What the Cat Dragged In
Sitting in the den sipping coffee while watching Good Morning America, Frank’s fat cat, Van Helsing, stopped at his chair with something ugly dangling from his teeth. Putting down the cup, he looked at the thing with a measure of trepidation. Whatever his mouser had found in the basement or the fenced backyard was not like anything he had ever seen before. Van Helsing plopped the critter down on the carpet, let out a strange whimpering sound, and then disappeared into the kitchen. This was very unusual. In the past, the orange feline had always waited for a pat on the head and a little catnip to acknowledge his incredible accomplishment.
Peering down at the unidentified varmint, Frank noticed a splotch of blood on the beige carpet. The pile of gray thing, which lay at the corner of his right shoe, was missing clumps of fur along the underside of its torso and had a deep gouge in its throat. Its beady eyes seemed fixed on him, and he could see sharp little teeth protruding from its open mouth.
“What an ugly animal,” he thought as he got up from his comfortable chair and headed to the kitchen for soap and a wet rag. When he turned the corner, he found Van Helsing lying on his side on the ceramic tile floor. The cat’s open, glassy eyes told him he was dead.
A pang of deep sorrow fell over Frank as he thought how devastated his wife, Pam, would be when she returned from the mall. Reaching down, he turned his pet over. To his surprise, he found a large gaping hole in Van Helsing’s underbelly. A portion of his innards protruded from the newly acquired orifice. “What on earth had done this?” he thought. “Could it have been the thing Van Helsing dragged in?” He returned to the den for a closer look.
Turning the corner of the sofa, he noticed the splotch of blood on the carpet was all that remained of the gray thing. Startled for a moment by its unexpected disappearance, Frank regained his composure and started searching for the animal that had probably killed his cat. After methodically inspecting the large sectional, he got down on his hands and knees and eyeballed the spaces on and around the media cabinet and other furniture. Finding nothing, he continued the search in every room on the first and second floor. Again, with no results. Could it have gone through the pass-through in the kitchen into the backyard?
He went into the laundry room and removed a big black garbage bag from the top of the refrigerator. Returning to the kitchen, he planned to use it to carry Van Helsing out back for burial under the old apple tree. To his shock and dismay, all that remained of his cat was a trail of blood across the white ceramic tile leading to the open door of the basement.
“This is too weird,” he thought. When he’d come to the kitchen before, he’d noticed the door to the basement closed. That’s why he hadn’t searched downstairs.
Walking to the gaping doorway, he peered into the blackness below. Turning on the light, Frank saw a trace of blood on almost every tread.
His heartbeat began to accelerate as he pondered his next move. He had a bad feeling about going to the basement after the weirdness that had just transpired, so he decided to wait for Pam so they could go down together.
Returning to the den, he took a swallow of his cold coffee. The TV was still on, and a newscaster was babbling about the state of the economy. Suddenly the screen changed to a picture of a little gray monster, pacing back and forth in a cage, just like the one Van Helsing had dragged into the house.
The news reporters returned to the screen at the news desk and the anchor said, “At three a.m. this morning, during a strange meteor shower, creatures like the one you see in the cage materialized in large quantities across the eastern seaboard. Reports from all over the East Coast and some of the southern states indicate these creatures are deadly to household pets, and, in several instances, have attacked humans. Although small in size, their sharp teeth are capable of stripping an arm or a leg from its flesh like a school of piranha in minutes. If you come upon one of these creatures, call 911 immediately, and isolate yourself in a locked room. Eye witnesses have reported that the alien species can climb walls with their claws and open doors with their teeth.”
He heard the garage door opening at the front of the house. Thank God, Pam was home. He ran to the kitchen, opened a kitchen drawer, and extracted the largest butcher knife he could find. Pam was fantastic at handling stress. She’d know what to do. He took a seat in the breakfast nook and waited for his wife to join him in the kitchen.
Minutes passed, and the house was as silent as a tomb. He stared at the laundry room door waiting for Pam to appear.
More minutes passed. “Something was wrong,” he thought, wringing his hands. His face was wet with sweat. Pam had come home that was certain, but what was she doing in the garage for so long?
He bounded through the laundry room and opened the door to the garage. One glimpse of his wife’s denuded arm on the bloody cement floor hammered home the reality that life, as he knew it, would never be the same again. Half of Pam’s face had already been eaten away, and several of the gray things were slithering inside the hole in her chest cavity.
Turning away from the horror, Frank ran into the kitchen and slammed the door. A high wail emanated from his throat. His face felt like it was on fire as he thrashed about the room, scratching his arms and pounding his fist on the refrigerator.
A piercing sound screeched from the TV in the den. Darting into the room, he saw the news commentator and his co-anchor slumped across the news desk with an army of the little demons feasting on their bodies on the live telecast.
He heard the pitter-patter of what sounded like dwarfs running across the front porch. The front door squeaked opened. A little gray thing hanging by its teeth on the doorjamb glared at him with its beady, evil eyes. A hundred small bundles of fur darted inside skittering across the tile toward him. The pain was unbearable as the creatures swarmed his ankles and started gnawing ferociously. Within seconds, he felt himself getting shorter as his legs sunk into his shoes, and he started to topple.
Slumping against the kitchen counter and screaming like a madman, he desperately sliced across his throat with the large butcher knife he’d been holding. Once, twice, three times he slashed at his Adam’s apple with little or no consequence as his calves melted into a bloody pulp from the frenzy of razor-sharp, ravaging teeth.
“Fuck!” he shrieked. “This is the knife Pam said needed sharpening last Thanksgiving.”
This story is found in Shivers and Other Nightmares
and In Your Face Horror
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