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Vengeance

Vengeance

While trying to come up with something spooky, fun, and slightly horrific, I stumbled upon the perfect holiday to push me in the right direction: National Black Cat Day. That's today by the way! So, to celebrate, here is a fun story to help set the mood for the holiday and the season. Enjoy!

Also, below is a link to last year's black cat story. Why? Because the more cats the merrier! Or the spooooookier.

Black Cat

Vengeance

             Brieka’s scream of play took on a higher pitch than usual. The sound, despite the running of the vacuum, reached her mother inside. Maryn dropped the bundle of clean laundry on the carpet and ran to the kitchen’s sliding door, which she had blessedly left cracked open. She flung it aside and rushed outside, desperate to get to her daughter’s side.

             Meanwhile, her husband, who had been helping her clean while their child played outside, supposedly safe in their yard, watched in alarmed bemusement as his wife took off. A moment later, and he had the vacuum off. With nothing to hinder the sound, Brendan heard what no parent should ever have to hear; Brieka was screaming for help.

             Maryn spotted her daughter kneeling on the ground near the open back gate of their yard, which should have been padlocked. Brieka was still screaming at the top of her lungs for help when her mother reached her. Unable to spare a moment of thought for anything else, Maryn went to scoop her child up and carry her away, but the instant she touched Brieka, her daughter resisted and began sobbing.

            While Maryn struggled to sooth her daughter and search for injuries, her husband caught up to her. Seeing that their daughter was safe, or safe enough, he turned his attention to the open gate. His fists clenching and unclenching at his sides, he strode out, fully intent on running someone down and beating the life out of them for harming his daughter. His first step outside his fenced in yard made him pause as something solid refused to give way to his weight.

            He ignored the weight under his foot as he stopped and glared first one way down the empty corridor and then the other. With no enemies in sight, he looked instead to see if any other gates were open or if any of his neighbor’s six-foot fences had been damaged. No one could have climbed over those, not quickly enough anyway. Besides that, the corridor of fences went on for a half block in either direction.

             The lack of any sign of his enemy concerned him as he saw no sign of retreat either in the form of a retreating figure or in the undamaged corridor of fences. That meant whoever had broken into his yard likely lived close by and had retreated to their own fenced in yard in time to avoid being caught.

            Gritting his teeth, Brendan finally looked down. He had intended to lift his foot and see what he had stepped on, but he stopped cold as he saw the bloodied and broken body of a black cat a few steps away and well out of sight of his still weeping daughter. He didn’t have to inspect the broken form to know the cat was dead. Now that he was looking at the ground, he saw how trashed the grass was around the cat…and around the gate leading to his next-door neighbor’s yard.

            The revelation did little to calm Brendan’s nerves, but it did help to explain a few of the mysteries. “Maryn,” he said stepped back into his yard. Brieka, her words broken by her sobs, was saying she wouldn’t leave him. It didn’t take much for Brendan to work out his daughter meant the dead cat. Considering the cat’s position, he decided his daughter didn’t know the cat’s true fate.

            “She won’t stop crying,” Maryn said as she desperately tried to calm her daughter. “I don’t know what to do. She won’t let me pick her up.”

            “Maryn,” Brendan began again, “it’s alright. There was a cat and some sort of scuffle, but it looks like he got away. I want to see if he’s alright,” he lied, hoping his daughter would hear him. He knew he had her attention as she stopped struggling a few seconds later. “Why don’t you to take Brieka upstairs and give her a nice hot bubble bath? Maybe see if Brian or Rebeka can come over and help. I’ll be in once I check on the cat.”

            “What about-” Maryn began, but she went silent as Brieka spoke.

            “You, you promise?” she said between sniffles. She quickly wiped her tears away.

            “I promise I’ll take care of the cat,” he father said truthfully.

            “My godparents are coming?” Brieka said as she recalled hearing Brian and Rebeka’s names.

            “That’s right, sweetie,” her mother said happily. With her five-year-old no longer resisting, Maryn easily picked her daughter up and carried her inside. Once the two were out of sight, Brendan began inspecting the gate. His mother-in-law had called him overly paranoid for having a double padlock on their gate, one for the inside and one on the outside. Now that he was alone, he checked the thing he had stepped on before.

             Unsurprisingly, it was the padlock for the outside of the fence. Someone had cut it open. There was too much rust built up on the cut ends for it to have been cut recently. While that disturbed Brendan, he wasn’t prepared to see the second padlock still on the gate, a key sticking out its bottom. He pulled it off and saw the initials he himself had engraved on the key. Brieka, he decided with a shake of his head, had somehow found it or known where it was. Then she had likely used it to open the gate when she heard the neighbor boys attacking the cat. It was entirely possible the gate, which swung inward, had knocked her down. At least, that was the scenario Brendan hoped had happened. He didn’t know what he would do if he found out the boys had been the ones to knock his daughter down.

            The boys next door were rowdy, Brendan knew. Other parents had complained about them already, but he hadn’t expected them to take a life. He took his phone out as he thought to call the police. Then he hesitated. If he called and told the full truth, the police would want to hear his daughter’s side of the story, if for no other reason than to confirm it had been the neighbor boys. If that happened, someone could slip up and say the cat had died. (Property of Sarah Maree)

            And if he didn’t call the police? If the boys went after some other animal? If they went after his daughter for having tried to stop them the first time?

            He dialed the number.

            The rest of the day went by in a blur. Brieka’s calm shattered when her father told her the cat was gone. Not even the cheerful presence of her godparents had helped after that. The police, at the prompting of Brendan, had at least refrained from mentioning the dead cat to Brieka. Even with the eye witness and a dead cat, the boys next door were let off with little more than a warning, much to the furious dismay of Brieka’s four parental figures.

            Things had gone from bad to worse as the boys next door had opened a window and started chanting, Dead cat! Dead cat! They’d stopped when Rebeka rang the doorbell, cell phone in hand, and the police already dialed.

            The damage, however, had been done. From that point on, Brieka refused to believe the cat had run off. She had then cried herself to sleep.

            “What do we do?” Maryn asked her two friends after Brieka passed out.

            “I’m not sure what you can do. The cops don’t seem to be helping,” Rebeka fumed.

            “Worry less about the cops and more about Brieka,” Brian suggested.

            “Worry less? Ha!” Rebeka scoffed. She stormed out of the room.

            “If only there were a way to distract Brieka,” Brendan said absentmindedly.

            “What, like with a different black cat?” Brian said with a huff.

            “That’s it!” Maryn did her best to contain her excitement. Rebeka, alerted to the sudden excitement in the room, reentered as Maryn explained her plan. “I’ll take her to the shelter tomorrow or maybe when I’m off work this weekend. Maybe they’ll have a black cat there.”

            “When Brieka wakes up, we’ll tell her that we’ll search the shelters this weekend for the missing black cat,” Brendan said. He made to sure make eye contact with the three in the room as he emphasized the word missing. Even with Brieka sleeping he was still cautious about saying the cat had died.

            That weekend, Brieka and her mother went to the shelter as they searched for the missing black cat. As they traveled, Brieka kept talking about how heroic the cat had been. She spoke then, as she hadn’t spoken before. She spoke of how the cat had run away from the boys but had run back to save her as the boys had shoved her into her yard. The bigger boy had gone to punch her, but the cat had distracted him. Then the two younger kids had cornered it and… Brieka went quiet at that part of the story, but then she went on and on about the good kitty, the heroic kitty, the nice kitty.

            “You know, he’s probably out saving other little girls now,” her mother said but to no avail.

            “He had such pretty golden eyes. If we find him,” Brieka said as they pulled up to the shelter, “can we take him home?”

            “Hmm?” her mother said, distracted. “Oh, well that’s not possible, sweetie. The cat’s–” her mother stopped as she nearly slipped and said the cat was dead. “The cat’s likely still out saving little girls. The shelter may not have picked him up yet. The odds of finding him...” she said instead, hoping her daughter would accept the reasoning.

            “But if we find him?”

            “If they have the exact cat, we'll take him home,” her mother said sincerely. It seemed a safe enough bet considering the cat was dead. The deal made, the two went inside.

            As Brieka held up a black cat with golden eyes, Maryn swore she’d never bet again.

            Maryn was still in shock as she filled out the adoption paperwork. She wasn’t entirely sure what she was going to tell her husband. The idea had been to trick Brieka into believing the cat was alive and in good condition, not to adopt one. She sighed.

            “Everything alright, ma’am?” the shelter attendant asked.

            “Huh? Yes, I just wasn’t expecting to find…to find a black cat with golden eyes. Do you often have black cats?” Maryn kept her voice low in case her daughter might be listening.

            “All black cats?” the attendant began, not keeping his voice low in the slightest. “Every now and again, some have a bit of white fluff here or there. As for the eyes, I dunno about that. This one though, he came in pretty banged up. Wouldn’t let anyone near him. I hate to say this, but up until a few minutes ago, he was…well, more feral than tame. Wild cats usually are. I’m afraid what with his bad attitude, we were worried we’d have to put him down. Seems to have taken a liking to your little girl though. Sweet as can be now.”

            “Uh-huh,” Maryn said, her pen wavering on the final signature.

            “If there’re any problems, just bring ‘im back,” the attendant said apologetically.

            “Mama! Mama! We can’t take him back if they gonna kill him! He fought to protect me. It’s only fair I take care of him!”

            For once, the attendant did something useful as he interrupted Brieka’s teary-eyed tirade and asked her what she was going to name her new kitty.

            “Vengeance!” she said without the slightest hesitation.

            “How lovely,” her mother said, her face paling slightly. “Well, let’s take Vengeance home and show your father our new family member.” She didn’t give the attendant a chance to recover from that as she easily coerced her daughter out of the shelter.

            Despite not having a travel crate, an oversight of someone’s, the three made it home with no problems. Vengeance curled up in Brieka’s lap and slept the whole way back, acting as tranquil and peace-loving as could be.

             It was only when they were parked in the garage with the door shutting them in and the sunlight out that the situation began to sink in for Maryn, though she still wasn’t sure how to react. “Well, let’s go show your father who we found,” she said, stepping out of the car.

            “Mama,” Brieka began in her tiniest most wheedlesome voice as her mother helped her out of her seat.

            “What is it baby?” her mother asked, already feeling defeated by the day’s events.

            “Can we keep Vengeance a secret? I mean from the neighbor boys. I don’t want ‘em hurting him.”

            “Yeah, I can do that,” her mother said with a sincere nod. “But, sweetie… Why did you name him Vengeance?”

             “Because he took vengeance on those neighbor boys! Plus, it sounds all mean and tough!”

            All the movement and excitement woke Vengeance. He jumped from Brieka’s lap and landed on the cool concrete floor of the garage. He stretched for a few seconds then waited for Brieka to pick him up again.

            Brendan responded about as well as any parent with a new and unexpected pet might. He eventually caved, but on several harsh conditions that involved a lot of grown up work from Brieka. If she wanted to keep Vengeance, and he cringed at the cat’s name, then she would have to take on the responsibilities of being a good pet owner.

            With that accomplished, Maryn and Brieka left to shop for cat toys, a litter box, cat food, and more importantly, a scratching post. It turned out Vengeance still had his claws and knew how to use them.

            As they left, Brendan and Vengeance stood looking at one another. “Vengeance,” Brendan said with a heavy sigh and a shake of his head. “I’ll deal with that later,” he decided, and left the room.

            Alone and with nothing better to do, Vengeance began exploring the new terrain. He wandered from room to room where he would sniff, scratch, or bat at whatever grabbed his attention. As he wandered upstairs, his confidence grew. One room in particular drew him in. The den in the house had two small doors on either side. As Vengeance sniffed under one, he caught the scent of the outdoors.

             He batted at the door, but it didn’t move. A few loud meows latter and he heard something move around behind the second small door on the other side of the room. He bounded toward it, eager for something to do.

             The second door rattled as Vengeance batted at it. Looking up to where the sound originated, the cat spotted a simple metal hook that latched the door closed. Being smarter than most, he leapt up and batted at the latch. It took a few tries, but he eventually succeeded in flipping it. He was rewarded as the door swung open, revealing a relevantly empty attic space. A hiss from inside the room sent the cat’s hairs on end, but he didn’t back down. (Caffeine is My Muse)

             A young racoon clawed at the air, determined to keep the attic to itself, but Vengeance had been born in the wild. He was familiar with the ways of the world. If he wanted to keep this new domain, he would need to defend it from would be usurpers, even if those usurpers had been there first.

             The young racoon didn’t stand a chance against the former alley cat. Vengeance came at her with a ferocity that would have made a ferret proud. While the racoon took no real damage, the onslaught of attacks sent it skittering away.

             Not one to give up, Vengeance chased after her. He paused however as the terrified creature scampered up to a ceiling beam and disappeared. Cautiously, the cat followed. He caught sight of the raccoon as it reached the end of the ceiling beam and climbed down. Eager to see what lay beyond, Vengeance ran across the beam to the other side of the room. As he crouched on the beam that overlooked the second attic space, he made an interesting discovery.

             The racoon, still fully intent on fleeing, ran along the floor, scrambled up a side wall, and planted a paw on the top of a small round window. As the racoon expertly applied pressure at two different spots, the window flipped from a closed horizontal position to an open vertical one. Vengeance saw it all.

             The second the racoon was out, the window began rotating back to its original position. Vengeance dove off the beam and raced to the shutting portal. He made it in time before it closed, but he waited a few more seconds for it to fully shut. As it clicked closed, he batted at the glass relentlessly with his paws. His actions were rewarded a moment later as he heard the racoon, which had paused on the rooftop, went into full flight.

             Satisfied, Vengeance began tapping at the window until he too had it open. Then he slipped out and began wandering around on the roof. The racoon he’d fought had disappeared, but that didn’t bother him. For now, he was more interested in exploring than in fighting.

             Rather quickly, the cat found an easy path down the roof. Of course, the path involved jumping onto the narrow edge of a fence, but he was used to maneuvering on small ledges. Priding himself on his escape, Vengeance began licking himself clean. After one mouthful of dust and cobwebs, he gave up on the attempt and sat staring into a window across the way.

             The youngest of the three boys next door saw a flash of movement as he walked past the kitchen window. When he saw the blur of black atop the fence, he stopped. Boy and cat locked eyes. While Vengeance thought it a fun game to keep from moving or blinking, the boy began to panic. The black cat on the fence, with its unblinking golden eyes, cobweb covered body, and disheveled fur from past injuries, had the exact likeness of the cat he had helped murder.

             He screamed for his mother.

             Vengeance, not one to give up on such a fun game, kept up his stare. It was only when some other figure blocked his view of the boy that he stretched and wandered off. As far as he was concerned, the boy had lost the second he had involved another participant. Even so, the black cat thought he should be rewarded for his efforts.

             An hour later, a dead bird was placed on the windowsill of the neighbor’s house. Shortly after that, Vengeance found his way back up the roof of his property and had the window flipped open. He had barely made it into the den when a strange chime echoed through his domain. Rather calmly, he went to the stairs and sat unperturbed as one of his humans opened the front door.

             “I’ll have you know I’ve called the police on you!” a woman screamed at Brendan as he opened the door.

             “Sorry, what?” Brendan asked as he tried to process what was going on.

             “Don’t play the fool with me! I know you’ve been playing cruel tricks on my boys! Putting up a stuffed cat on your fence and pulling it down before I could see. Then leaving a dead bird on my window! You’re sick. I’ve had enough of your harassing my babies. They’ve had enough to deal with since their father died. They don’t need any of your disgusting mind games!”

             “Start over, what happened? You called the cops?”

             “I’ll take you to court over this! I demand you leave my children alone!” With a huff of extreme fury, real or otherwise, the woman stormed off.

             “What just happened?” Brendan asked the empty air as he closed his front door. “And what does their father dying have to do with anything?” He knew from reading the obituary in the paper that the boys’ father hadn’t been in the picture, though for how long he wasn’t sure as the paper had merely said he was survived by his three estranged sons. The absent and then dead father was terrible, but it hardly justified murdering a cat.

             A small warm body rubbed against Brendan’s leg, startling him badly. He looked down and saw a very dusty black cat. “Oh. That’s…Did you?” Brendan stared at Vengeance. Vengeance happily stared at Brendan. When the human blinked, the cat purred his victory.

             Still shaken, Brendan called his wife. If the cat had indeed gotten out, which seemed unlikely, but not impossible, then he needed to make sure no one said anything about them having adopted Vengeance. He also wasn’t sure it would be a wise idea to have any cat items visible when they pulled up in case the sociopaths next door started spying on them.

             The call came too late, however, for Maryn and Brieka were already pulling into the driveway. They were stopped by the very irate neighbor lady who screamed at them and peered into their car. Brendan, who had taken only a few steps away from the door listened half-heartedly as he tried to focus on what he would say to his wife. The second a car horn blared, he realized what the commotion likely meant. Without a second thought, he ran outside.

             “Get away from my wife and child.” The words, though spoken softly, cut through the crazed woman’s vicious shouts. Whether she stopped because of the words or because of the coldness of his stare, it really didn’t matter to Brendan. If she took another step toward his family, he was going to give the woman a real reason to scream.

             “Fine,” she spat at him. “But I’m not leaving this spot until the cops arrive.”

             “Fine.”

             After what felt like ten minutes, the cops arrived. Before they had even exited their car they were set up on by the woman as she demanded they search the car and house for any signs of a black cat, real or otherwise.

             “Mrs. Ellert, if you could step away from our vehicle, please,” the first cop said. “Now what seems to be the issue today?”

             First Mrs. Ellert and then Brendan gave their side of the story. Of course, Brendan’s was frequently interrupted by ‘corrections’ by Mrs. Ellert, but in the end both sides were told. The police then appeared to consider searching the car, but it was Maryn who surprised them all, saying they could. Before anyone could object, or shout with glee, she had the trunk popped open and had moved to help Brieka out of her car seat.

             Under the watchful eye of Mrs. Ellert, the car was searched, and no sign of cat hair, toys, or claw marks were found. Maryn then surprised them all once again as she suggested the officers search the house. They agreed, as they too seemed wary of telling Mrs. Ellert no.

             Brendan kept his face as impassive as he possibly could. The emptiness of the car surprised him, particularly since Maryn and Brieka had left specifically to bring back cat food, toys, and more. While that left him baffled, the suggestion of having the police search the house, which he had only recently left Vengeance in, petrified him. His anxiety increased as he caught Maryn’s eye and she winked at him! He wondered what he was supposed to do with that.

             Maryn and Brieka went inside with the first officer while the second remained with Brendan and Mrs. Ellert. Being outside next to Mrs. Ellert made it far easier for Brendan to forget the far more nerve-wracking search that was going on inside. He still worried though. He had seen Vengeance knock over a few things and put a claw in a few others, but he couldn’t recall if anything had been severe enough to give the cat away. All Vengeance had to do was stay away while the officer searched…

             After an even longer span of time, the first officer and Maryn came back outside.

             “House is clean. No cat,” the officer said, looking Mrs. Ellert in the eyes.

             “You’re lying! She paid you off, didn’t she!”

             “Ma’am, I’m afraid Mrs. Till has decided to press charges against you for harassing her and her family.”

             “She what?!

             “If we could step over to your house please. There are some things we need to discuss. Mrs. Till, I’ll be back later to speak with you and your husband more.”

             “Of course,” Maryn said.

             Things were going far better than Brendan could have dreamed, but then something unexpected though unsurprising happened. Mrs. Ellert screamed.

             “Now what?” Brendan asked, turning around. Mrs. Ellert was still screaming as she pointed at her home’s welcome matt.

             “Well, that’s unusual,” the second officer said as he walked over.

             “What’s going on?” Brendan asked again.

             “There’s a head of a squirrel here. Looks fresh,” the officer replied, sounding not the least bit disturbed by the severed head.

             “How can you be so calm?! They clearly planted this here! They’ve clearly trained a cat to do this!” Mrs. Ellert was in tears as she pointed at the head.

             “I was out here same as you. None of us moved.”

             “You’re in on this!” she accused.

             “You know,” the officer began, his voice clearly revealing he was done with Mrs. Ellert. “In some cultures, the killing or harming of a cat earns you bad luck and evil spirits.”

             “Officer, Jones! You’re done here.”

             Officer Jones shrugged and retreated to the squad car. His behavior may have removed the color from Mrs. Ellert’s face, but it brought a smile to Maryn and Brendan’s.

             “Brendan, I’m going to go in and check on Brieka,” Maryn said, touching her husband’s shoulder briefly. “I believe there’s still some paperwork to fill out for the harassment charges. Do you mind?”

             “Do I mind?” he said, fighting a giant grin. How could he have possibly been upset about that? He would gladly give up a little time for the chance to legally strike back at the delinquents next door and their annoying mother. What was a little paperwork to some peace of mind and a little vengeance?

             After the police had left and the neighbor woman had retreated to her own home, Brendan finally went back inside. He found Maryn on the phone with either Brian or Rebeka, but as she saw him, she politely ended the call. Before she could set her phone down, Brendan embraced her in a giant hug. As he held her close, he couldn’t help but ask her all his pent-up questions.

             “How did you do it? How did you hide the cat? The squirrel head? All of it?”

             It turned out, Brendan shouldn’t have worried. Maryn and Brieka had gone to Brian and Rebeka’s house first. Brieka had broken down crying as she fretted that the neighbors would try to harm Vengeance (and yes Brian and Rebeka were also against the name). In response, the three had cleaned the car and used tape to pick up any cat hair on clothing and car seats. Then they had promised to bring the cat items over in their trunk when the coast was clear. During their planning, they had even come up with ideas on how to keep the cat off window ledges and thus out of sight.

             “As for the house…I gambled a bit on them finding anything, but I knew they wouldn’t find Vengeance. He was outside.” Maryn laughed as she remembered that near disastrous moment. “I saw him heading to their front door, and I knew I had to act fast or that woman would see. That was when I suggested the house be searched as well. He’s back inside by the way. Brieka’s keeping an eye on him.”

             “We can’t keep him a secret forever,” Brendan said with a heavy sigh. “Particularly if he keeps getting out somehow.”

             “No, not forever,” Maryn said with a sigh of her own. She was about to say more, but then Brieka wandered in.

             “Mama, he left me.”

             “Oh, no,” her parents said synchronously.

             “I took him with me to the bathroom, but he opened the door and left me!” Brieka said with an angry huff. “He left me!”

             Vengeance hadn’t meant to make Brieka so angry. Opening doors had become a game for him and when she had trapped him in the bathroom, he had entertained himself by escaping. After that, he had gone off to finish the squirrel meal he had started earlier. No one had fed him that day, and the squirrel had tasted good.

             In a relatively short amount of time, Vengeance had once again let himself outside. He flicked his tail about in irritation as more cobweb strands clung to his fur. Hunger drove him to focus on the task at hand and he quickly gathered up the body of the squirrel he had killed. The head, he lamented, had been given to the loser of the staring contest as a way of apologizing for his superiority.

             With prized feast in mouth, Vengeance easily scaled the tall fence. There he sat, covered in dust, webbing, and a fresh bit of blood, as he faced the neighbor boy’s window. Quite content, it was there that he munched on his gory meal. When he had finished eating, he pinned the bones down under his paws as he debated what to do next. As he did so, he looked up and saw three boys watching him. He stared. They stared back.

             It was very rude to attempt a staring contest with so many contestants. Before he knew what he was doing, Vengeance had arched his back. His fur then bristled until he looked three times his size. He bared his white fangs, which only made the blood on his whiskers stand out that much more, and he hissed…or at least, he tried to hiss. A bit of squirrel caught in his throat and made him cough and hack rather than hiss properly. This only made him angrier as he failed to properly reprimand the boys for their breach of etiquette in the staring contest.

             True to their rudeness, the boys ran off screaming.

            His pride hurt, Vengeance let the bones of his meal fall into the neighbor’s yard as he raced along the fence to the opposite side of the neighbor’s house. As he reached the spot where the roof dipped low enough to the fence, he jumped.

            This house mirrored his own domain in many ways, and Vengeance had little trouble opening the little round window. As he stood before a closed attic door, he heard footsteps nearby. He tap-tap-tapped at the loose door. The footsteps stopped as the door swung open slowly. Before venturing out, Vengeance took that moment to try minding his manners. Rather stoically, he began licking away at the dust and the webbing. He should have known better. He began coughing again almost immediately. Luckily for him, there was a perfectly good edge for him to rub against just in front of him.

             The moment Vengeance’s head poked out from around the door, Mrs. Ellert fainted. One of her boys was screaming from somewhere downstairs, but his brothers quickly shushed him. They had heard the loud thud, but when they called for reassurance from their mother, all they heard was a wheezy hacking sound. The youngest boy, the only one that had felt guilt for what he had done, bolted for the front door. He knew the emergency route to his grandparents’ house. Since his mother wasn’t answering and there was likely a demon cat in the house, running away seemed the most logical decision. As he fumbled with the locks he kept repeating 5th and Lake…5th and Lake.

            The two older boys watched their cowardly brother flee from the house. They shook their heads at each other as they heard and understood the repeated litany. While they wanted to run too, they didn’t want to leave their mother alone. Besides, they weren’t convinced the cat had been the same one they had killed or that the strange sound was coming from a cat at all. It could have been a squirrel or a raccoon.

            Neither took a step toward the stairs. Then, almost in unison, they split up. The second oldest went to the kitchen to arm himself with a knife while his brother found a baseball bat. Armed and together again, they went up the stairs. The wheezy cough continued at strange and unpredictable intervals as they quietly climbed. As the two placed a foot on the final step, the wheezing stopped. They could see their mother’s shoes and legs sticking out from the den.

            The oldest went first with his baseball bat while his brother stayed behind. He took a few steps into the room and found the cat, staring at him from his perch atop his mother’s head. He lost all calm at the sight and dropped his bat as he fled. As he turned, he felt a blade slice into his side and scrape along a rib. His brother had come up behind him he realized, blade at the ready, and in his haste to flee, he had run into the knife.

            Blood flowed freely from the wound. Terrified by his own actions, the younger brother let go of the blade, the blood of his brother on his hands. He saw more red drops drip onto his unconscious mother and he saw the black cat, the wicked hell-spawn, grin grotesquely at him from atop his mother’s head. He fled.

            The older brother left the knife in the wound as he limped away. He dared not remove it for fear of making the injury worse. Black cat, demon cat, or whatever it was, he had to get away and find help. He tried calling for his brother to stop and help him, but it was no use. There was no one else around to hear him. Or so he thought.

             Vengeance had had quite enough of the family next door. He had tried to be nice and bring them gifts. He had tried to have proper staring contests, ones they had started! He had even gone through the trouble of licking himself clean but had suffered for that. Then, when he had entered this unknown domain, a woman had nearly crushed him beneath her! -Property of Caffeine is My Muse-

             Now one of them had injured the other and run off. The smell of blood was thick in the air, and no matter where Vengeance walked, he always seemed to find a paw landing in the sticky stuff. He wheezed and coughed a few times as a strand of webbing or fur tickled his throat, a constant irritation.

             No, he was quite through with this place. He far preferred the company of the small girl in his domain. So, with an angry hiss, which finally came out just right, he followed after the bleeding boy to see if he knew of a proper and cobweb free exit. The boy seemed to, but he moved too slow for Vengeance to tolerate.

             As the eldest boy hobbled down the stairs, he felt something slip between his legs. While the cat didn’t exactly trip him up, his sudden and unexpected presence put the boy off balance. He tried to recover, but his hand, covered in his own blood, slipped across the smooth railing, and he fell. He landed at the bottom of the stairs, the impact sending the blade deeper into his side, piercing a lung. As he bled out, gasping his last breath, he saw the blur of black run out the door.

             Vengeance bolted out through the front door of the house, leaving a faint trail of bloody footprints behind him. He had heard the crash of the boy as he fell and had sprinted the rest of the way out of the house. He never looked back as he trotted through the grass until he reached the fence he had come to know so well. Even so, he took some time in returning to his domain. He still had a great deal of cleaning of his fur to do first.

            Later that night, Vengeance returned to Brieka. She was sound asleep when he found her. He licked himself clean one final time before jumping onto the bed. As he felt the warmth of her body next to his, he felt the urge to explore fade away. Her scent, so like his brother’s, gave him a sense of security. He was fast asleep after a few minutes, his little body tucked close to Brieka’s.

            

 

 


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