The Stray

(7 minute read)
by Anne Lowe

(U.K)

The sound of scratching accompanied by the lashing rain forced Lydia awake. She must have dozed off in front of the TV. There it was again. She turned down the volume, opened the door and found the cat, a scrawny creature and not one she recognised from the neighbourhood.

“Go away! Shoo.” Ignoring her it sidled past her legs and with a disdainful look entered the living room, trailing wet paw marks across the shabby carpet.

“I don’t want you here! Be off with you!” In reply it fixed her with an unblinking stare. Lydia shuddered. She’d never been fond of cats. Dark images crept unbidden into her mind. Cats were created skinless by the devil until St Peter out of pity gave them fur coats. Cats could kill babies by sucking their breath, not that there was a baby in the house. It looked quite pathetic standing there dripping wet, but being a practical soul, Lydia shrugged off these thoughts and decided to ring the RSPCA. They would know what to do. However, when she finally got through, they informed her it would be a couple of days before they could send anyone and would she keep it till then?

“Oh well, I suppose it won’t do any harm” she muttered.

Finding some leftover food in the pantry and half a bottle of milk, she reluctantly gave them to the creature. It pounced on them hungrily making feline noises of pleasure. A cat’s purr was supposed to be the sound of a ghost. This gave Lydia a strange feeling although she didn’t believe in ghosts. After all, no-one had ever come back from the dead to say otherwise.

Attempting to watch her favourite game show, Lydia found she couldn’t concentrate being conscious of the cat’s eyes constantly upon her.

“I’m going to bed now. You can stay in the kitchen.” She knew it was bad luck for a cat to die in your house, but once it was taken away she wouldn’t be responsible. After all, it was only a stray and not a very appealing one.

As Lydia drifted off to sleep, she had the strangest sensation of being in a place where everything seemed familiar, but nothing was. There was an ache in her stomach forcing her awake. To her surprise she discovered it was already morning. Her head and insides hurt and her hands claw like clutched her bosom. ‘What a weird dream. It must have been brought on by that cat or the cheese I had for supper.’ Then she noticed two yellow eyes staring at her from across the room. Letting out a cry she stumbled out of bed. How on earth had it got in the bedroom when she was sure it had been safely locked downstairs? She needed an aspirin and a strong cup of coffee.

Making her way to the kitchen, Lydia started to fill the kettle when the cat appeared again as if by magic. Struggling to overcome her unease, she made some toast and gave the animal a few biscuits. The smell of the coffee was making her queasy and she had no appetite for toast. Consoling herself that the RSPCA would be here the next day to take away her unwelcome visitor, she did some housework to take her mind off things. ‘The devil will haunt you if you kill a cat’ crept unbidden into her head. There was no way a cat could get into your soul, the idea was impossible. She was really letting her imagination run away with her. The sooner it was gone the better.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully. After making a fire, the heat was making her sleepy so she decided to go to bed early. A large glass of whiskey would ensure a better night than the last. After taking a sip, Lydia decided it tasted a bit odd so she poured a glass of milk instead. Making sure that the cat was once again secure in the kitchen she headed upstairs.

In the twilight state of being awake and asleep, Lydia felt again the now familiar force which she had experienced the night before. This time it was far more potent. Driving shadows held her in their grip as she struggled to regain control. Powerless to resist, she found herself forced out of bed and down the stairs. In the darkness, the outline of the cat lay against the dying embers of the fire. It blinked an eye but did not stir as she opened the back door.

Outside the darkness held no threat. The heavy rain had left the air alive with glorious smells and sounds. Every stir in the bushes, every scuttle across the lawn seemed magnified a thousand times. How intense was the darkness, how powerful her vision. Nothing seemed more natural than being out on her hands and knees surrounded by these exciting sounds full of promise, eyes seeking, pupils contracting and dilating with the changing intensities of light. The breeze ruffled her hair. She was invincible in the knowledge that this was her world. The overwhelming hunger engulfed her. Now with claws and teeth at the ready, a leap, something primeval, the sweet scent of blood on her face and body. Satiated, she fell asleep.

When she opened her eyes it was light. She could hear voices but the dream would not release her. Why was she crouched on all fours in the garden when she should be home safe in bed? The fur on her back bristled.

Looking towards the voices, she spied the figure near the door, recognising the long grey hair, the faded candlewick dressing gown and the red slippers with the pompoms. How could she be there? What on earth was happening? Standing behind the woman stood two figures holding a metal cage.

“Kitty, come here!” cried the familiar voice. “There are some nice men to see you!”

Copyright © 2021 – Anne Lowe. All rights reserved.

About the Author 

I spend my spare time planning my next murder, the plotting, the place, my next victim.  Will it be a neighbour, a so-called friend, a lover who betrayed me?  I’m hoping it won’t be long before you find out.  Just to reassure you, I’m really a nice person! Love, Anne.

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