FREE sample Wakeful Children
S P Oldham
FREE taster short story from the horror anthology 'Wakeful Children' by S P Oldham.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © S P Oldham 2016
Excerpt from 'Absorption'
Number 11, Oakwood Close.
Nancy was ready for them this time.
She shifted in her seat, dislodging a large tom-cat who stood in protest, threw her a withering look and jumped from her lap to the newspaper-strewn floor. Other cats littered about the room paused in their ablutions to observe goings-on, before losing interest and skulking away to hide behind boxes or mounds of black bin bags.
Some of these bags had been torn open by curious felines. Their entrails spilled upon the dirty floor; rubbish pooled like blood around a wound.
What remained visible of the walls showed a grey, sickly colour. The curtains were matted and filthy, hanging limply from the rails.
Nancy sat, huge and sweating, in the room’s only seat; a ripped and tatty armchair, the foam showing through in patches like spongy bones.
Her clothes, the same ones every day, were stained and repulsive. Her pale, sallow skin hung in folds around her chin, her arms, her ankles. Her eyes were dead blue pools; illuminating only at the thought of her precious cats. Cats; all Nancy cared about, all she lived for. Her house stood, rotten and rotting, food and carpets mouldering; stinking and unwashed.
Her cats were the exception. In the morass that was her kitchen one space lay clear and, by Nancy’s standards, clean. It was laid with fresh paper daily, for the litter tray, with bowls of food and water. Nancy was careful to keep these clean, regularly emptying the litter tray into an open box which usually stood next to the greasy cooker. It didn’t matter to Nancy; why should anyone else care? She never had visitors anyway.
But she was expecting some today.
‘You have got fourteen days to clean this place up Nancy’ they had said, ‘Fourteen days; that’s your last warning. You have to get rid of some of these cats too, if you want to stay here. You’ve got far too many. If you clean up your act, maybe we’ll let you keep one or two, but the rest have to go,’
Nancy’s vacant features didn’t stir, but inside her, anger welled, huge and all consuming. The cats had to go, they had said; and that was when they had begun to disappear.
She hadn’t laid eyes on Lulu or Rocky for days now. She knew they were dead; knew it in her bones. She knew who had killed them too.
Silas hadn’t come back this morning, either. He was always such a stickler for his routine. She could expect to hear his demanding mewls at around seven thirty each morning, hungry after his night’s adventures.
It was nearly 11.45 now; no sign of him.
Nancy wondered how they were killing her cats; the manner of their deaths. Cars probably, she decided. Nice, new, distant cars; keeping their hands clean.
She grunted, wishing they would hurry up and come. Her hand dropped to the box at the side of the chair, newly placed there just last night. The litter box; brimming with foul smelling cat excrement and urine soaked sand, a faded mug sitting atop it. Perhaps she should move it into its final position now, in readiness.
With much wheezing effort, Nancy pulled herself out of the chair. It had taken a lot of time to move the box this far last night. It would take more effort now, to move it to the front door.
Breathing hard, Nancy pushed and shoved the box with her feet, ruching the scattered newspapers at her feet; spilling some of its contents as it hit the door frame.
One last, great effort was required of her now and then she would be ready. Sweating profusely for her efforts, red-faced, her huge, heaving stomach threatening to split like one of her black bags, Nancy took the mug and filled it, dipping it into the putrid mess inside the box. She waited; it was nearly time.
Silas lay stretched along a branch of the oak, his glassy eyes unseeing. Cramped beneath him, a stubborn green bud had been trying to force its way past, toward the light. Unable to do so, it had instead begun to bore a small, insistent hole into Silas, seeing the cat’s lifeless body as nothing more than another organic layer off which to feed.
Below, a car pulled up outside number eleven, disgorging two men dressed in suits and a smartly attired woman holding a clip-board. The trio conferred for a moment on the pavement, then approached Nancy’s front door, the woman knocking peremptorily.
Nancy gripped the cup; she was ready for them this time....
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