The cat had wandered into her yard again. She had tried everything — coffee grounds, citrus peels, cayenne pepper, even moth balls. A spray bottle was no deterrent, and neither was the hose. Even her dog was no match for the mangy thing, and he now had a gash on his nose to prove it.
Every time she stepped outside, every time she came home, her eyes began to itch, her nose began to drain, and her anger began to swell.
Through her window, she watched as the cat sprayed her flowerbeds, soaking them in ammonia-scented urine. She thought of the hard work she’d put into planting those flowers, of the hard-earned money she’d spent to make her house a home, and of the excruciating back ache the next day.
She was done.
She bolted into the garage and grabbed her son’s BB gun, a gift from her ex-husband despite her insistence against it. She barrelled out the front door and met the cat right at the front stoop. It froze at the sight of her — nostrils flared, flyaways escaping from her ponytail.
For a second, as their eyes connected, she had second thoughts. But then the cat lifted its leg and sprayed the front step.
A loud POP. A louder screech. A trail of blood drops. Likely not enough to have killed it, but enough that the cat was gone and likely for good.
Her lips hardened into a line. She didn’t like resorting to violence, but it had left her no choice. She walked back inside and replaced the BB gun in the garage.
That night, long after her children were tucked into bed, she sat in a rocking chair by the window, as she often did when fighting insomnia. Normally she read, but tonight she felt distracted. Her gaze drifted out onto the dark lawn. The street lamp was out, and had been for weeks, despite her calls to the city and electric company.
So when she saw the two red slits appear in the blackness, she was confused. And then another set appeared. And finally a third. A low rumble sounded, at first nearly imperceptible, growing, deepening, finally working its way into her eardrums where it settled and reverberated in the space between her lungs.
Her eyes adjusted to the dark just enough to make out horns, fur, black pupils in a red sea. The creatures clawed the ground, paced back and forth, but did not approach, as if held back by an invisible line.
And then they saw her, and the rumble exploded into a shrieking growl. She scrambled away from the window and dove beneath the covers, shivering so hard that the bed creaked. A million thoughts ran through her mind, too fast for her to comprehend any of them save one: she would add cat food to her grocery list in the morning.
© 2013 Elizabeth Ditty