Welcome to the day two of our 2022 Halloween Flash Fiction Blog Event! Today’s story is a super cute “tale/tail” from Deborah Blake! I hope you love all our stories this week, and be sure to check at the end of each one for the contests/giveaways!!
HAUNTED HALLOWEEN KITTEN CAPER
A Catskills Pet Rescue Short Story
“I think my aunt’s house is haunted,” Bryn said to no one in particular as she tacked one end of a strand of dangling black cats up onto the wall in the main room of the Serenity Sanctuary. Kari Stuart, the owner of the rescue, and technically Bryn’s boss, almost dropped the other end she was holding up, precariously balanced on the next-to-top step of a ladder on the opposite side of the room.
“What?” Kari said, clutching the top of the ladder. She and Izzy, Bryn’s aunt, had been friends long before Kari bought the failing rescue on a whim after a fluke lottery win left her with a chunk of money and a desire to do something meaningful with her life. She’d been to Izzy’s house a number of times over the years, and she’d never seen anything stranger than the town librarian’s feisty cockatoos and unusually organized bookshelves.
Bryn didn’t look much like her aunt, who had darker skin and a short afro, compared to Bryn’s many tiny braids, currently tucked under a bandana to keep them out of her way as they decorated, but they both shared a love of animals and the town of Lakeview. Bryn was working part-time at the shelter while she attended college to become a vet tech, and lived with her aunt to save money.
“Very funny,” Suz said. Kari’s best friend, a six-foot tall dog groomer with spiky lavender hair, often came to help out with things at the shelter, even more so since she and Bryn had started dating. They were an unlikely couple, but since Bryn’s sometimes prickly attitude toward Kari had mellowed since the relationship started, Kari could only be grateful.
Suz finished putting press-on decals on the front windows and went to stand by Bryn’s stepstool. “You’re kidding, right? And do you want me to get that? My arms are a lot longer than yours.”
Bryn laughed, smiling down into Suz’s green eyes. “Your arms are longer than everyone’s,” she said, not without justification. “But I’ve got it.” She put one last thumbtack into the wall and climbed down.
Kari did the same thing and walked over to join them. It had been Bryn’s idea to decorate the place and dress it up for Halloween, but Kari had to admit that it had turned out really well. They’d had to be careful to put all the dangling bits well out of reach of jumping dogs and curious cats, but it gave the rescue a festive air.
Bryn looked around with satisfaction, then turned back to face Suz. “I’m actually not kidding,” she said, her narrow face even more serious than usual. “I wish I were.”
“Kidding about what?” Sara said, entering the room from the small kitchen area toward the back of the shelter. The older woman, a popular retired teacher and one of the most stalwart of the rescue’s volunteers even before Kari took it over, was carrying a tray with steaming cups of coffee and a large stack of apple cider donuts from the local diner.
“Bryn thinks her aunt’s house is haunted,” Kari said, deftly steering her black kitten Queenie away from the donuts after Sara put them down on the top of the L-shaped wooden desk at the front of the room. Cats weren’t allowed up there, but Queenie, the rescue kitten whose appearance in Kari’s life had led her to the shelter, only followed the rules when she felt like it.
Sara looked more thoughtful than dubious. “Really? That’s cool. I kind of always wanted a ghost. Sadly, my house is too new for that.” She slid onto one of the stools behind the desk. “Have you seen it?”
Bryn shook her head. “No, neither of us has.” She swallowed a bite of donut, cinnamon-sugar powder drifting down to dust her red Serenity Sanctuary tee shirt with its intertwined cat and dog heart logo. “But we’ve heard strange sounds we can’t explain—thumping and slithering—and whenever we come home, things have been moved around. Yesterday, there was a plant on the floor, dirt and broken pottery scattered everywhere. And small objects keep disappearing then showing up in odd places.”
“Huh,” Kari said. “Izzy’s sure her birds aren’t doing it? I know she leaves them out of their cages sometimes.”
Bryn shook her head, making the colorful beads at the end of her braids click together musically. “The birds have never done anything like this before. In fact, they’re acting strange too, kind of twitchy and agitated.” She bit her lip. “I think they can sense the ghosts.”
Suz reached out and gave Bryn a brief hug. “I’m sure it’s nothing,” she said. “But I wish I could help.”
The younger woman gazed at her hopefully, then at the others. “Actually, you can help, if you’re willing.”
“How?” Kari asked, a little baffled. Queenie, sitting on her lap eagerly waiting for crumbs, let out a loud meow.
“I want to have a séance,” Bryn said. “And I want you all to come.”
They all agreed with varying levels of eagerness or hesitation, and met up at Izzy’s house the next night. The dignified Victorian surrounded by now-dormant flower beds seemed like an unlikely place for a séance, but even Kari had to admit the place was old enough to have a ghost or two. But surely they would have shown up before this?
As Izzy met them at the door and ushered them in, she let out a sneeze.
“Sorry about that,” Kari said, glancing down at where Queenie’s black face peered out of the tote bag she liked to travel in. Unlike most cats, Queenie loved to ride in the car and almost always wanted to go wherever Kari went. “I know you’re allergic to cats, but Queenie was unusually insistent. After the third time I put her back in the house, I just gave up. I hope that’s okay.” The half-grown cat could be extremely difficult to argue with when she made up her mind about something.
Izzie laughed. “You know I love cats, this one in particular. I’ll just take an allergy pill. I’ve been sneezing all week anyway. Probably the leaf mold.” She pulled her brightly patterned sweater around herself as she shut the door against the October chill. “Besides, she helped you solve three murders. Maybe she can figure out the answer to our ghost, too.”
Kari wasn’t sure if Queenie had really helped her solve the murders they’d all somehow ended up involved in over the last six months. But she wasn’t certain the kitten hadn’t helped, either, which is why she’d finally given in and brought her little furry companion along. Queenie did sometimes seem to know things she shouldn’t…
Izzy led them to the living room, where she’d set up a card table and covered it with a purple velvet cloth. There was a fat yellow candle in a silver holder in the middle of the table, and chairs for all of them. Once everyone had taken a seat, Izzy switched off the overhead light, leaving only a few smaller lamps in the corners to illuminate the large space.
“What now?” Sara asked eagerly. She ran her fingers though her short hair, as silver as the candle holder except for one jaunty turquoise streak, and scooted her chair closer to the table. “Do we hold hands? Chant something?”
Bryn shrugged, but Kari noticed the girl’s slender fingers were trembling slightly. Queenie, sitting on Kari’s lap in the seat next to Bryn, leaned over and gave her hand a brief lick, as if for reassurance. Bryn smiled down at the kitten and took a deep breath.
“I’ll light the candle,” she said. “Then I’ll just ask if there is a spirit here. We don’t have to hold hands. That is for situations where the people don’t know or trust each other, so they can be sure no one is pulling a fast one. We don’t have to worry about that in this case.”
Pulling a pack of matches out of her jeans pocket, Bryn swiftly lit the candle. Kari glanced around the table and saw all her friends looking serious and a little spooky in the flickering light, and suddenly felt a little uneasy. What if there really was a ghost? What would they do? What would it do?
Bryn cleared her throat. “Um, hello. Is there anyone here? Does anyone need to speak to us?”
For a moment, the room was completely silent. Then there was a tiny noise, like the scrabbling of mice in the walls. Kari held in a shriek, although Sara just sat up straighter. They could hear the noise growing slightly louder as it moved around the outskirts of the room. At one point there was a thump, and in the far corner of the living room, a lamp swayed on its cloth-covered table, the fringed edges of the cloth moving slightly even though there was no breeze, the flickering light eerie in the otherwise dim room.
Before Kari could stop her, Queenie jumped off Kari’s lap and raced toward the little table. “No, Queenie! Stop!” Kari scrambled to get to her feet, quickly followed by everyone else. But Suz held out one hand. “Wait,” she whispered. “Let’s see what happens.”
The black kitten skidded to a stop in front of the fringed cloth and let out a small growl. Then she poked her head underneath until all Kari could see was a sleek black tail, lashing back and forth. Kari held her breath. It couldn’t be a ghost, could it? And even if it was a ghost, surely it wouldn’t hurt an innocent kitten.
There was a funny squeak, the table shook, and then Queen came back out from underneath, a decidedly smug look on her little black face. Trailing after her was another cat, this one a pretty tortoiseshell with black and orange coloring suitable for the holiday. The new cat was even smaller than Queenie, who was tiny for her age, so probably not much more than two or three months old.
Queenie nudged the new kitten toward the group standing in the middle of the room, and Bryn quickly ran over and scooped it up into her arms. “Oh, you precious thing. How did you even get in here?” The kitten’s immediate response was a purr so loud, the rest of them could hear it from where they were.
Izzy laughed. “No wonder things were being knocked over when we weren’t home. The poor baby probably got stuck in here somehow, and was trying to hide from us big scary humans when we were here, and find her way around the rest of the time.” She looked pensive. “You know, a few weeks ago I brought a big load of groceries in, and had to go back and forth to the car a bunch of times. It didn’t take long, so I just left the door open. I’ll bet that kitten wandered in and then couldn’t figure out how to get out again.”
“Do you think she belongs to one of your neighbors?” Sara asked, reaching out one finger to pet the top of the kitten’s head while Kari scooped up her own cat and told Queenie how smart she was. Queenie just looked smug, as usual.
“Probably not,” Bryn said, cuddling the kitten and looking fierce. “No one has come looking for her, and sadly, people just drop off unwanted animals in neighborhoods like this all the time. They figure someone will take them in.”
Izzy gave a low chuckle, gazing fondly at her niece. “It looks to me like someone has. I guess I’d better stock up on allergy medicine. And maybe look into getting shots. It looks like our ghost has found a home for Halloween.”
Queenie gave a loud meow of approval, which clearly made it official.
Today’s contest / giveaway is for TWO readers!!!
1st: Winner’s choice of one signed book
2nd: $25 Amazon Gift Card
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Contest starts today, and our two winners will be chosen from all eligible commenters at the end of our event. Winners will be chosen, then announced in our wrap-up post on November 1st.
Check out the Kick-off post HERE to see the full list of authors participating in our 2022 Halloween Flash Fiction Blog Event. Links will be added to the main post each day when that author’s story goes live. Each post will include the inspiration image from a DeviantArt creator, the story, and the contest/giveaway info.