I asked over on Mastodon for some suggestions for short story subjects.
It was dark. When had it gotten dark?
The cold had already numbed her feet, but she continued walking. It felt like she didn’t even have to think about walking anymore. It was something that her body was just… doing.
She couldn’t remember how long she’d been walking. Was she headed home? Yes, of course. She had to be. Instinct was all she had to explain why she was headed in this direction. Tom would be home. Maybe he was looking for her? She hoped not. She couldn’t remember how long she had been gone. He was old. Too old for this weather.
Warmth was this way. Safety. That was that feeling. Or was it a noise? A hum, a song? The feeling of warmth when you come home to a fire. The smell of roasting meat. The sound of crickets on a summer evening. It floated through the air and beckoned her forth. It pulled on her like a magnet.
The snow had mostly stopped, but the wind was just getting started. It cut through her coat with every gust, wracking her whole body with shudders. The pine trees around her shook and whistled, gently shedding more snow and needles onto the already covered and frozen ground.
Every muscle in her body was as tense as it had ever been, but she kept walking.
The moon was still low in the sky, but the nighttime sounds had already begun. Every hunting animal was out looking for easy prey before it the night’s chill fully set in. She didn’t want to be prey. Home had to be close. If instinct was calling her home, it had to be close.
Just as she heard the ominous calls of what sounded like a very large owl, a flicker of light shone on the horizon in front of her.
She quickened her pace as the call become stronger. Louder. Warmer.
It was a meal and a comfy cushion by the fire. Somehow, she broke into a sprint. She was going to live. She was going to be okay. She was going to be home.
The light glowed and grew, eventually revealing itself to be the flickering light of what looked like a fire inside a cozy cabin. But as the scene became clearer, she slowed. There was something else.
A smell. What was that smell?
But she continued forward. She had no choice. Every part of her craved the call. Warmth. Safety. Cream and chicken. A rub before bed.
The front door of the cabin was open, and a figure stood in the doorway. Even from a distance, silhouetted by firelight, she knew that wasn’t Tom. It wasn’t shaped like Tom. She could smell Tom, though. What was that smell?
She got closer, and she could tell the person in the doorway was staring at her. She was black against the snow, so once near the light from the cabin there was no hiding. Not that she was trying to hide. The call was throbbing in her head as the numbness throbbed in her feet. She strode up to the door, mere feet away from the open door and the (what looked to be a) man leaning in the frame.
The smell wasn’t him. The smell was from inside the cabin. She looked inside and her eyes fell upon the body of Tom. There was blood. Not a lot, but it was there. It was warm next to the fire and the scent wafted out of the cabin in waves. The scent of blood. The scent of Tom.
The call came to a stop and she felt her heart drop as though she’d fallen from a great height. Her hearing was flooded with heavy silence. The call wasn’t instinct. It had come from the figure standing in the door.
As she stood trying to make sense of what was happening, she felt cold hands grasp her around her waist and suddenly she was in the air.
“Hey, kitty.” The man’s voice was sad. And while his hands were cold, his breath was hot and smelled of blood. The same blood. Tom’s blood. He attempted a smile, bearing sharper fangs than she had ever seen on a man.
She wanted to run, but she didn’t. She couldn’t. She just stared at the man as he held her up to his face.
“I was looking for dessert. But you’re not dessert, are you?”
He seemed to be studying her. Like he had never seen a cat before. Like she was some new lifeform from an alien world. He poked at her a bit, and tugged on the collar around her neck.
After a minute he sighed and cradled her in his arm.
“I’m sorry. I know it looks bad. But I found him like this. You understand, don’t you. He’d fallen down and been dead for a little while. You’re lucky I came along, your house could have burned down.”
She did understand. Why did she understand? The sad, cold man smiled again. “Let’s go inside. You must be cold.”