walking backward. It jabbed at me with the knitting needle and gnashed its teeth. Glaring at me and shrieking, it backed toward the open door of the bathroom. It turned and ran into the space between the toilet and vanity. I scrambled onto the bed, screaming. The doll thing shrieked from her hiding place while Shadow yowled from behind the laundry hamper.
I stopped screaming after a minute, gasping for breath, and examined myself for wounds, but there were none that I could see. Either I dodged fast enough or the little creature was as frightened of me as I was of her. She had stopped shrieking, but I heard little growls coming from behind the toilet. I hopped off the bed and yanked the bathroom door closed.
Shadow crept close to me, never taking her eyes off the door. I ruffled her fur with a trembling hand. “You’re all brave aren’t you, now that the danger is over?” The cat arched her back and continued to growl at the door. “Now, all we need to know is what that is and how we get rid of it.”
“That,” said a deep voice behind me, “is a forest pixie.”
“And what are you?”
“I am its brother.”
“I’m… sorry?” I said as Shadow prowled over my hands.
“You should be. You frightened her. Do you know how long it takes to calm her down?”
“A… long time?”
“A VERY LONG TIME!” The voice in the corner boomed and from the shadows a small, stocky creature appeared. He was holding a rusty fork with a small crown of tinsel on his head. “Do you have any marshmallow?”
“Marshmallow. Are all humans deaf or something? Marsh. Mallow. It’s… mallowy.”
“Yes, hang on, I might.” I pushed shadow off my hands and reached under the bed to my one weakness: snacks. I took out a shoebox and pulled off the lid. Inside was a half-eaten bag of crisps, an unopened packet of chocolate digestives, two bars of smooth white chocolate and a packet of unpopped kernels.
“Does she like chocolate?”
“Dark or white?”
“I’ve got digestives, too.”
“It’ll have to do.” He stormed up to me, grabbed the packet and marched to the linen closet.
He laid a large towel in front of the bathroom door, then nudged it open. The growling inside got louder. Shadow watched from behind my leg.
“Starthimble,” the man called, “it’s all right. Come out, now.” He waved a biscuit. “Look – chocolate!”
He threw the biscuit on top of the towel and jumped back as the girl pixie practically flew out of the bathroom, landing on the biscuit and shoving it in her scary little mouth. Just as fast, the male pixie wrapped her up in the towel, tying the ends together around her. The girl pixie started shrieking again, and Shadow took off.
“That will hold her for now,” the man said, slinging the trashing, shrieking bundle over his shoulder. He climbed onto the ledge of my open bedroom window. “From now on,” he said, “keep your window closed at night.”
“I can’t do that,” I protested. “It’s the middle of summer. It was ninety degrees last night!”
“Do you want her back?” he asked. Without waiting for an answer, he jumped off the ledge and was gone.
I told all this to the sales person at Walmart, but she still made me pay full price for a fan.
Hissing cat by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez, distributed under a CC-BY-2.0 license