We set up camp in the parlor, under the big tree. Cold drafts came in from all directions, including the hole we came through, making the air frigid and hostile. Luckily, a layer of velvet fabric lined the bottom of the tree, acting as a gigantic blanket for us.
Jupe noticed the cat first. A fat lazy thing with a scruffy mantle and bells on its collar. I told everyone to hide, while I braved the cold and instant death to scout.
The monster noticed me, staring me down with mismatched eyes. It lifted a paw, as if in greeting, to beckon forward and play with it. I didn’t fall for the trap.
I scurried back to camp, and we spent an uneasy night under the tree. The bells kept waking us up, though we took turns at watch.
Packed up camp and took our supplies with us. Pete pushed the wagon of rations, while I pulled the blankets and tents on a sled behind me. Jupe and Bob ran ahead of his, scouting.
We got halfway across the parlor when the front door slammed and a set of clunky heeled boots came our way. Pete and I dropped the supplies and ran for cover underneath a floral patterned sofa. Not sure where Bob went. Jupe apparently froze.
A high pitched scream peeled the silence. Clanking bells followed. The boots ran down the hall, fast.
Jupe joined us right as the cat peered under the sofa, green and blue eyes in the dark. The fat thing plunked down and swiped a paw at us, claws extended. The eyes closed, and light snores came out of the monster’s nose.
No sign of Bob. Rescue is impossible tonight, and we cannot recover our lost supplies with the cat still outside our makeshift camp. Went hungry and cold tonight.
Cursed! This expedition cannot be more unlucky.
We awoke today, luckily the monster had gotten bored. Pete last spotted it at the window seat, head in its paws, but the ears twitching and pointed upright.
But one bit of good fortune cannot come without a setback. Our supplies are gone, as if some hand from above reached down and wrested away our wagon and sled.
Still no sign of Bob.
The three of us ran fast as we could to get out of the parlor. Made significantly more progress, oddly thanks to our now light load.
This looks like a dining room. Plenty of crumbs on the carpet for us to munch on. Rations would’ve been preferable to this drek, but our empty stomachs got some temporary relief.
A plant in a wicker basket stands in one corner of this room. We managed to climb in and rest. The leaves and flowers on the plant were terrible and impossible to chew.
No sign of the boots from yesterday. But the cat found us again. This time it perched on top of the table to stare down at us. I think the blasted thing is taunting us. Its whiskers twitch every time it snores.
I did everything I could to calm Pete and Jupe, but they lay awake chattering as I tried to doze off. I got little sleep.
Today started blessedly warm. Made our progress even faster. We darted under rugs and around corners to avoid the boots. Noticed the shiny silver buckle this time, and the long legs attached to the boots.
Warmth turned to blazing heat, slowing our journey again.
Found Bob under the dinette table. He died young and innocent, this being his first reconnaissance mission. No amount of briefing or simulations can properly relay the horror of the cheese trap.
His death was quick. I doubt he even knew what killed him.
I held an impromptu service for him. Pete and Jupe stood at attention and saluted at the proper moment. The service was cut short when the cat pounced us, surprising all of us. We scurried under a credenza, and huddled together.
When we regained our senses, we found stale peanuts in our hiding hole. Not gourmet food like Aunt Millie makes, but sufficient.
Set up camp here under the credenza. The air cooled off eventually. Other than odd noises and human laughter coming from the next room, we had a peaceful night. The first for awhile.
Finally, the air was neither hot nor cold. But the boots woke us up early. After the stomping ended, we ventured out of hiding.
Entered the kitchen in the morning. The cat lay high above us, near the window. It had turned on the faucet and lapped up water when we discovered it.
We ran for our lives. Pete and I found a vent to hide in. Jupe was too slow and got caught in the open. The lazy cat decided it was bored taunting us and leaped off the counter. Its angle was off, which allowed Jupe to escape narrowly.
He ran to the corner back near the credenza, and leapt into a squat box on the floor. I cringed. The cat’s ugly eyes darted to Jupe.
I yelled for him to get out. He must not have understood the danger he was in. The box was the cat’s territory, and it did not take kindly to Jupe’s invasion.
Unlike Bob, Jupe’s end was not quick. The cat forgot its laziness and toyed with him relentlessly. But he was doomed. No escape.
I pulled Pete by the scruff, deeper into the vent. I calmed him best I could. No one should ever witness a friend die by a cat’s paw. I led a prayer for Jupe, and Pete saluted at the right moment.
We rested tonight in the vents. I allowed Pete to sleep off his sorrow, and I stayed awake all night.
Found insects to snack on as we travelled through the vents. Nothing eventful.
Until we reached a terminal and came to the living room. By then it was night. Boots was asleep on the couch, her lips twitching much like the damned cat’s. The noise and picture box was turned on. The show playing featured a man in a gypsy hat who pressed an envelope to his forehead.
The cat lay snuggled against Boots’ torso, eyes half closed. Boots’ hand rested on the cat, every finger painted purple and filled with rings.
I spotted a large bowl on the coffee table. The jackpot.
Pete and I climbed table’s legs, but only after a pep talk from me. He followed behind, but he gave the cat two quick glances for step he took.
At the summit, I instructed him to hide behind the bowl while I climbed in. Sure enough, food was inside. Peanuts. Lots of them.
I started throwing peanuts over the side. Pete collected them one by one. He managed to find little torn foil bags and put the food inside. Perfect for carrying.
He filled two such bags and I had just reached the bowl’s rim when the cat pounced.
Boots screamed and held back the monster, which resisted her restraint with claws and fangs and hissing.
Pete and I ran, even though the bags were awkward to carry. We lost precious peanuts on the way back to the vent.
Boots lost control of the cat, bells jingling behind us like a death toll, just before we made it to sanctuary. Pete dropped his bag and lightening fast flew into the open vent.
I picked up his bag, two in my mouth now. A claw slammed down on my tail. Life flashed before me. Fangs wide, blue and green eyes scrunched, the cat snarled.
Purple tipped fingers snatched the cat’s collar and I was free. With renewed effort I grabbed the peanuts and hurried to the vent.
Pete pulled me in.
We escaped the cursed house under the cover of darkness. Our initial supplies gone, we set up camp in a tree.
Spent the morning resting, munching on salty peanuts.
By midday, a psychopathic squirrel kicked us out of the tree. Pete and I made haste back to headquarters.
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