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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.

























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Words on Wednesday – #5 – The Land of Milk and Honey (a feline horror story) – Part Two

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!

Please click here for episode one.

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.”

“Then what?”

“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.


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!