By Rod Drake
A group of children, between six and eight years old, gathered at the edge of the woods located far behind the housing development where they lived. A pitiful little hole had been clumsily dug, and they stood in a loose circle around it.
Carl, a string bean with a stubborn cow-lick, nudged one of the boys, muttering, “Say something.”
George, a chubby little boy, said, “Alright. Well, we’re here to bury Patches. Patches was a good cat and we all liked him, and . . . and . . ..”
Billie, a sturdy red-haired girl of seven, whose cat it was, added, “And we will miss him. And he wouldn’t have gotten run over if Tommy’s stupid brother didn’t drive so fast!”
They all nodded in silence. Tommy’s face flushed red.
“Billie,” George broke the tension, “pick Patches up. Eugene, the box.” It was a shoe box for a pair of boots, now Patches’ eternal cardboard casket.
Patches’ body was definitely a car accident victim. The kids had tried to clean him up a little with the garden hose, but it didn’t help much.
Billie stood holding the stiff cat out in her hands gingerly while everyone else took their last looks at Patches. But Billie didn’t move, didn’t put the cat in the box that Eugene was so patiently holding. Billie was staring at something, so the kids all turned to see what it was.
It was Marley. She was standing thirty feet away, watching them silently.
Marley was an odd little girl, not one of the group, or anyone’s group for that matter. She kept to herself in her big old house outside the new development. At school kids avoided her, and she didn’t seem to mind. She had the palest skin, the darkest hair and large, inquiring green eyes that seem to bore into you. She was very thin, small for eight and spoke little, usually on the strangest subjects.
“Come join us,” George said, trying to be friendly. Everyone else shot him daggers and hoped she would go away. She was spooky.
Marley walked quietly over to the circle. She studied the suspended cat for a moment then asked Billie, in a flat voice, “Did you kill it?”
“No!” Billie yelled, “I loved him.”
“Do you want him alive again?” Marley’s statement just hung there in the suddenly cold April air. No one moved or hardly even breathed.
Billie was taken aback. “Of course. But he’s dead. He’s gone to heaven.”
Marley looked slowly at each of the children in turn before Billie. “I can bring him back to life.”
“No you can’t,” replied Billie, and the other kids laughed uneasily.
Marley nodded, and the sun vanished behind a dark cloud. “I can. But if I do, his true feelings will come out. All the mistreatment he suffered in life will be remembered.”
“I never mistreated him. I just punished him when he was naughty.” The other kids looked away because they knew how Billie treated Patches, how she beat him frequently with a fly swatter, a clothes hanger and a hairbrush, keeping the poor cat tied up and how he was run over the one time he escaped. Patches was the latest in a long line of Billie’s pets.
When Billie saw how the others were acting, she yelled in anger, “Well then, do it, bring Patches back if you can, which you can’t, ‘cause you’re a big liar and a . . . freak!”
Marley extended her slender fingers, and everyone felt something like a low voltage of electricity sweep over their bodies while the area around them darkened and thickened in an odd, unsettling way. Marley’s eyes opened wide, and she froze eerily for a moment.
Patches wriggled to life, its fur standing up, hissing horribly and turned in Billie’s hands to slash at her face with its sharp claws. Billie screamed, dropping the cat. Patches ripped at Billie’s exposed legs in a frenzy of violence, while the other kids tumbled over themselves trying to get away. Then Patches took off, howling, to vanish in the woods.
From the ground, the kids and Billie, who was moaning and bleeding profusely from the deep gashes, looked up at Marley. She just smiled and walked back to her house, humming some ancient melody.
Rod Drake lives and writes in Neon City, better known as Las Vegas, although he grew up in the Midwest. He taught on the high school, college and university level for a number of years, and has worked as a writer in the areas of technical materials, publicity and public relations, advertising, website content and training instructions. But he enjoys creative writing the most.