The Yellow Cat
With a flick of its long, slim tail, the yellow cat appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, in front of the man’s house.
The cat knew which house was his. The cat knew everyone’s house.
It knew which window was allowing moonlight to fall into his bedroom. The yellow cat winked one of its yellow eyes knowingly at the window as if to say Yes, this is the one, though it did not speak aloud.
With a flick of its tail, the yellow cat vanished into the night.
Mr. Monro pulled on one sock, then the other. He then pulled on one shoe, followed by its match. He snapped his watch onto his wrist and clomped down the stairs to make coffee. He then clomped back up the stairs, pulled off one shoe, its match, and both socks. He then put them back on, this time remembering to don his pants before his footwear. He returned downstairs, thinking nothing of the event, dismissing it as Monday-morning bad luck.
One should not be so hasty when encountering luck.
Glancing at the clock, Mr. Monro realized he was already several minutes late for his meeting. He rushed out the door, forgetting his coffee on the counter. He did remember to safely stash his house key under the loose brick in his steps. As he walked briskly down his front path, he noticed the morning newspaper on the ground, and bent to pick it up to read on the train. As he stooped, a yellow cat appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and began twining around his legs. He made a shoo noise at it, and tried to walk away, but the cat tripped him up, causing him to drop his paper. He grumbled under his breath and bent to retrieve it. As he leaned down, the cat slunk around to peer right into his face. In perfectly clear English, save a bit of underlying purr, the cat whispered, “No one will ever believe you.”
Mr. Monro stared, dumbstruck, into the bottomless yellow eyes of the cat. Glancing around to make sure no one was witnessing this madness, he whispered back, “Did you just talk?”
The yellow cat slowly winked one bright yellow eye, and said nothing. The only sounds that could be heard were the soft rumbling purr of the cat, and the slightly louder rumbling of Mr. Monro’s train pulling away from the nearby station. Glaring at the creature one last time, he strode away to catch the bus.
He had abandoned his newspaper on the ground.
The yellow cat did not follow him, but sat with its long tail curled around its paws and a feline grin curling across its face. It winked once, and said nothing.
Try as he might, Mr. Monro could not seem to convince himself that he had imagined the yellow cat speaking to him. He had arrived quite late to his meeting, flustered and out of breath. He had forgotten his briefcase on the bus and had had to chase after it, waving his arms like a madman. During the meeting he was distracted, and when asked to comment on his coworker’s presentation, he had nothing to contribute. His manager had given him a sour glance. He had replied with, “Mondays, am I right?” and tugged at his suddenly tight collar.
His whole day continued like this. He finally broke down to one of the clerks, Ms. Kimm, and told her all about his encounter with a talking cat. She gave him a strange look and asked if he was ill. He assured her that, “I’m fine, I’m alright, I do not need to go home, I’m fine, I’m alright.” She patted his arm and told him to make himself some hot tea in the break room. He thanked her for the advice and went to do just that.
He wandered into the break room and surveyed the various teas. He opened the refrigerator for the milk, and when he closed it, there was the yellow cat, perched on the counter. It slowly winked one yellow eye at him.
He suppressed a cry of disbelief, and knew he would be fired if his manager discovered a cat in her building. She was allergic to the animals. Mr. Monro had no idea how the cat had gotten in. He tried to shoo it away, waving his hands, but it wouldn’t budge. For some reason, Mr. Monro found that he was afraid to touch it. Its yellow eyes stared deep into his own blue ones, and it whispered, “I told you so.”
Mr. Monro squeezed his eyes shut and clapped his hands to his ears to block the sound of its rasping voice, but the cat said no more.
When he opened his eyes again, he saw the tip of the cat’s long yellow tail disappearing out the break room door. He raced after it and burst into the hallway, but there was no sign of the cat. He stood there, his hair disheveled, his eyes wild. He quickly ducked back through the door, hoping no one had seen his apparent seizure. Forgetting to make tea, and leaving the milk out on the counter, he slunk back to his office and slumped into his chair. He rested his head in his hands and massaged his aching temples.
He got no work done that day.
After an exhausting week of stress for Mr. Monro, he was finally becoming calm again. He had not seen a trace of the yellow cat since Monday.
But the cat was not gone.
The cat was always there.
The cat was always waiting.
Cats are known for being patient, are they not?
On Friday, Mr. Monro took the train home, as usual. He had snagged a window seat, and was contentedly flipping through a car magazine when the yellow cat leaped up onto the back of the seat in front of him and perched there, its claws digging into the faux leather.
He stared at it, paralyzed with horror, and flicked his eyes around wildly. Was no one else noticing the strange cat? How had it gotten onto the train? Even the man sitting next to him seemed oblivious, his eyes vacant as the tinny sounds of music could be heard leaking from his headphones.
Mr. Monro was trapped. The train was still moving, and he was still several stops away from his town.
The cat had been staring at him all this time. It craned its neck down toward him, and he tried to shrink back into his cushioned seat. “You are right to be afraid,” the cat rasped, its foul breath filling Mr. Monro’s nostrils. He could not reply. His tongue was a numb slab in his mouth. During the week, he had nearly convinced himself that he had imagined the whole thing. This third encounter was just more evidence that he had, indeed, not.
The cat winked one yellow eye.
Mr. Monro blinked back at it, and in that split second, the yellow cat was gone.
He sat still, unable to move, until something snapped inside him. He reached over and yanked at the headphones of the man next to him. The man, startled, snatched them away and glared.
“Excuse me?” the man said, disgruntled.
“Did you not just see that cat just now! On the seat, there!” Mr. Monro gestured wildly at the spot the cat had been sitting, mere moments before.
“What? No, what? Are you alright?” The man’s tone changed from annoyed to confused, then quickly to something like fear as he glimpsed the flecks of insanity behind this stranger’s eyes. He edged a few inches farther away, sliding along the leather.
Mr. Monro’s strangled shouting had alarmed several nearby passengers, who were all peering over at the heavily breathing man in the overcoat, and the cowering figure in the seat beside him. Murmurs began drifting around the train car.
“There’s a cat in here?”
“Is that man alright?”
One brave young lady in the seat behind Mr. Monro’s offered asked if there was anyone he would like her to call. He replied with no, but had she noticed a cat on this seat? She stared blankly at him, blinked a few times, and slipped her phone back inside her purse, along with the gold bracelets she was wearing.
Mr. Monro didn’t even notice. Instead, he stood, and shouted at the whole train car, “Did no one else see the cat sitting right here, on this seat?” No one replied. There was a stunned silence. A small child near the back let out a giggle at this disturbance, only to be shushed immediately by her wary mother.
He slowly descended back into his seat. The man next to him had inched so far away, he was practically dangling off the cushion. No one spoke for the duration of the ride. The only sound was that of quiet music that could still be heard trickling from the pair of tightly clutched headphones.
When Mr. Monro reached his own door, he quickly retrieved his key from under the loose brick, glanced around wildly for any sign of the yellow cat, and hurriedly unlocked his front door. He rushed inside and relocked the door. He even locked the deadbolt, something he had never done. He scrambled around the house, locking all the windows, ending up in the kitchen.
On the table sat the yellow cat.
Mr. Monro screamed. He had not screamed with such pure terror since he had been a very small child in the haunted house ride at Disneyland. Yet now, as a six and a half foot middle-aged man, he was reduced to a whimpering heap of flesh at the sight of a small, bony cat with yellow eyes.
He had fallen to the floor, crouched with his arms around his knees, staring fearfully up at the cat. It stared down back at him with the amount of disdain that only a cat can muster.
Mr. Monro ran, shrieking at the top of his lungs, from his own house and down the front walk. He ran to a neighbor’s house, the home of an elderly lady named Mrs. Callahan. He pounded on her door, begging, pleading with her to let him in. She opened the door a crack and peered out at him.
“What on earth is the matter with you?” she said. “I was in the middle of feeding Lily.” She opened the door wider to reveal a cat nestled in her arms. It was black, but in the flickering porch light, its fur had a yellow shine. As he watched, it winked one of its yellow eyes. Mr. Monro’s eyes grew so wide, his entire blue irises could be seen. He began backing away slowly, then turned and sprinted down the street into the night.
Downtown. Still in his work clothes, he looked a mess. He had left his overcoat at home, and was shivering in his thin blazer. A breeze was cutting straight to his skin through a rip in his pants. His hair was being blown all over the place, into his eyes.
A police car from the local station pulled up next to him.
“Monro, do you wanna ride home? Mrs. Callahan just called the station, informed me that you looked a little not yourself,” the policeman called to him through the cruiser’s window. Mr. Monro recognized him as Officer Peters, a man he had gone golfing with on a couple of occasions.
“Oh, I’m alright,” he replied. “I’m fine, you know, the cat is fine. I’m alright.”
Officer Peters gave him a skeptical once-over. “How about I give you a ride anyway, hmm?”
Mr. Monro knew better than to refuse, and started to open the passenger door. Officer Peters suggested he ride in the back. Mr. Monro barely noticed the touch of fright in the policeman’s eyes. He didn’t know the fear was of him. Officer Peters did not drive him to his house. He drove him to the local hospital.
“This isn’t my house,” Mr. Monro said flatly.
“Nope, it’s not,” Peters replied.
Mr. Monro was not aware of what happened during that night. He vaguely remembered being in a bed, and having a nurse holding him down. The next morning he woke earlier than the hospital staff had expected and was immediately alerted by the sharp beeping of a hospital machine. Nurse Lamb was in the hallway, on the phone with someone.
“...look in his eyes,” she was saying. “None of us felt safe around him...yes...yes, we think this could be a case for your people...no...I see...should I tell him?...alright...see you soon...yes...see you soon.” She hung up the phone with a click and came into the room where Mr. Monro was staying. He shut his eyes quickly. He didn’t want her to know he was awake.
Nurse Lamb touched his arm, and he involuntarily jerked it away. The sensation of being touched made him feel sick. So much for pretending to be asleep. She sucked in a short breath as she poked a button on one of the machines before stepping out into the hallway. She glanced back once, saw the look in his eyes, and scurried away again.
Mr. Monro slept.
Later that day (or perhaps it was later that year, Mr. Monro would not have known the difference) a specialty ambulance arrived for Mr. Monro. It had special pillows for him all over the inside of it and no windows. He barely noticed. Staff in special black vests and gloves ushered him gently inside. He put up no resistance. One of them, a stocky woman, maybe in her thirties, sat in the car with him.
He didn’t look at her.
She looked at him. “So you’re Mr. Monro, huh?”
He nodded once.
“I’m Kat Pemberly. We’re here to-”
She didn’t get to finish. At hearing her name, Mr. Monro threw off his specialty orange blanket and lunged at her, the look in his eyes almost inhuman.
Mr. Monro slept again.
Mr. Monro never returned to his house. He stayed in his specialty pillow room, screaming the word ‘cat’ until his voice gave out with a crackle. He resorted to scratching the word into his skin with his fingernails until he bled, forcing the staff to clip his nails to the quick, then give him a specialty jacket to wear.
He couldn’t touch his own skin in the jacket.
He hated it.
He continued to scream.
No one heard him.
No one heard the former Mr. Monro.
The yellow cat heard him.
The yellow cat heard everything.
With a flick of its long tail, the cat appeared in front of the tall, windowless building. The cat knew where the man’s room was, though there was no window to mark it.
The cat knew everyone’s room.
With a flick of its thin tail, the cat vanished, then appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, in front of the girl’s house.
It knew which house was hers. The cat knew everyone’s house.
It winked a yellow eye at her bedroom window, as if to say, Yes, this is the one, though it did not speak aloud.
With a flick of its tail, the yellow cat vanished into the night.