short story by Chris Alleyne
It’s hard to know when I
first started to understand that there was something in my mind that perhaps is
not present in everyone’s. I’ve tried to
pin it down to a particular time but haven’t been that successful. I think it
goes back as far as the morning when I watched our neighbour’s cat choke to
death on something she had swallowed, while I sat there on the step, barely
hidden by the Hibiscus bush that seemingly grew at random out of the cracks on
the back steps of the old plantation house where I grew up, but I’m not sure.
I guess I must have been 11
or 12, maybe 13. I had just returned
home from wandering around the 150 or so acres that made up the
plantation. I would have been out,
perhaps shooting monkeys with an old .22 rifle – unlicensed as it was – or even
just rambling the cane-tracks, living out some fantasy or the other in one of
the several gullies on the plantation.
We lived in St. Peter. Not
quite, but almost the most northerly parish of the island, where hardly anyone
else lived. Or so it seemed. For me back then, life was really simple; there
was no-one of my age for at least a mile in any direction – my brothers were 5
and 7 years older, my sisters 8 and 9 years younger than me – I could as well
have grown up as an only child. At the
time, it seemed like I had been sentenced to live my life alone. Looking back
on my childhood, I have come to
realize that, for me anyway, it was only a fraction short of perfect; I could
be – and usually was – whatever and
whoever I could dream up in my agile, imagination-flooded brain. I didn’t
realize this until several years
These years, the
constraints placed upon me and, yes, the opportunities offered by my
environment, played such a significant part in my development and, although I
didn’t realize it at the time, was a situation for which I was envied by many
of my schoolmates, who lived lives much more restricted and ‘managed’ than
My typical weekend or
holiday day would go something like this:
I was an early mover, so I’d usually be up by 5 AM, before most of the
household. I would grab a half-gallon jug from the kitchen, wander outside
while the grass was still wet with dew.
I would walk around the croquet lawn and through the plantation ‘yard’
where the trucks and other equipment would spend their life; finally winding up
in a large cowshed, the home of the few cows that lived on the plantation spend
their nights. There I would meet our
groom, who would fill my jug with warm, fresh cow’s milk, and send me back to
One morning, after I had
finished, I was sitting on the step when I heard an animal coughing out in the
gravel. Curious, I stood quietly and
walked softly around the hibiscus bush.
There, just in the gravel yard, sat a rather large, black and ginger cat
which I recognized as being a resident of one of the houses which lined our
The animal was clearly in
some distress and was trying to remove some object stuck in its throat. Windpipe,
as I later discovered. I must admit
that I was at a loss for what action to take. I suppose I could have run upstairs
and got my parents to handle the matter. As it was, I sat there, morbidly
fascinated by the drama unfolding in front of me, and watched the cat slowly
choke to death. As it happened, I had moved ever closer until, when the choking
animal was about to expire, I was close enough for it to fix me with a soulful,
baleful stare, as if asking me if I would just remain there and watch it die.
Which I did.
After breakfast, everyone
went their own ways. Once old enough and
employed, my brothers would head off to their jobs, one as a car salesman and
the other selling real estate, my mother was a hairdresser and off she would go
for the day, my stepfather ran the plantation, so he was usually somewhere
around, and my sisters had a nanny who used to keep them out of trouble.
I had no such restraints.
Some days I would pack myself something for lunch and roll out to the stable,
find a cooperative horse, saddle up and
climb aboard for a day rounding up the cattle herd, or chasing imaginary
rustlers or Indians off the ‘ranch’, or just cantering out to a nearby hillside
with either the .22 or Winchester 30-30 and wait for the occasional
monkey. Government was paying a bounty
of $5/monkey tail, and this was a useful source of pocket money for an
Boredom wasn’t something
that ever entered the equation; there was always something to do. When I got
older and discovered the cache of old 00 Buckshot black powder cartridges in an
old vault in the garage, things really started to heat up. But that’s a story
for a different day.
Throughout the years, I was
haunted with visitations from a large black & ginger cat. As I got older,
the cat seemed to get bigger,
its eyes became more malevolent and colder, until it seemed like the animal
held me personally responsible for its death years earlier.
I remember waking one
night, convinced that there was a warm, furry body stretched out along my
side. I was almost sure that it was
purring rhythmically. While still half
awake, I froze. A chill swept over me –
we had no cat, only 7 dogs ranging from a Dachshund up to a half-breed Great
Dane/Ridgeback, none of whom would have tolerated an extended feline presence
in the household. I knew immediately what it was.
I carefully eased my left
hand down alongside my body, insinuating it between me and the foreign entity
sharing my bed. Taking a dep breath, I
swung my arm violently away from my body, hoping to propel it from my bed.
There was no noise, no
physical movement; just the sudden sensation of an icy chill replacing the
warmth to which I had awoken. It was gone, whatever it was. I reached over and
turned on the light, but there was nothing other than a slight indentation
along my side, which was still faintly warm to the touch.
Needless to say, I didn’t
sleep any more that night.
Next morning, my brother
with whom I shared a large bedroom, turned to me over breakfast and asked “So
what was the commotion last night?”
I mumbled an indistinct
reply and changed the subject.
I had passed the entrance
examination for one of the island’s secondary schools some years before, and
had been rewarded with a large, cubical Kodak Brownie camera. A few years
later, around the time of the first ‘cat’ episode, I had repurposed the 4’ x 4’
x 4’ cube that made up the enclosed area of one of our dog kennels as a (very)
basic darkroom. I had 3 trays for paper
developing chemicals, a red-bulbed nightlight which was my safelight, and
another lamp with a 100-Watt incandescent bulb for making the exposures. I had
no enlarger, so was limited to
producing contact prints the size of the negative. Since the Brownie’s
negatives were 2.25” x
3.25”, it wasn’t that much of a restriction for the level that my photography
The strange thing was that,
from time to time, something would manifest itself in my prints, apparently
only visible to me. I would see some shape of light and shadow, usually shaped
like some sort of a feline anatomy, seemingly either materialising in a bush,
or disappearing around a corner. When I pointed
this out to anyone, the usual response was something like “It’s just a weird
bit of light and shade. Your imagination
is playing up!”
By the time I was twenty,
the cat seemed to have given up; no more manifestations of his presence. I did
notice, however, that I seemed to have
developed a magnetic attraction for almost any feline which would cross my
path; it was as if they just couldn’t get enough of me. They would rub
on my shins when I walked past
or, if I was seated, my lap seemed to be fair game, even to cats who had always
shown an aloofness, excessive even for their kind.
This was actually good
timing. At nineteen, I had left home and went to diving school in Florida for 3
months. I started to think about more ‘mature’ things; girls, parties, a job,
and the cat faded slowly from memory. I hate to think how it would have been if
it had still been around. Prior to that, there was t least one incident that
left me a bit shaken and trying to work out how I would explain it to my
I had passed my driver’s
test a few months before my eighteenth birthday. I had also been blessed with
an old Opel station wagon that had been a plantation vehicle and was well past
its ’use by’ date. What did I care? I
now had wheels!
This was the end of the
nineteen-sixties and it was as if we had suddenly discovered new herbal and
pharmaceutical enhancements to life.
Having never been one to
shy away from new experiences, I dived enthusiastically into the world of
marijuana; what delights this magical weed had to offer! Fortunately, I never
fried my brain on
anything much harder, so I can look back on that time as being a ‘pleasant’
Except for one thing.
I had spent the evening and
most of the night with a small group of cronies, playing music, drinking beer
and yes, getting comprehensively stoned. And now I had a half-hour drive home,
with my head floating somewhere above the horizon. When I got home, the moon
was setting, but
the sun had not yet made an appearance. Snuck into the house and crawled into
my bed just as I heard one of the roosters starting to tune up – he was late
It seemed as if I had just
shut my eyes when my mother was by the bedside, shaking me vigorously.
“What happened to the car?”
she asked. It took a while for the words to register but, when they did, I came
instantly awake, pulling on a pair of shorts and charging past my mother and
down the steps, out to the garage.
The car sat there, at first
looking ok but, on inspection, I saw that the right headlight had been
shattered as if it had been hit by a rock, right there in the garage. The glass
shards from the broken lens lay on
the ground beneath. Then I looked down
the right side of the car, the side where I sat. Etched into the old white paint
lines, about an inch apart. They had
been applied with such strength that, in some places where the metal was mainly
rust, there were long slits in the metal, as if someone had taken a knife and
gone to work on the side of the car. I felt cold.
Heading back into the
house, I brushed it off by saying “I guess I took a corner a bit close. Don’t
have a clue what happened to the light.
I think it must have happened when I drove in. I was feeling a bit ragged
“I’ll deal with it. No big
thing.” Please don’t ask what I was doing so far over on the right side of the
road. We drive on the left here.
I had a cup of coffee and
two eggs and said, “I’ll see what I can do with it now.” Then beat a hasty
retreat out to the garage.
I collected a strip of
fiberglass cloth, resin, hardener and some sandpaper. I figured that I could
patch the scratches well enough that, with a coat of white, it would look okay.
The rest of the car didn’t look much better anyway. Got to the car, pulled up a
bench and decided to turn on the ignition and play a tape of folk music that I
had been collecting.
Opened the door.
And was hit by a wave of
pungent cat pee odor that seemed to permeate everywhere inside the car. Shut
back the door, checked the windows, all
rolled up to the top, not even enough space for a lizard to gain access. Sat on
the bench and as if nothing was awry, started sanding the edges of the
scratches to get my fiberglassing started.
The broken headlight would mean a trip to a nearby parts supplier (if
they had one in stock). Two hours later,
a raw strip of fiberglass cloth ran the length of the car. Still needed to be
sanded, but I had other
things to deal with.
I got into the car, wishing
I had a clothespin for my nose, reversed it carefully out of the garage and
drove it around the back of the house, parked under a big mango tree with lots
of shade. Jumped out of the car, almost
gagging. I opened each door, including
the tail hatch and grabbed the hose lying there. I swear I heard a cat’s
meow. It sounded almost gleeful, but a
quick search around the area turned up nothing.
Everything in the car was
vinyl, so I turned on the hose and soaked the entire interior of the car until
the acrid smell was at least bearable.
Left it all wide open and hoped that it wouldn’t rain.
I was sure that something
watched the whole process.
By now it was after 2 PM,
and I was starving, and almost falling asleep on my feet. I shuffled into the
kitchen, made myself a sandwich and poured a glass of lemonade, crawled up the
stairs with my drink and sandwich, put it on the bedside table and collapsed
onto the bed. Dreamt I was being mauled – and peed on – by a large orange and
Fast forward 40+
years. I’ve been married, fathered 2
boys, young men these days, been a moderately successful businessman and now in
the throes of managing a small web advertising company of my own, serving the
real estate market. In recent years I acquired, firstly, a rescue dog of
indeterminate age and breed and, secondly, a neutered ginger cat named Rubio by
his previous humans.
In addition, along the way,
I have amassed huge collection of digital photography, published two
coffee-table books, and discovered that I could paint my photographs to a
surprising level of detail. People have had trouble selecting the painting when
it’s paired with the photo of the same subject.
At some point, I decided
that painted pet portraits would be an interesting exercise. My dog, whom I had
unimaginatively named ‘Dog’, was a happy mass of aging energy who, even though
he was getting on in years, could still raise enough enthusiasm to greet me effusively
on my return home. Rubio, on the other hand, ignored Dog for the most part,
stalking haughtily by, nose in the air, any time they came closer than six
feet or less was greeted with hissing and spitting, but no physical violence
between the two.
Dog lived within the
confines of my walled garden, apparently happy just knowing that he had food to
eat and a place to sleep. Even if I left
the gate open, he wouldn’t step outside the boundary.
Rubio, on the other hand,
was all cat. Condescending, aloof and
cold to all approaches – unless initiated by him. He bore no resemblance to the
other cat in my life. Rubio was a light
ginger, with white, and no black anywhere on his body. He was definitely an
outside cat. I left one of my windows
open about 4 inches, and that was enough for him. On his first day with me,
I introduced him to
his entrance/exit route, and that was it. He came and went at will
I had decided that I would
photograph the two of them separately – there was no other option really – and
perhaps do the two portraits on a single canvas.
Once decided, the steps
seemed fairly simple. Photograph both, make selections, buy the canvas and
start the painting. In reality it was a bit different. Dog was completely
cooperative, yielding a good, if uninspiring photo and ultimately a respectable
rendition in acrylic. With Rubio, to begin with, I would have to follow him
around the house for hours each day just to get a reasonably acceptable
photo. He was singularly uncooperative;
he would lie on my coffee table, looking calm, serene and decidedly un-cattish,
until I reached for my camera.
At that point, one rear leg
would reach above his head and he would immediately start his cleanup - as only
male cats can do. Decidedly
unphotogenic. Or he would sit aristocratically, in a perfect beam of subdued
sunlight, looking as if he was just waiting for a passing paparazzi to pass and
snap his photo. That is, until I showed up, then he was off to explore. A few
days later, I managed to get one of these regal poses, and I was thrilled –
until I stuck the card into my computer and got the dreaded “This file is
unreadable. Please copy and try again”.
A futile week later, I
decided to go with one of my less appealing shots. If I had known where this
would lead, I would have stopped there.
Once I had set up the
canvas and laid out where he would go, to the left of Dog looking slightly to
his right, Rubio suddenly became very interested in my actions. He would follow
me around the house, meowing
raucously, until I wandered into the studio and sat before the easel. He would
then climb carefully onto the table,
avoiding things like my open palette
with wet paint and water jars, gingerly
(no pun intended) position himself on the table between the tubes of paint, and
settle down to observe, almost as if he was there to ensure that I produced a
decent painting of his magnificence.
I am not a fast painter, my
attention to detail – coupled with my lack of technical knowledge – made sure
One night, after I had
finished my night’s artistic endeavours and topped it off with a long rum
cocktail, I was lying in bed, getting
slowly in a Stephen King that I had received for Christmas (Outcast, I think it
was) I heard this distraught yowl, and Rubio arrived in my bed, shaking and
visibly upset by something. Then, as if
he felt he need protection, he crawled between my left arm and body and lay
This really confused
me. Here was a cat who had, on at least
two occasions, taken on and bested mongooses, perhaps the most aggressive and
violent of the rodent family resident here.
One morning he had strolled into the dining room with a dead mongoose
14” long hanging from his blood-stained face. The second one I found in the
yard equally dead. He was obviously scared and refused to move until I went to
don’t remember much of the night but, when I awoke the next morning, made coffee
and walked into the studio., I almost dropped my coffee-cup in shock.
I had, by now, roughed in
Rubio’s shape and features and was working on the facial details and
colours. This morning instead of my
cat’s ginger and white visage, I was greeted by the eerily familiar face of a
cat that I hadn’t seen in decades; the
right side of this cat’s face was ginger and white, in a slightly different
pattern and, as if some strange artist had picked up my brushes during the
night, the left side of its face bore a distinctive black patch, covering the
left eye, jaw and throat
of my painting. It was as if my
neighbour’s dead cat had suddenly been regenerated and had pasted its own portrait
across my canvas. Complete with its accusing death-glare as it left this world.
I felt as if the Arctic had
opened up all around me, and I was engulfed in a stream of icy wind which
enveloped me from head to toe.
Carefully, I turned slowly
in a circle, observing the entire studio without moving from where I was standing.
Everything looked as it should have; no
unopened paint tubes, no paint-encrusted brushes. I slowly pulled my stool up
to the easel and,
with ever-quickening strokes, I painted out the swathe of black fur that had so
exactly replaced mine. An hour later
everything was as it should be, and Rubio stared out at me from the canvas once
to say, I spent the whole of that day trying to work out how this could have
happened. Was it possible that I could have awoken in the night and, in some
half-asleep state sat at the easel and made the changes that I saw that
morning? I didn’t see how I could have
done. Remembering the details of an animal dead nearly 50 years ago seemed
beyond the capabilities of my 60+ years-old brain. I knew that, supposedly our
subconscious remembers everything that we have ever experienced, but that
seemed a stretch in this case.
Nothing that I could
imagine gave me enough of a plausible explanation that I could hang onto.
The next few days passed
without incident, although Rubio had continued to attach himself to me,
particularly at night when he crawled into my bed and snuggled up to me as if
he couldn’t bear to be separated from me.
On the fifth night since
the original incident (I still have no reasonable explanation) we had a
repeat. I had made fairly good progress
with the painting, and the cat in the picture was now clearly recognizable as
Rubio. I was feeling good about it.
At about 11:30, as I was
lying there reading, I was again treated to a horrific howl, followed almost
immediately by a ginger-coloured flash that took refuge in my bed, this time
forcing himself under the covers along my side.
Tonight though, I was
ready. I had secreted the only firearm
which I owned as an adult, an old Colt 1911 that had seen much better times, in
the drawer next to my bed and, reaching for the weapon, I was immediately out
of bed and up the stairs to my studio. As I burst into the room, I was greeted
by another freezing blast while, outside on the lawn, Dog let out a howl of
obvious pain and terror.
The room was otherwise empty,
and everything seemed untouched – except for the portrait of my cat. Except,
again, it wasn’t my cat, but the one
from my childhood, but with much more detail in the painting than I had included
in my Rubio portrait.
I rushed back downstairs,
nearly coming to grief on the second landing but, somehow managing to negotiate
the 180 degree left turn required to point me in the right direction for the
front door, and rushing outside onto my patio – and into a pool of glutinous dark
liquid, in the middle of which lay Dog, seemingly still conscious, but clearly
not long for this world.
stop. It didn’t work, my feet slid out from under me and, with a horrendous
crash, I hit the ground, crashed the side of my head into the step down to the
patio floor, and everything went black.
wasn’t out for long. I have no real way of knowing, since I hadn't looked at my
watch when I made the rush upstairs. It couldn't have been more than a few minutes,
though; the blood on the floor had not completely dried, and Dog still lay
there, breathing shallowly.
carefully got to my knees and crawled over to where the stricken animal lay. In
the dark, his body shape seemed slightly distorted. It wasn't until I say on
the floor in the drying red pool that I realized that he had been effectively
gutted by something that resembled a flensing knife; his underside had been
sliced cleanly through and the distorted shape that I had seen was the darkness
of his internal organs as they had slipped from his abdomen onto the tiled
had been slashed either by a hand skilled in butchery, or by the claw of some
beast of prey unlike any that I had ever seen here.
on the top of the step where I had almost crushed my skull, Rubio appeared as
concerned as I was, as I cradled my dying Dog's head, whispering I can't
remember what into his ear, trying to reassure him that everything would be
alright. Of course, nothing would be. He lay there in my arms, his breaths
growing weaker and weaker until he just stopped breathing, and he was gone. In
the limpid light of the almost full moon, his eyes were deep, dark pools of
sadness, and they will stay with me forever.
the time Dog died, his blood was dry and tacky, and I was covered from head to
foot. I crawled to the edge of the patio and delicately puked my guts out,
feeling as though someone had reached down my throat, grabbed the lining of my
stomach, and pulled it out through my mouth until it was completely
inverted. When there was nothing left, I
dragged myself upright using the patio rail, and I and my cat stumbled into the
house leaving a trail of red until I reached the shower. Once there, I turned
it on and slid down the wall until I sat on the floor under the cold water
sluicing down from my rain-shower head washed me slowly clean.
climbed slowly to my feet and stepped out of my shower stall, surprised to find
that Rubio had joined me in the shower at some point and was now standing,
dripping and forlorn, but clean, beside me in the bathroom. I grabbed a towel
and carefully wiped him down, until he was respectably dry. Surprisingly, he
just stood there mewling
quietly as I gently rubbed him down.
I had never seen him like
this, and it was clear that he was as shaky as I was.
When I was dry enough to
don shorts and a T-shirt, I dressed and, bracing myself for an unpleasant job
which would probably take up the remaining hours of darkness, headed out to the
garage to collect a mop and a bucket.
First task was to mop up
the blood trails which Rubio and I had left as we trudged to the shower. Half
hour later, the water in my mop bucket
was a deep red, and it sickened me as I again realized what had just happened. I
dumped the bloody water and refilled the
bucket. Snagged a fork and garden spade
from the garage and steeled myself to the task of burying my first pet in
years. I remember realizing that he had
been much more than a pet since he had adopted me; he had become a true
friend. And now he was gone.
As carefully as possible, I
gathered him up in my arms and walked out into the garden, laying him in his
favorite spot under a small Ficus tree.
Again, time ceased to have meaning, as I dug, first with the fork to loosen
the hard-packed soil of the lawn, then used the spade to make straight sides to
a hole about 4 feet x 2 and about 3 feet deep. At one point, I had to return to
the house for a cutlass to cut some roots out of the way. By now it was into
the early dawn hours; the western sky had started to lighten, there was a bit
more traffic on the road, and I was exhausted, both physically and mentally and
totally at a loss as to what my next steps should be.
I returned to the kitchen,
picked up a 3-ounce glass and a bottle of 12-year old rum, and returned to the
garden to sit at the side of the hole.
Actually, let’s call it what it was – the grave – and poured myself a
stiff 3 fingers of Barbados’ finest. The first one burned all the way down; the
second less so and, by the time I had finished the fourth, it wasn’t that hot
anymore. Again, as gently as I possibly
could, I cradled the body, placed it carefully in the bottom of the hole, and
covered him with an old blanket that he had slept on for the last few years of
Then I filled the hole with
everything that I had dug out of it, eyes streaming to the point that I could
Returned to the garage,
refilled the mop bucket, and set about mopping up the last vestiges of 4 years
of unconditional love and companionship, most of which I had taken for granted.
I felt a wave of guilt.
Again, poured out the mop
bucket, rinsed the mop and headed to the recliner in my living room.
Realized that I had
forgotten my glass in the kitchen. Said “Oh, to hell with it”. Put the bottle
to my head and sucked on it until it was dry.
It was almost midday when I
came groggily out of my stupor. Rubio was curled up on my lap, leaving me with
a warm, sweaty spot across the tops of my thighs. As I stirred, he stepped from
my lap to coffee table and sat there looking at me quizzically, as if asking “What
I wished I had a clue. The
night’s events seemed far away, almost like a dream. Any thoughts of that
dispelled as soon as I stepped outside.
There were still small patches of dried brown in places that I had
missed, and the pile of raw earth drove it all home like a sledgehammer. The
Colt was sitting there, having slid
partly under a plant pot when I had knocked myself out, and I picked it up,
dusted it off and stuck it into my waistband.
Taking a look at myself, I
realized that I had washed clean and then proceeded to cover myself in blood
and soil all over again. I repeated the shower, this time with hot water and what
felt like a pack of pygmies with jackhammers working overtime in my head.
I didn’t even set foot back
in the studio, I didn’t want to see what I was sure I would find. Somehow, I
managed to pour several painkillers down my throat, and then stagger to my bed.
All the hounds (or feral boar cats) in hell could have roared into the house
and carried me away without a protest.
It was dark when I woke.
Rubio was clearly hungry; he was sitting on the bottom of my bed, still looking
perplexed. I suddenly realized that I
was hungry too, having not eaten in twenty-four hours. I pulled myself into a
sitting position, then stood shakily; dressed, and we went in search of
I found a can of cat food
for Rubio, poured him some milk and refreshed his water, then looked across the
patio where Dog’s bowls sat, as if staring at them would make it all go
away. It didn’t. I scrambled three eggs
(of the six remaining in the fridge), and poured a glass of orange juice,
headed to the table, sat and wolfed it down hungrily. The sugar in the orange
immediately to work on my throbbing head, now down to about a 7.5 on the
Richter scale of headaches.
I got up from the table,
passed by my recliner and collected the Colt, which had been left on the coffee
table, locked the front door – which I had neglected to remember earlier – and
returned to the bathroom for another handful of painkillers and to try to brush
away the foul taste in my mouth.
Making sure that I was
armed, but not knowing what for, I climbed the stairs to the attic studio. As
I had surmised earlier, the cat portrait
was now essentially complete, and it was definitely NOT Rubio. In what felt
like a fit of wild desperation,
I grabbed a bottle of Gesso, poured more than I needed into a plastic plate and
did what I had done to only a few canvasses in my life; I grabbed a large brush
and turned what was a perfectly good portrait of an evil creature into a
pristine, white sheet of canvas. As I
turned away to go back downstairs, movement caught my eye. I could have sworn
that I saw a long black
and ginger tale disappearing behind a stack of finished pieces along the far
I grabbed the gun from my
waistband, pulled back the slide to make sure that there was a shell in the
breech and, in 3 huge steps, I wrenched the pile of canvases onto the floor,
ready to blast whatever it exposed. Nothing. I picked up the canvases, one by
one. It was as if I was checking between
every pair for a paper-thin creature which could flatten itself at will to fit
like a sheet of paper between the paintings.
Rationality slowly kicked
in, and I realized that I seemed in danger of turning my back on reality.
Things settled a bit after
that. Life still had a surreal quality
that never allowed me to forget those few days. I spent my nights in my
bedroom, behind a securely locked door now.
The mound in the garden, now covered with new grass still keeps that
night fresh enough in my memory for me not to become complacent.
I have said that Rubio was an outside cat.
This meant that almost certainly, he would eventually wind up with FIV,
the feline equivalent of HIV. He would
lose weight for three or four days and, just as I started wondering if he was suffering,
he would start eating again and, within a week, he would look as healthy as he
ever had done.
In fairly short order, he
was diagnosed with leukemia and, one morning, after an absence of three days, I
walked outside to find him dead in the yard. He looked like he had been savaged
by dogs, but this had been my mongoose-killer cat. As I buried him in the garden
near – but not
too near – to Dog’s grave, a chilly breeze seemed to sweep across the lawn. I
retreated to the house and, just to be certain, checked that the Colt was
loaded and where it should be.
I decided that it was
probably ok to restart my Rubio portrait.
Sitting in front of my easel, I sketched an outline and started to rough
in some splashes of paint. In a couple of
hours, I had a reasonable starting point, a cat’s head which reminded me
vaguely of Rubio, but could have been any cat with similar coloration. I could
add the personality later.
It had been a while since I
had visited my office. Fortunately, like
many Internet-based businesses, most of the work could be dealt with from
anywhere there is an Internet connection and a computer. I had been keeping
up with the critical stuff
from home, but it was definitely time for a physical visit.
The next few hours were
consumed by office time, collecting cheques to deposit and bills to be paid,
returning a call to an aggressively arrogant person who couldn’t understand
that we were like a classified business; if you need more information, you
contact the person who listed the property. “Yes sir. The contact information
is found in the box
labelled ‘Contact Information’. That’s
right, that one.”
Asshole! I wanted to add but heard my son’s
admonishing voice in my head,
so I just said “You’re welcome, sir.
Good luck with your search.”
Paid two bills online,
wrote one cheque, filled out my deposit book and got out of there before the
phone rang again.
Next stop groceries.
Bought some food. Only me
to feed now. Relatively simple. A pack
of hot dogs and rolls, a loaf of bread, some cheese, a dozen eggs. Oh, and a
1.75 litre bottle of rum; I’m down to drinking the cheap stuff now. At
my current consumption rate, I find that I
must economize. Or go without, which
isn’t really a serious option.
I returned home, packed
away my groceries, poured myself a stiff one – it’s 5 o’clock somewhere - and
went upstairs to the studio where my work in progress, a large piece with a
fishing-boat floating peacefully at anchor, sat waiting. I hadn’t returned
to my Rubio portrait since
I had restarted it.
I knew that I needed human
company but, to be honest, after losing both my pets in a span of 4 months in
such strange circumstances, the idea of trying to make light conversation
turned my stomach. And besides, there
was no-one who would understand. To hell with that.
By now, the sun was
setting. The light was fading and, rather than continue to work by artificial
light, I decided to call it quits for the night.
I had made good progress
today and decided to celebrate with some food; three scrambled eggs with
cheese, two slices of toast, a hot dog and, of course, a good rum to wash it
all down. I had meant to buy milk, but it had slipped my mind.
There was a new show on
Netflix that I had started watching a few days earlier, so I sat there with the
rest of my drink and turned on the TV. In a few minutes I was deeply engrossed
in Season 2, episode 3 of some stupid US ‘comedy’. Which are great
if you have the mental
capacity of a 12-year-old.
In a lull in the dialogue,
I heard a sound which sent shivers down my spine. There was an animal on my
patio; and not some
benign little pet. This creature was
snuffling around the edge of the door, with strange feline sounds emanating
through the solid wooden door that I had built several years earlier. I muted
the TV sound to hear better, and immediately wished that I had turned it up.
The snuffling had been replaced by the sounds of nails, claws more likely,
scratching more and mor insistently, obviously trying to gain access.
Turning off the lights, I
tiptoed carefully into the kitchen, from where I would have a restricted view
of the patio. As I looked outside, a figure slipped through a sliver of
moonlight. I caught a glimpse of black
fur, with a slash of orange at one edge.
It was back.
But this was no house
cat. I could see that it stood close to
two feet tall at the shoulder. It padded
on feet slightly smaller than a saucer for a teacup. And its breathing was a
raspy purr that almost vibrated the crockery in the kitchen cupboard. It passed
through the moonlight and disappeared. Then, suddenly, one evil yellow eye
peered through the leaves of a patio plant.
I didn’t think it could see me, but it certainly felt as if it knew I
It hissed, flashing a pair
of 2-inch yellow fangs, then turned its attention back to the door.
My blood ran cold. I knew
that this thing couldn’t exist on this planet, yet here it was almost within
the reach of an outstretched arm. I moved, slithering stealthily back towards
I quickly moved into the
room, and locked and bolted the door behind me.
It was a flimsy cedar thing, and I had little confidence that it could
keep anything out for any length of time.
I turned on the flashlight
on my phone and pulled the Colt from the drawer. Checked the breech –
and then had a
thought. I hadn’t used the gun for some
time. I withdrew the magazine and saw
that there we only 3 rounds left in it.
Damn! Why hadn’t I reloaded it?
My thoughts were
interrupted by the crash of glass. Like a window being broken by a large rock –
or a large feline body bursting through the glass.
I backed into a corner and
waited. It wasn’t long before the same
snuffling and scratching sounds that I had heard earlier started again. Then
there was a thumping sound as if the creature (I couldn’t think of it as a cat)
was throwing itself bodily against my bedroom door. Then it stopped, and
everything was quiet.
I wasn’t concerned about
access to the bedroom except through the door; the bedroom windows were all
covered with iron grillwork, and I didn’t see anything short of a tractor
making any headway there. I realized
that I had been holding my breath and started to breathe again. Things stayed
calm for about 5 minutes. Then there was
an almighty crash against the door and I clearly heard the wood crack.
I panicked. Leveling the
Colt at the door, about 18 inches above ground level, I fired 3 times, spaced
across the door. There was a yowl of
either pain or surprise, or both, and everything went quiet as the echoes of
the gunshots in the enclosed space sent my head off on another spinning journey
There was one round
left. Morosely, I wondered whether I
should put it through the door as well, or perhaps save it for myself. I’m
not going outside to check.
After a few minutes, I
crept to the door and put my ear against it. Heard nothing. Repeated this five
minutes later with the same result.
Then, something moved outside. I
rushed back to my corner, but nothing further ensued.
Then I had a thought. When I had come down from the studio, I had
gone to the computer room and updated this narrative, then sent it to my phone
so that it would be with me if I had any thoughts that I wanted to add.
It’s now been over two
hours since I heard the last set of noises from outside, and I have spent that
time completing this.
I’m emailing this out to as
many people as I can think of for two reasons;
One is that, if anything further happens to me, people will know and,
two, I don’t plan to step out of this bedroom for a few days, at least. If
anyone knows someone in the police force
who might be capable of doing something, please pass this on. I should be able
to last a few days. There’s water in the bathroom; I just have nothing to eat.
Ohshit! It’s back. It just hit the door again and I heard
No matter what happens,
please take that unfinished cat portrait and burn it until there’s nothing
I’m sending this now.
Alleyne is a
native-born Barbadian who has been involved in creative activities all his
life. He is a photographer, a painter, a woodworker and has also written
unpublished poetry and published 2 coffee-table books of Barbados landscapes.
He has been divorced for over 15 years and is the father of two young men and
grandfather of two.
The Cat is his first foray into fiction.