3 magazines have declined the following short story. However, because writing it involved many tiring hours, I would like to warrant it some kind of online existence.
This will be my last post for some time.
The Cat with no Eyes
Louise M. Hart
It was a chill January morning. A stranger approached 11 Allan Poe Close. He stared at the house’s boarded windows and wiped away a tear. Puzzled, Mrs Nopperson, who lived nearby, surveyed the man. For the stranger cast an elegant figure. Tall and stylishly dressed, he looked incongruous with the dreary and conventional surroundings.
Mrs Nopperson advanced towards him, her curiosity aroused like a hormonal teenager. He continued to stare ahead; apparently oblivious to her nearing presence, though she sensed that he had seen her. “Proper eyesore, isn’t it?” She began.
Last summer, the stranger relocated to middle England. A stray from his native northern climes, he was an escapee from reality who favoured isolationism and self-hatred to social interaction and fleshy emotionalism. Like Steppenwolf, he rarely ventured outdoors, choosing rather to make love to the shadows of his own despicable and tempestuous thoughts.
The stranger always concealed his intentions from domestic view. But, the moment he crossed paths with Mrs Nopperson thwarted his secret campaign, his noble brow, usually adorning a practiced frown, now smoothened with feigned displays of interest. He even forced a smile.
“Did you want to see where IT happened…all those years ago?” Mrs Nopperson asked. His interest piqued, the stranger suddenly turned his head towards the wretched woman. Perceiving her inauspicious reflection in his mirror glasses, she adjusted her floral blouse and smoothed her hair. He vaguely smiled again, revealing a set of cheekbones that only an aristocrat or a crack addict could possess. Mrs Nopperson’s heart missed a beat and she began to tell a tale, a tale to twist the mind and unsettle the quiescent soul.
Built during the post-war boom years, the Blackwood estate had epitomised the ostensible solidity and dependability of British working class life. But, behind the houses’ bricks and mortar, lurked struggle and disquiet, psychical unrest and the doom sated torments of the body, soul and tortured mind. In disingenuous Blackwood, back stabbers and social butterflies existed as symbiotic bedfellows, feeding off each other’s neuroses and bones. Each resident told many stories and every story enunciated lies.
Nanny B moved to 11 Alan Poe Close in the 1960’s. The Mother of a girl and wife of a factory worker, life had never been better. But, in 1974 her daughter bore the child of a friendly, local drugs dealer. Thereafter, she left home pushing a pram and cannabis in order to work on street corners, with the devil on her back. A year later Nanny’s husband died from a massive heart attack. Life had been better.
Nanny never saw her daughter again but in 1992 her grandchild knocked her door. She stared into his misted eyes and saw not herself, as she had hoped, but the effects of the extra strong cider he had been drinking. He was, though, her kin, and seemed eager to know her.
He visited her for about an hour and promised to return again, soon. Seemingly a bright and diligent young man, Nanny offered to help him resolve his current financial issues. He left her house smiling and £20 richer.
Nanny no longer enjoyed going out. Groups of troubled youths often congregated outside the corner shop where she bought milk, newspapers and basic groceries. Although the rapacious rabble rarely bothered her, they cast a menacing shadow over the neighbourhood. This particular day was different. As she left the shop, a moon faced boy deliberately kicked out his foot and tripped her to the ground, ragdoll fashion.
Shocked, she fell, helpless and pitifully vulnerable, an old woman in fraying skin. The braying mob cackled above her, like a pack of hyenas salivating over their defeated prey. Nanny struggled to her feet and fought back tears, as she made her way home.
Nanny B limped through her front door into her modest abode. Collapsing into her favourite armchair, she brushed away the tears that drowned her papery cheeks and searched her mantelpiece for the small piece of paper on which her grandson had written his phone number. She was about to reach for the phone when she felt something rub against her ankles. Startled, she looked down and saw a cat.
How the creature had entered the house, she did not know? But, in appearance, he was a wretchedly poor example of his own kind. Pathetically thin, his fur was coloured black and unhealthily dull apart from a small, white triangle of fur on his chest where his heart should have been.
Nanny reached down and lifted the cat to her slack belly. He fed greedily off the warmth she radiated and purred volubly. She noticed that he possessed no eyes and felt her heart grew heavy with the throb of her unshed tears. She pitied the ailing and fragile creature even more than she pitied herself and continued to clasp his bony form, as though validating him would somehow validate her, too. She wondered what cruel and hideous acts had befallen him.
After feeding the cat a tin of tuna he, subsequently, curled up on her lap, falling into a deep and restful sleep. He distracted her from her painful thoughts and feelings. So, she decided to postpone the phone call to her grandson and, rather, concentrate on the worthier existent.
The cat spent the rest of the day following Nanny around the house. Had she not known differently, she would swear that he possessed perfect vision. For, never did he stumble or bang into furniture or other items scattered around the house.
When night time arrived, she proceeded to bed, whereupon the cat jumped onto her duvet and lay beside her. United, they were stronger together than alone and slept as peacefully as doves with heads buried their beneath wings of thought.
“Help me!” Nanny B pleaded the following morning.
“What’s the matter…Nan?” Her grandson enquired, down the phone. “Nan,” he had called her, “Nan,” the most beautiful word in the whole, God forsaken world.
Nanny described the previous day’s events. Her cat rubbed her legs. Curtailing the conversation and sounding impatient the young man snapped, “I’ve got a lot on today…but I’ll come round, right away. I’ll see you in about an hour.”
He arrived 2 hours later, wearing a hangover as effortlessly as most people wear their skin and tainting the air with his beery, nicotine breath. “I didn’t know you had a cat,” her grandson said. The cat growled and patrolled the area around his new mistress, like a dog protecting his bone from a predator. “What happened to its eyes?”
“He’s very hungry.” Nanny appealed to the fellow’s kinder instincts and asked him if he could visit the local shop to buy some cat food.
“You mean…I have come all this way to buy cat food.”
“I’m too scared to go…those kids were very frightening…and the one who tripped me up possessed the face of the devil…himself!” She lifted her dress above her knee revealing two enormous purple bruises.
“Okay…then. I suppose, I’ll go.” Her grandson conceded.
“I would like a newspaper, too and some milk…please…if that’s okay?” Nanny began to fumble in her purse.
“I have only got a couple of cigarettes left,” said her grandson, peering down into her purse. She pulled out a £10 note and told him to treat himself. Suddenly enthused, he bounced to his feet. The cat arched his back and spat out feline expletives.
“Were the kids there?” Nanny asked, anxiety gnawing the sub-textual source of her words with worm-like efficacy.
“No, it was dead quiet.”
As she fed her eyeless cat, Nanny’s innocent nose remained insentient to the smell of blood that now saturated Blackwood’s air and her mind ignorant of the horror of the previous night’s events. But, when she unfolded the newspaper that her grandson had bought, she gasped in shock. For staring back at her, beneath a headline that read, “Local youth murdered in frenzied attack,” was a photograph of the young man who had so viciously assaulted her the previous day. The moon faced boy had been murdered and there was a killer on the loose.
“Justice,” smiled her grandson, distractedly surveying the shabby furnishing around him. Nanny’s consciousness followed his unfurling thought processes, as he fantasised about the nature of the hidden riches that could exist beneath her cushions and grubby mattress. He decided that there was only one solution, “I’ll move in with you, Nan…to look after you.” Blackwood simply was not safe for a frail old lady and her blind cat. And free meals would suit his wallet.
On 7th February 1992, Nanny B’s compassionate and altruistic grandson moved into her home. For the following few weeks the streets remained eerily quiet and unsullied by kids. The police were never far away and on one occasion, even knocked Nanny’s door to ask whether she had seen anything unusual or knew the murdered boy. Advised by her grandchild, Nanny politely answered, “No,” to both questions and as he had predicted, they did not return.
Rumours abounded on the estate about the circumstances of the boy’s murder. It was widely believed that his death had been more horrific than even the darkest and most malevolent human imagination could contemplate. Some people claimed that his internal organs had been ripped from his body, like butcher’s meat. Others spoke of his alleged beheading and signs that his flesh had been savagely consumed. Whether by passing animal or human, no one seemed certain.
The cat grew more beautiful, each day. His fur thickened and shone with inky luminosity. He rapidly gained weight, his torso revealing a level of muscularity seldom present in others of his own kind and a facility for athleticism, which even most sighted cats rarely possessed.
Alongside his increasing physical strength developed an expanding mental fortitude. Constantly at Nanny B’s side, his intermittent roars warned her grandson not to come too close.
On a dull day in late February, Nanny’s neighbour summoned her to the door. The cherry faced man began, “Please don’t let your cat do its business on my garden…it’s killing my plants.”
“My cat is blind and never goes outside.”
“He may be blind, but he still shits,” The neighbour replied. Nanny’s grandson sniggered.
The following day faeces were posted through Nanny’s letterbox. “That’s not cats!” The lad shouted, squirming at the foul, mahogany lump that lay on the mat. Before Nanny could reason with him, he stormed over next door’s garden gate and banged the neighbour’s front door, shouting abusively. Nanny watched helplessly, as her relative grabbed her neighbour’s neck and pushed him against the wall.
“It’s because we are black,” He subsequently claimed.
A mere two days later, the doorbell rang, again. Nanny’s companion had gone to the local social security office to sign-on for his unemployment benefit, or dole. The cat had disappeared. Nanny hoped that he was not defiling her neighbour’s lawn.
People rarely called on Nanny, thus she opened the door with caution, praying that no demons or neighbours lurked outside. Standing at the door, two police officers stared into her faded tawny eyes and asked if they could enter.
They wanted to speak to her grandson. When she said that he was not home, they asked where he was, proceeding to enquire about his relationship with their neighbours and the incident that had recently occurred between him and the man who lived next door.
Upon the young man’s return, Nanny felt perplexed and anxious. She recounted her conversation with the police. “But…I hardly touched him, Nan.” He said. She added that she felt that the police’s concern about the aforementioned fracas probably constituted a mere diversion from the true nature of the business that really troubled them. The cat appeared at the kitchen window. Relieved, Nanny let him in. How a blind cat could navigate the world so proficiently astounded her.
“They mentioned the little boy, who lives next door and asked me if you ever spoke to him.” She said.
“Little boy? I didn’t even know there was a boy living there.”
The next day, Blackwood’s residents spoke in hushed tones about the strange disappearance of 5 year old Michael Machen. Missing for 5 hours, police discovered him wandering in a park 4 miles from his home. Although physically unharmed, his mental scars were visible to all those who looked into his eyes from that day hence. Replacing his hitherto existing muddy brown pupils were mad and magnificent jewel-like emerald pools that glared at the world with sagacious wonder.
In the space of a few hours he had become an Apollonian child with eyes of Dionysian discord and a bad attitude. When the police asked him why he had travelled to the park, he replied that he had merely followed the, “most excellent,” cat in the world.
Reluctantly, they decided that there was no evidence to contradict the boy’s story. Thus, when his perturbed Father pointed out that it was not usual for a person’s eye colour to suddenly change, one of the officers sarcastically quipped that an alien had probably substituted him.
Although the police did not approach Nanny B’s grandson, gossip spread and local people now regarded the young man with suspicion. Children ran when he was in sight and adults frequently crossed roads to avoid being near to him. Their neighbour never spoke to him or Nanny again. He now yielded power, like an oligarch in a self-created kingdom, the dictator of rules of domestic disorder. No longer was he merely a grandson, he was now Leon, King of the suburban jungle. In contrast, Nanny became smaller and frailer by the day.
Soon, they had all appeared at 11 Allan Poe Close, the down and outs and drug addled social rejects in search of King Leon and a quick fix. Nanny spent most of her days in her bedroom, the cat rhythmically massaging her lap with his protective claws.
Leon had considerately bought her a portable television to watch in her bedroom, enabling her to pass away the days with a semblance of company. He was his Mother’s son alright, she thought, an entrepreneur of the gutter, high on others’ suffering and money.
Feeling obscurely responsible for Leon’s cruel and twisted psyche, she perceived his evilness as a birth right, an inescapable form of madness. If he was evil, then her blood had made him so. Thus, providing a home for the poor, deranged creature was the least she could do.
Although it challenged her patience, she tolerated Leon’s behaviour. Whilst being confined to her bedroom annoyed her, outwardly, she remained calm. Conversely, the cat became increasingly ill-tempered and frequently paced about the room; slinky, independent and artfully irritable.
It was a particularly noisy spring day. Nanny bravely ventured into the lounge. She intended to ask Leon to turn down the volume of his music. Relieved to be freed from his restrictive confines, the cat dashed before her.
When Nanny entered the room Leon was leaning over the coffee table measuring substances, whose nature Nanny could only conjecture. In a sudden flurry of mania the cat jumped at the table, knocking Leon’s mysterious substances to the ground. He grabbed the cat and threw him into the air, like an unwanted rag. Looking on in horror, Nanny screamed inside and out.
Miraculously, the cat landed on all four paws. Nanny stumbled over to him, scooping him up in her maternal arms and wailing in torment and shock. “You wicked, wicked boy,” She shouted at Leon. Angrily raising his arm, Leon hissed back. Nanny and the cat escaped to their room.
Nanny’s anger built like a tidal wave of fury. The wave’s roar became Nanny’s own, a shrieking cry of torment that threatened to erode her flimsy sandbanks of thought. She claimed her anger and, in turn, her anger claimed her.
On the night of the 2nd April 1992, the Machen family who lived at 9 Allan Poe Close were woken by horrific and terrifying cries and screams emanating from the house next door. The noise continued for a few minutes, becoming increasingly disturbing and frenzied. Mr Machen duly telephoned the police. His voice shook, as he described the chilling sounds he had heard. The police claimed that they would reach Allan Poe Close in mere minutes.
Upon arrival, they noticed that the light in the back bedroom of 11 Allan Poe Close was turned on. They repeatedly rang the doorbell and banged the front door, but no one replied. Their only option was to break in. The Machen family surveyed the scene from behind their curtains, anxious not to miss a second of the action. Young Michael clung to his Mother’s nightshirt, grinning inconsolably.
Rushing towards the light, the police burst into Nanny’s house. Leon’s final gurgles had already crossed the threshold between his earthly existence and mortal death, his body lay splattered across the floor as unidentifiable to the reasoned mind as an abstract painting. His torso severed from chest to gut, brazenly displayed parchments of his hitherto existing bones and flesh.
Positioned beside the body, Nanny looked up at the police. “Can I help you, officers?” She said, spitting scraps of liver and kidney across the room. Purring, the cat washed his whiskers and welcomed the visitors.
Mrs Nopperson shook her head with exaggerated dismay. “Nanny B died within 24 hours of being arrested, they said being separated from the cat broke her heart. The newspapers described her as sick and extremely dangerous, but I have always said that she was okay until she took that cat in.”
“The house…” The stranger continued, “…have there ever been any plans to sell it?” Horrified, Mrs Nopperson stared at him blankly. “If you should hear anything…” He handed her his business card. A fear, as dark as Satan’s heart, gripped her troubled psyche. The card read Michael A. Machen, veterinary surgeon. With a flourish, the stranger took off his glasses. His eyes were mad and magnificent jewel-like emerald pools that glared…
Mrs Nopperson went home and did not leave, again until 2 weeks later when her bodily remains were removed from her house. Subsequently, the house was sold to a vet, who specialised in treating cats.