General Fiction posted August 7, 2018

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Midnight and his friend Nettie are caught in a bushfire.

Midnight; A speaking cat.

by Mabaker

Book 1 Chapter 1

My name is Midnight. I am a cat with strange abilities. One of my capabilities, I can speak human.
One summer day the Man with the gentle eyes who you call God, told me I was a Guardian Angel. Apparently, many cats are psychic.
Our duty. To assist humans.

Midnight lay panting under the shade of a tree, it was stifling hot, and he was feeling uncomfortable, his black coat felt too tight.

The air in front of his eyes shimmered and the Man with the gentle eyes stood before him. Midnight hastily got to his feet, his head bowed.

"My gentle Guardian Angel, I have a task for you. Do you wish to hear it?"

"Yes, Sir I wish to hear what You say."

Midnight hoped like crazy that was the correct way to speak to this man, who always dressed in long plain white bed attire. This time he carried a white lamb, that bleated softly, in His arms.

"The task I have for you, gentle Guardian, is this. Some distance away there is a place where elderly ladies live until they come to me. Something is wrong at this place, Residents are coming to me faster than usual. I feel I know who the perpetrator is, but I need someone who can see and understand but not be suspicious. As a cat, my Blessed Guardian, you fill that need perfectly."

"How do I get to this place Sir, in which direction do I travel?"
"I will assist your journey, Guardian. However, the rest will be up to yourself."

Midnight looked at the shimmering figure and once more lowered his head.
Opening his eyes, he noticed he was enclosed in something dark and smelly. It was a broom cupboard. Someone had not closed the door properly, leaving a thin strip of light that showed him mops and brooms, buckets. Boxes of something that smelled cloying made him feel nauseous.

Pushing at the gap with his head he walked out, only to stop moving when he heard slapping and sobbing. Midnight wondered if this is what the Man meant, about someone being hurt?
The hallway was dark, and he kept close to the wall and walked slowly towards the sound. Then a wail of fear and pain had him hurrying to an open door where the pitiful sound was coming from.

At that moment, a figure hurtled out of the room, clothes in disarray and patting his hair into place before stomping away. He never noticed Midnight.

Midnight walked into the room and gave a yelp of shock. The lady in the bed was all bound tightly with cord. All around her arms while her lower head had some cloth tied around her mouth. She was trying to gasp some air, however, the cloth covering her nose was preventing her. Her legs were moving rapidly under the sheet, her chest rose and fell wildly, and a strange sound was coming from her.

Midnight could see the lady was fighting to get the cloth away from her mouth, but her arms were tied to the rails on each side of the bed and she couldn't reach the cloth. Her eyes were rolling frantically as she now moved her head slower on the pillow.

Knowing what action to take, Midnight leapt onto the bed then walked up to the lady's face and tugged the material sharply with his claws, until it came off her nose and lay on her throat.
The sound of gasping was loud in his ears.

Sitting up close he looked at the elderly lady who gazed at him in amazement.
In a croaky voice, she asked,
"What are you doing here Pussy. No pets are the rule, and if he spots you he'll take a broom to your back. Right cruel he is, thank you for getting that stuff off my face I could feel myself drifting away."

Midnight walked further up until his mouth was next to the lady's ear, then he whispered so only she heard.
"My name is Midnight, and yes I can speak human, so don't fear for your sanity. Quietly tell me what is happening here?"

The elderly lady never batted an eyelid at a large black cat talking in her ear. Speaking softly in return she said.
"Him, who is the night-time overseer his name is Gus and is right cruel. He only comes here once every two months or so, and that's when someone dies. We have all lost a friend to his evilness. He tied my hands and wrapped that thing around my nose and mouth, and I couldn't get it off. Is your name Midnight? Mine is Marge. How did you get in here? He locks it up as tight as he can, so no one can see what he does."

"Hello, Marge, let's not worry about my talking for now. I heard him slapping you. Did he hurt you very much?"
"Not, so much hurt as scared me, I knew what he was going to do when he laughed and said it was my turn tonight."

"Where is he now, Marge?" Midnight crouched beside the pillow his mouth right against her ear.

"Oh, he's not here now. He ties us up and then he leaves and goes somewhere alcohol is served, parties more than likely. Around four am he returns and un-ties everyone, then he tidies and cleans whoever died and takes them to the morgue. Then he has a shower and puts on fresh clothes, all before the day shift arrives. Up until two months ago, I could still walk, and I used to watch what he did. Now, I can't walk, and it was my turn tonight."

Midnight noticed tears rolling down the soft cheeks and he licked them away.
"Well, he didn't succeed so we'll not worry about that now, Marge, we have to stop him, before he does it to someone else."
Turning his head, he peered into the darkness, saying, "Do you have a phone?"

With a shake of her head, Marge replied, "Oh, he wouldn't let us have mobile phones, we might make a call and get help. There's one in the Office. Why? What is your plan?"
"I intend ringing 000 and getting some help here. I'll go to the Office. You have a little rest, I won't be long away."

Hopping neatly down Midnight made for the room that had Office written on the glass part of its door. Much to his amazement, he noticed the door slid sideways, and soon he was up on the desk, staring at the mobile phone. It was one of the early models with large buttons, and Midnight lay right next to it and carefully pressed the number he wanted three times.

"Hello, can someone hear me?" A concerned voice asked.

"Yes, I need the police here at the Sundale Nursing Home at once." Midnight hoped the lady could hear him properly.

"Is something the matter there?" The lady's voice held a note of concern.

"Please, just connect me to the police." Midnight begged. And she did.

"Hello, Sundale Police here, Sergeant Mackey speaking. How can I be of assistance?"

"Please bring a car with officers to the Nursing home, something bad has happened." He hoped that was enough information to get the Police to come here.

With a show of authority, the man replied, "Right, I'll get on that straight away. Sundale Nursing Home correct?"

Midnight thanked the man and pressed the 'off' button. He walked back to Marge's room, explaining what he had done.
"Marge you have to be the one to call out when they are at the door, they can't see me, you understand. Are there other ladies who can speak as well as yourself? They could add to what you say." He said this polity, not mentioning mental decline, the most common affliction that brought so many elderly patients here where they could take their final journey.

"Yes, Gwen is two rooms down and Mel is further down. They can all speak and will back my story up. He has always hurt the person who makes complaints, he always says we are senile, and he laughs it off to the day staff. And they fear him."

Midnight walked down two rooms and stood in the doorway of a woman who sat on the edge of her bed, gazing at a cat standing just inside her doorway.
She was trembling with fear and said almost the exact same words Marge had,

"My name is Gwen. How did you get inside Pussy? Better not let Gus see you. He hates animals." Then as an afterthought added, "Hates old ladies too." She got down from her bed and slowly came to where Midnight sat and patting him she distinctly heard him say,

"My name is Midnight, I was told there was a problem with this Nursing Home and I'm here to help. The police are on their way, will you open the door for them and bring them down to Marge's room. They need to see her hands tied up and the material around her mouth. Marge will tell them what is happening here, and you, Gwen, can tell them what you know."

Gwen staggered back to her bed hardly believing her ears. A cat that talked English? Now that couldn't be correct surely. She wondered what had been in her nighttime tablets, that Gus had stood watching her swallow everyone, even checked inside her mouth afterwards.

With her mouth a round O of surprise, she kept nodding her head, while Midnight explained everything that was going to happen. Then they both heard a heavy knocking on the front door, which had Midnight whispering,

"Go let them in, Gwen and remember Gus has done this before, now hurry and open the door. Please don't mention a cat that talks."

Gwen called out "Coming" as she staggered towards the door, her nightdress flapping around her ankles. Midnight got inside the cupboard again pushing two brooms out of his way once again and listened.

"Ma'am, we received a call indicating something was wrong here. Can you tell us what you know?" His voice was kind and he took his jacket off and laid around Gwen's bony shoulders.

"Yes, I made the call Officer. If you come into this room here, you can see what is wrong. The overseer named Gus ties one resident then wraps a heavy material around their nose and mouth. Gwen was tied up and he had the heavy material tightly around her nose and mouth, so she couldn't breathe."

One of the Officers took out a notebook and began writing quite fast the things that had been happening here and what Gwen had said,

The other man spoke directly to Marge,
"Is this correct Ma'am, why did you have your mouth and nose covered?"

"Gus, the overseer, always has one elderly resident die the night he works here. That's once every two months, sometimes more. He told me it was my turn tonight. Then he tied my hands and wrapped something around my mouth and nose."
Then Gwen butted in, her words pouring out so fast the police officer writing in his book had a difficult time getting it all down.

"I heard Marge trying to get it off and I came in and pulled it down for her. It was very hard to remove."

Smart lady. Midnight thought. All quite plausible. He stood watching and listening to the conversation.

"Where is the overseer at this time, he shouldn't leave you unattended, we will need to speak to him." The older of the two Police spoke gently to the ladies.

"Oh, he never stays here Officer once he gets us all into bed he leaves and goes to parties with beer. He stinks of it when he comes back. Usually, he has a shower and puts on fresh clothes before the day shift arrives."

The two Police Officers exchanged stunned looks as the story unfolded. One started taking photos on his cell-phone while the other untied the cord that was indented cruelly into Marge's soft skin, bruises had already begun to develope.

"Ma'am we are going to check the other Residents and get some help here. We must make sure the overseer isn't sleeping in another room. If he isn't then we will appoint someone to look after you while we either find him, or he comes back as usual."

The younger officer went back outside and drove their police car into the darker shadows. Then re-entered, and with his partner, they began searching for the overseer but found no sign of him. In the bathroom, they found shaving gear and two damp towels on the floor.

Soon more Police arrived and two of these were women which had some of the Residents talking to them more readily. All the officers were writing in notebooks, and one of them still took photos with his phone.

By this time there were police cars outside and couldn't be hidden from Gus when he returned.
One of the policewomen brought Gwen's robe and helped her into it, then handed the officer his jacket back.

Now, as there was nothing more to do until the overseer returned the older officer told everyone they could rest as all the police would remain here all night. They checked all the buzzers that had been deliberately turned off. The police went to the office and closed the door.
Everything was still and quiet.

Midnight slipped out of the cupboard saying to the ladies, gently,
"You both did a fine job, ladies. Now, remember to tell the police everything that has been happening. They will take him away and get one of the day staff to watch over you."
He saw Gwen's lips start to move and to avoid a long-complicated conversation which he knew was coming he hopped back inside the cupboard.

Midnight drifted off to sleep by curling into a ball in the cupboard. He was pleasantly dreaming until a sound of the front door being noisily opened, this alerted him.
The overseer had returned, and by the sound of his bumping against the wall, he'd had a great time

Once he was fully inside and whistling out-of-tune he began to loosen his clothes when, the Office door opened, and four police officers surrounded him. One had handcuffs and pulling the man's arms behind his back he clipped them in place. The overseer, the worst for wear due to the beer he had drunk, never put up a fight, like most stand-over-merchants.

Then his situation dawned on him and he cast scared looks around at the police. Noticing Gwen standing talking with one of the lady officers, he gave her a sour look before being escorted out to a waiting car. The sound of retching came to their ears.

It didn't take much longer and the place was clear of the Law and the Criminal much to the relief of the elderly ladies, who would normally be sleeping at this time of night and being so late some were complaining.

Midnight jerked awake and stretched out full length. He gazed around, he was back under the shady tree. Had he dreamed all that had happened, or had he been part of it? He knew he had done some unusual things over the years, but time travel was a first.

Stretching again, sat on his backside and scratched at an imaginary flea. He walked inside for a drink, and his bowl held some vegetables, so he ate those as well. They were still vaguely warm. Then he walked through the house until he found his friend Nettie laying under a ceiling fan, clad in her underwear.

He made sure she was awake before he said quietly,

"Nettie, will you tell me something?"

Rolling over the woman looked at her cat, saying,

"You know I will tell you anything Midnight, so what's on your mind?"

"Am I strange?"

"Meaning, how strangely do you think you are Midnight? You talk human you get presented with some truly scary situations, so perhaps you are just a smidgen strange, why?"

"The man you all call God, sent me to a Nursing Home where the overseer was hurting the elderly ladies. I rang the Police and helped save one lady who he was going to suffocate. I helped them catch the man. What I meant about being strange, You were here, but I was somewhere else, this God, sent me there. Explain please, how come you were here, but I was somewhere else. Am I strange?"

Nettie thought the whole thing through and then looked into the Emerald eyes of the beautiful cat.

"No, Midnight you are not strange, not the way you are talking. The two things completely different that happened to you, I'd say this new friend, God or whatever you call Him sent you where you were needed. Don't please expect me to explain how He did it, I don't know."

"I have no ideas about the way He works things, but obviously He sent you to a Nursing Home, and I thought you were under a tree in the shade."

"Thank you, Nettie, for explaining that. It would seem two things can happen at the same time."
"Well, when you are God I guess they can."

Midnight rolled onto his back and let the fan blow on his belly. It felt nice enough to put him to sleep.

Later they both woke, Nettie took a shower and after Midnight washed they ate together. Even when the sun went down Midnight found it difficult to get cool. It was still hot.

Too hot to sleep deeply Midnight heard a noise. Padding silently from window to window he suddenly gave a high-pitched yowl of terror. Racing back to the bed he jumped on Nettie. "Wake up Nettie, there is a fire moving in this direction."

Shoving bedsheets back Nettie bustled around madly. Her shoes were missing. She wouldn't go outside with no shoes on.
Down on hands and knees, she discovered the errant footwear further under the bed. Then she ran, Midnight beside her.

She unrolled the garden hose training it on the house. Crinkling her nose at the smoke she coughed, aiming the water where she thought it would be needed.
The roof, walls, veranda ran water on the ground. Crackling and smoke like a grey wall so thick in the air already hot from the fire. Visibility was right down to mere metres.
She had saturated, the roof and walls, but would it be enough.
Then they both heard vehicles coming up their driveway, and to their amazement, three trucks full of men in hi-vis clothes piled out. Only one came over to them. he wore a hard-hat and carried a clipbook.

The rest spread around and started wetting wherever. The man was Mister Shuls and Nettie had met him once at a function.
Now his face was grave, and he pointed at Midnight.
"Better get that fellow in a carry box, Miss. Don't want him running off confused and frightened. Also, Miss Nettie, best get some clothes on yourself."

She looked down and saw she was in a cotton slip, shoes but no underwear. Nettie blushed scarlet.
The man gave a gentle smile and walked over to his men giving instructions and listening to what was said. He began writing in his clipbook. Then the leader and Mr Sculs started working their plan-of-action, to stop the fire from destroying everything.

Running inside she Nettie soon had herself decent with jeans and a long-sleeved shirt tucked in at the waist. Then looked at her cat.

"Would you feel safer in the travelling box, Middie?"

"Put something heavy on yourself, a jumper will do,"

When she did Midnight took a neat leap and digging his claws into the wool settled in. Mister Shuls looked doubtful but said nothing, he'd given a warning, what the lass did with it was her business. Pity to risk the life of a nice cat though.

Nettie hurried to her Volkswagen and sliding into the driver's seat pulled the door shut and drove the vehicle out of the way of the flames and the firefighters.
The men were so well practised they didn't need instruction, but one of them gave orders anyway, moving them this way and that.

Suddenly everything went crazy. The smoke became intense and the flames roared closer. She could see them now, and that scared her,

Mister Shuls shouted at her to get out now, the firefighters would have a better chance to work their way forward. They still had radio contact, so all the firefighters would hold it and beat it, Midnight nibbled at her ear, and whispered for them to get going.

Nettie always kept a backpack filled with the basic gear needed for whatever occasion. Racing back inside she quickly grabbed that and her mobile phone, then she ran to the car, Midnight stuck to her shoulder, never moved an inch. It was like he was born there.

Once more the Volkswagen was started and away they went.
But the fire changed course and suddenly they were surrounded by fire hungry to devour everything in its path. Nettie put her foot down and the car hurtled through the heavy stinking smoke. Flames licked at the doors of the car trying to find a way inside. The car started to scream in protest as it was pushed through the smoke and flames.

Midnight could hear the crackling and snapping as again and again Nettie barely kept ahead of it. The flames caught them and chewed at the paintwork and once more they drew ahead.
Then the horror really began; the engine stopped dead.
To Be Continued

Novelette Contest Part 1 contest entry

Midnight a large black cat who lives with Nettie. He can also talk English. They get caught in a bushfire. The engine stops and they are trapped.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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