The Society of Secret Cats, page 2
“Let meeee in,” it roared.
It was the Azdaja. I shivered. As the Aranea had said, it would be better to let Jaela die than to let it through into the waking world, even for a moment. And it would be more merciful to let the child pass into the worlds of death (which even we cats do not know how to walk) than to let that thing burn its way out of her body.
But first, we would fight.
I roared, and we ran down the slope of the cave toward the great monster, while the Aranea hissed and reared up to wave its forepaws at the thing.
It looked back at us, saw the girl, and said, “Nooooo!”
But still we ran, and Jaela hefted the thing she had made in dreams. I felt her weight on my back shift, even growing heavier. A woman’s voice yelled, “Ferntail and Home! Ferntail and Home!”
I roared again, and stones fell from the roof of the cave. As we approached the crack, it thinned and thinned, until it was gone, and the Azdaja charged across the cave toward us.
Jaela’s weight on me shifted again, and I saw a golden thing fly past me, toward the monster.
But I can run faster than thought, and we reached it, Jaela and I, at the same time as her burning, golden spear. My claws and teeth reached toward its darkness; Jaela drew or dreamed a pair of lightning swords that made my hair stand on end as they crackled in her hands.
And then we woke, and Slide was scratching on the window still.
“Let me in,” she meowed.
Jaela sat up, flopping me over on my side in a most undignified manner. “Who’s there?” she said.
“Meaaaaowwww,” Slide called insistently, scratching harder.
A hissing noise came from the corner of the ceiling, and I looked up. The Aranea had escaped Jaela’s dream, and was clinging to a corner of the room, forelegs waving at us.
I swore and walked toward it, growling.
“Let me in,” Slide meowed again. “We have to catch it.”
“I can get it myself,” I said, crouching.
“Don’t,” Jaela said. “It’s just a spider.”
A spider, a spider, just a spider. I looked again, and the creature was indeed, simply a small spider.
“Don’t be fooled,” Slide hissed. “It’s a trick.”
As I watched, the spider spun a web and let itself drop down to the floor, then scurried under the bed.
The monster under the bed. It was just a spider, after all.
Or was it a trick?
Jaela slid her legs toward the floor and walked toward the window, where Slide still meowed and scratched. “Let meee in,” she yowled. My stomach went sour, like a hairball working its way free.
“Wait,” I said, but it was too late: Jaela opened the window, and Slide exploded into a thing of fire and darkness, covering Jaela, folding her over like a piece of paper, and jerking her out the window.
“No!” I jumped to the window ledge and followed the darkness, which flowed across the yard like a drip of rain down a window. Something caught on my back as I flew through the torn window screen. I shoved my way outside.
The Azdaja was fast, but I am faster. Within moments, I had caught it, bit down into its darkness, and pulled back. Under the Azdaja’s skin, I could see Jaela’s face, terrified.
We woke again in a small burrow made completely of white thread. I meowed a small and scared meow indeed, but Jaela reached out her hand and scratched me behind the ears. “Brave kitty,” she named me, and I felt all the stronger for it.
She pulled a small knife out of her nightgown, a steak knife stolen from the dreams of her own kitchen, and started to cut her way out of the webs. I shook myself, gathered my thoughts, and started to help.
Within moments, we were back in the clearing of the Great Forest, pushing aside strands of sticky web.
From behind us came a sickening crunch. I turned and saw Slide with the Aranea in her mouth, biting down hard.
Jaela flung the knife at her, with a child’s hand. The knife turned in the air and only tapped Slide sideways, but it was enough for her to open her jaws and release the small monster, who fell on the leaves and lay still.
I shifted into I knew not what in my anger as I stalked the monster wearing the form of a cat. I had heard that dreams were not always as they seemed, but until that moment, I did not know what it meant.
Beside me Jaela walked. I did not look to see what she had become, but her light warmed my skin like the best, laziest sunbeam there ever was.
Slide backed away slowly, into the darkness beyond the clearing, as we pushed our way through the tall grass toward her.
In a long time or a short time (for time in dreams bends strangely), we were so close we could smell her: a foul thing made of fear and ashes that made me sneeze.
I pounced, and Slide’s form in my mouth was very small indeed, and very bitter. I tightened my jaws.
“Wait,” Jaela said.
She was as tall as the trees themselves, a grown woman formed out of sunshine and gauzy curtains blowing in the breeze. A thing of great Homeness and safety. A kind of goddess.
She bent over, picked up the Aranea, and studied it for a second.
I held Slide in my mouth, twitching weakly.
Jaela held the Aranea out to me, and I smelled it: the briefest wisp of perfume.
I growled, dropped the cat’s form from my mouth, and lunged at the Aranea. It cast a web and disappeared. But I am faster, and I know the trick of jumping from place to place now.
Before it could cast a second web, I had it in my jaws. The rich smell of perfume filled my mouth and my nose, all the way out to my whiskers.
I bit down hard, and blackness dripped from my chinny-chin-chin.
I proudly brought the nightmare back to Jaela, who petted me and called me a good kitty while I ate it right up.
The form of the cat faded into that of the true Aranea, the one with the pattern of a cat in its fur. It was bleeding on its body, leaking clear fluid streaked with white, but it spat green goo onto its forepaws and smeared them over the wounds, sealing them tight.
Then it slept as the moon shone down on us.
“There is no Society of Secret Cats,” I said sadly to Jaela. “Nobody to rescue us, should we fall so deeply into dreams again.”
“Who knows,” she said. “If the Azdaja thought it was worth pretending to be one of them, then maybe there is.”
“When you go back to your own dream, you’re going to be a little girl again, aren’t you?”
The great goddess of sunshine smiled at me and scratched me behind the ears. I rolled over, and she rubbed my belly.
To be petted by sunshine itself is a fine thing.
After a time, a long time or a short time, she lay down to sleep beside the Aranea, and I lay next to them both, purring.
We woke inside Jaela’s dream. Jaela flinched and peeped with startlement at the spider-kin next to her, then remembered what had happened, and reached out a hand. The Aranea climbed up onto it, then cast a web up into the corner of the room, skipping up into the shadows there.
If I were as squishy as that thing, I would be nervous about being held by a six-year-old, too.
Later, we woke to real waking, and the Aranea flickered into the real world, up in her corner, lazing. From time to time, she would go looking for flies or other things that crawled in Jaela’s room unbidden.
And from time to time in dreams, I would see her and her strange catlike hairs laughing at me, chasing down other, more hurtful nightmares, winding them up in thread, and drinking them dry.
You cannot tell the good of a dream by the way it seems or even the way it smells. You can only tell the good of it by what it will do.
I grew up telling my brother and cousins stories on our farm whenever we got bored. I would start up the story, and everybody would act it out. We got in lots of fights over who was boss of the story, and I lost a lot of time. I once got so mad that I told my brother we were pl
My first novel, Choose Your Doom: Zombie Apocalypse, lets you choose how you’re going to fight a zombie invasion. Warning: you die. Sometimes, you turn into a zombie and then you die. But can you save the world before you kick the bucket? See any major bookstore in order to buy a copy.
“This is how I like my zombies: fast and funny. Choose this book, and you won’t be choosing your doom. You’ll be choosing hours of gooey, gory hilarity.”
- Steve Hockensmith, New York Times best-selling author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
My real name is DeAnna Knippling, which I use when I’m writing scary, space/science fiction, or fantasy books for grownups. My husband’s last name is Kenyon (and so is my daughter’s), so that’s the last name I use when I’m writing books for kids. Sometime soon, I’ll set up a website for De Kenyon, so you don’t have to mess around with the other stuff. Until then, you can find out more about me here:
Website and blog: deannaknippling.com.
Smashwords: DeAnna Knippling
© Archana Bhartia | Dreamstime.com
Cover Design DeAnna Knippling
Wonderland Press is a publisher of wonderful things by author DeAnna Knippling and her various pen names. I use different pen names so readers of one type of book don’t accidentally buy books they don’t want—for example, I have one pen name that I just use for younger readers.
See the Wonderland Press website for more information on upcoming books, weekly fiction, and limited-time coupons (hint: check on Fridays).
Website and blog: wonderlandpress.com
Facebook: Wonderland Press
Smashwords: Wonderland Press
From Wonderland Press
Kids’ Pulp Fiction by De Kenyon: Gory, over-the-top ridiculous, parent-free pulp for kids.
Attack of the 50-Foot Sushi Monster
When Cat holds her birthday party at a sushi restaurant, she doesn’t expect her meal to attack! How can one girl defeat a 50-foot-tall monster made out of raw fish, rice, and seaweed when stuffing her face is not enough?
Zombie Girl Invasion
Neil hates zombies. Neil hates girls. Bleah. But then the zombies invade, and he has to save the zombie girl from being eaten…by other zombies!
When Marina forgets to feed her vicious pet bunny, Nibbles turns into a terrible monster who eats everything in sight. How can Marina survive?
As always, thanks to my husband Lee and daughter Ray,
without whom none of this would be written.
Table of Contents
Mice are delicious.
De Kenyon, The Society of Secret Cats