Iris Mick was one of the entrants for Author’s in the Sun short story competition that ran for three years on Onda Cero international when I was with the station on the Costa del Sol.. Here is her spooky story ….
A CAT CALLED…………………….
“A word with eleven letters, meaning luck, first letter `s´, third letter `r´, last letters `t & y´, any ideas?” asked Cathy, glancing across at Mary engrossed in a TV thriller.
“Hey, what did you say, luck, no idea, but I could do with some”.
Cathy sighed. So could she. Lately she had been finding it difficult to motivate herself… The crossword had been a diversionary tactic. Throwing the magazine down on the settee she collected her easel and paints.
“I am just going down to the beach,” she called out. “OK”, Mary replied without lifting her eyes from the screen.
Cathy ran down the steps and walked across the road to the shore, deserted now in the winter season. A year ago, as a young widow in her twenties she had given up her job as a successful P.A in order to pursue a long-time dream of becoming a professional artist.
Devastated by her loss, grief and disbelief had led to a chilling awareness of her own vulnerability and the uncertainty of any tomorrow. Andy had always lived for the moment. He had never been afraid to follow his dreams.
Climbing had been his passion. Cathy had always been afraid that one day it would take him from her. Andy would tease. Life was brief. Every day was a gift that must be treasured. It was too precious to be frittered away. The future was unknown and unknowable. All one could be sure of was now.
And he had been right. It was not the mountains that had claimed him. It was a sudden, brief and unexpected illness that had cut short his young life. But she knew it had not been a waste. It was a life that had been lived.
And so she had abandoned her safe but lack lustre existence to come and live in a cottage in this relatively isolated part of Cornwall. She had loved it from the first moment she saw it. She had a fanciful feeling that it had been waiting for her.
The weathered oak beams exuded solidarity and continuity whilst at the same time the peeling paint, rickety windows and forlorn looking doors cried out for help. Paradoxically the dark, sombre and admittedly esoteric rooms dared her to discover their dark mysterious secrets.
To Cathy it had a strange compelling attraction. It challenged her emotions on all sorts of levels. It promised to satisfy her need for safety and security, her need to lavish care and attention, whilst at the same time meeting this new need to test herself in potentially threatening situations. She belonged here.
Fearing the price would be beyond her meagre means Cathy was surprised to find that it was a lot less than she expected. The last owner had died five years previously and her relatives had found it difficult to sell the property. Eventually the price had been drastically reduced. It was only after Cathy had moved in she discovered why.
The locals though outwardly polite kept their distance. There was a general reluctance to make friends or to visit. Tradesmen tended to hurry away cutting short normal social chat. A few weeks after her arrival when she mentioned this worrying behaviour to the vicar who said kindly, “It’s because they believe that the house is cursed and that you are part of it”
He explained that the old lady who had lived there had been regarded as something of a witch. Apparently she had been a recluse, talking to no-one with only a huge black cat for company. She had been seen walking along the beach at dusk, dressed all in black, muttering strange incantations and followed always by her feline friend. There were reported sightings of ghoulish apparitions at the windows, of flocks of raucous black crows circling the cottage at midnight and sudden unexpected storms lashing the seashore. One moonlit night a local fisherman swore he had seen a ghostly galleon gliding along the coast and sounds of laughter and singing drifting across the water.
On the night she died the cat had disappeared never to be seen again.
“And,” the vicar added wryly, when he had finished recounting these tales, looking at Cathy’s´ red hair, “your hair happens to be the same colour as hers!”
These stories had not worried Cathy, dismissing them as exaggerated, fuelled by too much drink and superstitious fears about an eccentric old lady. In any case once they had seen that nothing untoward had happened visits became more frequent and relaxed though some of the older folk still would not venture near at night.
Despite the financial struggle Cathy had not regretted the move. Much to her amusement after the initial wariness had worn off Cathy found that she was becoming something of a local celebrity. Her sketches had been a big hit at the summer fete.
She had also made several new friends with other artists living in the nearby town and the not infrequent visits of colleagues from London, like Mary, meant that she still enjoyed their company whilst having plenty of time on her own to devote to her painting.
However most of them could not understand the attraction of this life. Mary was already bored. But Cathy loved the solitary wildness and the ever changing nature of sky, sea & shore. Sometimes tranquil, sometimes misty and mysterious, at other times harsh, bleak, often stormy and tempestuous, each day offered unique images to portray on canvas.
She had enjoyed some success. Her paintings were exhibited in a local but select gallery in the nearby town. There had been a few sales, mainly to tourists. Joe, the exuberant and ever optimistic owner, had assured her that dealers from London occasionally visited the gallery. However, Cathy reflected ruefully, if indeed any of them had ventured this far out, none had shown any interest in her work.
Cathy placed her easel and paints on the sand and looked out across the bay. Suddenly a very, very large black cat appeared from seemingly nowhere and settled down on the rocks to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine For the first time she was apprehensive.. The villager’s warnings came flooding back into her mind. She told herself not to be ridiculous; obviously there was more than one large black cat around. Cautiously Cathy moved closer. The cat stared at her. It seemed to be looking for something inside of her. Normally relaxed around animals no matter how she tried Cathy could not summon up the courage to reach out and touch it. However though still appearing somewhat suspicious of her approach the cat made no effort to move. Shaken but reassured, Cathy swept the windblown auburn curls from her face and sat down to work.
The sight of the black cat stretched out on the slate grey rocks, against the background of a deepening red sky mirrored in the darkening blue- black of the sea made a dramatic impact on her senses. The setting appeared eerie, faintly spooky and almost illusory. Cathy began to paint.
Several hours later she lifted her head. It was now nearly dusk. Slowly she packed up and looked across at the rocks. The cat had disappeared…
Arriving home Cathy found Mary making some tea in the kitchen. She looked up. “How did it go?” she asked pointing to the painting. Cathy held up her work. A peculiar look came over Mary’s face. Without a word she hurried upstairs to the guest room. Several minutes later she was back. In her hand was a crumpled sheet of paper. “I found this tucked inside that old bureau upstairs” she said. Cathy took it. It was a drawing of a very large black cat on the rocks!
Three weeks later, Cathy was alone again. Mary, still unnerved by what Cathy maintained was the coincidence of the paintings, and, tempted back to the bright lights had just left. After waving off her visitor Cathy sat down intending to treat herself to a good book and a glass of wine. She glanced idly down at the magazine beside her and the still uncompleted crossword. She picked it up. Just then the phone rang.
She walked across to answer it. At the same time a light breeze sprang up lifting the curtain. Cathy thought she saw a black shadow pass the window. She looked across to the bay. Silhouetted once more in the evening shadows was the black cat on the rocks. Strangely she had not seen it since the day she painted it.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a very excited Joe shouting down the line. “Hi Cathy, your black cat painting, well, a buyer from a London gallery wants to purchase it. He is very interested in your work and wants to commission more.”
Cathy was speechless. She could hardly believe it. Hardly drawing a breath Joe continued, “It needs a title though, any ideas?” Cathy felt the magazine still in her hand, luck, eleven letters, beginning with s … …..
Cathy stared out of the window .The breeze had lifted the curtain again. The cat was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly she knew the right answer. Cathy laughed, “Yes Joe, I am going to call it SERENDIPITY”
I hope you enjoyed Iris’s story. If you have a fiction short story to share then please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.