This is the third and final episode of The Land of Milk and Honey, one of the many stories I wrote between the 1960s and 1980s. I believe this one was written around 1984. If you are afraid of cats, this story is not for you!
Please click here for episode one.
Please click here for episode two.
All characters and events are entirely fictional.
The Land of Milk and Honey (a feline horror story) – Part Three – © copyright Roslyn M Wilkins
Roger cautiously opened the front door, his shotgun held firmly in both hands as he kicked it open the rest of the way with his foot. Carol peered out from behind his shoulder. The moon was almost full and cast its silvery pink light over the landscape. There was no movement. It was too quiet.
“Do you think it could be….”
“Those damn cats,“ interrupted Roger. He walked out to the gate and around to the side of the house while Carol remained in the doorway. He was relieved not to see any cats. He walked back to the front door past the birdbath. He thought it strange the birds would be using it at night. And then a wave of cold terror ran through his body. Three birds were floating face down in the water. He picked one of them up. Its head rolled over onto its breast. Its neck had been snapped. “Oh my god,” he cried, and dropped the bird into the water. He could just make out Carol’s face watching from the doorway.
“What is it?” she called out. Roger debated whether or not he should tell her, but it was too late to hide the truth as she was standing at his side. She started to sob—uncontrollable, gasping sobs. He held her and helped her back into the house but he too was feeling helpless.
“They… they’re monsters!” she sobbed. “What are they trying to do to us?”
“Well, obviously we’re not dealing with ordinary cats as we know them. It’s as if they resent us being here and are trying to scare us off. If I could at least find out where they are hiding, that would be something.” Roger collapsed into the easy chair, his head in his hands. “Tomorrow I have to find out where they live.”
“Then I’m coming with you.”
“Do you really…”
“Yes!” she stated emphatically.“ I’m not staying here by myself another day like a sitting duck. I’d rather take my chances outside with you.”
They both spent a restless night. Their sleep was interrupted by rain beating against the roof and windows, meowing cats (whether real or imagined), and a general feeling of uneasiness. Nevertheless, by nine o’clock in the morning they were ready to leave the house.
“We should be able to follow some tracks with all that rain in the night,” Roger surmised. From the number of paw prints in the patio it seemed they had been visited by several cats while they slept. The patio furniture had been scratched and chewed. Bird feathers of every color were strewn across the table. More plants had been dug up in the garden.
“My poor plants,” sighed Carol. “I feel sick.”
“Let’s go,” said Roger as he hoisted the day pack on to his back and slung the rifle over his shoulder. Carol locked the door although she suspected that was not going to make a great deal of difference to a determined cat.
They followed the tracks of about five cats (or so Roger estimated) for over a mile. Then the terrain became too grassy and woody. Rocks and boulders were beginning to dominate the landscape.
Ever since Carol had sprained her ankle two years ago it had been a problem and it was in the first stages of throbbing. But she didn’t want to worry Roger. She knew she was already holding him back. But she certainly was not about to volunteer to stay behind on her own. It was the two of them against the unknown.
“It’s anybody’s guess from here I’m afraid,” said Roger as he gently lowered the rifle to the grass. He felt a twinge in his shoulder. Probably installing the fence was catching up with him. And hunting had not exactly been in the program of events. “We’ll just have to explore the area. They can’t be far. Cats don’t roam that far from their territory.”
Carol wondered since when Roger had become such an authority on cats. He had certainly never shown any interest in their habits on Earth. No more than children. Well, she couldn’t think about that now. She heard a rustle in the trees.
“Roger,” she whispered. “Look!”
Roger looked up. There in the tree above him, hanging precariously from a bending limb that looked like it could snap any second, was an orange kitten no more than six or seven weeks old. “I’m going up to get it,” he announced.
Carol wanted to say that was not a good idea but she knew that would not stop him.
The kitten started to whimper as Roger climbed the tree. When he was within arm’s length the kitten hissed at him showing well-developed teeth. In a panic, it let go of the branch, flying at the main trunk of the tree, slid down to the ground, and scampered off into the undergrowth. Carol chased after it as long as she could, her rather chubby arms and legs glowing pink with the exhilaration. And her ankle throbbed.
Roger climbed down from the tree and soon caught up with Carol.
“Did you see where it went?”
“I’m not sure,” she puffed. “But it seemed to be headed in the direction of those caves.”
“We don’t have anything better to go on. Let’s look around over there.” It was another mile to the caves and Carol slipped twice climbing over the rocks, grazing her knee and bruising her hip. Roger scraped his elbow when he fell against the shotgun.
There were several caves set among a mile or so of rolling hills. Then the landscape flattened out on either side to meadows and small stands of trees with meandering streams. Idyllic under other circumstances.
“I guess we just start with the nearest one,” decided Roger. Carol followed him up the incline, wary of the loose gravel under her feet. Roger extended his hand to help her up the last few yards as it was too steep for her. The cave was no higher than an average man could stand up in and about as wide and deep as a small house. There was a pool of water at the far end where the cave narrowed to a passageway about a foot wide. Roger tested the depth of the water with the butt of the shotgun.
“Seems pretty shallow,” he said. He waded across to the passageway. He pressed his face into the opening but could see nothing in the darkness. “Well, if this goes anywhere, I can’t see it. His voice ricocheted around the cave. He waded back to Carol. “Come on, let’s try the next one.”
The next cave was a little larger with more headroom and a more significant pond. “Let’s skip this one,” Roger suggested. “I don’t think cats would be wading through this water, anyway.”
The third cave was half the width of the first with a few feet more headroom than the second, and no pond. “This looks more likely.” At the end of the cave was an opening about six inches wide by two feet high with bright sunlight pouring through it. Roger lay on his stomach with his head pressed to the gap. Rocks the size of golf balls were stabbing at his chest. But it was what he saw that made him gasp.
“What do you see?” asked Carol. She attempted to crouch down to look over his head but at that angle could see nothing.
“This is where they are,” replied Roger. “Thirty, forty, maybe fifty of them.”
“Fifty what?” But Carol knew what, but she was hoping not.
“They look like ordinary house cats, all different colors and sizes.”
“What are they doing?”
“It’s hard to see. There’s a big tree in the way blocking my view. But they seem to be carrying things.” Roger shifted his position to look around the other side of the tree but the rocks stabbed at his arms. “Yes, they are moving stuff around—some kind of equipment. Some are walking on their hind legs and others seem to be using tools of some kind like pliers or hammers. I have to stand up, these rocks are killing me.”
“Let me see.” Carol changed places with him.” My God, I’ve never seen anything like it. They have thumbs! They have thumbs, Roger!” Carol attempted to stand up but her ankle gave way and she slipped back down. “Oh, I think one saw me. He was looking directly at me when I slipped. What should we do?”
“Let’s get out of here, I think we’ve seen enough.”
They climbed back through the boulders until they reached the wooded area. The sun was high above them. They walked back to the house in silence, as fast as they could. Carol now had a noticeable limp but she gritted her teeth and kept going.
Carol made coffee and they sat at the kitchen table thinking about what they had seen. Carol fondled her favorite coffee cup with the image of Earth printed on it. “I think we should call, er, our emergency contact on Earth and ask for advice. I can’t remember his name. Jed something.”
“Jed Turbot. Yes, that’s one idea. But he did tell us that any transmission would take hours to reach him. I don’t know how much time we have.” As if to punctuate the statement there was a crash in the front garden followed by a long meow. Roger stood up. “Don’t worry, I’m not going out there. Whatever’s happening is happening. Maybe we should just ignore them and when they realize we’re not a threat, everything will settle down.” This was the opposite of what Roger really believed but just saying it made him feel calmer.
“One thing I can’t figure out though. With cats on the planet attacking the birds and mice as we’ve seen, why are they so tame? In a hostile environment they should be more wary of their enemy. But they act like they don’t have any enemies. It makes no sense.”
“I agree. It’s very odd.”
Roger sat down at the communications console in the den with Carol standing behind him. “Perhaps you could ask Jed where the transport is. I know they’re not supposed to pass by for another ten days but they could be in the vicinity,” Carol said hopefully.
Roger punched in the planet code followed by his personal code. The green light refused to come on so he could continue with eye and thumb print recognition.
“One of the crew mentioned their next stop was Tulip Petal One, just a couple of days away. They could still be there and be back here by Thursday. Roger, what’s wrong?”
He tried the sequence again but it wasn’t working. Carol could see the lights were flashing red instead of green. Roger tried a third time and the alarm buzzer shrilled in his ear. He slammed his fist on the console. “Frick frack!” That was as close as Roger ever came to swearing.
“Try your code, Carol.” Her’s didn’t work either and the alarm shrilled again.
“We’ve been sabotaged!”
“Oh Roger. Don’t say that. It’s probably a malfunction. Perhaps we can fix it.”
“We can try, but this is pretty sophisticated equipment. Where is that manual they left for us?” Roger spent better than two hours fiddling around with command codes and switches, while Carol scoured the hefty manual for different ideas. Nothing worked.
Roger sat back in the chair. He was exhausted. “We need to dismantle everything and start from scratch. But honestly, I don’t know what I’m doing here.” He wielded the screwdriver and managed to loosen part of the housing to look inside. What he saw sucked all the air out of his lungs. For a moment he felt like he was suffocating.
“Carol, look!” He let the piece of metal housing he was holding fall to the floor. Inside was a tangled mass of wiring and broken circuit boards covered with tufts of orange and gray and white fur.
Carol’s lower lip trembled. “Now what?”
“We’re cut off. Marooned on this god-forsaken planet—for at least ten days if we can make it that long. We have no choice but to wait it out and figure out some way of dealing with this on our own. I don’t mind admitting I’m scared.” He suddenly realized how much he missed Earth. There had always been a neighbor to call on, no matter how grudging the help might have been. And the police or fire department would be there eventually, even if they were busy with mundane events like traffic tickets and cats stuck up trees.
He looked at Carol glumly. “It’s just you and me, old girl, against an army of furry little monsters. I think we’d better drag out that animal deterrent fence we brought just in case. The ‘just in case’ seems to be here.”
It took several hours to install the fence with the support of the white picket fence. Roger was happy he had taken the time to put up flood lights all around the house. They lit the area well enough for them to see what they were doing.
Carol mentioned that if the cats were clever enough to break into the house to sabotage a computer system, it wouldn’t take much for them to override the fence controllers. Or just jump over it. Roger agreed but it was better than nothing.
They were in bed early, sleeping fitfully. At two o’clock, Roger awoke to Carol’s screaming as a multitude of cats ripped into her flesh in a dream. At three o’clock Roger woke up again to a noise he couldn’t identify. He looked out the window and saw the lights of a ship in the sky. He shook Carol awake.
“Carol, they’ve come! It’s the transport. They’ve come for us!”
“Hmmpf,” Carol mumbled sliding into consciousness.
“Get dressed. We have to go and meet them.”
Roger de-activated the fence and they ran towards the falling lights. The ship was evidently landing a mile or so from the house. Why weren’t they landing closer to the house? Roger decided it was because at night they couldn’t see the area clearly.
“Come along, Carol,” said Roger, aggravated that his wife was holding up their progress. “Can’t you go any faster?”
An hour later they were scrambling over the rocks that led them to the caves they had discovered the previous day. The lights from the ship had disappeared behind the rolling hills.
“Why in the world are they landing there?” asked Roger.
“I don’t like this,” replied Carol. “Something isn’t right.”
They entered the caves where they had discovered the cats earlier. Roger got down on his knees and looked through the opening. There was a full moon and he could see everything clearly in the pink light. The ship had landed just a couple of hundred yards away.
He could see cats everywhere, as busy as they had been the previous day. They didn’t seem to be the least perturbed by the ship landing in their midst. A terrible, sickening thought overwhelmed Roger. He dismissed it from his mind immediately. He would not give in to the feeling of terror that was washing through his mind and prickling his skin. Carol was on top of him, trying to catch a glimpse of what Roger was looking at.
“Why did they land here?” she whispered in his ear. “How can we get out there?” Carol shifted her position to take the weight off her ankle. “I don’t have a good feeling about this.”
He shook his head, afraid that they would find out soon enough. Within a few minutes, the ship had cut its power and the hatch opened.
“Oh my god!” they exclaimed in unison.
Orange cats, gray tabby cats, tuxedo cats, white cats, black cats—cats of every stripe and color streamed out of the ship and down the ramp. Some on their hind legs, some on all fours. Tails flicking, eyes flashing, teeth gleaming white in the floodlights around the perimeter of the landing area.
Roger and Carol looked at each other in silence for a long minute. “They’ve come to colonize the planet,” said Roger.
“They want it for themselves, don’t they?” Carol asked rhetorically. “What do we do now?”
Roger turned around and sat with his back to the opening, his knees still stinging from the sharp rocks. Carol stood up, her mouth open in disbelief. Her ankle was throbbing and now her stomach was churning. “That’s why they’ve been terrorizing us, isn’t it? We’re in their way.”
“Yes, and they’ve only just gotten started, I’m afraid. There were only forty or fifty of them and now there are probably hundreds. And who knows how many more are coming?”
Carol choked back tears. “I want to go home. I want to go home right now.” But she knew that was impossible.
“So do I, Carol. I’m so sorry I brought you here.”
“No, I wanted to come. We both wanted to come.” Roger struggled to stand up, his feet slipping in the gravel and rocks as he suddenly felt weak. Carol steadied him. “But what are we going to do now?”
“We’ll have to fight them somehow,” suggested Roger, realizing at the same time that was ridiculous.
Carol clung to her husband, needing his strength. And he needed hers. Never before had he felt this way.
“We’re helpless against them, you know that,” she said.
Roger held his wife close. “Then we’ll pack some things and move south to a new area where they can’t find us. We’ll survive somehow. And when the transport returns they’ll look for us.”
“Then let’s get out of here right now,” said Carol.
They reached the mouth of the cave, relieved that they at least had a plan.
“Meo-eo-eo-ow!” They turned to see yellow eyes flaring in the opening at the back of the cave.
A black furry body flew through the air. The last thing Carol felt was the sharp teeth biting into her neck. Roger screamed. He had never screamed in his entire life.