The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
A Cat’s Paw
by Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
The moment I saw it in the antiques store, I had to possess it. The statue – in the image of a crouching cat, eighteen inches tall, its bronze surface blackened with age, heavier than it should be for its height – seemed to whisper promises I couldn’t quite comprehend. No matter, though; I needed the statue the way I needed to breathe.
After I arrived home, the statue murmuring its susurrating, sibilant song of seduction in my ears, I cleared a space on the mantle and set the statue on it. The metallic creature crouched on the mantle, its claws seeming to grip the edge as if the cold metal were a living thing. My cat, Elizabeth, entered the room, arched her back at the statue, hissed and spat. She growled in a manner I’d never heard before and retreated, her eyes never leaving the cat statue.
That night, I dreamed. Dreamed of the abyss, of mighty gods who wailed in despair or roared in triumph. It was the first night of many disturbed by those dreams.
Over the next days, I listened to the whisperings of the statue. The fragrance of the incense I burned filled my domicile, the old farmhouse I’d inherited from my grandparents. I forgot to eat, listening to the beguiling, insidious murmurs of the statue. Elizabeth vanished, but I didn’t concern myself with that disappearance. It seemed unimportant.
The thirteenth day dawned grey and humid, thunderclouds looming. The air in my house stank of incense and something indefinable and threatening. I prowled from room to room, the voice of the statue growing louder. More demanding.
I found myself in front of the cat statue, a knife clutched in my right hand. Without conscious thought or will, I slashed my left arm from elbow to wrist. Pain overwhelmed me as my life’s blood flowed down my fingers to the hearth. I howled and fell to the floor.
The statue spoke. “You have sacrificed. You might be spared.”
Overhead, the storm broke, with the crash of thunder and lightning, the shriek of the wind. The cat statue shivered and leaped onto the floor. The face of the cat shifted, fangs bared. A swipe of claws tore my throat.
“Or perhaps not.” The voice of the cat statue hissed at me.
“Arise, Great One,” the statue cried. “Come and take vengeance on the world which has abandoned you!”
From nowhere, Elizabeth leapt, howling like all the demons of hell, onto the back of the statue. The two cats – one living and one metal – rolled and fought across the floor. The house shuddered as Elizabeth ripped and slashed the demon cat. The winds screamed and tore at the roof.
With one final effort, Elizabeth slapped the cat statue, and it fell and shattered. At the moment she struck the statue, the entire house lifted and slammed down. I thought I heard the voice of a god screaming in the wind.
Elizabeth dragged her broken, bleeding body to me. She laid her head on my arm.
All went dark.
DATELINE: Centertown, Oklahoma
A freak tornado struck this remote community yesterday, destroying a 150-year-old farmhouse. The storm lifted the house from its foundation and dragged it a distance of 200 yards. The only fatalities were the 40-year-old homeowner and his cat. Authorities are investigating the peculiar wounds on both bodies. More details to follow.
Fiction © Copyright Mary Ann Peden-Coviello
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Mary Ann Peden-Coviello:
Women write horror and have written it since before Mary Shelley wrote FRANKENSTEIN. This anthology is to highlight the fact women write great horror and to kill the fallacy that they aren’t in some way up to standard. They are. Read here stories by Elizabeth Massie, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Lucy Taylor, and a plethora of other great writers as they work on your nerves, get inside your head, and bang out some of the scariest tales written today. I’m proud to present these women for your consideration, as Rod Serling might say, as I ask you to step into FRIGHT MARE. Lock the door and windows, put on a light, and remember, it’s not real. It’s not real. Midnight awaits, monsters scheme to take you away, the strange and weird wait in the shadows, but it’s not real. Is it?
Edited by Billie Sue Mosiman, the author who brought you the SINISTER-TALES OF DREAD collections and her latest suspense novel, THE GREY MATTER.