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Words – #6 – The Land of Milk and Honey (a feline horror story) – Part Three

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.

THE END 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Words on Wednesday – #4 – The Land of Milk and Honey (a feline horror story) – Part One

This is the first 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. I had just bought my first personal computer, a Kaypro 2, which ran on CMS, the precursor to DOS. It had a 5-inch screen and two floppy disks. It is now a footrest under my desk but I can’t part with it.

Like most of my stories, this one needs some re-writing but that’s the reason I am posting them to my blog… I hate re-writing and editing and that’s what I would have to do in order to get them into publishable form. So it’s either post them here or they sit in a file box for another twenty years. 

All characters and events are entirely fictional

The Land of Milk and Honey (a feline horror story) – Part One – © copyright Roslyn M Wilkins

The landing was much smoother this time. Just a short jolt then a series of small shudders. Roger could see the house a few hundred feet away. The sign was still up, the one that said, “Welcome to the Land of Milk and Honey.” He would have to take that down tomorrow. He didn’t want any billboards spoiling the view.

“We’re home,” he said to his wife and squeezed her plump hand. Carol smiled, and it seemed to Roger that the dark circles under her eyes were already fading.

“It will make a new woman out of you,” the doctor had told her. And the man from the agency had promised Roger that he would feel thirty years younger. And it seemed to be true. The balding, sixty-year-old man with the arthritic shoulder had been left millions of miles away on a planet called Earth.

And as the transport door opened and the steps were lowered, he had the uncontrollable urge to do something he hadn’t thought of doing since… well, he really couldn’t remember when.

“Race you to the house,” he laughed to his wife as he took off down the steps and sprinted across the grass to the signboard. He stopped, putting his hand to his mouth in sudden embarrassment. He looked around to see Carol being helped down the steps by the captain and walked towards her with his hands outstretched.

“Isn’t it adorable?” Carol smiled as she took Roger’s hand. “Our very own little yellow house. And look, they’ve planted flowers in the window boxes.”

The captain came up behind them. “It’ll take us several hours to unload everything and do some routine maintenance on the ship. Then we’ll leave you on your own.”

Roger turned to shake the captain’s hand. “Thanks for everything.”

“How does it feel to own your own planet,” asked the captain.

“A dream come true,” whispered Carol, still in awe of the whole situation. They had always planned on retiring to some out-of-the-way spot on some out-of-the-way planet but as the years went by that dream seemed to slip away as prices escalated and real estate became more scarce with over-crowding in the furthest reaches of the galaxy.

So they had resigned themselves to spending their retirement years on Earth, continuing to groan about the congestion and moan about the air pollution until they both went to early graves, stressed out and sick.

But one day Carol inadvertently started the chain of events that brought them to “The Land of Milk and Honey.” She was always receiving invitations from companies like “Publisher’s Videohouse” and “Great American Videozines” and “Reader’s Video Digest” to enter their sweepstakes.

She always clicked on delete without bothering to look into them. She didn’t have time to read magazines anyway, and she knew that if she didn’t subscribe to at least twenty six she stood no chance of winning. So this day, when she really wasn’t concentrating, she opened one of the emails. It was from a new one, “Universe Videozines,” and she was halfway through the brightly colored screens before she realized it was another sweepstakes announcement. She was just about to hit the delete key when her elbow brushed the coffee cup sitting next to her keyboard and in her attempt to save the coffee from spilling she accidentally hit enter instead.

Her husband was always on to her about having the holographic chip implanted over her ear so she wouldn’t have to manually type on a keyboard, but she was old fashioned, averse to jumping on to the latest technology bandwagon, and proud of it!

“Rats,” she muttered and clicked on the cancel button on the screen. But it was too late. She had become a contestant in the sweepstakes. For several months afterwards her mailbox had been cluttered with magazines which Carol had not been successful in canceling, despite at least a dozen attempts.

Then one Saturday morning, September 12th of last year to be precise, a “Highest Priority Message” had appeared in her inbox. It was from “Universe Videozines.” Carol tensed immediately, afraid she was being sued for non-payment of magazine subscriptions.

But it was not a demand letter at all. It was the announcement that she had won the sweepstakes, the only sweepstakes she had ever entered in her life. She was the owner of an entire planet called “The Land of Milk and Honey” located in some out-of-the way section of the galaxy.

As it turned out, it was the answer to their prayers. Carol and Roger were both coming up on retirement age and after much research had been unsuccessful in locating the perfect planet for their old age. They knew they didn’t want to retire on Earth. Earth was a planet for people of working age who needed the gray, noisy, glass and concrete cities in order to work in offices and factories.

They dreamed of trees and green hills, and streams with real fish that they both remembered from their distant childhoods. But as Earthlings had moved away from the overcrowding of their home planet, settling in the far reaches of the Milky Way, they had taken with them all the trappings of human civilization. Unsettled planets were scarce and the ones that were available—and inhabitable—were far too expensive for a middle class couple with modest pensions.

On their first visit to “The Land of Milk and Honey” they had fallen in love instantly.

“Truly a Garden of Eden,” Roger had declared.

“It’s paradise!” Carol had exclaimed.

Multi-colored birds sang in the trees, pink and white puffy clouds hung in the lavender sky, and the rivers flowed with a milk-like liquid as sweet as honey. They were reluctant to leave, and upon their return to Earth, realized how much more they disliked the hustle and bustle of big planet life. They couldn’t wait to return to the serenity of their new home.

And now they were back. For the rest of their lives they could live in peace and quiet. It was a hectic first day, but that was to be expected. The underground solar freezer was stocked with provisions. The furniture was arranged to Carol’s liking. The countless boxes of personal belongings were stacked around the house.

Finally the captain and crew of the transport ship shook hands with the Wests and left for Earth.

“Well, Mrs. West, that’s the last time we’ll see human beings for six months,” commented Roger. And good riddance too, he thought. “I wonder what it’ll be like with no neighbor’s barking dogs, no children shouting in the street, no traffic, no hordes of people everywhere we go. It’s too good to be true!”

He sat in his favorite armchair, the one he had insisted on bringing, despite the threadbare armrests.

“Yes, too good to be true,” repeated Carol. “Let’s leave the rest of the things unpacked until tomorrow and explore a bit. I want to see one of those milk rivers again.”

“I don’t see why not. But let’s have something to eat first.”

With peanut butter sandwiches filling their stomachs they climbed the rise behind the house holding hands. It was like being on a second honeymoon. They walked for half an hour without speaking, only turning to smile at each other and stopping to smell the aroma of the strange flowers.

Carol jumped the first time a yellow bird flew out of a tree and landed on her head, but then two blue birds landed on Roger and they laughed at each other’s feathered head adornments. The birds flew off and the Wests continued their walk. Occasionally they noticed mice sticking their noses out from under rocks to sniff at the giant intruders. Roger almost stepped on a couple of purple mice dozing in the grass.  

“Isn’t this splendid?” smiled Carol as they sat under a willow tree on the edge of a vanilla ice cream lake. “And I can’t get over how tame the wildlife is.” As if to emphasize her point, three blue speckled mice appeared about a yard from Carol and cocked their heads in appraisal of the strangers. “Look, Roger, they’re not afraid at all.”

“Why should they be? Obviously they don’t have any predators. And they’ve never seen humans before.”

“It really IS the Garden of Eden, isn’t it? Rivers flowing with milk, flowers dripping with nectar, and animals that are as tame as pets.”

“Yes, it’s wonderful.”

“More than wonderful,” sighed Carol dreamily.

“I think it’s time we walked back to the house,” said Roger, as a band of gleaming lilac clouds streaked the orange pastel sunset. “I wonder if those are rain clouds.”

Roger awoke at two o’clock in the morning to the sound of soft rain falling on the roof. He looked out the window and in the darkness the milk rain looked like silver ribbons suspended from heaven. The beauty of the planet had awoken the latent poet within him. The man from the agency had been so right. This was paradise. There was no question about it.

They were both up early the next morning and surprised themselves at how much breakfast they ate. Back home it had always been a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice before they both rushed off to their jobs. Roger had been a claims adjuster for Northern Insurance Company. The last one on earth, as it turned out, for on his retirement he was replaced by a robot. And Carol had recently been asked to retire from All Cities Bank as the company no longer had any use for a human teller.

Roger had brought a pre-fabricated picket fence with him from Earth, not because the only house on the whole planet needed a fence, but because he had always wanted a white picket fence, and now he was going to have it. Fixing the fence up was most definitely his first project.

“Well, I think I’ll get everything straightened up inside the house,” Carol announced, so Roger went off to put up the fence by himself. He started to pound the posts into the ground, but realizing he didn’t have the right tools, went to the storage shed behind the house. On the paving all around the shed he noticed animal tracks. As all they had seen so far were mice and birds, he was curious. These prints obviously didn’t belong to either one. They were too big. Wolves maybe? No, they weren’t that big. And anyway, they had been assured that the wildlife on the planet was not dangerous… just small creatures like lizards and small rodents… all very tame.

He bent down to look at the prints more closely. No. How could it be? Cats! House cats! That was definitely it. He could recognize a cat paw print when he saw one. Why weren’t they warned about this? That was the reason he had fallen out with the Anderson’s, their cat-loving neighbor back on Earth. Every morning he had to clean the paw prints off his car. Not that he had anything against people owning pets, but they should at least have the decency to keep them locked up indoors. Especially cats. Always winding around your legs and leaving their fur all over you, he shuddered with the thought. And the racket they made at night. It was completely uncivilized.

Yet, there was something a little odd about these prints. Some of them were distinctly every day house cat paw prints. But some of them…

He went back to pounding in the picket fence. The soil was a grey color right around the house, rather sandy in texture. He was letting his imagination run away with him. But he remembered the cat litter box he had seen in his neighbor’s garage. Oh, don’t be ridiculous, he chided himself! Now he was being really silly.

At precisely twelve noon, Earth time (they were ecstatic to learn that their little planet revolved around its sun in the same time frame as their home planet as they could not have dealt with that kind of time change), he stopped work for lunch.     

Carol presented him with a tuna salad on a bed of multi-colored lettuces looking exactly how he liked it back on earth. The organic preservation techniques had apparently worked perfectly.

“My dear,” he said after swallowing the first bite of salad. “What would you say if I told you there were cats living around here?”

“Cats?” Carol almost choked on her lettuce. “You mean like mountain lions and panthers?”

“No, I mean like Fuzzy and Tinker and Snowball.” Those were the cats owned by their neighbors on Earth.

“Really? Just living wild like feral cats?”

“Well, I haven’t exactly seen any, just their tracks. At least they look like cat tracks although I can’t be 100% certain. It could be some other animal native to this planet. Sort of cat-like!”

“What do you mean by cat-like?”

“I don’t know. But doesn’t that seem odd to you?”

“I suppose if there are birds and mice there could be cats too.” Carol put down her fork and scraped her chair back. “I didn’t put enough pepper on the tuna. Do you want some?”

Roger ignored her question. “All the birds and mice we’ve seen are so tame. But if there are cats around waiting to pounce on them, don’t you think they’d be a little more wary?”

Carol sat back down, pepper mill in hand. “Maybe the cats on this planet are different from Earth cats. Perhaps they’re vegetarians.”

“Cats are cats. It makes no sense.” Roger wiped his mouth with Carol’s favorite napkins from Earth, the ones with the big yellow sunflowers and orange poppies. “In any case we were told there was no wildlife bigger than a small rabbit.” He had specifically asked about cats and was assured cats were not indigenous to the planet.

“Well, if I was a cat, this is definitely the kind of planet I would want to live on,” Carol chuckled. “Milky rivers and birds and mice all over the place. Why, it’s cat paradise, isn’t it?” Carol didn’t share her husband’s dislike of felines but she could certainly live without them.

Roger folded up his napkin, placed it neatly next to his plate and stood up.

“Did you like the salad, dear? You didn’t say anything. Was there enough tuna?”

But Roger was distracted. “I’ll be finishing up the fence if you need me.” Carol kissed him gently on the cheek as he opened the kitchen door. “Cats!” he muttered.

Roger didn’t mention the subject of felines to Carol the rest of the day. No need to upset her, or himself, any further. It was such a spectacular day and he wanted to enjoy it. But the thought remained in the back of his mind.

Stay tuned to this spot next week for part two!


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Words on Wednesday – #3 – Uncle Theo – Part Three

This is the final episode of Uncle Theo so now I have to decide on another story that deserves to be exposed to the light.

As I have mentioned, Uncle Theo is one of the many stories I wrote between the 1960s and 1980s. I believe this one was written in the 1980s. I only wish I had dated them at the time but I didn’t. Fiction, and possibly science fiction/fantasy allows a tremendous freedom as anything is possible!

My hope is that once I have all or most of these dozens of stories out in the universe, I can write more stories from a different viewpoint three or more decades later.

Although many of my stories are written in the first person, all characters and events are entirely fictional

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Uncle Theo – Part Three – © copyright Roslyn M Wilkins

There were a number of years between childhood and adulthood when I refuted all magic and miracles. I embraced reality and was busy studying the nervous systems of frogs and wrestling with algebra while dealing with the assassinations of world leaders and desperately trying to figure out how I could fit into a world I did not fit into. I discovered that the transition from child to adult was a difficult and serious business that I was not cut out for.

During my eighteenth year, when high school was over and university not yet begun, I rediscovered Ray Bradbury. His stories brought back memories of Uncle Theo and I believed in him for one more summer.

But that summer passed and Ray Bradbury was buried once again along with Uncle Theo under an onslaught of exams, papers and seminars in my first year of university. I had enough to cope with in the real world without struggling with a fantastical one as well.

As the years went by I did think of Uncle Theo once in a while, but mostly as a pathetic old man with a wild imagination. And then, as that long-ago summer became more and more distant and my childhood seemed to belong to some other person entirely, Uncle Theo ceased to exist for me.

I was caught up in the nightmare of learning how to be a grownup. I couldn’t seem to get a handle on it no matter how hard I tried. All my friends managed it so easily. They knew what they wanted out of life—a career, marriage, security—and they went out and got it. I had the same opportunities they did, but somehow was unable to take advantage of them. I was still floundering around trying to find myself while all my contemporaries were busy raising families and running corporations.

I went through periods of deep despair when I wondered if it was worth continuing on with my life. But I did continue. I had no way of knowing, of course, that Uncle Theo would not have allowed it any other way.

So alienated was I from that summer that when my mother’s letter arrived, it took me a few seconds to figure out who she was referring to. Uncle Theo, she wrote, had passed away some weeks before in an old folks’ home in the north of England. She said she had lost track of him many years ago, and if she had known where he was she would have at least made an attempt to visit him before he passed. But she guessed he had been too proud to let on about his circumstances. Anyway, he had given my mother’s name as his closest relative, and the director of the home had contacted her asking about the disposition of the body. My mother had opted for cremation.

Folded up in the letter was a small envelope with “Little Bunny” written in a shaky hand. My mother said this had arrived with Uncle Theo’s personal belongings. She apologized for taking so long to write, but this whole business of Uncle Theo dying had really taken up a lot of her time and she certainly had never dreamed that she would be the one left to deal with it all.

I opened the envelope. It contained a single piece of white paper. On it was written: “In this World is all of Me/Let the Magic set you Free!”

I recalled the glass sphere Uncle Theo had given me that summer. Where was it now? I vaguely remembered stashing it in the back of my storage room. I had intended to leave it behind when I left for California but when I was unpacking, there it was wrapped up in old newspaper just the way Uncle Theo had presented it to me all those years ago.

I wrestled three boxes to the floor from the top shelf. The first contained a family photograph album my mother had insisted I take with me to my new home plus a sheaf of sloppily typed, sentimental poems I had written in better times when I had still had some hope for my life.

The second box was where my childhood teddy bear lived. His arms and legs were attached to his body solely by the auspices of a tattered knitted suit I had made for him many years ago. And there, in the third box nestled between a pair of brass candlesticks, so ugly they had never seen the light of day, was a ball of newspaper. I was disappointed to discover I must have re-wrapped it because the paper wasn’t printed in Drataurean characters, or even Arabic, but in ordinary English, extolling the events of Derring-on-Sea in the month of April when I had left my home country and my parents for an adventure in the New World. I had a university degree in one hand and a marriage certificate in the other. As I discovered, neither piece of paper turned out to be of much use. Nor did the second degree, or the second marriage certificate.

I unwrapped the sphere and read the poem it had harbored all these years. Uncle Theo had promised I would understand its meaning when the time was right. I wondered if his death meant that time had come.

I carried the globe into the living room as carefully as if it was an injured bird. And like a bird, it seemed to take wing when it caught the glare of the California sun burning through the glass sliding doors. The strange shapes and other-worldly colors I remembered from some other lifetime, wakened at last from their dark slumber, flitted over the stark white walls of my apartment.

I sensed his presence in the room even before I saw him. Uncle Theo stood no more than five feet away from me in his red and white striped polo shirt. He was young and robust, his orange moustache thicker than ever. The green flash of his eyes seared into mine and emblazoned my brain with images of silver birds, golden forests and luminescent seas. My feet left the floor and my body was lighter than the air. I was transported to another galaxy where color was substance and light was form. I soared above the highest mountains of what I knew was Drataur, feeling colors, hearing emotions and seeing sounds.

Uncle Theo was flying beside me.

“I Knew I could Count on You to be Here,” he said. I was thrilled to hear the capital letters again. “You must Carry on for me Now, Little Bunny.”

I was beginning to understand. “All those years in the nursing home…”

“I needed a Safe Place to leave my Body while My Substance Traveled. There are Planets and Galaxies out there with such Beauty you could never Dream of!” he exclaimed as he spiraled downwards, executed a double somersault and flew back up on my other side.

“Isn’t this Fun? You Try it!”

“Oh no, this is the first time I’ve ever flown,” I exclaimed. Just looking down was making me dizzy.

“Well, you have Plenty of Time to get used to it. Light Years and Light Years of it.”

“But why me, Uncle Theo?”

“Didn’t I teach you anything that summer?”

“Apparently not. My whole life’s been a failure. Nothing ever worked out for me. I don’t know how to carry on for you.”

“But that’s exactly the Point, Little Bunny!” He reached out for my hand. “Let’s Float Down and Sit for a While.”

Next thing I knew we were back in my living room, he on the sofa and me on my rocking chair.

“Nothing ever Worked out for you Because you are Special. Not like your Friends. They are Ordinary—They don’t have the Gift.”

“The gift? You mean the globe you gave me?”

“Not Exactly, but in a Way. The Globe is only a Symbol of what I Gave you—of what you’ve Had all Along really.” He walked over to the table where I had left the sphere. He picked it up and ran his fingers over the surface. “You tried to be like Everybody Else but that wasn’t the Plan. You were going about Life in all the Wrong Ways. You always dealt with Life in a Rational, Logical Manner. But Imagine what would have Happened if you had Allowed Magic to Play its Hand…” The globe was a bright green sun, so bright I couldn’t look at it. It filled the room with its greenness. “…if you had Wished Upon a Star or Thrown a Coin in the Fountain or even Rubbed an Olde Lamp once in a while…”

“You’re making fun of me now, aren’t you? You’re being a little childish!”

“I hope so! Being Childish—or a better word would be Childlike—is what it’s all About. Being Open to the Wonder—thinking of the Future like a Five-Year-Old where Everything is Possible.” He put the globe down. The bright yellow light calmed to a pale, shimmering cream color.

I was upset. My life had been such a struggle. “Why didn’t you tell me all this before and save me all the grief?”

“I tried to. That Summer Night, sitting on the Park Bench, I asked you not to Forget how to be a Child, not to Forget the Magic.”

“I didn’t understand what you meant then. I was only ten.” No, the truth. “I didn’t really believe in you.”

“There were things you had to Discover for yourself, Little Bunny, through the Pain of Living.”

“That’s not very fair. I hurt a lot.”

“You think I didn’t Know? You think there weren’t Times when I wanted to Step in and Rescue you? But I couldn’t. It doesn’t Work that Way. I had to go through the Same Things myself. Oh yes. I went through the First Part of My Life bumping into Walls and falling through Trap Doors, just like YOU!”

The sun in the California sky was waning. My white walls were turning grey. But I didn’t want any artificial light invading our space.

“I was Presented with the Gift and Introduced to Drataur. I wasn’t Born there, Nobody is, you have to be Invited. But now it’s Time for me to Leave Drataur and Join the Others as one more Voice in the Hum of the Universe. And so I Pass the Mysteries of Drataur on to you. And when your Time comes to Pass the Magic on to Another, when you have learned all there is to Learn of the Chanting Birds of Saltir and the Quizzical Dailils of Grxxl 3 and the Wafting Grasses of the Tiger Moons and so much More, your Voice, too, will Join the Choir of the Cosmos and you will be Free. But for now…”

Uncle Theo’s arm had transformed into a silken wing. It was translucent and fragile-looking, but when he touched my arm I could feel the power seething within the membranes. It was pouring out of him and into me. I felt his strength and his energy. And at that moment I knew I could indeed continue.

We were once again flying through the atmosphere of Drataur. But with his newly formed wings, Uncle Theo was too fast for me and I lost sight of him. Then a purple cloud drifted by and temporarily blocked the light from the Twin Suns. There was no goodbye. He was gone.

I was back in my apartment. It was dark outside. The sounds of the traffic hurtling by on the freeway just a quarter mile away pounded on the night air like surf at the beach.

I sat with the sphere cradled in my hands. This was to be my memory of Uncle Theo. His world was contained within it. I rocked back and forth, back and forth, staring into the globe as the glimmer of green within grew stronger. And I knew it was up to me now to find my own Magic.

THE END


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Words on Wednesday – #2 – Uncle Theo – Part Two

I am still bathing in the glow of posting Part One of Uncle Theo last week. That act has already changed my life. My short stories and poems from the 1960s through the 1980s have sat in file boxes for decades. I knew if I didn’t make the effort to expose them to daylight they would spend another couple of decades sitting in the dark. Just posting Part One of this little story has now allowed me to make decisions and move on with other projects. It is freeing!

(If you haven’t read Part One, please read it here before reading Part Two.) 

And so, here we go with Part Two:

Although many of my stories are written in the first person, all characters and events are entirely fictional

Uncle Theo – Part Two – © copyright Roslyn M Wilkins

Morning came eventually. I was late downstairs for breakfast. Dad had already left for work. Uncle Theo was apparently still in his room. “Must be exhausted after his long trip,” suggested my mother. Hah, if she only knew!

“Of course, he’s not really your uncle,” she told me in answer to my question about his place on the family tree. “He’s a second cousin, I believe, several times removed, but I’m not sure what part of the family he actually belongs to.”

I chuckled to myself as I built a peanut butter mountain on my toast. Of course she wouldn’t know anything about the Drataur side of the family. I wondered what all the other second cousins several times removed were doing at that very moment and if they had ever made the trip from Drataur to Earth.

Were my distant cousins munching on peanut butter sandwiches and chugging down glasses of orange juice? Could they smell bacon and eggs frying on the stove? Or were they picnicking under silver trees on a pink hillside with turquoise clouds floating by in a lilac sky?

“I don’t suppose it’s possible for you to leave some peanut butter for someone else, huh?” My mother interrupted my reverie. “Linda! Do we have the honor of your company or are you off on some other planet?” She yanked the peanut butter jar out of my hand. For a moment I was shocked at her reference to another planet. But, of course, she couldn’t possibly know. “Look, you’re dropping it all over the table cloth.”

“Sorry! I wasn’t concentrating.” I had made up my mind to ask Uncle Theo about my distant relatives. If he really was an alien being then I wanted to know the whole story. And if he wasn’t—well, I didn’t want to face that possibility at this moment in time. I was willing to fully embrace his version of life. I no longer had any doubts.

Uncle Theo eventually made his grand entrance into the kitchen, hugging my mother, which made her squirm, and then me. After seconds of the cereal, toast, eggs, and bacon and having carefully wiped the remains of said breakfast from his moustache, Uncle Theo announced he was going for a walk around the neighborhood. Would I like to join him? He didn’t have to ask twice.

“What are the children like on Drataur?” I asked as soon as we were out the front door. “Do they have to go to school?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so. Children Everywhere have to go to School.”

“Oh.” I was disappointed.

“But School is a little Different on Drataur because the Children Learn to Fly on the Wings of Imagination and they are Taught the Songs of the Universe, and they Discover the Meaning of Happiness.”

“But do they have to sit in a classroom?”

“Only the Classroom of Life.”

I tried again: “Do children have to tidy up their rooms and help with the dishes and do homework?”

“Well, yes. Children have to do all those things, no matter what planet they live on. But only if they have rooms and dishes and homework…”

“Some people don’t?”

“The Universe is full of all Kinds of People in all Kinds of Situations.”

“Hmmm. I guess so.” I was growing impatient. I wanted answers even though I wasn’t really sure of the questions.

“But Look, Let me Show you Something Special.” Uncle Theo held out his hands, palms turned up. “You see my Hands are Empty?”

“Yes.”

He made fists and passed his right hand over his left. “Now, open my left hand.”

I bent the middle finger back. There was something metallic between his index finger and third finger. A silver coin.

“Where did that come from?”

“Oh, we do that all the time on Drataur. That way we don’t have to be bothered with carrying pockets full of jingly coins. We just pull them out of nowhere.”

I wished Uncle Theo had been with me the week before when I had wanted to buy that jigsaw puzzle and didn’t have enough money because I had already spent too much on lemon sherbets.

“Now look in your pocket,” he said.

I put my left hand in my jacket pocket and when I pulled it out, I was holding a string of pink pearls. “They’re beautiful.”

“I Picked them off the Pearl Tree that grows Outside my Front Door. Here, let me Put Them on You.”

I could tell they weren’t ordinary Earth pearls because as soon as they were against my skin I could feel the warmth against my neck. I could feel their beauty rubbing off on me and years later whenever I wore them, I always looked prettier than I did without them.

As the hours and days and weeks passed that summer, there were other miracles and feats of magic and fantastical tales of the universe. But the greatest of Uncle Theo’s wonders was his ability to fly. When he told me about the children of Drataur flying on the wings of imagination I asked him to show me how. At first he told me I wasn’t ready. I thought that was an excuse because he was lying to me and he didn’t really know how to fly.

But three weeks later after many conversations and stories and questions and answers and revelations, he announced I was ready for my final lesson. And that was the day I got him in trouble with my mother.

“But mother, Uncle Theo flew down the stairs!” I tried to explain to that particularly exasperated adult when she caught me standing on the upstairs landing, flapping my arms in an attempted take-off. Of course, I had promised not to tell but it slipped out in self-defense.

“He flew down the stairs? Uncle Theo?”

“Yes, he says it’s easy if you concentrate…” How could adults be so dense?

“Oh really! Have you actually seen him fly down the stairs?”

“Yes,” I answered defiantly.

“When?”

“This morning. He was standing right here,” I explained. “He told me to close my eyes, then there was this whooshing sound and when I opened my eyes he was standing next to me at the bottom of the stairs. He flew just like he said he would.”

“Oh, Lin!” I hated it when she shortened my name. It was her way of scolding me as she knew I didn’t like it. “How gullible can you be? He probably slid down the bannisters.”

“He flew! And my name isn’t Lin, or even Linda. It’s Bunny.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, fly down the stairs then. See if I care if you break your neck.” She left, muttering something not very nice about Uncle Theo. I heard the kitchen door slam.

I was angry too. She had as good as called Uncle Theo a liar. If he said he had flown down the stairs then that’s exactly what had happened. But I decided to postpone my maiden flight just in case.

That evening Uncle Theo and I walked over to the park. We sat on a bench and watched the old people play bowls. Clonk, clonk. The black balls hit the white balls.

Years later, in my new life far from the land of my birth, I would think back on this night as the beginning of the end, and a new beginning too. It was seven thirty on that August night in England and the sun was more than an hour away from setting.

“No, she’s right. She is your mother and she is the one to say what is to be and what is not to be as far as you are concerned. And you see,” he paused, placing his right hand on my left arm, “I also promised her I would confess that all these stories I’ve told about Drataur and magic and flying are all untrue…”

“No!” I stood up from the bench. And in that moment I realized his words were no longer emphasized with capital letters. His speech was—normal. I wanted to run. Somewhere where I couldn’t hear him.

“Wait a minute, I’m not finished.” He pulled me back down on the bench. “The problem is I can’t tell you it’s all untrue because that would be the biggest lie of all. I have never lied to you. Everything I have said, in its own way, in the way I meant it, is true.”

“Do you promise? Cross your heart and hope to die?”

“I promise. Here, give me a hug.”

We hugged. And the tears running down my cheeks mingled with his.

“Sometimes, Little Bunny, adults try so hard to get you to grow up right they forget the importance of letting you be a child.” He took a big white handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped my eyes, then his own. “Now on Drataur—that is, I mean, well, I never really grew up all the way. I got stuck somewhere in the middle. And it’s hard being a child and a grownup all at the same time. But I can’t change who I am—and I don’t want to.” He put the handkerchief back in his pocket. “Just promise me, Bunny, that you’ll never forget how to be a child and that you won’t forget the magic.”

“I promise,” I said.

After that night we never discussed Drataur again. As much as I begged and pleaded, Uncle Theo kept his promise to my mother. We still took our walks and I still crept into his room late at night to sit in the green light, but it wasn’t the same.

And as the summer came to an end, so did Uncle Theo’s visit. One morning I went downstairs to breakfast and he was gone.

“Did you see him fly away?” I asked.

My mother looked away and wouldn’t answer.

Stay tuned for part three next Wednesday.