My submission for this prompt was to perform a reading from Chapter Five of my short story Cat’s Eye, which is available as an ebook and in the collection Whispers from the Black. What follows is the excerpt that I performed on my Instagram page…
Anna hated thunderstorms; it was probably the one thing in the entire world she was afraid of. And yet, after I had done my best to console her in bed, she had slipped off into her usual deep sleep, and had still been dead to the world when I’d jerked awake shortly after midnight.
Suddenly wide awake thanks to the dual cacophony of the falling rain and Anna’s snoring, I flipped over onto my front and loaded up the camera app to check on Bert.
He was sitting on the windowsill and staring out the window at the rainswept garden beyond, seemingly transfixed by the tumultuous raindrops. He barely moved but for small twitches of his ears and shoulders but seemed intensely agitated. Poor little guy, I thought, and considered heading downstairs to let him in. Surely one night wouldn’t hurt, after all…?
A flicker of lightning briefly illuminated the screen, followed swiftly by the crackling grumble of thunder, and Bert flinched noticeably. His ears plastered back against his head, and he started crying at the window, then he reared up and pawed at it furiously.
At first, I thought he was trying to attack the raindrops; I’d seen him try a similar trick before, but he’d always grown quickly bored and it had never been so…intense. He hunched down and hissed, scratched and scrabbled at the glass, and paced along the windowsill, his ears still flat against his head. He dropped to the floor and seemed to be oddly concerned by the back door. He sniffed at it and then suddenly jerked backwards, as if burned. He hunkered down, his thick, fluffy tail wagging to and fro, and looked ready to pounce. He batted furiously at something I couldn’t make out on the camera’s limited visibility, and then he padded backwards, back arched, and I’d seen enough.
With Anna still snoring away, I swept out of bed and downstairs as the thunder rumbled outside. I switched on the lights and grabbed the keys off the kitchen hook, disturbed by Bert’s frantic growling and hissing. It was like a long, low moan that unsettled me almost as much as his odd behaviour.
I pulled open the conservatory door and flicked the light switch; a dim, orange light flickered to life and illuminated the conservatory, and Bert gratefully dashed past me and into the kitchen. I’d shut the door into the rest of the house behind me, and he padded before it anxiously; his cute little face seemed to be swallowed up by his large, black irises.
“Mwrr!” he rumbled.
“Bert…” I soothed, bending slightly as I tentatively approached him. “What’s up, eh? What’s the matter, little man?”
I reached my hand out to him and he nuzzled it with some reluctance…and appreciation. I stroked his warm, soft fur both to comfort him and to check for any kind of injuries, but he seemed fine. A little riled up, but not hurt as far as I could tell.
I looked back into the conservatory, now bathed in an orange glow; the raindrops were viscous splatters on the windowpanes, and I could see a small amount of water had once again leaked in the corner of the pitiful extension.
There was a slick, black streak on the faded linoleum tiles.
Immediately, I cast an accusatory glance down at Bert; it wouldn’t be the first time he’d left his droppings on the floor, after all. He seemed to find the entire business of relieving himself to be uncouth, and often walked away before he was properly finished.
However, he simply stared up at me innocently enough. Wasn’t me! his face seemed to say.
I rose up with a wince as my knees popped and grabbed a handful of kitchen roll to clean up the mess, only to feel a sickening squelch as my bare foot came down on something slimy and sticky.
I looked down, sure that I had just stepped into Bert’s shit, and gagged as one of the other gross droppings slowly curled up.
Slugs! I heaved. Fuckin’ slugs!
There were two…no, three!…little black slugs slithering across the tiles, leaving a gooey slime trail in their wake. One slopped down from the bottom of the door and I could see that they had apparently managed to slip in through a small crack in the frame.
…and I’d stepped on one of them!
I uttered a disgusted cry and launched a frantic kick; the dirty little mollusc splattered against the door and began to slither down sickeningly. A shiver ran through me as I backpedalled into the kitchen, desperately rubbing my foot on the door mat to wipe off that revolting, slimy feel, and snatched the salt container out of the kitchen cupboard.
“Oh, you little fuckers!” I spat as I snapped open the spout and began indiscriminately dousing the slugs with table salt.
I hated slugs. The only things worse for me were frogs and toads, which were thankfully in short supply in built-up towns like Northward. Slugs and snails, though, those bastards were everywhere, especially in the wet spring months. My hatred of them stemmed back to my childhood when one nasty little bastard at school had first waved a gooey, chubby snail in my face and then thrown it at me. Luck was with me that day as the mollusc had hit my shirt, but I still remember the appalling feel of its slimy body through my top and the nauseating browny-yellow stain it left behind.
Ordinarily, I would retreat inside and have Anna take care of this problem, just as she would seek me out for comfort against the storm, but I didn’t want to wake her and I felt I needed to extract a measure of payback against the viscid monsters so I went at it with the salt, which basically dissolved their rancid little bodies on contact.
Soon, I stood there surrounded by five or six haphazard piles of salt, the shrivelling bodies of slugs bubbling beneath them. I tried to ignore the utter revulsion I felt at the sight (and feeling the residue on the bottom of my foot) and concentrated on watching for signs of any more of the little bastards. I spied a number of cobwebs up near the lightbulbs, the trapped corpses of flies wrapped up in stringy webs, and the dropping of leaking rain, but no more slugs to pit my salt against.
I uttered a shaky sigh and turned to grab Bert’s food and water – there was no way I was letting him sleep in here tonight after that – when a flash of lightning spooked a gasp out of me.
It lit up the dark, rainswept garden for the very briefest second, but a cold dread washed over me as I caught sight of something impossible amidst the splattering rain drops.
A face, scowling and leering, seemed to glare at me in place of my terrified reflection. The eyes were hollow, the features a mere suggestion through the rain, and yet I would swear on my mother’s life that it was the glowering face of something malevolent.
When the thunder rumbled in the lightning’s wake, the face appeared to snarl at me.
What did you think to the prompt for today’s drabble challenge? Did you submit anything for it? Have you ever written any flash fiction before? I’d love to know what you think to my snippets and writing prompts, so feel free to sign up and let me know what you think below or leave a comment on my Instagram page. You can also follow Gillian Church to take part in her Weekly Writing Prompt challenge.