This is the second 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!
All characters and events are entirely fictional.
The Land of Milk and Honey (a feline horror story) – Part Two – © copyright Roslyn M Wilkins
That night he awoke with a start. The sound he had heard—so ordinary on Earth he would merely have sworn under his breath, buried his head under the pillow and gone back to sleep—now terrified him out of all proportion. Then there was silence for so long he thought perhaps he had been dreaming. But just as he was about to fall asleep he heard it again: a loud, piercing meow.
He looked over at Carol but she was deep in slumber. He could hear her sweet little snore that was usually so comforting to him. Roger pulled back the drapes to peer out into the darkness but saw nothing. There were no city lights to brighten the landscape. Only the pale glimmer of the pink moon.
Maybe he was making too much out of this cat thing. After all, he had not actually seen any all day. And with all the birds and mice twittering and scurrying around, surely he would have seen one on the prowl. Or maybe Carol was right, cats did act differently on other planets, and if there were any, they would stay out of their way and wouldn’t bother them at all.
Anyway, no point in losing a night’s sleep over a meow. He had done enough of that on Earth with the cat chorus going on all night. And maybe it wasn’t a meow at all. Perhaps it was a bird screeching. He couldn’t be sure anymore. He went back to bed, curled up next to Carol, and dropped off to sleep immediately.
The next morning, which would have been Sunday on Earth, both Roger and Carol woke up feeling refreshed and energetic, ready for another hearty breakfast. After downing a pile of scrambled eggs and preserved vegetables, Roger suggested a picnic. “We could explore the woods to the south and see what kinds of plants and birds are in that area.” He was hoping they might find a large bird that could account for the screeching of the previous night. Then he could put his mind to rest.
They found a little stream running through the woods and it was fun to splash around in the milky liquid. “Wouldn’t the Anderson’s be jealous?” Carol chortled as she thought of the former neighbors they had stopped speaking to.
“Don’t spoil everything by mentioning them!” Roger spat out the last word. Carol squeezed his hand, sorry she had brought up bad feelings.
Just then a family of blue mice strolled by, two adults and three babies. They stopped to sniff at the humans then went on their way. “How adorable!” Carol squealed and Roger managed a smile.
They spread their tablecloth under the shade of a rainbow-colored tree and unpacked the picnic basket. Roger opened the wine. It was only 11:00am but they were no longer on a schedule. Carol unwrapped the ready-made sandwiches that were part of their stash in the underground pantry. A red mouse sprinted over to Carol and looked at her longingly (or at least that was her description). “All right, then, just one piece of cheese but don’t tell your friends.”
“Mice could be worse than ants,” laughed Roger. Carol was happy to see him unwinding and enjoying himself. The wine probably helped.
They sat under the tree chatting about their new life until they both fell asleep. Carol woke up to find a green bird sitting on her arm preening itself. A slight breeze was rustling the leaves. A brightly-colored leaf fell from the tree, disturbing the bird which flew off.
It was four o’clock by the time they started off for home. As they reached the picket fence, Roger stopped. “There, did you hear that?”
“No, dear, I didn’t hear anything. What is it?”
“A meow. I thought I heard a meow.” He opened the wooden gate and Carol followed him up the path.
“Oh look!” She pointed at the bed of pansies she had so lovingly planted the previous afternoon. “They’ve all been uprooted! What could have done that?”
“Damn cats. I told you so!”
“But why would cats dig up pansies?”
“I don’t know but it’s a good thing I brought Uncle Harry’s old shotgun. Just joking, dear,” he responded to Carol’s glare.
All was silent that night.
Monday morning Carol opened the kitchen door to empty the trash and screamed. Roger was at her side in an instant. Two pale blue mice lay on the top of the back step, neatly decapitated. Roger thought he saw the flick of a black tail as it disappeared over the rise behind the house. It had rained during the night and there were several sets of muddy paw prints on the paving stones. Roger knelt down and studied them. “Don’t these look like cat paw prints to you?”
“I suppose they could be.” Carol stooped down next to him for a closer inspection.
“But there’s something different. See here, this looks like a normal housecat paw print, but then here on the side is an extra pad, kind of like a thumb.”
“Then maybe it’s not a cat,” Carol suggested.
“It’s a cat.” Roger stood up, now totally convinced he had been right. He surveyed the lush trees and the gently rolling hills. Paradise was beginning to turn into the opposite. “There’s something strange going on here and I don’t like it one bit.”
“Oh, Roger, don’t talk like that.” Carol tensed up. “You’re frightening me.”
Roger placed his hand on Carol’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, dear, but think about it. We’ve seen all these tame mice and birds without a care in the world. And now we have two dead mice on our back step, presumable killed by some cat-like creature. Something doesn’t add up.”
A horrifying thought occurred to Carol. “You don’t suppose a couple of cats stowed away in our transport? Oh my god, we could have inadvertently upset the balance of the planet. You know, like the cats that used to stow away on ocean-going vessels on Earth and start feral colonies and then decimate the wildlife and…”
“Carol, pull yourself together. No, I don’t think that. The transports are thoroughly inspected and monitored. There’s never been a case of cats, or any other animals, stowing away. Animals only travel when they’re supposed to. There are too many controls. This is something else.”
“Right now, let’s get rid of these mice.” Roger didn’t want to speculate. Just the thought that they had traveled all this way to get away from cats only to find them in their midst was too much for him to deal with.
He scooped up the mice and threw them in the incinerator. A yellow bird settled on the back of a patio chair and burst into song. Roger couldn’t appreciate it at that moment.
He spent the rest of the morning putting the finishing touches on the picket fence. Carol repaired the damage to the molested flower bed as best she could. Every now and again Roger found himself looking over his shoulder. He had the uneasy feeling he was being watched.
Carol put up the prefabricated simulated marble birdbath she had always wanted, complete with a miniature St. Francis of Assissi standing guard. As she stepped back to admire handiwork, two purple birds flew over and sat on the edge. A yellow mouse sniffed at the base then ambled off. Carol felt a little like St. Francis herself, surrounded by the creatures of the forest.
But the peaceful mood was disturbed by a loud crash. She saw Roger drop his tools and run over to where they had temporarily stacked the packing crates behind the storage shed.
“Whatever is it?” asked Carol, a little out of breath as she came up behind her husband. He turned to look at her, hand on hips. “Now what do you think?”
The crates that had been so carefully taken apart and stacked, awaiting the next visit of the transport, were in disarray. Some of the plastimetal boards that had survived the journey from Earth and the rough handling of the crew, were severely buckled at the edges.
“What are we dealing with here?” wondered Roger.
“Maybe it’s wolves or bears. Perhaps there’s larger wildlife here than anybody knew about?” offered Carol.
“No, it’s cats. Their prints are all over the place.” He kicked one of the pieces. “I suppose we’d better get this mess cleared up. Let’s move it all to the underground storage where they can’t get to it.”
Carol really didn’t believe cats could cause that much damage but she chose not to voice her opinion.
At lunch, Roger announced he was going hunting. “For cats. I want to know where they are hiding out. Maybe we can set some traps…”
“No Roger. I won’t allow it. There has to be another answer. Whatever animal this is might merely be curious about us and after a while…”
“Carol, dear, I think it’s important that they learn from the very beginning who is master here. I’m not talking about killing or maiming them, just some traps to catch them and teach them a lesson.” Roger tied up the laces on his hiking boots, assured Carol he would be better off going alone, and took his shotgun out of the hall closet, just in case.
“I thought you were joking about the gun.” Now she was concerned. Things had taken a serious turn.
“Just be sure to keep all the doors and windows closed. I don’t want a cat getting in and ripping up the furniture.”
“Or me,” added Carol.
“Well, of course you dear!”
Carol watched Roger until he disappeared over the rise a few hundred yards from the house. She knew there was really nothing to be worried about. Roger had let his imagination run away with him. Nevertheless, the grilled cheese sandwich she had eaten for lunch hit her stomach like a rock. Where had she put the bicarbonate of soda? Good thing she had brought it with her after all, as she nearly threw it in the trash before leaving Earth. She didn’t think she would be needing it ever again.
Clearing away the packing crates that morning had left her exhausted, so as she didn’t feel it was prudent to go outside to work in the garden while Roger was gone, she decided to take a nap. She laid down on top of the quilt covering the king size bed. She had bought the lilac patterned quilt months before the journey and been excited to take it out of the wrapping to spread across the new bed. She closed her eyes and imagined she could smell the lilacs.
Her peaceful mood was soon shattered when the bed shook under her. She opened her eyes to see a giant black panther with huge jagged teeth snarling at her. “Aaaaaahhhhh….” she screamed. This time she awoke for real and realized it was merely a dream. “This is truly ridiculous,” she scolded herself. She was going to be a bag of nerves in no time if she didn’t get a grip.
But a noise coming from the kitchen startled her so badly she gasped for breath. She mentally checked all the doors and windows and remembered locking them al l before coming upstairs. That knowledge calmed her somewhat. She grabbed one of Roger’s shoes from the closet. Having a weapon of some kind, if even a shoe, gave her a sense of false courage as she quietly made her way down the stairs. She heard the noise again–a rasping, tearing sound—definitely coming from the kitchen.
She could hardly muster the strength to open the kitchen door. She was shaking so much she could barely hold on to the shoe. Opening the door a crack she thrust the shoe in front of her as if that would protect her against the intruder. Nothing happened so she opened the door wide. Everything was in its place, undisturbed. She felt a sense of relief. Maybe it was the wind.
Then she heard the rasping sound again. Something was at the screen door. The last thing she wanted to do was open the door to find out what it was. On the other hand she knew she couldn’t wait until Roger returned. By then she would have imagined all kinds of hideous and horrible things and turned into a quivering mound of jelly. No, she had to take hold of the situation and deal with it now, no matter what.
She picked a carving knife out of the drawer and opened the door a couple of inches.
“You wretched animals,” she screamed almost involuntarily. The screen door had been ripped to shreds. Black, orange and white fur hung in clumps all over the torn wire mesh. Roger was right. It had to be cats. There were none in sight but now the awful truth came crashing down on her. She unlocked what was left of the screen door and ran down the steps brandishing the carving knife. The adrenaline had kicked in and she was more furious than afraid, envisioning herself cutting up the feline vandals into little pieces. But of course, in reality she could never do anything like that.
She came back inside, locking the screen door and the back door behind her. She stood at the kitchen counter, fondling the carving knife. What were they going to do now? What was she going to do? She had never liked cats but hadn’t ever been scared of them. Now she was. Perhaps Roger had the right idea—a couple of humane traps in the right places might do the trick and at least frighten the cats away from the house.
She wished Roger would come home. This was no time to be separated. Was he even safe out there by himself, gun or no gun?
She returned to the bedroom, taking the carving knife with her. Better to be safe than sorry. The breeze from the bedroom window was flapping the white lace curtains. She walked over to the window to close it. Hadn’t she made sure the window was closed and locked before taking her nap? Her heart skipped a beat. She sat down on the bed and felt something lumpy under the quilt. She pulled it back in slow motion. And there on the crisp white sheets with the matching imprinted lilacs were the heads and tails of half a dozen mice, laid out in two neat rows, heads above tails. It was a fresh kill. Blood was still oozing out of the grisly pieces of pink flesh.
Carol gagged as she backed away from the bed towards the door. And when she felt the hand on her shoulder she fainted.
When she came to she was lying on the daybed in the second bedroom that Roger planned to use as his study. Roger was standing over her with a glass of orange juice in his hand. “Here, drink this. It’ll make you feel better.”
Carol propped herself up on one elbow and took a gulp of the juice. Her hands shook. Her whole body shook.
“I’m sorry I scared you,” said Roger. “But you backed right into me and I didn’t have a chance to say anything before you fainted.”
“What about the mice? Did you see them on the bed? “ For a moment she thought—hoped—that she had dreamed the whole scene.
“Yes,” a sudden shiver traveled up his spine as he envisioned the body parts. “I threw them in the incinerator. I’ll change the sheets later. I should never have left you alone, I’m sorry, don’t know what I was thinking.” He bent over to kiss her forehead. “Are you feeling better now?”
Carol sighed. “I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll feel better until we can do something about those cats. What do you think they want? Did you see any when you were out?”
Roger moved Carol’s legs to make room for him to sit down. Carol’s toes dug into his back. He liked the feeling of intimacy. He suddenly felt an overwhelming affection for her, something he hadn’t felt in many years. If anything should happen to her… He didn’t want to think about that right now.
“I thought I saw one sitting up in a tree but if it was there it was gone before I could get close enough. And once or twice I thought I heard a faint meow, but that was all. They don’t intend to come out in the open, that’s for sure. Probably why no one knew they were living on the planet.” He stroked her foot and she giggled. He had a flash of memory of when they were high school sweethearts, another lifetime ago. Certainly another world.
“Let’s open a good bottle of wine for dinner, shall we?” he suggested. “I think we deserve it. But first things first.” He stretched out next to Carol, placing his arm around her waist.
“Why Roger,” she exclaimed. “Anybody would think we were newlyweds!”
After dinner which included a delicious California Merlot with the chicken and a heated apricot brandy for dessert, Roger and Carol settled back to watch a 1950’s classic movie with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The alcohol coursing through Carol’s bloodstream was slowly refiling the events of the afternoon into that section of the mind that still allowed for the event, but dulled the absolute terror of the moment.
Fred and Ginger were dancing cheek to cheek. She couldn’t remember how long it had been since Roger had danced with her like that. Maybe he never had. But it didn’t matter now. It was enough to be on the sofa curled up next to Roger in their own little house, millions of miles away from all the pressures and anxieties of modern civilization. She felt good. Probably almost as good as Ginger felt when Fred looked at her that way.
“That was our story,” laughed Carol as The End appeared on the screen.
There was a knock at the front door. “Now who could that…” Roger started to say, then realized it couldn’t possibly be anybody.