Miss Emily

November 3, 2006 at 11:35 am (Borjes Society)

By Edgar Rice

It is a sunny autumn day and I am sitting lazily on the sofa, a book in hand, watching my cat probe about the antique desk in my study for a mouse it believes to have cornered. I have had a number of cats over the years, but this one is by far the best mouser of the lot. It has an almost uncanny ability to not only discern their presence, but to anticipate their movements and impulses, such that it never fails to capture its prey.

About a year ago, I became rather concerned over the health of my cat. Having left town for a few days to get a bit of fresh air, I returned to find that the cat, whose appetite had always been prodigious, was now not eating anything at all. She was listless and just slept all the time, occasionally letting out a brief, rather eerie moaning sound. I would hold her in my arms, and she would look up at me as if from a great distance and then turn away.

Although through various careless mistakes I have lost a number of pets in the past, I was especially attached to Miss Emily and was not wont to see her depart. So I took her to our town’s vet, who suggested I attempt to force feed her. This I did for a week, but only by offering her an extremely rare grade of serum was I able to pursuade Miss Emily to return to the living, where she resumed eating on her own.

All seemed fine for awhile, but then Miss Emily began to display some unusual new behaviors which troubled me. She has always been attached to a particular small stuffed animal which she drags around the house and nurtures in a somewhat motherly fashion. As I am often gone during the day, I have been grateful that she had a companion to ease her loneliness. You could imagine my distress when I came home several weeks ago and discovered her adopted friend in front of the fireplace, torn into shreds.

“Miss Emily! What have you done?” I exclaimed, holding her up and staring into her yellow eyes – but all I got back was a look of utter incomprehensibility.

Shortly after that, she seemed to have found a new friend – I didn’t know exactly what it was. She guarded it quite carefully, almost secretively, and I couldn’t pry it away to take a look. It was never left where I could see it clearly. Sometimes when I was in another room, or at night when I was resting, I heard her making the strange moaning sounds that I heard when she was ill.

Once I surprised her and saw that as she made these sounds she was clutching her new friend tightly in front of her, kneading it over and over as if she were praying. Yet the fully sensuous and abandoned way she gave herself over to this activity made it seem as if she was in some kind of trance state. There was something almost ritualistic about these cries that started slowly, gradually built to a crescendo, then fell back suddenly, only to start again.

In addition, I became convinced, though I have no way to prove it, that Miss Emily was becoming larger almost daily, and her fur was getting a blue iridescent sheen to it as well. She also began a new, rather upsetting behavior of bringing me little objects and laying them outside my door at night–things that I discovered each morning as I stepped into the hall.

The first was a dead toad. How it got into the house and how she managed to capture it, I don’t know. Seeing it, I jumped back – its warty, grayish-brown skin was repellent enough, and its large blood red eye staring up at me was definitely disconcerting, but the worst was the stench of the thing. Even after I removed it to the woods out back, the smell lingered for days.

This was followed by a menagerie of small dead things left to greet me each morning – a ring neck snake, a large green beetle, a chimney swift with intense black eyes, a mangled tail from what I assumed was a possum, and a long purplish tongue from something, I know not what. Miss Emily was an indoor cat who never ventured outside at all, so where she was finding these creatures – the attic or the basement, or somewhere else – I am at a loss to explain.

As if this wasn’t enough to disturb my quiet, I began hearing strange growling and howling noises at night from other cats. Sometimes it seemed as if they were fighting; other times they were somehow engaged in some sort of infernal conclave. I would wake with a start and look out the window into the yard, but I never saw anything.

I decided that the easiest way to put an end to all of this was to acquire a dog. I went to a certain dealer I knew to acquire the largest Russian wolfhound he had, and I brought it home. I wasn’t sure how Miss Emily would receive her new housemate. It had just been the two of us living together for quite some time now, but surprisingly she didn’t put up any protest. She looked at the dog warily, kept her distance, and went on her with life. I gave the dog the run of the house and the property and the gifting and the nocturnal conclaves both ceased.

Unfortunately my relief was all too brief. Two weeks later I woke up, called for the dog, and got no response. I went downstairs and to my horror saw it lying stiff and disjointedly in front of the fireplace, decidedly dead. My alarm only increased as I walked up to it and saw that its chest cavity had been ripped open and its heart torn out. This was altogether too much. I glanced back, and there on the piano Miss Emily sat as if nothing untoward had happened at all, calmly licking her paws, staring straight at me.

That afternoon I took Miss Emily to the veterinarian, and had her put to sleep. It was a very sad moment for me. The vet hardly recognized her she had grown so large – she weighed over 19 pounds now, but he didn’t ask any questions and I didn’t provide any explanations. Back home, the house seemed strangely quiet. I buried both Miss Emily and the Wolfhound in the little cemetery I have down by the creek. I felt shaken but hopeful that this would at last put the matter at rest.

In this belief, I was badly mistaken. For a few days all stayed calm, almost too calm, and then the most horrible thing of all happened. I woke up suddenly around 3 AM to sounds of an oncoming storm and the most dreadful cacophony of feline shrieking, hissing, howling, and growling. It seemed to be coming from all sides at once. I jolted up, grabbed my pistol, and darted to the window. By the outdoor lights I could see clearly into the yard. I saw nothing–nothing at all. Then slowly I realized the noises were coming from inside the house. I shuddered with fear, but not nearly as great a fear as I felt a few moments later when the scratching began. Something was at the door to my bedroom, and it wanted to come in.

At this I lost all confidence, and my skin turned pale. The door was solid oak and bolted, of course, but whatever was on the outside didn’t seem bothered by that at all. The loudness and rhythm of the scratches suggested that whatever was out there was of considerable size. This was further confirmed when it started throwing its entire weight against the door, and I saw the hinges groan. I myself couldn’t have achieved such an effect – whatever was out there had an unearthly force to it.

I was delirious with fear. I crouched in the corner of my bed, covers drawn up, gun cocked and loaded, and waited as the thing, whatever it was, repeatedly thrust itself against the door, loosening it with each crushing impact.

Suddenly there was a loud clap of thunder and all the lights went out. Livid with fear, I screamed and began to shout oaths, horrid oaths – I have no idea where they came from — and fired my gun over and over at the door until the bullets were all gone. I heard the most dreadful, anguished moan I have ever heard, a sound so infernal that every nerve in my body froze. Wave after wave of thunder rolled and rolled over the house. But whatever was at the door had ceased its attempt to enter.

The next morning, having not slept at all, I carefully unbolted the door and peered outside. There was a gift waiting for me. With fresh terror I looked down. There on the carpet was the severed hand of a woman lying there, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Its long fingernails were caked with blood and on the wrist was a thin bracelet made of what appeared to be the beaks of small birds. Sitting next to the hand was Miss Emily.

She seemed quite calm, and I noticed she had returned to her normal size and color. I sighed. I put the hand in the African room, set a candle on it, and then went downstairs to the kitchen to find Miss Emily some food. I was greatly relieved to see that she would eat dry cat food again.

The next week I bought a tickets for a cruise for both myself and Miss Emily. While in Port-a-Prince, I bought her a small stuffed animal which she devotedly carries around with her. “As long as you behave yourself,” I tell her, “you can stay. But at the first sign of strangeness, we must part company.” I trust she understands this but holding her as I speak, I still get a look of utter incomprehensibility.







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