I don't know about you guys, but I'm a real sucker for spooky stuff. Give me a scary movie and I'm happy as Larry, give me a spooky book and I'm on Cloud Nine. That's why I love Mr de Quidt's stories so much (you guys might know him as the author of The Toymaker)! And it's why I'm so, so pleased to have him here today to launch his newest book, The Feathered Man - thank you RandomHouse for letting me take part! So get ready to get back into the Halloween spirit with this spooky short story...
It must have been the couple of weeks before Christmas two years ago. I was looking for something small, some little present to put in a cracker. It’s a thing we do at Christmas; we make each other crackers and put something nice in them. It doesn’t have to be grand and it’s better than a plastic key ring or one of those whistles that everyone has to open before you can blow along to jingle bells. And it was looking for a small cracker-present that found me in a junk shop. I ought to say at this stage, that this is actually true. It’s really what happened. I was looking for something small, a cracker-present sized, and I’d been most ways round the shop and was about to leave when I saw on a shelf a small brass cat, no larger than a couple of thimbles, and I thought what a good idea that would be, and I picked it up and looked at it. It hadn’t seen a cloth for long time and the metal was dull and tarnished, and it was only as I held it that realised what an ugly thing it was; the cat’s back was hunched as if deformed, and its face - it’s actually hard to describe what it was about the expression that so was very wrong, but if you had asked me then I ‘d have said that it was one of a very tangible cruelty and malice. Who on earth would make such a thing? It made me feel quite uneasy. I put it straight back on the shelf. I’ve never felt so instant a repugnance for anything before. I turned my back and started out of the shop. But I hadn’t reached the door before I thought, ‘this is stupid. It’s a brass cat. It’s just the right size for the cracker.’ So I went back. It was still there on the shelf, just as I’d left it. Only this time I couldn’t even bring myself to touch it. It sat there looking at me and it might sound fanciful I know, but I was suddenly sure that if were to buy it, I would never be rid of it and something very bad would happen. So I left it on the shelf, I turned my back and I haven’t been into that shop since. All true.
That night when I climbed into bed I remembered the cat, and I felt a sense, almost like a wave of relief, that I hadn't been so stupid as to buy it. It was as though I’d been that close to something very bad happening and by a stroke of good fortune, it had passed me by.
I’ve often wondered about that cat - about how it had actually got there and who’d eventually bought it, and being the sort of writer I am, it frames a complete story in my head. What if that cat was bad luck - what if you’d saved your money for some small thing, seen it and bought it? Only when you’d got it home had you realised what a cruel thing it looked. But by then it would be on your bedroom shelf looking down on you when you turned out the light at night. And what then, if things started to go wrong for you? Small things at first, friends who’d liked you turning their backs on you. But then you started finding yourself being blamed for things you hadn’t done - not small things but serious ones, and life at home started to go wrong as well. And each time you went to bed there would be the cat on your bedroom shelf watching you. And finally you started to blame the cat, wish you’d never bought it. So you throw it away, you put it in the dustbin, and when you come home the bin’s empty and you feel so relieved, until you see the cat again on your shelf because your mum’s found it in the rubbish and put it back. So you throw it away again, this time from the bridge over the river on the way to school - remember things are still going all wrong for you - but when you get home in the evening you find when you open the drawer to get your night clothes out, that they’re wet when you pick them up - all the clothes in the drawer are, and when you look, there at the bottom of the drawer is the little brass cat.
So, how do you get rid of it? You can’t throw it away because it finds its way back. What if you give it away as a present? But how could you do that to someone - give them the bad luck that’s ruining everything for you? They say that a cat has nine lives so maybe the answer’s in that. Maybe you have to kill it nine times? But how on earth do you do that?
There’s a story there, and you know what? I’m very glad I didn’t buy that cat, because who knows, that story might just have turned out to be true.
Eek! Thank you so much for the majorly creepy story, Jeremy! I'm definitely back in the mood for a scare after this! I hope you guys liked it too! Don't forget to check out the rest of the tour - it continues on the 4th on Serendipity Reviews. Check out his books on Goodreads! And enjoy the amazing books!