Copyright 2015 Dan Absalonson
Published by Dan Absalonson at Shakespir
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Table of Contents
This little anthology contains eight short stories to thrill you as you sit and wait for trick or treaters to come to your door. Here is a brief preview of what’s to come:
1| A Dark Climb - A new kid in town discovering just how real the local ghost story is when he's dared to climb up an old creepy tower that sits behind a mansion.
2| The House Sitter – What happens when you’re house sitting in a big creepy mansion on Halloween night and those noises you keep hearing turn out to be more than your imagination?
3| The Staring Stranger - Riding the subway in New York can be a bit creepy, especially when a particularly creepy bum always has his eye on you.
4| Stuffed Monster - It's hard enough being the ugly stuffed monster in the claw machine, but when you're finally taken to a loving home it seems like all is well... until the cat gets you.
5| The Forest Trail - Nolan has to go back alone from the camping party to get matches. The forest trail back is creepy when you're alone, but then Nolan literally runs into someone. Maybe being alone wasn't so bad after all...
6| The Day She Was Born - While waiting in the care a husband sees an armed man enter the store his pregnant wife is shopping in. He gets out of the car to save her...
7| Evil Takes Flight - Every time Jeff comes home from school he gets attacked by an evil crow. He decides to do something about it. All he needs is a weapon that will do the job...
8| The Last Butterscotch - An extra kitten mysteriously shows up in the barn when the family was away. It acts like no other cat they've seen before. Where did this cat come from and why does it seem like it's always watching them?
A Dark Climb
There is a legend in my town about the old water tower that sits behind the Chesterton Mansion on the West Hill. The house is now on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to weddings and social events. It is also home to a dark story about an adventurous little boy who snuck out of the mansion Halloween night and climbed to the top of the tower to eat all of his candy. The story goes that he sat on the top of the tower and ate and ate until all of his candy was gone. Then he fell asleep. In the night he rolled over and fell off the tower to his death. It is said that if you climb the tower on Halloween night you can see his mother on the back balcony of the mansion looking for him. What they don’t tell you is that he may be around too, and he doesn’t want to share his candy.
We just moved here in early October. If you’re a military brat like me you probably already guessed why. Yep, my dad’s a serviceman. It’s a small town but they have an air force base that needed an aircraft mechanic so that’s where the military moved us. My mom was in the air force too, that’s where they met, but she was killed while deployed in Afghanistan on her second tour of duty. So it’s just Dad and me. We get along alright. I get good grades, don’t get into too much trouble, and he trusts me enough to let me stay out with friends. I think it’s because he feels guilty about always moving me and making me find new friends. I make friends easily though. I’m in school all day so I’m always surrounded by a bunch of other guys my age having to deal with the same stuff. It doesn’t take long to find people to hang out with. I would love to stay in one town but after this Halloween night I want to move away as soon as possible. This time I wish I would have been a loner.
Some guys I met through my English class invited me out Halloween night. We were all too old for trick or treating so they had something else in mind. You guessed it, make the new guy climb the creepy tower. So there I was staring up at a cold metal ladder that reached way farther up than I wanted to climb.
“Come on man.”
“Yeah let’s go new guy.”
“He has a name.”
“Yeah yeah I’m just joking man, but seriously Paul when you get up there tell us if she looks like Miss Havisham in that book we’re reading for class.”
“Yeah dude. We’ve all got great expectations for you so get up there.”
Everyone started getting into it so I started to climb. The black rungs on the ladder were cold and slick. I’m not afraid of heights but the idea of falling to my death didn’t exactly thrill me either. As I got ascended the wind started to pick up and I felt it pushing me sideways. It scared me. I stopped climbing.
“Dude what gives?”
“You’re not to the top yet man. Keep going!”
I almost looked down but thought better of it. I didn’t know these guys well but I didn’t want to chicken out in front of them. I had to make it to the top. I lifted my hand and grabbed the next rung. I closed my eyes and blocked out the jeering below me. Then I started to climb again. My hands started to go numb. I kept climbing. The wind was getting stronger. My left foot slipped. I kept climbing.
I focused on going up and tried to make the rest of the world disappear. Then my hand reached to top. I slowed down and looked over the top then climbed all the way on. There was a ton of graffiti. I was surprised to see some of it was paintings of candy. So the legend was known by more than the kids I was with. It was a good story but I had my doubts about it. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they made it up just to scare me. Unfortunately the story was all too true.
“Dude, what are you doing up there?”
“Do you see the lady?”
“There’s a bunch of graffiti up here.”
“Oh all the candy and stuff?”
“Yeah. I thought maybe you guys made this stuff up.”
“No man. The story of the tower has been around for years. Even my dad heard about it when he was a kid.”
I looked toward the mansion at the balcony. All the lights were off inside so it was really dark. I didn’t see anything.
Then I heard a rustling sound.
Somehow I thought the wind had somehow blown a bag or something up onto the tower and it had been caught on something. I turned to see what was making the rustling bag sound. On the top of the tower with me, not three feet away, sat a pudgy pasty little boy rustling through a bag of candy and I could see right through him. I could see all of his features too. The chocolate smeared down his chin and the half eaten gum drops stuck to his shirt. He found a lollipop and began to unwrap it. I was frozen in fear. I stopped breathing. Then when my body forced me to take a breath I coughed. The boy looked up startled. He held his candy bag close and his fuzzy diaphanous little eyebrows slumped down.
“I’m not sharing my candy with you!”
Everything I knew shifted. My insides felt twisted and I started to shake. What my eyes were showing me I knew could not be true.
“Get away from me. This is my candy.”
The boy put his bag down and stood up. I stretched out my hands toward him trying to keep him away. I tried to speak. Maybe I could convince him that I didn’t want his candy. I didn’t want anything to do with him. I didn’t want him to exist because he me made my brain hurt and everything I believe melt away in a sea of fear.
“You’re not getting my candy!” he said taking a step toward me.
It was more than I could handle. I finally broke my eyes away from him and looked around for a way to escape. Now that I’ve had time to think on it I wonder why I didn’t just run through him to get to the ladder but in the moment I was way too scared. I saw a thick long tree branch jutting out toward me like a mighty arm calling for me to jump to it and accept its helping hand to safety. I looked back at the boy and my fright was renewed. I bolted. I ran to the edge of the tower and launched myself to the tree branch. I grabbed on and it bent under my weight. It dipped way down and I fell with it until it reached its limit. Then it bounced back up pulling me away from the earth. When my weigh brought it back down a second time I heard a snap. I was falling.
My stomach felt like it did on the drop of a roller coaster, and that’s the last thing I remember from that night. I wish I could have hit my head hard enough on the way down to forget everything from that night, but I can’t. The image of that boy is something I fear I will never be able to get rid of. I still have dreams of him coming toward me telling me I can’t have his candy, and then the fall. I always wake up when I hit the ground.
I got to skip school for a few days while I recovered in the hospital and I was glad for that. I was mad at my new friends for making me go up that tower. A couple of them visited me, but I don’t think it was out of kindness. I’m pretty sure they just wanted to know why I randomly jumped off the tower.
They never saw a thing.
They said the saw me stop and stare at something and they all yelled and screamed and called to me, but I never heard them. I hope my dad gets moved again soon. I hope I never see that tower again. I hope I can stop dreaming of the fat kid whose bulging belly I can see right through.
The House Sitter
Tammy thought she had heard and seen things all night, but this time it wasn’t her imagination. It was Halloween night and she had agreed a while back to spend it house sitting for her mom’s boss. Although, in this case, house sitting wouldn’t be an appropriate term. The Deet’s home was not a house, but an enormous mansion. Tammy had been over there several times and found it to be beautiful. That is when it was full of life, with the hustle and bustle of all their kids running around. Now she sat alone in the family room watching TV.
It felt like the house was closing in around her, and that every dark place inside held someone or something out to get her. She’d had enough of sitting in the dark house alone when she heard strange sounds and saw movement out of the corner of her eye. There was a small part of her brain that knew it was all just her imagination, but she was still terrified. So, she had called her friend Ellen to come over and spend the night with her in the house. Ellen was excited. Even though they were in college now, Ellen was still pretty into Halloween. She was at the only party with a costume contest, and had spent some time making her own. Tammy wasn’t sure she would come over, but an invite to a scary mansion on Halloween night was enough for her friend.
Tammy wished Ellen was there, because now she thought someone else was. The house had an alarm system, she had punched in the code herself to get in, so it should have gone off if someone had really broken in. Then she saw a flashlight beam punch through a dark room down the hall. She put her hand over her mouth, stifling a scream, grabbed her phone, and ran into the kitchen pantry. She closed the door without a sound and dialed 911.
“Nine one one, what’s your emergency?”
“Someone has broken in where I’m house sitting.”
“Okay, what’s the address?”
“Eighteen forty two west forest glen.”
“Okay we’re sending policeman up right now. Where are you in the house?”
“I’m hiding in the kitchen pantry.”
“Okay, just stay where you are. I’ll stay on the line with you. Try to remain calm. Police will be there soon.”
Remain calm, like I can do that. She took a deep breath and let it out. Whoever’s in here didn’t come for a snack; they’ll never come into the pantry. I’ll be okay. I just need to hide in here until the police get here, and then everything will be okay, Tammy thought.
Then she heard footsteps on the slate tiled kitchen floor. She felt like all of her insides had been filled with ice water, and she started to shake. The footsteps were coming towards the pantry. Somehow Tammy thought to hang up her cell phone and put it in her pocket. She didn’t want them to know the police were on their way. The pantry door opened. A tall muscular man dressed in dark clothes stood before her. His eyes tracked down to her, and he jumped back.
“What the!” he yelled, and then reached to his side and pulled out a pistol. He trained it on Tammy. She screamed.
“What are you doing here?”
Tammy was too scared to speak. All she could do is shake and cower. The man nudged her with his boot. She screamed again.
“I said what are you doing here?”
She managed two words.
“What? They’ve never had a house sitter. I’ve been scoping this place out for months, and they leave on weekends all the time. Whatever. Stand up and get out of my way.”
She jumped up and flew past him into the kitchen. His gun followed her.
“Now just stay there and you won’t get hurt. Got it?”
“You ain’t gonna run off and call the cops?”
She shook her head. He pointed the gun at her head.
“You better not.”
He turned and walked into the pantry. He pulled a bag off his back and threw it on the ground. Then he got down on his knees and leaned forward, pulling off a vent from the part of wall under the bottom shelf of the pantry. Then he reached through the hole where the vent was and pulled the wall away. It wasn’t a wall, but a panel. With the panel laid aside, a silver safe gleamed in the moonlight. He pulled a large mechanism from his pack and stuck it on top of what must have been a fingerprint scanner. A small led light on the device began blinking in yellow bursts. Then the light held a constant green glow.
He pulled it off and stuck his finger inside. The light changed back to blinking yellow, and it looked like it was hurting his thumb. The light turned green. He pulled his thumb out, and placed it onto a small panel on the safe. The safe beeped and clicked open. He grabbed things from inside and stuffed them into his pack. Tammy saw stacks of cash, jewelry, and documents. When he’d had his fill he stood and walked passed her. She remained frozen trying to blend into the counter top behind her, hoping he would just leave. He kept walking towards the hallway he had come from, when he saw blue and red lights flashing outside the windows. He turned back to Tammy and trained his gun on her once again.
“You’re coming with me,” he said.
“No!” she said.
He raised his hand and slammed his palm into her shoulder spinning her around. Then he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and locked her against him. He started walking to the front door at a sideways angle, pulling her along with him with the gun trained on her head, and his large pack swing behind him.
“Where are you car keys?” he asked.
“In my purse,” she said, pointing to a sofa table nearby. He shoved her towards it, keeping the gun on her.
“Get them,” he said.
Once they were in her hand he grabbed her again and continued to the door.
“Open it,” he said, pressing the gun against her temple. As they stepped onto the porch, a flashlight flew into their faces.
“Let the girl go, and no one gets hurt,” a policeman said from behind his car. Tammy felt her captor take in a breath before shouting back at them.
“Let us go or I will shoot her.”
“We both know you don’t want to do that, now let her go.”
She felt his chest rise as he filled his lungs with air again.
“I am not playing games here. We’re leaving. If I hear a gun go off, she’s dead!”
With that he started walking to the silver sedan parked in the driveway. He unlocked it, and sat in the driver’s seat, pulling Tammy next to him on the seat. He slid over the middle console into the passenger seat, and jammed the keys into the ignition.
Tammy reached for her seat belt out of habit. He slammed a fist onto her dashboard.
“Do that later, now go!”
“Okay,” she said, and put it in reverse.
The two policemen didn’t want to take a chance and have Tammy get hurt, so they took down the license plate and jumped in their car to pursue.
“Go faster!” he said.
She eased the pedal down farther, cringing as she careened across the gravel road’s curves. The screaming sirens and bright flashing lights of cop cars danced off the tall swaying trees behind them. Once they started to fade, new lights lit up in the distance.
“Turn your lights off!”
“Slow down,” he said.
“Take this turn coming up. Right here.”
They turned off onto one of the many narrow dirt roads that lead to houses.
“Just keep going,” he said.
They drove for about a minute.
“Alright now stop and turn the car off.”
As Tammy’s engine puttered off, a wall of siren filled the night air behind them, and then faded out.
“Alright, now turn this thing around and get us on the freeway.”
Her hands shot to the keys. She started the car, threw it in reverse, cranked the wheel, and stomped on the pedal. Their bodies both flew forward as the car lurched back. Without a seat belt he slammed into the dash, his head smacking the windshield. She slammed on the brakes, pushing both of their bodies back into their seats.
“What are you waiting for, go!”
They flew back to the gravel road and were soon to the freeway. As they merged on, blue and red lights trailed close behind.
“You need to go faster.”
Tammy put it to the floor and watched her speedometer wind past 130 for the first and last time. As the straight road stretched out before her, and her car shook from being pressed past it’s designed limits, she reached over and put her seat belt on. He reached for his.
“Sorry, that seat belt doesn’t work.”
“Whatever, just drive as fast as you can.”
This is not happening to me, I don’t want to die. I can’t die, Tammy thought. Then she had an idea. She knew a bridge was coming up with a guard rail that jutted out a bit into the shoulder of the freeway. As the bridge drew near, her whole body became taught, and the ice water filled her insides again, but she did it. She veered off the road into the guard rail. She gripped her wheel and closed her eyes. The crash was so loud it hurt her ears, and her seat belt felt like a sledge hammer to the chest. Her car launched into the air, spinning as it flew in a slow arc. The air bag smashed into her face and her stomach felt like she was on a roller coaster. It landed on the passenger side, then flipped onto the roof and slid halfway across the bridge. When the sound and motion stopped, Tammy let out her breathe and started to breathe again.
Before she opened her eyes, she could see him somehow still right there next to her, with his great gray gun raised at her head. She could see the look on his face as he pulled the trigger. She looked over to see nothing but shattered glass. Even after the crash, and after seeing that he was gone, she still felt his gun to her head. He has to be hurt too bad to come and get me, Tammy thought. Then her door flew open. She screamed and thrashed, but the hand that reached for her was not holding a gun. It was a police officer.
“Miss, it’s going to be okay. He’s not going anywhere, if he’s still alive. My partner is going to secure him right now. It’s over.”
She stopped thrashing and started to cry.
The Staring Stranger
There he was again, the bum who always stared at me on the subway. I hated everything about him: his white hair tucked behind a purple bandana, his ratty black tank top hiding none of his Rambo physique, his stonewashed denim cut offs that were much too short for anyone’s comfort and his bare feet with their too long toenails tap dancing around on the dirty black floor. Every time I looked at him he was staring right back, like he had been waiting all day just to lock peepers with me. I turned my back to him, but I could feel his eyes, like cyclops or superman shooting a hot red laser into the back of my skull. It made me itch. I waited for a long time, hoping he would get off before my stop but he never did. No matter what time I was riding or what stop I got off at, he was there right behind me following me out.
I looked over my shoulder for a brief second to see his unmoving eyes looking right into mine. Had I ever even seen him blink? It sent a chill straight through me. I faced forward and shivered despite the warm subway car. I felt the subway slowing. My stop was much farther down the line but I had to lose this guy. I waited until the last second, knowing the timing of the doors well, and shot out of my chair sprinting out to the terminal just before the doors closed. I looked at the spot the bum had been sitting. He wasn’t there.
I looked behind me, but did not see him. I looked to my left, and there he was just settling down on a bench. It was the first time I had seen him without his eyes staring right back into mine. I darted to a column and edged behind it out of view. As far as I knew he had not seen me and now would not know where I was. I waited for the next subway trying to be patient, but I couldn’t help it. I leaned over the least amount possible to catch a glimpse and see if he was still on the bench. He was, staring right back at me. How could he possibly know where to look to pierce me like that with his gaze? I tried looking at him from the other side of the column. Again his face was locked in place, directing his vision right to me. I slid back out of site.
The subway came to the stop and again I waited until the last moment and sprinted inside. The doors shut just as I got both feet in. I looked out the window and saw that he had left the bench, but I didn’t see him anywhere in the car. I found a seat. Before long the itch was there again. I didn’t want to look, but I had to. Sure enough he was there staring me down this time his eyes so wide that I wondered if he was in some sort of pain or something. His ugly feet tapping away as if he was in the best of moods just riding along in the subway while his bulbous eyes were aimed at me like a rifle.
I didn’t look at him again. I just waited. Once the next stop came I jumped up and flew out the door. Then just before it closed I jumped back inside. I looked and saw the bum outside of the subway car. Finally I had won. Finally I could sit in peace until my stop came. I found a seat at sank into it letting out a deep breath.
I had almost fallen asleep when I felt his eyes on me again. I looked up, my eyes jumping around the subway car. There he was sitting in the seats across from me at the other end. I’d had it. If he wanted to play games, I could play games. I stood up and found an empty seat directly across from his. His gaze followed me with every step. I sat down and stared right back at him. I already knew everyone else in the car was staring at us too so I gave up all worries of being embarrassed. In a booming voice I did my best impression of Will Ferrell as Robert Goulet in a Saturday Night Live skit and yelled at him.
“Look at you. You’re hungry. You don’t even blink do you? Quick staring contest, me and you now!”
We stared at each other. The car was silent. I was through with this guy, if he wanted to try and weird me out, I was going to do it right back to him. I opened my eyes as wide as I could and leaned in towards him with the maddest grin I could spread across my face. Then I blinked.
“You win, you always do. That’s why I come up here. Nature! Goulet.”
Everyone went from looking at the two of us to looking at him. I had won. Now all eyes were on him. Every passenger was giving it right back, staring him down as he had done to me so many times. To my great surprise the man’s face flushed red and he blinked. The subway slowed. For the first time he looked away from me at all the others. He shrunk back in his chair. The doors opened, he glanced at me one more time with an angry frown, and then ran out of the subway car. The familiar ding dong sounded and the doors closed, and for the first time I rode the rest of the way home in peace.
I was the ugliest, weirdest stuffed animal in the claw machine, but that didn’t matter to Zack. He picked me out on purpose. You see it sometimes, where you can tell a person is trying to win a certain stuffed animal, but they end up getting a different one. Not Zack, he chose me.
I am a monster. Most of my cell mates were dolls, farm animals, and Teddy bears – cute little snuggly things. None of them expected me to be chosen, and here I was, riding in the backseat of a minivan next to my new human Zack. He had a little army man he pretended was a knight and we had an epic battle on the ride to his home. When we arrived I got to sit next to him for a while and watch TV. He picked a movie with monsters in it. He wasn’t like most kids though, who are scared of monsters. When the big yellow thing came out of the swamp and chased kids away Zach said, “Awesome!” Then we went to his room.
There were all kinds of other cool stuffed animal monsters. Some of them were even cute, not scary like me. Others were from Zach’s favorite movies. I got to know them once Zack left for dinner. A few of them even came from claw machines like me. I finally fit in.
That night I got to sleep next to Zach, and the one stuffed animal that wasn’t a monster, his teddy bear Brownie. Brownie was used to having monsters around and he was really nice to me. He made me feel at home, all of them did. It was perfect. Everything was going great until the next day when Zack left the door open on his way to dinner. That’s when I met the cat.
We were all just hanging out around Zack’s pillow talking about the different games he had played with us when the cat sauntered in with his tail swaying around in lazy arcs.
“Quick under the pillow!” Brownie said.
I just caught a glimpse of the cat’s mean yellow eyes before I was buried under the pillow. Then I felt the thump of the cat landing on the bed next to Brownie.
“You stay away Thompson! Chew! Get out of here!”
I heard Brownie cry out in pain, which made me feel bad, so I came out from under the pillow. This cat might not be scared of Brownie but he should be scared of me. I am a monster after all, and I’m pretty big for a stuffed animal. It was a big mistake. While I do have long claws and pointy teeth, they are all made of soft fabric. The cat’s claws were the real deal.
“Get away from him!” I screamed.
I came at him with my arms raised and my teeth bared. He scratched me, ripping a large gash into my side and pulling out some of my stuffing as he tore his claw away. As my world exploded in pain and I grabbed my side to hold the stuffing in, he snatched me up into his mouth and carried me away.
We raced through the door, down the hall, and past more rooms and through a tiny door until we came into a cold dark place. It was the first room I had seen where they kept the van we rode home in. Thompson took me up into his little house. It was high above the floor, and he jumped from one platform to another until we reached the top. Up there he spat me out and played with me like a ball for a long time. I screamed for him to stop but he just kept pawing at me, smacking me from one side to the other. Then Zack’s mom opened the door.
“Thompson. Come get your dinner kitty cat.”
He gave me one last look and then leapt down and walked out the door. Zack’s mom closed it behind him and left me in there alone. I knew I had to get out of there right away if I wanted to remain in one piece. I crawled towards the edge and looked down. It would have taken me awhile to reach the floor by jumping from one platform to another so I just jumped all the way to the floor. Us soft guys can do that without getting hurt. I lost a little bit of stuffing from my biggest tear, but I shoved it back in and started looking for a way out.
I hated to leave Zack but I could not be in the room when that cat returned. I knew if I tried to hide it would only be a matter of time before he found me and tortured me again. I was already ugly, I didn’t need to be maimed and disfigured too. If I ever found a way to get back to Zack, he might not even want to keep me. Other than the Brownie bear, us stuffed animals usually get traded out as favorites pretty quick. The door they had left through was no use, so I walked around the room looking for another way out, but there was none.
Then the big door we first came in through when Zack brought me home opened. His dad drove in and parked his sporty red car next to the minivan. I made a break for it, hiding behind a paint can against the wall and then running to my freedom once his headlights had passed over me. The night was cool and I could feel it the most where my fabric scales were still wet from Thompson’s slobber. The wind blew into me through puncture holes and scratches he had made with his teeth and claws. It felt horrible and I will never forget that feeling. It was like death blowing his icy breath into my soul. I ran to the end of the driveway and kept going across the street into a park. In the center I saw a big lamppost shining bright like a star. It looked warm and inviting against the cold dark night. My feet were starting to freeze from walking on snow. Luckily I was light enough to not sink down into it as I ran to the lamppost, wishing I could fly to its top and lay on its warm glow. When I got to it I felt no warmer so I decided to try and climb up to the light on the top and make my wish come true. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to, but when I grabbed the post my hands stuck to it. The moisture left from my cat friend combined with the frost on the lamppost provided me with the right amount of grip. I supported my body weight as I climbed up, which isn’t much, but could still pull my hands and feet free to keep climbing.
Once at the top I cleared off the snow with my tail and was rewarded for my climb. My perch above the park was nice and warm and the view was amazing. Above I could see branches of nearby trees reaching up to the dark sky. Below were stories of people enjoying the park in their many footsteps which broke up the rippled surface of the fallen snow. My favorite thing though, was the pattern of light stretching out in big V shapes from the base of the post, fading into the shadows of the night. Being on the light made me feel safe from all the things that could be out there waiting for me. After a while I warmed up and was able to fall asleep. I dreamed of living with my new friends back in Zack’s room.
I woke to the sound of kids laughing, screaming and running. They were all throwing snow at each other. It was very cold and the light had gone out. I stayed for a while though, because it was so much fun seeing them play from up high. I could tell a kid was going to get hit well before he felt the cold ball smash into him. Then seeing all the children playing and having fun reminded me of Zack and I knew I had to get back to him. He would have missed me last night. Even though it wasn’t my fault, I felt bad about not being there. He was so excited when he brought me home and showed me to his other stuffed animals.
I didn’t know what I was going to do against that cat, but I jumped down from the post anyway and sunk into the snow. I sat up and looked around. No one had seen me. They were all too caught up in their epic battle to notice a little guy like me. I started across the park, careful not to draw attention to myself. I hid behind trees when I could and made my way back towards Zack’s house. When I got to the edge of the park I looked around for the biggest snowball I could carry. I found one about as big as my tummy and picked it up. I saw Zack’s house and ran to the yard, waiting to get in. I waited for a long time and I was getting really cold when I heard the sound of the big garage door opening again.
I ran inside as the red car pulled out. The door closed behind me trapping me in. It was much darker than outside, but there was a dim light on the ceiling. Then the light went out and it was hard to see. I walked around in circles not sure what to do next. Then I saw a yellow pair of eyes peeking out from the cat’s house on the top platform of his domain. I turned my eyes away and acted like I hadn’t seen him, and waited. I heard his soft paws hit the cold gray cement floor. I gathered my courage, then turned. He stopped, looked at me, looked at the snowball in my hands, and then crouched low to the ground. We sat there for an eternity. I knew I had to wait until he was close to make my throw count. If I missed it was all over for me.
All of the sudden he charged. His sharp kitty paws scurried across the floor hurling him towards me so fast it was a fight to keep my eyes open and not turn away, but I waited for my moment. When he was another step away I hurled it at his face as hard as I could. The sound was amazing as it smacked him right on the nose and exploded across his mouth and into his ears. He screeched and tried to stop but he ended up sliding forward on the slick cement. I dove out of the way, just avoiding being knocked over, and he sailed past me right into the garage door. Zack must have heard it because a moment later he burst through the door.
“What was that loud bang? Oh, Thompson! What have you done to poor Longclaw?”
Longclaw? I thought. I have a name? It warmed my heart to hear that he had named me.
He came over and picked me up, giving me a great big hug. Then he went over to Thompson and picked him up.
“What was that loud noise and how did you get all wet? Is that snow in your whiskers? Bad cat! How could you do this to my nice monster friend Longclaw?”
I had won, but I was still nervous that once Zack had a good look at me he’d throw me away and go out to get a new stuffed animal monster. I think most kids would have thrown me away. I spent a lot of time watching them from inside the claw machine, and most of them are not very nice. I’m lucky to have Zack as a human because he proved me wrong. He took me to his mom and she fixed me up all nice with new stuffing and every tear sewn back up. I came up with a way to make sure the cat never got anyone again too. I found a fluffy white ball under Zack’s bed one day that looked a lot like a snowball and whenever Thompson would poke his head inside the room I would pick it up and run at him with it. It worked every time. There’s been talk of trying to fill the squirt gun on Zack’s dresser up with water somehow too. That would be really fun.
I don’t know if it was because he felt sorry for what I had been through, but Zack kept my spot next to him at night. It took me forever to get used to Brownie the teddy bear’s loud snoring, but eventually I slept really well knowing I was safe next to my great human Zack. The nicest kid a monster has ever known.
The Forest Trail
My brother pushed me hard into the tall weeds and yelled, “Don’t come back without them!” He and his friends turned and ran down the forest trail around a sharp turn out of site. Soon I couldn’t hear their laughter anymore and that scared me. I realized I was alone in the creepy forest and started crying harder. We were halfway to the campsite when they realized we forgot to bring matches for the fire. My big brother Kyle decided I was the one who had to go back to get them. I told him I was too scared to go alone and started to cry which embarrassed him so he pushed me. Now I was alone in the spooky woods no longer excited to finally be on my first camping trip with my brother and his friends.
I agreed someone needed to go because sitting around a fire is the best part of camping. Watching the flames, feeling the warmth, telling stories, roasting weenies, and making s’mores. The forest trail we took to get to the campsite was a fun one when you were with people, but alone it creeped me out. Even in the daytime.
On the way I had spent my time in the back following my brother and his friends. I was just happy to be with them so I tried to stay out of their way. There was my big brother Kyle, his hairy friend Steve, and a funny skinny guy named Ricky. If I laughed too hard at one of their jokes they’d stop and look back at me like I was ruining their fun. My brother would always say “Shut up Nolan,” so I just walked in the back alone. But now I was really alone.
I got up and started running. I was running toward the moment when I could be back with them. I kept my eyes on the trail, jumping over tree roots and large rocks. I hated the feeling of all the trees around me. I felt like behind every tangle of foliage something was waiting to jump out and grab me.
As I ran I kept my eyes down. I smelled something funny but it didn’t register in my brain until it happened. I ran right into one of the older kids I knew from the school bus. He went to high school like my brother, and he was mean. No one liked him.
He always wore this black leather jacket with zippers all over it. He had really long greasy black hair. He wore steel toe boots over ripped up jeans. Everyone called him Smokey Pete. He’s the creepy kid everyone avoids and I had knocked him over. I saw something bright red fall from his hand and bounce across the trail to land in tall grass. I jumped up and tried to run but his hand reached out lightning fast and grabbed me.
“Whoa, whoa. Where do you think you’re going? You can’t just knock me over like that and think you’re getting away with it.”
Suddenly being alone on that forest trail didn’t seem so bad.
“I’m really sorry,” I spurted out. “It won’t happen again. I just wasn’t paying attention. I’m really sorry.”
I felt blood trickle out of my nose and down my face.
“Yeah you were really booking. What’s the hurry? You even bloodied yourself up a bit. Not good little man. Not good. But the worst part is you knocked out my smoke. I don’t like cigarettes that have fallen on the ground. Do you?”
I didn’t say anything. He was still holding me so I couldn’t get away. He hit me.
“I said would you like that? Smoking a cigarette that fell on the dirty ground?”
I shook my head. He hit me again.
“I can’t hear you. What’s that?”
“No,” I said.
I wasn’t crying yet, but you could tell I was close and I hated that. He started to laugh.
“I’ve got it. You’re going to pick up that cigarette and smoke it.”
I looked over at him shaking my head, my eyes pleading.
“Oh yeah, down to the butt. Now pick it up.”
I started crying.
“No. Please don’t. I’m really sorry, I…”
“Pick it up.”
I stood there starting to shake a little. He reached over and smacked the back of my head.
“I said pick it up.”
I picked it up and lifted it to my mouth.
I held my breath and sucked on it feeling dirt between my lips. Then I blew out the smoke.
“Oh no, you need to inhale. I hope you’re enjoying that dirt too.”
He twisted my arm sending a sharp pain through me.
“Okay!” I screamed past dripping tears.
I took another puff, this time breathing the smoke in. A weird feeling rushed to my head as I felt the smoke filling my lungs, then I pulled it out and bent over coughing hard. It was so hard to breath and I was dizzy. It tasted nasty. I opened my eyes and saw that red little rectangular shape gleaming in the sunlight. Then I realized what it was and got an idea.
I stood and looked at the cigarette. Smoke was trailing off the end in little wisps. I looked at him. I knew what I had to do.
I looked toward the red plastic lighter Smokey Pete had dropped that would solve our camping problems.
“What are you looking at? Take another drag.”
I kept looking. When he looked over his shoulder I jammed the cigarette into his hand. He spun and dropped it screaming out in pain. I was already past him. I grabbed the beautiful red lighter and started sprinting. I’ve never run so fast in all my life. I’m sure that even as an older kid with longer legs and bigger lungs I couldn’t run as fast as I did that day with so much fear and excitement pushing me forward.
I was running away from the safety of my brother and his friends but I knew I was too far to make it to them in time. Down the path a bit further I remembered the tall weeds my brother had pushed me into. If the bully caught me now I’d be getting more than another lung full of smoke. He’d pulverize me. So I ran.
I came to the turn in the trail and dove into the weeds. I hit the ground and lay as still and silent as possible. The weeds had a weird sweet smell to them. Soon I heard his feet pound past me on the trail. His loud swearing scared me. I did not want to find out what he would do to me.
I waited until I couldn’t hear his footfalls anymore, then I got up and ran. I ran full out all the way back to my brother. They were all laughing about something, totally unaware I had just escaped certain death. Then I heard it, another person running up the trail behind me. I knew who it was without having to turn and look.
I ran behind my brother and screamed, “He’s trying to hurt me and make me smoke his cigarette because I accidentally ran into him!”
The kid was looking at my brother and his two friends. He was easily bigger than all of us, but there were four of us and one of him. His words came out slow and staggered around his breaks to gasp for breath.
“Hiding behind your friends? I knew you couldn’t outrun me so I figured you hid then ran the other way. Now I know why, but they can’t protect you. Why don’t you guys just get out of here? My business is with that little snot.”
“You’re right Smokey Pete. He is a little snot. But he’s also my little brother. What are you doing punching out a little snot anyway? Get bored giving yourself cancer with those stupid cigarettes you bummed off your mom?”
My brother, the one who constantly made fun of me, picked on me, and pushed me around was protecting me. It made my heart swell. I’d never felt anything like it towards my brother.
“I didn’t punch him. That happened when he ran into me and knocked my smoke into the dirt. It was very unfortunate, but you know what? I’m feeling charitable. I’m willing to forget you just said that. Just make the smart choice and get out of here before I make you regret what you just said to me.”
“Wow. Are you guys as surprised as me?”
My brother looked at his friends.
“Unfortunate? Charitable? I didn’t know Smokey Pete knew big words like that, did you?”
They smiled and shook their heads. I think that’s when Pete realized my brother and his friends wouldn’t back away from a fight. His smile was gone. He looked back and forth between them. Then he looked at me. His hand came to rest on the burn I had given him with his cigarette. His face grew dark. I still see that face in my nightmares sometimes. He took out a cigarette then felt around in his pocket.
“Missing something Smokey Pete?”
“Stop calling me that.”
He put his cigarette away then looked up at us. He stepped forward putting my brother and his friends on alert. They tensed up as he walked toward them. Then he leaned around my brother until his eyes met mine.
“Next time kid you’re going to do more than cough.”
“Hey!” My brother yelled as he pushed Pete to the ground. He walked forward and stood over him.
“If you ever lay a finger on my brother I will follow my nose to your smell and beat you until you don’t know what hole to smoke out of! You got me? Smokey Pete?”
Steve and Ricky walked over and stood next to my brother. Pete crawled away then stood up and ran away. When he was out of sight they all turned to me.
“Dude! You’re lucky we were here little man!” Ricky said.
“Yeah dude he would have murdered you,” Steve said.
“I know!” I said. I looked at my brother and said, “Thanks.”
“Yeah whatever. You’re crazy. How did you outrun that kid? I guess he’s probably got bad lungs but he’s huge!”
“He made me smoke the cigarette I knocked out of his mouth. It burned and made me cough hard. He was going to make me smoke it again so I burned him with it and ran.”
“You what?” Steve said.
“No way!” Ricky said.
“Are you serious dude?” said Steve.
I nodded my head with a smile. None of these guys had ever looked at me like that before. Real admiration on their faces, and pride in my brother’s eyes. For once they thought I was cool. It only lasted for a few seconds, but I’ll never forget those glorious few seconds. Then the smile slid off my brother’s face.
“Hey wait,” he said.
“What man?” said Ricky still smiling.
“Nolan got away but he didn’t get any matches! You couldn’t have made it all the way home and back in the time you were gone.”
They all looked at me with frowns.
“Oh yeah,” said Ricky.
“Ah man! No fire?” Steve said. “I’m not going back that way dude. I’m afraid I’d run into Smokey Pete.”
I smiled and pulled out the red lighter, holding it up. I flicked it on. A bright little flame danced around above my fingers, and their smiles returned.
The Day She Was Born
When I saw him pull the pistol from his right pocket I locked the car door and sat still. When I saw him enter the store where my pregnant wife was grabbing some rainbow chip frosting, I unlocked the car. I knew the small store had no security guard to deter the man, so it was up to me. For a quick second the thought crossed my mind that if I just stayed put, he would go in there, rob the place, and then leave. My wife would be fine. Then I heard shots fired.
I leapt out of the car and started walking towards the store, looking for a weapon. I had nothing in the car, and there wouldn’t be time to find one in the store. I stopped before setting off the door sensor and looked over. On either side of the entrance were pale orange pots housing tall leafy plants. I kicked over the one closest to me and watched the dirt spill out onto the pavement. I hoped it was the only thing spilt onto the ground that night. I picked up the pot and shook out the rest of the soil. Weapon in hand I crept towards the store. I peered around painted letters on one of the large front windows. There he was, pointing his gun at the cashier. Everyone else was lying on the floor, but looked OK. He must have shot his gun as a warning to let them know he meant business. I didn’t see my wife anywhere. She must be in the back, I thought. The robber looked pretty distracted, so I decided to chance it and hoped he wouldn’t notice me sneak in.
I gripped the pot and stepped in front of the doors. I slipped my shoes off to soften my steps as they slid open with all the speed of a snail. As the opening grew wide enough for me I walked through as fast and quiet as I could manage. I made straight for the nearest aisle for cover, never looking over until I was out of his line of site. With my back to a shelf full of potato chips I leaned over to make sure I was clear. I fully expected to come face to face with the barrel of his gun, but he had not seen me. I leaned back in and breathed a deep sigh of relief, but soon my heart was racing again as I thought on what I planned to do next. I stood frozen for a moment, knowing that every second that passed could make the situation more dangerous. I peered down my aisle and saw I was alone.
With huge gliding steps I sailed down its shiny surface until I came to the back of the store. I slid around and continued until I saw his back to me past the end of an aisle. With steps that covered much less ground I strode forward without a sound. The stocked shelves of cereal and soda pop seemed to go on forever. When I reached the end a sudden spike of fear chilled me to the spot. My feet would not obey my command to take another step forward. Then I thought of my pregnant wife, sitting terrified and alone somewhere in the store. I got control of myself again, and took another step forward. As I pushed my feet forward through the swamp of fear I raised one trembling hand high into the air. Small bits of potting soil fell to the floor. The gunman’s raised voice masked the tiny explosions they made as they hit the ground between us. Before my nerves could turn me yellow, I flew forward and brought the pot down with everything I had. I wasn’t sure what I heard crack, as I smashed the pot onto his skull, but it made me sick. As he fell to an unconscious heap his gun bounced beside him and I scooped it up and shuffled back. I trained it on him and made some distance between us. I saw him start to move and shouted,
He looked over at me and saw that I had his gun. He flinched.
“Alright man, alright.”
He lay flat and put his hands behind his head, a position he seemed familiar with. I looked over at the cashier. Her dull eyes held a blank look as she stared down at the robber.
“Hey, call the cops,” I said.
She didn’t hear me.
“Hey!” I shouted.
Her head shot towards me, but her eyes remained on him for a few seconds longer. When she made eye contact with me I said,
“Call 911, please!”
She snapped out of it and reached for the phone. Once I heard her relaying the story I turned to the crowd of people getting up from the ground. They were all looking at me. I needed to find Sadie.
“Do any of you know how to handle a gun?”
A burly man near me raised his hand.
“Can you please take this and keep it on him until the cops get here? I’ve never used a gun and my wife is somewhere in here.”
“Yeah, sure man.”
He walked over and gave the man on the floor a hard look as he took the gun from me. He added the weapon to his stare and then looked back at me. His broad thin lipped frown reversed as he said,
“Nice work by the way. I thought you were nuts, but now I see it was for your wife’s safety. I’m glad this crackpot didn’t get away with this. I’ll make sure he doesn’t go anywhere, go ahead.”
“Thank you so much,” I said, and ran off to the back of the store.
“Sadie! Sadie, where are you?”
I heard no reply. I tore down one aisle after another until I heard some groaning in a voice familiar to me.
“Sadie! Are you alright? Have you been shot?”
She was lying on the ground in a pool of red. Was it blood? No. As I looked closer I could see that it was clear liquid showing through the red tiled floor beneath her.
“No, I think my water broke,” she said in a tiny voice. She looked up at me.
“Honey, it’s time.”
“Oh crap!” I said, and began to run off.
“I’m getting you a motorized cart!”
I sprinted to the front of the store, excited to finally have a reason to ride a motorized cart. I hopped on and gunned it back into the store towards my wife. I helped her get on and she steered it after me towards the parking lot.
As we were leaving the store the man with the gun yelled to me,
“Hey man, where are you going? The cops are going to want to talk to you!”
“Sorry, my wife’s water broke. We’re going to the hospital. Can you tell them to come find me there?”
His eyebrows shot up as he said, “yeah, alright. Go!” and waved his unarmed hand in the direction of the door.
We took his advice and were on the road in a matter of seconds. I drove like a machine down those streets, getting us to the hospital in 4 minutes flat. Yellow meant go, red meant go faster. I called them on the way, and so I was pleased to see a nurse with a wheel chair waiting for us as I squealed the car to a stop. The sound made the nurse jump.
“You know she’s going to be alright, you don’t have to ruin your tires. We’ll take care of her.”
“Thank you,” I said a bit embarrassed. Then I looked at my wife and gave her a kiss.
“Are you ready?” I said.
“I’ve been ready,” she said with a smile. “Are you kidding me? Get this baby out!”
We shared a laugh.
“OK, I’ll park the car and be right in.”
We kissed again and then the nurse helped her into the wheel chair and I pulled away to the closest parking spot. I locked the car and jogged back to the hospital.
“My wife was just admitted, her water broke?”
“Yes sir, congratulations.”
“OK, go through those doors, take a right, go down the hall until you find some elevators. Take one to the second floor and ask the station nurse up there, she’ll tell you which room your wife is in.”
“Thanks!” I said tapping the desk twice and speed walking to the elevators, which took so long to arrive that I almost took the stairs.
“Hello sir, how can I help you?”
“Ah yes, room 2002.” She pointed behind her, just down there.”
With another thank you I was on my way.
My wife was in a hospital gown ready to go. I stood by her side holding her hand as the baby came. It was miraculous. In a matter of moments my life was changed forever. I was a daddy. As I held her in my arms my gratitude for her and my wife and the whole world spilled onto my shirt. I can’t remember the last time I cried, other than that day. She was born three weeks early at 6 pounds 11 ounces, 18 inches long, but healthy as can be. She never had to visit the NICU. We were lucky.
My wife had been having contractions during the previous week, but had never progressed. We came to find out from the doctor that they helped the baby mature in mommy’s tummy. The doc also said that the excitement is probably what made my wife’s water break and caused her to go into labor. I was able to hold my daughter for quite a while before some policeman came to our room. They asked if they could buy me a cup of coffee at the cafeteria and get my account of what happened. I turned to my wife to ask her if she was OK with that, but she and the baby were already asleep. My daughter lay on her chest, her legs tucked under her like a frog. They both looked so peaceful that I didn’t want to wake them so I motioned that we go out into the hall.
We walked to the cafeteria and I relayed my whole story as I sipped coffee. Every time I gave them new information, the cop name Sam wrote in his notepad and his lower lip disappeared under his bushy mustache as he looked down to jot his notes. I wasn’t in trouble, they considered me a hero.
“You’re a brave man,” Sam said as I finished.
“Not usually, but thank you.”
“Well I guess we’ll do just about anything for those we love.”
“Yes sir,” I said.
They both stood, shook my hand, gave me their business cards, and left. I sat there for another minute looking out the cafeteria window finishing the last of my coffee. As I watched cars pass by on the street below I wondered at what a day it had been. The day she was born.
Evil Takes Flight
Jeff Klots put on his helmet before opening the gate to his parents’ yard. He knew the black nightmare would be coming for him as soon as its wicked ears heard him lift the latch. As the gate burst open it sprang from the trees and dove through the chill air; striking Jeff’s helmet with its beak and claws as he sprinted for the front door.
Just before he sprang up the three porch steps it pecked a small bite out of his neck. He shuffled inside, ran upstairs and grabbed a band-aid from the bathroom. He couldn’t see the wound on the back of his neck, so he had to feel for it to get the band-aid in the right place. Each time he touched it the sting grew worse. Once it was on he washed his hands, watching the water trickle into the drain, tinged with the cloudy red of his blood. He stormed into his room, slamming the door behind him.
His parents wouldn’t be home to make dinner for a while, so he decided to investigate his enemy before starting in on homework. He could have told his dad about the crow, but he wanted to take care of it himself; it had become a personal matter now. Lifting his zoom goggles to his eyes, he looked out of his window to the tree where the black devil lived. To his surprise he saw it in a nest with three baby birds. That must have been why she was dive bombing him; she was just protecting her babies. Then to his horror he saw the mama bird peck off one of her baby bird’s legs and swallow it whole.
Jeff dropped the goggles in disgust. “OK, now I know you’re evil you wicked birdie,” he said aloud to himself. He ran over to his desk and plopped down. Flicking on his tablet he surfed the web for laser guns. All of his friends had them; they stung like a bee, but did no permanent damage to your skin. He had heard, however, that you could buy kits to adjust their power. After some searching he found one pre-modified, and hit the purchase button. This had to go down tomorrow; so he paid extra for next day shipping. With his weapon on the way, he caught up on his favorite cartoon vidcasts while starting his homework.
When his parents asked him what happened to his neck, he told them a tree branch had caught him while messaging a friend on his tablet as he walked home from the bus stop. That night he tossed and turned for a good hour, unable to get the laser gun off his mind. He awoke the next morning from a dream of the crow pecking off his leg and swallowing it down whole like a snake. He took a quick shower to wash off the cold sweat and rushed off to school. He went through the day in a distracted daze; counting down the hours until he could get home and find the package waiting for him on the porch. When the final bell rang at the end of his last class he raced to his bus and sat impatiently for the big yellow hovercraft to pull away and fly him home. Once again he strapped on his helmet and made a rush for the front door.
The bird somehow knowing his head was protected went for his ear this time, and managed to rip off a small chunk. Jeff’s curse towards the winged beast was disrupted by a scream of joyful glee as he spotted a brown box on the porch. It was heavier than he was expecting, but he held it tight as he unlocked the door and ran inside. He flew up the stairs to his room; then dropped the box onto his bed and tore it open. Inside the battered brown box gleamed a large silver pistol complete with a mounted scope and energy level meter on the side. He picked it up, and walked over to the window. This was going to be too easy. The crow was a little over ten feet away, and he had a scope.
He opened the window and the flipped on the power to his new laser pistol. The meter filled up with green bars. He thought he would try it out first on a leaf hanging from the end of the longest branch. He lined up the shot and pulled the trigger. The gun pushed back in his little hands as a red laser exploded from its barrel. The leaf had been vaporized. He swung the gun over towards the bird, and there it was pecking away at its own children. This bird deserved to die. He held his breath to steady his aim, a trick he had learned from video games, and lined up the crosshairs right on the bird’s eye. He knew a shot to the chest would be easier, but he just had to tell his friends tomorrow that he landed a head shot on the crow. He blasted away. Just as the gun sounded the crow ducked down and the laser flew right past him; hitting one of the baby birds. A small plume of feathers replaced the tweeting birdie.
“Oh no!” Jeff said, turning from the window and dropping the gun. He put his head in his hands.
“That wasn’t supposed to happen,” he said to himself.
He looked out the window again. There was the bird pecking away at its last remaining baby; the one who’s leg she had already eaten. He lined up the shot again, and let fly. The bird ducked again, but the shot missed the baby bird as well. The mama bird crouched behind her baby, using it as a shield. Now Jeff couldn’t line a shot up from his bedroom window. He tried waiting it out, but the bird wouldn’t move. He was going to have to face the wretched beast outside.
He put on his helmet, raced downstairs, and grabbed an oven mitt from the kitchen. He put it on and held the gun in his other hand, striking a pose. Soon he was at the back door, hesitating to open it. He took a deep breath, counted to three, and then charged outside. He heard wings flap hard as soon as the door behind him slammed closed. It was coming right for him. Everything seemed to go into slow motion as he reached up with his mitten hand. He grasped the air until he managed to grab one of the crow’s legs. He dug his heels into the grass, lurching to a sudden stop, and slammed the bird down onto the ground. It pecked away at his hand with an evil madness. The mitten was keeping the beak from breaking the skin, but it still hurt like crazy. Jeff held it down and pressed the gun onto the bird’s chest.
“Die evil birdy!” he screamed as he pulled the trigger.
A cloud of singed black feathers filled the air around him. His hand was warm even through the mitten. The bird was finally dead. He didn’t feel sorry, not one bit. That bird was evil, doing those things to its own babies. Jeff looked to the tree. He could hear the last baby bird chirping away up in the nest. He raced over and jumped onto the bottom branch, swinging himself up. He climbed up a few more until he reached the nest. Inside was the little birdie; hopping around on one leg and chirping with a wild abandon.
“It’s OK little fella, it’s going to be ok,” Jeff said.
He picked up the entire nest and slipped it into the front pocket of his hoodie. It stayed inside the large pocket as he climbed back down the tree. After walking past the meager remains of the mother crow, he walked inside and went back up into his bedroom. The bird wouldn’t stop chirping, but Jeff didn’t have any food for the little guy. Then he got an idea. He rummaged through his backpack and got out a fresh bag of gummy worms.
“These are my favorite, I hope you like them. I know they’re not what you’re used to, but they’re real good,” Jeff said.
He fed the little bird a half yellow and half red worm as he ate a clear and green one. The bird stopped chirping and focused on eating.
“Tomorrow I’ll go to the fishing store and get you some real ones. Mommy says too much sugar is bad for you, and these worms are full of sugar, but you don’t have any teeth so I guess it’s all right.”
Jeff and the bird became close friends. He told his parents the whole story and they decided that he could keep the bird as a pet. They even went out and bought a cage for him. Best of all, Jeff never again had to fear the walk through the yard to the front door.
The Last Butterscotch
It had become routine for his mom, caring for newborn kittens. She had done it maybe a hundred times; which is why when Henry Jr. saw them in the barn, he counted them several times. Sure of the number he jogged into the house.
“Yes, what is it dear? Breakfast is almost ready.”
“No mom, you gotta come see.”
“Come see what dear?”
“Well, you said there were four kittens.”
“Well, I counted, and just to make sure, I counted like six times, but there’s five kittens mom!”
Melinda put down the jam smeared table knife, and followed her son to the door. On the way she wiped jelly from her fingers onto her apron; then picked up her pad and pencil. On it she had written a short description of each kitten, along with their weight and health status. To the left of each kitten’s weight she had left space for a name. Henry Jr. had just turned 12 and was now old enough to have a kitten of his own. If there was runt in the litter, or one that didn’t sell, it was his. Another perk to this honorarium was that he now had the privilege to name each kitten. As they left the house, the familiar smells of hay and cow manure filled the air. The sunlight bounced brightly off Melinda’s flower patterned shirt. She had to squint until inside the barn, where she squinted again in disbelief. There were five kittens.
“My word; in all my years. I just don’t see how there could have been another kitten in that mama’s belly.”
It was strange enough that there was an extra kitten, but he looked exactly like one of the others who had been accounted for. Beyond that, this duplicate kitten had been sitting apart from the others, as if watching them. As soon as Melinda had come into the barn, he scurried over to join the rest of the pack at the mama kitten’s side. She couldn’t be sure, but thought it had looked like that kitten’s eyes were open when they came in. Had it been watching the others? No newborn kitten can open its eyes.
“How come he was sitting apart from the others over there mama?”
“I don’t know child, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
She walked over and picked up the little guy. To be sure, it was an exact replica. Every stripe, each accented paw, matched another kitten. To her amazement the cats even weighed the same. While she had the chance to know them apart, she marked a claw off the new addition with a black marker from her apron pocket.
“Well, you’re going to have to come up with another name now. What are you going to name them all Henry?”
“Oh, that’s easy mom.”
He rummaged in his pocket, and pulled out a small creamy orange disk wrapped in clear plastic.
“I’m going to name them all Butterscotch, after my favorite candy.”
He pulled off the wrapper, stuffed it back in his pocket, and popped the candy into his mouth.
“They’re the same color,” he said, his tongue dancing around the candy to form his words.
“Yes they are Henry. You’re going to name all of them Butterscotch?”
“Well, that’s your choice. They’ll all be given different names when they go home with families anyway. Alright, I’ll mark down Butterscotch for all of them.”
She wrote down the names, put her pad back into her pocket, and they headed back to the house for lunch. The fifth Butterscotch scurried away from the other kittens as they shut the door. Then he opened his eyes.
Papa came in from milking the cows to join his family for lunch. They passed around the sandwiches and piled them onto their plates.
“Thanks dear, this will really hit the spot.” Henry said.
“They’re just sandwiches Henry.”
“Henry Jr., doesn’t your mama make the best sandwiches this side of the state?”
With his mouth full of peanut butter and jelly, Henry Jr. replied, “oh yeah papa, even better than Mrs. Jennings at the dinner in town.”
“Well, thank you. I like to keep my hard working boys well fed.”
“So Henry, Mama was telling me you got to name the kittens today.”
“Yeah, I named them all butterscotch, because they’re all the same color as my favorite candy.”
“Is that so?” his father said with a chuckle.
“Well son, are there any runts among them?”
“No papa, they’re all a good size.”
“Well, maybe in the next litter son.”
“Yeah, I was really hoping there would be a little guy in this litter.”
“I don’t know,” Melinda said, “he might be getting one this time around.”
“You talking about that late bloomer honey?”
“Yeah, there’s something strange about that kitten; something not right with it.”
“Nonsense,” Henry said with a laugh.
“No, I’m serious. It’s like it came from somewhere else. I swear I saw it watching the others when we first came into the barn.”
“With its eyes open? A newborn kitten?”
Henry laughed again, but this time it was no chuckle. He sounded like a pig with a freshly filled trough. Melinda took another bite of sandwich and nodded; no smile creased her face. Henry took one look at her, and his chortles died off.
As the weeks went by, the extra kitten showed some very odd behavior. He looked just fine, healthy and gaining weight; but he was always the exact same weight as his twin. Also, he could never be found feeding; it was a mystery to Malinda just how he gained this weight. But what bothered her the most was the very thing her husband had laughed at, the morning the kitten had been discovered. She had snuck into the barn a couple times and seen the kitten with its eyes open. Both times he was standing apart from the others, like he was observing them or something. It gave her the creeps.
Her son had taken a liking to the little guy. Henry Jr.’s love for the tiny cat grew as he and his siblings came of age to be sold. They were given nine weeks, and then visitors came to take them away and give them homes. Time and time again the last Butterscotch had not been chosen. It made Henry Jr. feel sorry for him. He held high hopes that maybe his mom had been right.
When people came to see the kittens they were all cute and cuddly; all except number five. He would hide in the corner, or duck under the mama cat. When a child would try and pick him up; he would run away until corned, and then become hostile. It scared the kids and their parents. As much as Henry Jr. had hoped no one would buy the little guy, his mom prayed daily that it would find another home.
When all but two of the kittens had been sold, a little boy had come with his mother to pick one out. Number five was nearest to him when they came in, but when he reached for the kitten it ran from him. He chased it to the corner, but stopped when it faced him with its hair standing on end. He saw the other cat near its mother, and went to it. This kitten was happy to be in his arms, and when he put him down the cat walked around the boy; brushing up against his sky blue jeans and purring with affection.
“I like this one mommy, that other one is weird,” the boy said.
“Alright child; no need to be rude. Pick him up and carry him to the truck then.”
“Ok! Thanks mommy!”
“That’s fine.” She turned to Melinda as she reached in her purse, “we’ll take that one then please.”
As Melinda made change the woman looked at the other kitten, still cowering in the corner. She gave it an odd look, and then realized Melinda was holding out her change. She turned and smiled as she took it.
“Thank you,” she said.
Melinda smiled back, but after the woman left her lips switched to a frown. Her gaze hovered over to the last kitten; sitting in the corner watching everyone with a keen intelligence. Those eyes did not belong inside of a kitten. She turned away, about to leave, when she heard,
“I don’t think you’re weird, I like you.”
She looked back to see her son with the kitten in his arms. Somehow it never ran from him. He looked to her, and said, “Can I keep him mama? No one else is going to buy him.”
She looked down and let out a big sigh. “I suppose so darling. Maybe you can give that kitten enough love to start acting normal.”
Henry Jr. and the kitten got along just swell. After a few days of holding and feeding the kitten, he began to follow Henry Jr. around wherever he went. While he did his chores, the kitten was totally content to just lie nearby and watch him work. While he ate his meals it would wrap around his legs, caressing his boots with an outstretched back until lying near his feet. This night it lay curled up in a ball next to him, purring softly. Henry Jr. lay in bed under the covers, reading a science fiction magazine with a flashlight. He had become the best of friends with the kitten, even though he had notice some strange behavior from time to time. It always seemed that unless he noticed you watching, the kitten would be studying you. At other times it was as if he was listening to conversations. After finishing a story about a kid who had found an alien ship under some hay in the loft of his daddy’s barn, he tucked the magazine under his pillow and called it a night. Soon his tiny snoring sounds became a harmony to the kitten’s soft purring.
Later that night, Henry Jr. woke up.
“I must of had one too many glasses of water,” he said.
As he pulled his covers off and sat up, he noticed his cat Butterscotch was not laying next to him.
“Butterscotch? Where are you boy?”
He called in one of those whispering yells, but didn’t see the cat anywhere. Unable to ignore nature’s call, he got up and made his way to the bathroom. Just as he reached to open the door, he looked down the hall and saw blue flickering light dancing across the plastered walls. Nature could wait; he wanted to see why papa was up. Something must have been worrying Henry Sr., his dad was always to bed early on account of getting up to work the farm.
“Papa? Why are you up? Is everything alright?”
When the recliner failed to swivel, he walked through the hall into the living room and saw his cat asleep on the couch next to the television remote.
“Butterscotch? What are you doing in here? Where you keeping papa company?”
He scratched the cat behind the ears, and it immediately jumped up and walked back to the bedroom. Henry Jr. noticed that his cat had not stretched before getting off the couch. One more thing that didn’t seem right about the little fellah. It was always something small, but it was always something.
A yawn reminded him he had better do his business and get back to sleep, so he went into the bathroom and then back to bed. Butterscotch was there, curled into a ball ready to join him in dreamland. He climbed into bed and pulled the covers up over his legs. He stroked Butterscotch a few times from head to tail. It always amused him to see the way cats stretched their bodies upwards to feel the touch your hand. Soon the cat was laying back down purring. As Henry Jr. slowly fell back asleep, in the back of his mind barely noticed that even the cat’s purring sound was a bit off. He had been around cats all his life, but never had he heard a purr like this. He hoped nothing was wrong with the little guy. It sounded a bit too high pitched, more like a clicking than a purr. He yawned again and let his mind drift from concern to excitement for the next morning. It would be Saturday, and that meant he got to sleep in a bit, and watch television before having to go out and do his chores. He hoped mama would be making hotcakes, they were his favorite. Before long he was asleep, dreaming of fluffy golden brown stacks covered in thick crunchy peanut butter and rich maple syrup. His plate held a pile so high, it almost reached the ceiling as its syrup coated sides glistened in the sunlight streaking in through the windows.
He woke up and started to reach for his boots when he remembered it was Saturday. He could stay in his pajamas until after he was finished with his breakfast. He slid out of bed and walked into the living room. He turned on the television set and waited for his favorite show, Howdy Doody, to come on. As he watched it his mom made her way out to the kitchen and started making breakfast. Before long he could smell that it was his favorite. Now that he thought about it, she made it for him just about every Saturday morning. She was practiced at it too, because just as his show was ending she called to him,
“Breakfast is ready Henry. Will you go and get your father and let him know?” Apparently it had become a weekly tradition, because just as he came back into the living room with his boots over his pajamas, his dad came in the front door.
“Son, what are you doing wearing your boots over the top of your pjs?”
“I was coming to get you papa.”
“Well take your boots off buddy, you look silly.”
“Yes sir!” Henry Jr. said with a salute.
“Let me guess, The Howdy Doody Show was just on?”
“Yeah dad, it’s my favorite, just like mom’s hotcakes!”
“She does make some good hotcakes, doesn’t she?”
His dad ruffled his hair as he walked to the table and took his place. Henry Jr. joined him.
“Mmm, it smells good. Thanks for making hot cakes mama.”
“Well, it’s my pleasure Henry Jr. You’re a good boy, and a hard worker. You deserve to sleep in a little, watch some television, and have some hotcakes on Saturday morning. You won’t be a little boy forever,” she said glaring at Henry Sr. who ignored her.
“It won’t be much longer that I can baby you.”
She walked over, pulled him close, and gave him a kiss on the head. Then she sat down and looked at the two boys.
“Now who’s saying grace?”
They bowed their heads, papa said a few words, and then they got to eating.
Everyone made short stacks of golden brown hotcakes and covered them with butter
and syrup. They passed a glass pitcher with ice cold mild around, filling their
glasses and digging in with forks of fury. After the initial chow down, they began talking about the days work.
“Henry honey, why don’t you go muck out the stables after breakfast, and then
you can groom and feed the horses.”
“OK mama,” Henry said.
As much as mucking out the stables sounded like the worst job on the farm, Henry Jr. didn’t mind the smell so much; he had grown up around it all his life. Besides that, the best part came after the dirty work was done. He loved brushing down the horses, talking to them as he ran bristles through their hair. He loved the way their soft noses felt under his calloused working hands. The horses like him too, mama always said they were more at ease after he had taken his time to groom and feed them. The only bad thing about doing this job now, was that Butterscotch couldn’t come with him. While the cat was at his side day and night, it was a little too dangerous and messy to be underneath the horses while Henry worked. So he left his cat on the couch after he got dressed, and headed out to the stables. Time always flew by once the hard part was over. Henry had always thought horses made great company with their beautiful hair and kind eyes.
He finished a bit early and headed in to get washed up before lunch. On the way back to the house he decided that he was a spy; so he would have to sneak into the house undetected by the enemy. His enemy would be expecting him, so he went around to the back of the house. He opened the door slowly, doing his best to quiet the creaks and groans its hinges made. Once inside with the door closed behind him and no enemy detection, he crept low towards the main control room. That’s when he noticed that the television was on, which was odd, because he knew his parents were still out working. He had turned it off before going out to work in the stables. Then he noticed that the channel had been changed. It was on the news, not the same channel that Howdy Doody was on. He figured it must have been his dad, but there’s no way his dad would have taken a break from working to stop into the house and watch the news. His parents were nothing, if not predictable. He moved farther into the living room and noticed that the remote control was no longer on the coffee table. Then he heard that strange clicking, almost like the sound of a cat’s purr. But it was a cat’s purr, his cat’s purr. And right there underneath Butterscotch’s paw, was the television remote. Apparently he had fallen asleep. Had he accidentally pressed one of the buttons? But how could he have gotten it from the coffee table? His dad must have been using it, but he was sure his dad always turned the television off. Butterscotch must have accidentally turned it back on with the remote under his paw after his dad had changed it to the news. He grabbed the remote, waking the cat. He sat next to him, changing it back to the kid shows, and watched the rest of them until his parents came in for lunch. His mom came in first to get a start on making lunch. He would have asked his mom if his dad had come in to watch the news, but he knew she was already really creeped out by his cat. He didn’t want her to become even more scared of Butterscotch; so he waited for his daddy to come in. Soon his pa was inside as well, and as his mama went in to freshen up, he asked him,
“Hey papa, did you watch the news earlier this morning?”
“No boy, why do you ask?”
“Well, it’s kind of funny; when I came in after doing my chores, the television set was on. Not only that, but the remote had been moved to the couch, which I found underneath my cat’s paw, and the channel had been changed to the news station.”
“Well, that’s mighty peculiar, ain’t it?. Don’t tell your mama.”
“I know, it’s almost like the cat got it from the coffee table and changed the channel.”
“He was asleep when you came in?”
“Yeah, with the remote right under his paw.”
“Well, it wasn’t me son, I don’t know what to tell you. You sure you didn’t leave the remote on the couch, maybe he bumped a button?”
“No, I’m sure papa. I turned the television set off, and put the remote in its spot just like you tell me to.”
“Well, let’s just forget about the whole thing and try and enjoy our lunch.”
Henry Jr. let it go, but it was in the back of his mind grinding away all day as he played in the sun that afternoon. That night after dinner they played a game of three handed spades and then hit the hay. Henry Jr. was excited to read the next story in his science fiction magazine, but he was still a little spooked over the whole TV situation before lunch. Also he was warn out from mucking out the stables and bucking all the hay to feed the horses. Before he knew it, he had drifted off into a deep sleep.
Once again, he woke up in the middle of the night, thankful that his body did this instead of wetting the bed like he used to. A large yawn fell out of his mouth as he pulled the covers away from his body. Once more, he noticed that Butterscotch was no longer lying next to him. He did not like this. He wanted to just go back to sleep. He didn’t want to face the house outside of his bedroom in the dark. Mother nature refused him travel back to dream land, however, so he got out of bed and walked to the bathroom. Just as the night before, he saw a flicker of blue light bouncing down the hallway from the living room. Immediately a picture of his cat sitting there on the couch, changing the channel, rushed into his mind. He didn’t know what he was going to find in the living room, but he guessed it would scare him, so he decided to go take care of business before making the trek.
He managed to open the bathroom door without a sound. He kept it open as he walked inside, just in case its hinges would sing on the way out. As he took care of business, the light outside flashing against the walls mocked him. He hoped this would be a sliver of respite from the horror he would soon face, but it was no break at all. His heart kept pounding faster in his chest. His job done, he crept silently back into the hallway. He didn’t look down towards the living room yet, but back inside his bedroom. He could just go back to sleep and pretend that this had never happened. Maybe it was those story magazines that had peaked his interest, but he just had to find out what was going on in his living room. He forced himself to turn, and placing one foot reluctantly in front of the other, made his way down the hall at the pace of a tortoise. He knew it wasn’t his papa, the man never would be up late watching television. He worked too hard all day and woke up too early to be doing anything but sleeping at this hour. He had heard all kinds of stories from mama of how hard of a sleeper his daddy was. Sometimes when something spooked her, it was all she could do to get him to wake up and go check it out. Nope, whoever it was, it was not papa.
He reached the end of the wall, then stopped and ducked down to crawl towards the back of the couch. He could hear the clicking of the television remote before the channel would change. Fearing the worst, he prepared himself to see his little cat Butterscotch changing the channels as he rose above the back of the couch; but a small orange kitten is not what Henry Jr. saw as his eyes peered over the cushion.
Instead, there was a small bald green gangly man with a too large head; holding the remote beneath him. Henry Jr. tried very hard to suppress it, but a small scream of terror jumped past his lips before he could stop it. The little man spun, and seeing Henry Jr. let out a small sound of his own as he jumped back almost falling off of the couch. Henry Jr. snapped out of fear’s ice cold grip and ran down the hallway like a disturbed nest of hornets was after him. He lunged into his room, slammed the door, and leaned against it so the creature couldn’t fallow him in. He had heard a shuffle on the couch as he bolted down the hallway, and then just before he closed the door, footsteps following after him. He heard those same footsteps now approaching his bedroom. They stopped right on the other side of his door. He didn’t want to keep leaning against it; he wanted to push off like an Olympic swimmer, and dive out of his bedroom window. He could run to Pa’s truck and just drive until day light. But if he stopped holding his weight against the door, then the creature could come in. He tried to catch his breath and calm down. He heard slow measured breaths on the other side. He stood there leaning, in a terrible conflict to run, for what seemed like an eternity, and then he heard a strange small voice. It sounded like three voices, speaking at the same time in different languages; English coming out louder than the others.
“Henry, it’s me, your cat Butterscotch.”
Henry didn’t reply, he was too scared to speak. The voice continued.
“I’m so sorry I scared you like that, I never meant for you to see me like this; in my true form.”
Henry Jr. found his voice.
“True form, what are you talking about?”
“Some of those stories in your magazines aren’t too far from the truth Henry. I am from another planet my friend.”
“You’re an alien? I knew it!”
“Yes. I am, as you say, an alien to this planet.”
“Well, what are you doing here, and why did you act like you were a cat?”
“I was sent here to study your planet. I needed to find out if your kind are peaceful, and how advanced your technology is.”
“I was selected as part of a group to go out to all the planets where we have found signals of life forms; to see if they pose any threat to our way of life. Even if your people had proved hostile, you would not have posed a threat to us anytime soon. It will be some time before your kind is able to produce the vessels which can perform space travel to distant solar systems. Though I have witnessed much hostility against one another among you, it seems that many of you are peaceful lifeforms. Your family certainly is.”
“Guy, this is going to be one wild story to tell the guys back when school starts again.”
“You must promise me to never tell anyone of this; I can only be your cat Butterscotch. I was going to stay on your planet until the average life span of my false feline frame had passed, but now I can leave and go back to my home to report my findings. I have grown fond of you and your family, and I am very glad that I will be able to report that this planet forms no threat to our way of life anytime soon.”
“So, if I let you in, you’re not going to hurt me or anything, right?”
Talking to the creature had decreased Henry Jr.‘s nerves, and now his curiosity at seeing the little man up close was getting the best of him.”
“As I have told you, I like you and your family. You have shown me nothing but love and compassion.”
“Well, yeah, but that’s because I thought you were my little kitten, not some alien!”
“If you let me into your room, I will not hurt you. I am your friend Henry.”
“Well, OK. I guess you wouldn’t know my name unless you really are Butterscotch. I always wanted to meet a real alien. Do you have a space ship and everything?”
“Yes, it is behind your parents’ barn.”
Henry Jr. slowly opened his door, and then stopped while just a bit of it stood ajar. His eyes traced the alien’s form, standing right outside of his bedroom. He took a deep breath, and then swung the door open.
“Thank you Henry.”
Butterscotch walked inside and closed the door behind him.
“I did not want your parents to discover me; your mother is already very suspicious of me. She is always trying to sneak up on me and catch me doing something. Night is the only time I have been able to roam around the house freely. It takes a lot of concentration holding the form of a feline.”
“My apologies. Feline is just a fancy word for cat.”
“How come your voice sounds so funny?”
“On my home planet, we usually speak in three voices at a time. It is hard for me to speak in only one, so I just try and make my other two voices quiet while we communicate.”
“How can you speak in three voices at once?”
“That is not important, I must go now Henry so I can report back home.”
Henry Jr.‘s eyes began to glisten with warm tears.
“So I guess I won’t have a little kitty cat anymore.”
“I am sorry. I know how much you have wanted a kitten.”
He wiped away the first tear that had made it past an eyelid and slid down his cheek. He was tougher than this, he was talking to an alien after all!
“That’s OK. I always knew there was something wrong with you. Your purring never did sound right, and you acted like no other cat I’ve ever seen; and I’ve seen a lot of them. You really scare my mom.”
“Yes, I know. I am sorry for that. Now that I’ll be gone, she will not have to be frightened of me anymore. I hope that it will not make you too sad that I am leaving you now that you know I am not really a cat.”
“Yeah, I guess not. The butterscotch I know doesn’t really exist does he?”
“No, he does not. I am sorry that I was forced to deceive you, but now you can see why I could not be seen in this form. I did not want to simply hide and observe from afar. I wanted to blend in so I could hear all of your conversations, and discover what your lives are really like.”
“Yeah, I could see why you would want to do that.”
“Well, I must be going now.”
“You have to go right now?”
“Yes. I must fly my craft away from this planet, while it is still night time, so that there is less chance anyone will see it as I depart.”
“Could I see you just one more time as Butterscotch, you know, to say goodbye?”
“It would be the least I could do to repay you for your kindness to me.”
In less than a second, the green man had morphed into little old butterscotch. He purred and rubbed his back up against Henry’s pant legs until his tail brushed past. Henry bent down and stroked him a good many times from head to toe as full tears began to fall from his young eyes. He picked him up and gave him a long hug. He put him down, scratched him behind his ears, and then opened the window for him. The cat brushed one more time up against Henry, and then leapt for the window sill and jumped down. Henry walked to the open air and watched his friend walk casually towards the barn as if to try his paw at catching some mice. When the cat got to the front of the barn he stopped and looked back to Henry, then disappeared behind its red walls. Before long Henry Jr. saw a light begin to glow behind the barn. As he watched, a massive egg shaped spacecraft rose up above him. Its hovering form covered about half of the barn with its width. Henry rubbed his eyes, ‘this had better not be a dream,’ he thought. He pinched himself, it hurt. This was no dream.
The craft sat there for a while hovering, making no noise whatsoever. Then just as fast as you can say, pig slop, it flew off into the night sky. As it shot up it left a quick zipper sound behind. Before long it looked like just another star hanging in the great fabric of the speckled night sky.
“Wow!” Henry said to himself.
He watched until the light blinked out, and then closed the window and got back into bed. He lay there, unable to wrap his mind around what he had just witnessed. It was just so amazing. He tried to sleep, but he was just too excited. He was still really sad about losing Butterscotch as his kitty cat, but he knew it wasn’t really the cat he had come to love. He couldn’t stay too sad, he did get to see a real alien space ship after all. It was a bitter sweet goodbye. Eventually Henry Jr. fell asleep; as he dreamed a small smile remained on his face.
It took until midway through breakfast until his parents notice that Butterscotch wasn’t napping under Henry’s feet.
“Where is that cat of yours sweetie? You’ve been awful quiet this morning; is everything alright?” Melinda said.
“I don’t know where he, I think he might have run away.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that son,” Henry Sr. said. “I’ll tell you what, as soon as we’re done with breakfast here we’ll get in my truck and go look for him; alright?”
“OK,” Henry Jr. said. He couldn’t help but notice the small look of relief on his mama’s face when she had heard that Butterscotch might be gone. They all hurried to finish breakfast, and then the two walked out to the truck. As the engine started up, Henry Jr. looked to the barn, wishing he could see the ship floating above it one last time. Even though Butterscotch had turned out to be an alien, Henry Jr. still dearly missed him. Pa shifted it into gear, and they checked out all the placed around the farm where the cat might have gone to. When they couldn’t find him, they cruised out onto the road and headed each way as far as Pa figured a cat could get overnight. The cat was nowhere on the road. Pa turned around and headed for home.
“I sure am sorry son. I don’t know why he would just run off like that; he seemed to like you a great deal.”
“It’s OK Papa,” Henry Jr. said. He kept his eyes in the sky as they drove over the rough road, while the sun peaked over the tall hills in the distance. After they parked the truck, while they were walking back to the house, they heard a noise coming from the barn. It was the sound of a cow bell, Mama had tied to hang down low for the kittens to play with. Butterscotch had never played with it.
“Now what in tarnation is that?” Pa said as they changed their path to the barn. He swung the barn door open, and there inside was a little kitten playing with the cow bell.’
“Well what do you know? After driving over all that, we missed him right here in this barn! He must have come in here after we searched the place.”
Henry Jr. rushed into the barn. He could tell right away that it wasn’t Butterscotch. The little cat looked just about the same, but it moved differently. It moved like a cat; a real cat. He stroked it behind its ears. It pressed its head into Henry Jr.‘s hand, and began to purr. The purr was different too, it was normal. As Henry Jr. picked up the little guy, he thought it was a purr he could get used to. He knew who the cat was from; how else could the cat have come here, when their nearest neighbor was over ten miles away?
“You ready to go tell Mama that we found him?”
“Sure Papa. Let’s go!”
Henry and Melinda would never know that this wasn’t the same Butterscotch. As he followed his Pa back to the house, he turned back to look at the barn. Just then he saw a large black egg shaped craft, turning white, above the barn. Then it flew off into the blew sky and was gone just like that. Henry Sr. turned back at the sound of the space ship ripping through the air as it left.
“What was that son? You unzipping your coat?”
Henry Jr. unzipped his coat in a flash and then turned to face his father.
“Uh, yeah Papa. I was just going to let Butterscotch warm up a bit in my jacket.”
He put the cat in his coat, so just its little head stuck out from his chest, and followed his dad inside.
About the Author
Dan first started writing stories in elementary school, where he and a friend would skip lunch and recess once a month to eat in the library while hearing all about the new books on the shelves. His love for reading, as with visual art and music, has now extended into creating his own fiction. He is also a huge fan of podcasting, and all of his stories are available for free in audio. He works as a digital artist and lives in Washington State with his beautiful family of six.
Thank you for reading my Halloween short story anthology! For more about me check out my website where I blog about my writing journey, write and podcast book reviews, and have links to many more free stories both in eBook and audio book formats:
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SHORT STORIES This little anthology contains eight short stories to thrill you as you sit and wait for trick or treaters to come to your door. Here is a brief preview of what’s to come: 1| A Dark Climb - A new kid in town discovering just how real the local ghost story is when he's dared to climb up an old creepy tower that sits behind a mansion. 2| The House Sitter – What happens when you’re house sitting in a big creepy mansion on Halloween night and those noises you keep hearing turn out to be more than your imagination? 3| The Staring Stranger - Riding the subway in New York can be a bit creepy, especially when a particularly creepy bum always has his eye on you. 4| Stuffed Monster - It's hard enough being the ugly stuffed monster in the claw machine, but when you're finally taken to a loving home it seems like all is well... until the cat gets you. 5| The Forest Trail - Nolan has to go back alone from the camping party to get matches. The forest trail back is creepy when you're alone, but then Nolan literally runs into someone. Maybe being alone wasn't so bad after all... 6| The Day She Was Born - While waiting in the care a husband sees an armed man enter the store his pregnant wife is shopping in. He gets out of the car to save her... 7| Evil Takes Flight - Every time Jeff comes home from school he gets attacked by an evil crow. He decides to do something about it. All he needs is a weapon that will do the job... 8| The Last Butterscotch - An extra kitten mysteriously shows up in the barn when the family was away. It acts like no other cat they've seen before. Where did this cat come from and why does it seem like it's always watching them?