by Graeme Reynolds
Mark drifted in warmth and darkness. Images flashed through his mind; random, jumbled but tied together by a subconscious narrative thread that defied logic.
He could hear knocking. Steady, regular. It tugged at him, puncturing the womb that his mind floated in. Awareness leaked in.
No, he thought, not knocking. His mind processed the sound, rising from the depths of his dream. There was a weight on his chest, restricting his breathing. The weight twitched in time to the sound.
Hyunk! Hyunk! Hyunk!
The fog cleared from his mind in an instant. His eyes snapped open and saw two flat green disks stating back at him.
Hyunk! Hyunk! Kaff! Squelch!
The cat’s mouth opened and a lump of partially digested food, grass and hair appeared on the duvet. The severed head of a mouse stared at him with dead black eyes.
“Oh God! Gerrofoutofityabastard!” he yelled, throwing back the covers.
The cat leaped from the bed and vanished into the darkness. Within moments he could hear it being noisily sick somewhere else in the house. He looked at the alarm clock. 4.15am. Mark groaned.
“Please Mark”, he whined in a falsetto imitation of Joanne. “Look after Mr. Whiskers while I go away. It’s only for a couple of days and he’ll be no trouble.”
Yeah, right. So far the thing had stolen his dinner from the plate, sprayed acrid urine across his laptop and now blown chunks of mouse all over the duvet. This was not Mark’s definition of being no trouble.
He got out of bed and felt something warm squelch under his feet. He put on the bedroom light, and sure enough, there was the rest of the mouse – stretched out over the floor of the bedroom - a drawn out string of entrails with sporadic patches of blood soaked fur that poked out from between Mark’s toes.
“Aw man, that’s gross!” he muttered, and hopped to the bathroom to clean his foot.
Jo had inherited the cat; a scraggy, flea-bitten ginger tom, from her aunt about a month ago, after the silly old cow had fallen down a flight of stairs and broken her neck. Mark had disliked the cat instantly. There had been times when he had caught it looking at him with a strange expression on its face that made him uneasy. When Jo had to go away on a business trip, she had pleaded with him to house sit and look after the animal. He was regretting his decision.
He walked back to the bedroom, pulled on a pair of shorts and headed downstairs, ensuring that the lights were on so that any other presents lying around on the floor could be avoided. Sure enough, on the stairs was a reddish brown mass with wisps of steam curling from it.
Nice, he thought, stepping around it and continuing down the stairs. A flash of orange fur between his feet made him stumble, and for a moment he teetered, stepping backwards to catch his balance.
”Oh for…are you trying to kill me?”
The cat flicked its tail at him and wandered off into the living room. Mark was sure it was laughing. Cursing, he hopped to the downstairs bathroom to clean his foot again, and then headed to the living room. Mr. Whiskers was lying on Mark’s suit jacket that had fallen from the door where he had hung it the night before. The cat scratched itself and clouds of ginger fur filled the air, coating the expensive black material with a layer of hair and flecks of dandruff.
“OK Mr. Whiskers, I think it’s time you went outside for a while,” he said, and reached towards the animal.
Mr. Whiskers disagreed. The cat arched its back and growled at him, swiping Mark’s outstretched hand with razor-sharp claws. Blood welled up in the parallel tears in his skin. The cat ran past him before he had a chance to react, disappearing into one of the other rooms.
“Bastard cat! I’ll deal with you later,” he growled after the retreating animal. He headed to the bathroom to dress his wound, leaving spots of blood on Jo’s expensive cream carpet in his wake.
After ten minutes or so, the bleeding had stopped. Mark’s head was thick with fatigue, but there was no point in going back to bed. He had to be up in an hour, and there was still the matter of cleaning up the mess.
Jo kept the cleaning things in the cellar, along with her suitcases and a bewildering array of junk that she refused to simply throw away. Holding his injured hand, he opened the cellar door and peered into the darkness below. At the bottom of the steep wooden stairs lay Jo. Dressed in her business suit, her legs bent beneath her, and her head at an unnatural angle.
“Oh my god! Jo!” he yelled, and ran down the stairs to reach her.
Something orange and hairy entangled itself in Mark’s legs and he plummeted head first down the stairs. As he fell he saw Mr. Whiskers on the staircase, licking his genitals.
“I’m going to kill that fucking cat,” he thought before he landed beside his girlfriend with a wet snap.
Mark lay on the concrete floor twitching. He couldn’t move his body – couldn’t even blink. Blackness closed in around the edge of his vision as he watched the cat strutting down the stairs. The animal brought its face up to his, filling his vision with malicious flat green disks.
Mr. Whiskers turned around and raised its tail into the air.
“No!” he thought, “It wouldn’t!”
The acrid urine hit Mark square in the face, burning his eyes and nostrils. Mark watched Mr. Whiskers saunter back up the stairs, pausing at the top to glance back at the dying man. The last thing Mark saw was a grin on the cat's face, and a last contemptuous flick of the tail before the darkness claimed him.