And now his car has run out of petrol. The engine died peaceful-like; then silence closed in. The godforsaken road made a straight furrow through the silent forest; twilight a permanent fixture of the landscape. He stilled himself for he knew what came next.
It starts with a small comforting noise, so beloved by humans everywhere on the planet. Dumb humans, thinking purring is about contentment and love. Not so. It’s the sound of war-drums, not at all softened by silky grey fur. The roaring of tiny engines of evil, spinning, gathering momentum.
They say all cats are grey in the dark. Or is it ‘the dark is all grey cats’? Here they come, hundreds of pointed shadows flowing gracefully out of the forest, tails streaming behind them like contrails from hell. The Purr, the siren song that made humans bend to their will, not far behind.
He put on the noise cancelling headphones, making sure they sealed airtight. Checked the locks on the car doors, windows. Checked his ammo. One shooter, ten rounds of nine-kill bullets, five rounds of plain bullets. A pineapple fragmentation grenade. That one kind of pointless against the low-scattered, eight-times undying foe. If only one could go back and use the guns against all those righteous cat-breeders. ‘A superior breed of cat’, they preached. ‘Wouldn’t hunt native birds, or native anything.’ Humans are not particularly native to Australia, are they now?
He leaned back in his seat. He’d wait them out. It could be a sunny day tomorrow and they’d retreat into the forest, taking the shadows with them. He closed his eyes and wished he had someone to pray to. A dog god would come in handy right about now. A great big heavenly pooch with jowls that sprayed sunshine and bark that silenced The Purr.
He opened his eyes. It was dark outside now, a moonless sky heavy with clouds. A glimmer of light down south, where the road met the horizon. Headlights. He turned back to see the cats seated in a circle around his car, waiting. As the light grew nearer, it reflected in the cats’ eyes—tiny headlights of evil, times a hundred. The collective noun for cats is a glaring, he remembered. That was neither here nor there.
The car approached, a white Subaru. The cats retreated to the roadside, waiting to ambush-jump it at the last possible moment, to spook the driver into swerving.
He took the nine-shooter, stepped out of the car. Waved. Jumped up and down, yelled for help. His headphones slipped. He heard music blaring out of the rolled down windows. Joyriders. Idiots, asking for it. They were not going to stop for him.
He watched the Subaru pass him, cats streaking across the road, stark black silhouettes in the headlights. The driver did swerve, on purpose, it seemed, aiming for the cats.
He fell back inside the car. Watched as the other car swerved again, this time clipping one of the cats, sending it flying across the road. One to humans. Too bad. He saw four people in the Subaru. That’s four to the cats.
His heart hammered, sweat poured. Not a damn thing he could do about it, not in the middle of a dark forest. He didn’t look. Heard the music die with one last drum beat. Heard the crash. Then silence.
He heard the purring then. That first sweet sound, the call of it tugging on invisible strings deep inside his gut.
It was coming from the back seat. I love you, it said. We love you. We will always love you.
He was done.
Well then. He rolled down the windows. Opened the driver-side door. Waited for The Purr to grow, louder and louder, until there was no more sound, only the grey shadows pouring into the car.