Creatures of the Night | Tessa McCarthy

 


Creatures of the Night

Tessa McCarthy

The Hate and Coat Major Contest 2018


I open the front door to Randall’s incessant meowing to discover for the second day in a row a headless corpse lying on the doormat.
“Really Randall, again?” I moan, surveying the gruesome scene, and feeling sorry for the poor little grey mouse (or what’s left of it). I could probably understand if Randall ate his prey but this senseless killing?

Randall, mistaking my words for praise, struts proudly past me into the cottage, leaving me with the spoils. I grab some newspaper and a bottle of disinfectant and get stuck into the gory task. I get up feeling slightly unsettled and walk into the kitchen to find Randall calmly eating out of his food bowl.

“Cat, you’re a callous green-eyed monster” I say to Randall who takes no notice and continues crunching his biscuits. I open the pantry, hoping to find some inspiration for my own tea but nothing appealing stares back at me. You would think if your aunt asked you to come and house- sit for her and care for her spoilt rotund moggie, in a tiny village, in the middle of nowhere, she might actually stock up her larder with some tempting fare. But no, I guess it’s not Aunt Julia’s way to pamper, unless you happen to have whiskers and a fur coat. I open the fridge in the hope fridge elves have visited since lunch time and deposited some goodies. No such luck. There’s nothing for it but a walk to the pub for a meal. Being Saturday night, maybe there’ll be a few people there and I’ll get to see some human faces. I grab my red jacket, in case it gets cold later, make a quick dash to the bathroom where I splash water on my face and run a comb through my hair.

Enough of the grooming. Leaving Randall to his solitary crunching, I lock the front door and head off.

Surprisingly when I get to the pub, the place is fairly humming. I look anxiously around for somewhere to sit so I can eat and run but all of the tables are taken. I spot someone waving at me across the room and recognise Aunt Julia’s next door neighbours. I’ve seen them a few times over the hedge in the last few days and said hello.

“Alice isn’t it? Why don’t you join us?” says the middle-aged man pulling out a chair for me, his eyes lingering just a little too long on my breasts.

I thank him, plonking myself down across the table from his wife, hanging my jacket on the back of the chair. ‘I’m Frank, this is Thelma and also Ryan who’s finally managed to tear himself away from the big smoke for the weekend.”

Thelma nods shyly and nervously twiddles with her hair. I can’t help noticing a faint yellowing bruise near her temple. Ryan leaps from his seat and shakes my hand warmly. I feel something furry against my leg and realise their dog Banjo is asleep under the table. When the plump waitress makes it to us Frank orders for his family and then proceeds to regale me with tales of his bygone days in the army. None of us get a chance to speak as Frank relentlessly rattles on though I get the impression Thelma and Ryan have heard it all before. When my meal arrives I put my head down and get stuck in, mainly as I’m starving but also in the hope that Frank might shut up. As soon as I’ve devoured the last mouthful of my steak, I leap to my feet.

“Sorry, got to go” I explain.” I’ve a shocker of a headache.”

“Oh, you poor dear” murmurs Thelma.

“I’ll walk you home” says Ryan standing up immediately and producing a torch from his jeans pocket.

Outside Ryan grabs my arm and says “Let’s go the back way, much quicker.”

I allow myself to be steered down a narrow dirt path heading out between some large pine trees. The sky’s alive with stars and in the distance an owl hoots. We make small talk while we walk when I spy to my left a small enclosed area with what looks like white tombstones behind a painted white fence. I push open the creaky gate.

“Who’s buried here?” I ask

“My relatives,” Ryan replies. “It’s actually our family plot. Grandad’s supposedly under that gravestone there” he says pointing to the largest grave stone in the plot.

“Supposedly?”

“Well, weirdly I remember a friend of Mum’s bringing me here as a kid. Said she had to warn me. Told me though love of torturing those weaker than me was in my veins, I didn’t have to succumb. She said those buried here had been too evil to die properly and put themselves beyond the dead-line, to cruelly roam immortally in another realm.”

“What realm?” I ask realising my voice has dropped to a hoarse whisper.

“They become creatures of the night.”

I approach Ryan’s grandfathers’ gravestone slowly. Suddenly there is a whoosh in the air and I drop to my knees screaming as a huge bird swoops down on me. I scream again as a large object hurtles itself at me, barking. Then I realise its Banjo trying to squirm into my arms, sporting my red jacket tied around his neck, like a super hero’s cape. I look up to see Frank and Thelma peering down at me.

“You left your jacket at the pub so we thought we’d catch you up” explains Frank.” Was that an owl? Hell, I haven’t seen one that big since the old man’s funeral”.

We walk the rest of the way home uneventfully. Greeting me on the doormat is a tiny dismembered bird. As I’m unlocking the front door the serial killer dashes out of some bushes and runs up to me, rubbing himself plaintively between my legs. I look down into Randall’s piercing eyes and wonder.