October 26

Fictober, Prompt 26 – “You keep me warm.”

Warnings: creepiness, monsters, ambiguous ending. Horror.

(Credit for this idea goes to my friend KB, who has three lovely kitties.)

I wiggled carefully to avoid disturbing the cats as I adjusted my blanket and reached for my glass, book braced open with one hand. After a drink, I set it carefully down and chanced giving them each some head rubs, first Cinnamon’s tortoiseshell head, then Sky’s black one.

“Such good kitties,” I cooed at them, grinning as they both accepted the petting agreeably, shifting closer against my legs. “You keep me warm, you like getting scritches, and of course you are both a-do-ra-ble.”

Cinnamon and Sky had been restless today, and not in the way of their usual high-energy play. I frowned slightly remembering it. They had been alert for hours, almost seeming like they were on patrol, walking the perimeters of rooms, stopping regularly at windows and doors, watching. Staring at the ceiling, staring at corners. It got to the point where I had checked things over a couple of hours ago myself, almost convinced that something was wrong. If there was, I hadn’t found it. I had even checked the garage and outside the house too, but everything seemed normal to me.

But they had both settled down a little while ago, finally coming to sit with me as I read on the couch. The house wasn’t particularly old, but there had been a few mice, especially with the weather starting to turn colder outside. Maybe there had just been a mouse or two in the walls, and they’d been trying to track it down.

Returning to my book, I read for awhile, utterly content.

Sky’s head came up first, ears alert. Cinnamon followed. They both looked around, as if searching for something they had heard.

I held still and listened. The clock ticking in the kitchen, faint sounds of wind and passing traffic from outside. Distant hum of the furnace downstairs.

Nothing out of place.

Except that something was, because both cats had risen and jumped down from the couch. They paused there, crouching on the floor, staring across the room at an empty corner.

There was no play in their movements, only hunting intent.

The corner was empty.

A weird feeling prickled along the back of my spine, and for reasons that I couldn’t explain, I did not want to move at all, as if moving would…would draw attention to me.

Cinnamon sprang first, faster than I had ever seen him go, and Sky was right behind.

They pounced, nearly simultaneous, on empty air, and then fought it with claws out, as if there were really something there.

I could hear nothing, see nothing. The corner was empty except for my cats.

Then Sky leaned down and bit and suddenly there was something there.

It lay limp beneath her paws, head turned slightly towards me from the force of her bite that had broken its spinal cord. I couldn’t see much: wrinkled, sickly gray skin, bulging eyes, and a partially open mouth that seemed to be full of razor sharp teeth.

When Cinnamon leaned down and bit, an identical thing appeared out of thin air.

This one struggled briefly in a last spasm before succumbing, revealing a scrawny limb with grasping fingers.

When it stopped moving, both cats remained on alert for another moment, then moved away from the corner and began to wash vigorously.

I stayed frozen on the couch, eyes wide.

What— What were those things? How had they been invisible? What were they doing here?

Swallowing, I set my book down and moved to get up, wanting to make sure Cinnamon and Sky were both okay.

Moving was a mistake.

I didn’t hear anything behind me, but every hair on the back of my neck stood on end in the same instant that my cat’s eyes snapped up to fix on a point beyond me.

I felt the barest brush of a cold finger against the side of my throat before the cats were there, knocking it back and wrestling it down.

This one became visible once they had killed it, just like the others.

Both cats waited, and I waited, for long, long minutes before any of us moved. When they did, it was to go on patrol again.

They returned within a few moments, purring and meowing plaintively. Well-deserved scritches were given even through my continuing shock, and I summoned enough presence of mind to get up and feed them. I certainly didn’t want them eating whatever those things were. Would I need to take them to vet, since they had bitten deep in order to kill? Could they get infected?

Questions chased themselves around in my brain. Moving on automatic, I used the fireplace shovel to scoop the bodies into a double-layer of trash bags, and set it out in the garage. I was nervous about opening a door, but even more nervous about keeping them in the house. What if they weren’t really dead?

I was trying hard not to think about the fact that they hadn’t needed a door to get in before.

The cats were calm and much their usual selves as the evening progressed, and by bedtime I had managed to calm myself down. I was going to have to figure this out, but hopefully it could wait for morning when my brain had recovered a bit more and had some sleep. I finished up in the bathroom, laughing as Cinnamon and Sky raced out into the bedroom ahead of me.

Following them, I stopped dead still in the doorway.

They were both staring at an empty corner.

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