THUMP. THUMP. THUMP.
Who dares disturb my slumber?
Get up and stretch slowly, deliberately, flexing so that my claws scrape the wooden floor. My sunbeam has vanished. The awful thumping continues. Shuffling and the clacking of those feet-guards with blocks in the back join the thumps.
"MrrrrrrrAIIIIOOOOO," I call to the Giver of Chicken, in case she hasn't heard the racket outside. Visitors approaching.
"Thank you, Nightshade," the Giver of Chicken croaks, stoops lightly down the rickety wooden stairs from the second floor. She stoops to scratch my ears. Awwwww yesssss. Lean into her gnarled hand. That's it, right there. "I'll just be in the cellar. Be sure to give our guests a nice welcome, won't you?"
She cackles as she rounds corner and descends earthen stairs to cellar.
"Did you hear that?!" a cracking male voice outside demands.
"Just your imagination, egghead," a deeper male voice responds.
A groan follows, along with grating high-pitched laughter.
"That's right, Chad," an annoying female voice sneers. "Show him who's boss."
"Open the door, Melvin," Deep Voice orders. I stretch out in shadows at bottom of stairs leading up. The better to ambush them, if they make it in.
"Guys, this is a terrible idea," Cracking Voice objects.
"No, screwing us over on that math test was a terrible idea. Now you pay the price."
"You tell him!" Grating Voice squeaks.
Floor outside of door creaks and groans under the visitors. Shuffling approaches door. Round door-opener-device twists slightly, creaking in protest. The Giver of Chicken never uses this door. It has a mind of its own.
"What's the matter with you? Those scrawny little arms too weak to manage a stupid doorknob?" Deep Voice taunts.
"It's stuck!" Cracking Voice answers.
THUMP THUMP THUMP. WHAM!
The door flies open, hits wall. Yikes. Don't move. Three sets of shoes and legs break up waning evening light spilling through doorway.
"See? That wasn't so hard." Blinding white athletic shoes create small earthquakes as one with deep voice enters. If he steps on me, I die.
"Come on, Melvin!" Grating Voice belongs to glossy brown boots and creates sickening waft of floral poison as she shoves third one, who trembles and reeks of fear, inside. She shuts door behind them, shrouding all of us in shadows. The better to scare them with.
"Where should we take him, Chloe?" Earthquake Feet asks.
"It's a big house. Plenty of options. Why don't we explore them all and then decide?" Floral Poison replies. Awful smell. Nose itches. Must not react. Frightened one quivers, looks longingly back at door.
"Let's try upstairs. Maybe he'll fall through the floor, save us some effort." Earthquake Feet stomps toward stairs. I jet out of my hiding place, hiss angrily.
"EEEEEEEEKKKK!" Floral Poison shrieks and stumbles out of my way.
"GAH!" Earthquake Feet jumps. Get away from the feet, go go go. I am the wind. I am the night.
"What was that? Was that a black cat? Oooooooo, those are bad luck! Get it, Chad!"
"What the hell am I gonna do with it?"
Meanwhile, shuffling feet followed me around corner, away from feet. I perch on fading, threadbare chair and glare at intruder sideways. The frightened one. Thought so. Others still panicking. Won't last long here.
"Hey there, kitty kitty," he whispers. "I don't like them, either. I don't want to be here." He approaches slowly, holds out hand as offering. I sniff him. FEAR. Sweat. And maybe...chicken? He's nicer than most of the visitors we get here.
"Where'd that egghead run off to?" Earthquake Feet demands. He stomps away from us, further inside, towards kitchen and cellar. Good. That's where the traps are.
"Help me?" Fear quavers. "I just want to leave and go home."
"Mrrrrrrrrt," I reply, jump down from chair.
"Chad, don't leave me alone in here," Floral Poison whines. Boots clunk across floor, following Earthquake Feet.
"Hey, check this out. I've never seen anything like it before," Earthquake Feet marvels. I wonder which of the enticements he's found? Peek around corner, low to ground. Look up. Shiny thing on wall lets me see Earthquake Feet in kitchen, holding the Giver of Chicken's large drink-holder with shiny rocks in sides. He and Floral Poison both stare at it, captivated.
Perfect. They won't notice him if he stays quiet.
Look over my shoulder at Fear, then creep noiselessly out of room, across hall and past stairs. Enter next room, long, on side of house. Many windows. Only other door goes to back stairs. One window broken. Too small for Earthquake Feet, but Fear might squeeze through.
Fear follows me, light on his feet, managing not to shuffle. Good for him. He can take a hint.
"Nice room," Fear whispers. "But how do I get out?"
"Mrrrrraiou," I answer. Jump onto a small table near broken window, stretch with my front paws towards it.
"Out the window? You're sure? Is it safe?" He approaches cautiously, peers out window. Not far from window to ground. I've used it before. Escaped other unwelcome guests. "Looks like poison ivy out there. But a rash is better than whatever those two have planned for me. You gonna be okay in here with them?"
"Mrrrrrrrt." Leap to floor, start licking my back. He'd better not get ideas about taking me with him.
"All right then. Thanks. And stay safe." He awkwardly climbs out window, stifling grunts and groans from exertion and broken glass. No prizes for stealth, but he has escaped notice from Earthquake Feet and Floral Poison.
Has the Giver of Chicken gotten them yet?
Keep to darkest places, slink back towards kitchen.
"Chad, we should get out of here. Never mind that four-eyed freak," Floral Poison whimpers.
"Yeah, you're right, babe," Earthquake Feet replies. "Wait, what the...I can't put it down!"
"What do you mean, you can't put it down?"
"My fingers won't open! I'm stuck to it!"
"What the hell?!" Angry huff. "Fine. Let's just take it with us, then, and figure it out later."
Floral Poison starts coming towards the hallway to the front door. Can't have that.
"MRRRRROUUUUUUUUU," I growl, back arched. All my hair is on end.
"AAAIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEE!" she shrieks, then takes off running down back hall, towards cellar door. Suddenly, ivy spirals through another broken window, wraps around her arms and legs, pulling her tight against wall. Her screaming and wailing gets louder. Stop it! You're hurting me! Flatten against ground. Maybe lower will escape high pitch.
"Babe, what's the matter?" Earthquake Feet demands, tromping after her, still struggling with thing stuck in his hands.
"Well, well, well. What have we here?" the Giver of Chicken rasps, emerging from cellar with round bottle in one hand, broom in other.
Earthquake Feet sputters, starts backing away. I dart behind his legs, bumping him. Leap away to avoid squish; he tumbles to floor.
"Very good, Nightshade," the Giver of Chicken commends me. I wind between her legs. Earthquake Feet struggles to get to his feet, but splinters from floor have caught his clothes, thwarting him. Floral Poison's screams have turned to fearful whimpers.
"Prrrrrrrrr, prrrrrrrr, prrrrrrrr," I agree.
"I'll make sure to give you something extra special tonight," the Giver of Chicken adds. "Just as soon as I'm finished treating our guests to our famous hospitality."
"I'm sorry! We're sorry! We didn't mean to intrude! We were just trying to find our way out, honest!" Earthquake Feet cries.
"That chalice in your hand says you lie," the Giver of Chicken smiles, "and I never trust the word of a thief. But if you sit up, drinking what I pour into the chalice ought to set you free."
I leap onto counter. This ought to be fun to watch. And tonight, I will feast.