I used to have three beautiful cats. Chloe, Jewel, and Mercy. My sweet girls. I had the perfect family. A husband Greg, my son Dylan, and of course the cats. Jewel was the snitch. Always pacing around the table, warbling for whatever we had. She had developed a taste for green beans. Mercy was the prim lady. Always cleaning herself. Always sitting on the bookshelves. And always found where I hid the cat treats.
Chloe was my favorite though. Whenever my lap was available, she was sitting there. At night she’d sleep at the foot of the bed. In the morning, she’d wake me by kneading my chest. Greg would laugh and say she was just making sure my heart hadn’t stopped. Her version of kitty CPR.
Greg and I were considering getting just one more when the accident happened. Greg was on the way to the clinic with the cats to update their vaccinations, and… well, I’m almost thankful that my babies didn’t suffer.
I lost my cats and my husband all at once. Dylan was already a grown man, and after barely four months after the loss he took off for college. I was all alone in my house, and my broken heart showed no sign of mending. Dylan barely came to visit, and after the first five years I was lucky to get a card for Christmas.
I became the ‘old crazy witch’ on the block with a dead husband. The kids made up their stories, I mostly just sat on my front porch and enjoyed the sun when it came out- the heat made my sore joints feel better.
Then I met Goliath.
My neighborhood is very close to a wooded park. On my days off from work at the grocery store Greg and I used to walk down those quiet paths. But there was also a feral cat problem there. I’d catch only glimpses of their skinny bodies and wild eyes.
But while I knitted on the front porch one morning, a streak of fur caught my attention, and I saw him. Immediately I dubbed him Goliath.
He was enormous. A tomcat that was bigger than some dogs, he had a mean face, matted long fur, and torn up ears. But he had the same coloring as Jewel, black with mottled orange and brown.
He came to a stop in front of the porch and froze, staring at me. I stared back. His tail twitched. His amber eyes bore right into mine.
“… Here, kitty kitty.”
Goliath slowly stepped closer to the porch, stopping at the steps. When I got up and tried to get closer, Goliath darted away and ran into the bushes. He didn’t trust me.
But I was so lonely. Even big old mean cat like that could give me some sort of companionship.
I went inside and got some canned tuna, opening it up and setting it at the steps. After I retreated to my chair, Goliath returned. He smelled the tuna. He licked his chops and stared at the can, but he was nervous around me. So I went inside. When I came back a few minutes later, Goliath was focused on licking out the can.
I made a friend that day.
Goliath took forever to get used to me, the mistrusting kitty who had never felt a human’s touch. But he didn’t leave, he took to sleeping in the tire swing in the front yard. Greg never got around to taking the damn thing down when Dylan grew too old for it. Goliath showed up for lunch every day, I’d feed him tuna and chatter to him. He’d purr like a semi truck.
Then one day he brought a date- a gray tabby with a short tail and a missing eye.
I went to the store that night and invested in bulk bags of dry food and the canned stuff.
Duchess, the gray tabby, didn’t hesitate to make herself at home in the tree outside. Neither did the others. It was a trickle, and never consistent. One day I’d just have Goliath and Duchess, the next there would be six or seven meowing babies ready for lunch.
For the first time in years, I felt whole. Like I had a purpose again, to take care of these innocent creatures. Most wouldn’t come close, but Goliath had become my friend. While I watched the sun set, Goliath would sprawl across my lap and would purr when I scratched his ears.
But of course, the new neighbors didn’t take so kindly to my new friends.
It was one family in particular, the Hubbards. The Hubbards had five boys between seven and fourteen. All of them were incredibly ill behaved. This was the same family that tried to claim that the lovely Hakim family was building bombs in their garage (their eldest daughter was actually building an automatic feeder for their dog) and that the reason that one house down the street wasn’t selling was because we had Alec and Derek living together ‘in sin’. The poor couple actually moved away from how awful the harassment got.
So when the wife Carla saw me with my cats, she threw a fit. She slammed her trash bin shut and marched over to my yard. The shyer cats ran off to the backyard, while Goliath sat content on my lap, unamused by this intruder.
“What is with all these cats?” She snapped.
Goliath just yawned and licked his paw.
I nervously smiled. “Good afternoon, Carla. These are just some strays I like to take care of. They’re harmless, maybe a bit fleabitten but they do no harm.”
Carla huffed and glared at Goliath. “That one looks like a wildcat, he could hurt my boys! And why are you wasting money feeding these… these strays, when you could have been donating to the church food drive?!”
To calm my nerves, I stroked Goliath’s ears. “Goliath won’t hurt a soul that won’t hurt him. And I did donate.”
“Well clearly you had some to spare.” Carla flipped her hair over her shoulder, looking down her nose at me. “My son already says the neighborhood calls you a witch. Stop attracting these diseased animals or I’ll be forced to call the police!”
Goliath tilted his ears back and hissed. Almost instantaneously, all the other cats turned and started to circle Carla, lurking, hair standing up their backs and growling. The scene was unnerving, to say the least. Carla backed away, growing pale, before she screamed, “Get away from me!” She kicked Kirk across the lawn before she dashed off.
The cats immediately gathered around Kirk, licking his face and purring to soothe him. I got up to check on him, nothing was hurt except for the neutered tom’s pride. I reassured them, the police wouldn’t do a thing about my babies, they weren’t destroying property or using the other yards as their toilet. They didn’t even meow loudly at night.
Well, they didn’t.
That night became an entire chorus of yowls. I looked out of my bedroom window to see a whole clutter of cats gathered in the Hubbard’s front yard. There had to be at least twenty five to thirty. In front was Goliath, I could make out his quivering hollers out of the rest.
The minute a light would go on inside the house, the cats would scatter, leaving none in sight. I think a few times I saw Carla’s husband John pitch something out of the window, probably a bottle considering the crash of glass, but as far as I could tell none made it close to a feline target.
Even though it was wrong, I giggled like a schoolgirl before shutting off the light and going to bed. I’d had cats in the past. I could sleep through it.
The next morning Carla was banging on my door, clearly exhausted after a night with no sleep. A paper was shoved in my face, I almost got bopped across the nose.
“Your neighbors aren’t happy with you, Doris.” Carla had the nerve to look smug. “We petition that you take care of your cat problem, stop feeding them, hire an animal control service, just do it!”
I took the petition and read down the list of names. There wasn’t as many as Carla would make me think- and the families that did sign up were her lackeys, the ones who kept their negativity to themselves until someone spoke up about it. Then they parroted whatever they said.
I sighed and lowered the petition. “Carla, it wasn’t anything I did that made the cats loud last night. They were in your yard, weren’t they?” My turn to look smug.
That knocked the wind out of Carla’s sails. She stammered for a second before snatching the petition out of my hands. “This is your last warning. If you don’t do something about these cats, I will!” With that, she stormed off, and would’ve looked awfully haughty… had not Goliath darted from the bushes and tripped her. Carla fell flat on her nose and Goliath ran up to me, rubbing himself against my ankles and purring before entering my house.
That was the first time Goliath entered my house, I’d never tried to take him in. But I was determined to keep him. A trim of his fur to get out the worst of the mats, a bath, and a collar later, Goliath looked like a real prince. A champion of his breed.
He seemed to have a goal in mind though. That goal was to drive the Hubbards insane. It was war and Goliath was the general.
The nightly choruses were lessened, just enough so that the neighbors couldn’t hear so well but completely obnoxious to the Hubbard household. The grass was going dead from cats pissing in the yard, along with piles of dirt from where they handled their business. Dead birds were strewn across their yard, and I heard Carla screaming about the fact a cat had taken an enormous poop right outside her door, ruining her heels.
Goliath got an extra pat on the back for that.
But the Hubbards weren’t going to play nice. Every day their boys would ride past my yard, yelling obscenities and chucking rocks at the cats. The slower ones would get struck and they would mew and cry out in pain. When blood was drawn Goliath would usher them inside and I’d care for them for the night.
It was a step too far when John put rat poison in his yard.
Duchess, poor Duchess. She’d mistakenly eaten half of the tuna can left in his yard, laced with the deadly ground up pellets. I found her barely alive on my porch.
All I could do was take her inside and make her comfortable.
All the cats came in, through the windows, through the cracked door, I think even some made it up from the basement. There was probably fifty cats, all sitting around me and Duchess as she was curled up on my lap, each breath growing lighter and lighter.
Goliath was the most distressed, pacing around, mewing, licking Duchess’ head every few seconds. I never knew a cat could love so much. When Duchess went lax and her breath came no more, he yowled so loudly I’m sure the whole town could hear it. A grieving cat, who lost his friend and love.
It was exhausting to dig the grave, but I had to do it for her. Duchess was nothing but sweet once I’d gotten her to come around. The cats stayed with me, mewing in distress and nudging at the small coffin I’d crafted for Duchess out of a box and some paints. She was a lady and she was going out in style.
Her body was lowered, the dirt covering the box, and I went to bed. Goliath slept with me that night, and I swore I would occasionally awake to hear him cry.
The next day I could barely get out of bed, but Goliath nudged me awake.
I had to take care of the others still, after all.
Carla was swearing and screaming at her car when I exited the house, and I could barely believe it. A single cat didn’t have much strength, but an army? Oh boy. The car was covered in cat pee and feces, the antenna chewed off, one of the windows was somehow broken and the seats were torn to hell.
She turned and saw me, foaming at the mouth in anger. “You!” She stormed over, her fists clenched. Goliath nudged me back and I hid behind the door, my throat dry.
I’m sure the woman would have punched me if I hadn’t had the door between us. Instead, Carla started screaming. “That was my birthday present! I don’t know how you’re doing this, but this ends. Now!”
I took a deep breath and stood as tall and brave as a sixty eight year old woman can. “You killed one of them. Rat poison. You asked for it.”
“Like you’re going to miss that one! What is the matter with you?!”
I heard the chorus of hisses and growls from under my porch, Carla jumped out of her skin and shivered. She took a deep breath and glared.
“I swear, if it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to make sure each and every one of these cats ends up in the pound or as roadkill. And I mean it!”
With that awful, awful threat, she stormed off. I stumbled onto the porch and sat on my chair, too nervous to stand. “Oh, Goliath, what am I going to do?” I whispered.
Goliath licked my hand. His way of telling me it would be okay.
That evening I decided to stay out late. Watch the moon and the stars. The cats stayed with me rather than attack the Hubbards’ yard. The sun had just gone down when I heard the sound of children’s bikes.
It was the Hubbard boys, and they were armed with rocks again, the three youngest aiming at the cats who darted and dodged under the porch or into my backyard. I’m not sure if the oldest two were aiming for me or it was just an accident, but one rock smacked right next to my head… and the other cut open my forehead.
I cried out as pain exploded across my face and blood started to drip down my face.
Every cat stopped.
Goliath mewed and licked my face before he turned.
The growl he made wasn’t a typical cat’s sound.
It was like a demon from hell.
Goliath leaped from my lap and trotted closer to the boys, fur puffing out and continuing to growl. The rest of the cats ceased running and grouped up. Some of them I didn’t even see leaped down from the tree. I had to have over seventy cats in my yard. I didn’t even know so many had come to see me ever.
The eldest boy stopped his bike, the others falling in behind him. He pulled another rock from his bag. “Stupid cat!” He pitched his arm back…
And Goliath went for his throat.
I don’t really remember what happened. I think I blacked out. What I can remember is that Goliath grew… big. Even bigger than he already was. Even bigger than a lion. And the rest of the cats swarmed behind him, a hive mind of violence and with only one goal- kill.
When I woke up, it was past midnight.
There was no sign of the bikes. No boys. No army of cats, either. Just a few left, licking at a puddle in the street where the bikes had been abandoned.. It was a dry summer. There hadn’t been a puddle there earlier.
I stumbled back to my room, the bed cold and empty of my cat. I fell asleep in bed and dreamed of the ripping of wet flesh and the crunching of bones.
The next morning I woke up and there was Goliath, sleeping across the other pillow. He was fine, he wasn’t hurt. I tried to ignore the smell of blood in his breath as he nudged my face to get me up.
There was no sign of any bikes, or puddles. Just a normal plain street like the one I’d gotten used to living on.
There wasn’t many of the cats today, only four plus Goliath. These ones that weren’t present last night, either- Chip, Dill, Biscuit, and Bambi. Bambi had sprawled across my lap and was purring when the police cruiser pulled into my driveway.
Dill hid under the porch while Biscuit and Chip ran up to say hello.
Officer Holly Silva stepped out, with Carla in tow. Carla looked like she’d been crying, but when she saw me she smirked. I sighed and looked for Goliath but he was nowhere to be seen.
“Ma’am?” Holly held up her badge, even though she knew I recognized her. “I need to speak with you, please.”
Carla’s grin grew darker.
I invited Holly inside and we sat at the table together. Carla invited herself in and was standing in the corner, looking around my pristine house. “Thought it’d be more of a mess than this, given the animals you have,” She grumbled.
Holly ignored Carla before clearing her throat and looking at me. “Listen, Doris. Last night two of Carla’s sons came home shredded up and claiming you sicced your cats on them.” Holly took this moment to conspicuously look at Biscuit and Chip played with a ball of yarn, still quite kitten-y. “Her older three never returned home. Have you seen them?”
I reached up and touched my forehead. “I can’t really remember, last night I got my head bumped something awful.” I looked meaningfully at Carla, who sneered back. “It’s not anything serious, but no, I don’t remember where the boys went. I think they just rode past the house on their bikes, they were saying some quite nasty things, but that’s all I remember.”
Holly nodded and wrote that down. “Thank you, ma’am. That’s all I needed to know.”
“What?!” Carla looked ready to blow her top. “This isn’t close to all of the cats she had! My sweet Alexander said there had to be a hundred! Over a hundred!”
Holly snorted and her lips twitched. She somehow managed to remain professional. “Mrs. Hubbard, if Doris really owned over a hundred cats, I don’t think she’d be able to hide them this well in this two bedroom house.”
“Well… well…” Carla stammered before she looked around. “Where’s that big one? The awful one, the one that attacked my sweet son!”
Goliath. Oh no. Holly looked at me. “Is this all of them? I’m sorry, I have to ask.”
I looked around. “Well… Goliath should be here. Goliath? Come here, boy, no one’s gonna hurt you.”
“The officer is going to put him down the moment she sees that monster, don’t you try to pretend otherwise!” Carla’s eyes were full of murder, I was nearly about to start crying.
I looked down.
There was a fluffy kitten, with black and orange fur and bright amber eyes. He jumped into my lap before hopping onto the table and sniffing Holly.
Holly examined his collar. “So, this is Goliath?” She couldn’t help it, she immediately started giggling. “The ironic naming style, I dig it. Hey, buddy, do you smell David? He’s my German Shepherd, he’d love to take care of a sweet lil thing like you…”
Carla was completely flabbergasted. She opened her mouth and shut it a few times before saying, “No, that… that’s not Goliath! Goliath is huge! He’s practically a mountain lion!”
“All right, Mrs. Hubbard.” Holly stood up and scratched Goliath behind the ears, who purred and teasingly batted at her hand. “That’s quite enough, I think your boys probably just are out playing somewhere. Let’s go now, you can help coordinate the search.”
I saw them out, Carla was fuming and now I was the one grinning. Carla turned to me and hissed, “This isn’t over. I will get the gun myself, and when the real Goliath shows up, I’m putting a bullet in his head.” With that nasty threat, she stormed back to her house.
I closed the door and turned around.
There was Goliath, sitting so proud, his normal self.
Nervous, I went to my knees. “G… Goliath? How… how did you do that?”
Goliath stepped forward and just batted at my hair. But I swear he smirked.
A few days ago the bones of a few adolescent boys were found. Picked clean. Carla didn’t even try to come over, the marks on the bones were larger than anything a cat could make. The word through the grapevine is that it’s probably someone’s escape pet lion. Adopted it as a baby and let it go when it was no longer cute.
But tonight, I’m holding a party. I invited most of my neighbors, I did my hair up all pretty like. I’m no longer going to estrange myself from my neighbors. Holly will be there, with her dog David. So will the Hakim family, the eldest girl is going to bring her boyfriend and his band. I’ll have to clear out the dining room to give them enough space but they’re fond of classic rock. Everyone’s responded enthusiastically.
Even my son Dylan’s going to come home, and bring his wife and twin children.
That should be enough noise to cover up Goliath and his army handling the Hubbards and their goons. In in the morning it’ll be either be interpreted as a mysterious vanishing or written off as another animal attack.
After all… how could a single cat maul a human being?