1. THAT SCRABBLING AND SCUFFLING UNDER THE DOOR
Well, this one’s easy. The kittens want to come back in. I was going to leave them out for the night, because they get restless at 2 a.m. and hungry at 6:30, but they know perfectly well that all they have to do is make that heartrending mewling noise and the door will open.
And there they go. All right. All right, I’m coming. You can come in.
Oh, cat. Did you have to throw up on the carpet again? Was it something you ate? Did you catch another shrew? I swear, baby, you are the slowest little animal to cotton on to cause and effect I ever met. Just look out for the pointy noses, all right?
I hope you didn’t leave the insides anywhere I might tread on them in the morning. I’m not going out to look at this time of night.
All right, kitten. I can see you’re feeling sorry for yourself. Just don’t do it again.
2. WILD BARKING
That crazy spaniel from up the way must have got out again. It jumps over the damn gate and stands there howling at me every time I walk past. Its owners should run barbed wire along the top of the gate. That might stop it.
They probably don’t know what barbed wire is. This would never have happened when old Mr Sweet, who used to live there when the place was only another crumbling, no-electricity-no-hot-water cottage, was alive.
It’s twice the size now. They say the new people installed a hot tub. She does something on TV and I don’t even know what he does. It seems to involve a lot of weird noises and some seriously lost visitors down from London, though. These newcomers, eh?
Well, that’s what my parents say.
Now this is always startling the first time you hear it. Especially when you consider that half the households up the valley, which is to say all fifteen of them, probably possess a shotgun, if not two. But then you see the headlights sweeping across the pitch-black field and remember that lamping’s a popular activity round here. How long ago was it that some farmer caught his kid stepson’s eyes glittering in the dark and shot him by mistake? Four years? Five?
You’d expect them to pick a clearer night for it, mind. But I’m certainly not going out to say so.
It’s just as well the kittens are inside, now I come to think about it. They’re practically cats, really, but they’re still young and dim and getting used to country life. We don’t want them getting mistaken for rabbits by Farmer Brown.
4. A SLITHERING NOISE, AS IF OF A MONSTROUS SERPENT, OR SEVERAL GREAT TENTACLES
Huh. Must be the wind.
5. …IS THAT A HELICOPTER?
It can’t be. Not in this weather. Let me just crack open the shutters.
There’s definitely something up there. The searchlight’s all over the place. Looks like they’re trying to train it on old Mr Sweet’s cottage.
The last time a helicopter came up the valley, it was checking whether the power lines were down after that big storm in December. I don’t think Western Power does midnight checkups, though. Especially not when it’s raining so hard you can see it hammering through the searchlight beam scraping up and down the hillside.
Maybe the Royal Marines are out on manoeuvres. They do a lot of training down on the moor.
6. MORE GUNSHOTS
More like explosions, really. That last one shook the room.
All the windows in this house face the wrong way, but the colour of the sky has changed. That dull reddish glow is what you get at night in the city from the street lights reflecting off the clouds, except there aren’t any street lights out here. There aren’t any lights at all. I can’t see the helicopter search beam any more.
Another bone-shaking whoomph. They must really want to get that fox.
7. A KNOCKING AT THE DOOR
Seriously? At this time of night? In this weather?
It must be the people from old Mr Sweet’s place come to tell me what’s going on. Or possibly to ask if they can use our landline to phone the Fire Brigade. I hope they haven’t brought that crazy spaniel with them. He does seem to have stopped barking, though. Thank god for that.
All right, kittens. Why don’t you both go back to sleep?
I’ll just go and let them in.
Julia August’s cats are incredibly spoilt. Her short fiction has appeared in Lackington’s, SQ Mag, Cabinet des Fées and the anthologies Triangulation: Parch and Star Quake 2. She is @JAugust7 on Twitter and j-august on tumblr.
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