The night out had been an enjoyable one. Perhaps a little too enjoyable, given her head was filled with a fuzzy sensation from all the drinks she’d been knocking back. Still, the night air was cutting through the alcohol fog in her brain, and home was only a quick shortcut through the park. Wrapping her jacket tighter around herself, she passed through the gates and only got a meter in before someone was calling out to her.
“I don’t think this is a good idea, human.” A droll voice intoned.
Quickly looking about, and feeling her head swim from the rapid movements, she could see no one except a bony-looking cat perched on top of an illuminated bollard.
“Yes, I said that.” The cat spoke, peering up at her with eyes glowing a bright green.
“My apartment building’s just five minutes that way.” She said, pointing off down the park. The cat tilted its head as it regarded her. “Well, ten minutes. It’d be half an hour walking around.”
“Oh no, a whole half hour?” The cat gasped, rolling its head in derision. “And you humans call cats lazy. I really suggest you go the other way. The long way.”
“Oh yeah, well why… why am I listening to a talking cat? Cats can’t talk.” She blinked, stepping closer to look at the moggy. Its tortoiseshell fur was lit from the light from the bollard underneath it.
Leaping from its perch, the cat started to batter at her bare legs with his head. “Go.” Batter. “The.” Ram. “Long.” Another headbutt. “Way.” A whip of the tail. “Home.” Then the claws came out to scratch at the unprotected flesh.
“Ow!” She backed off a bit, only for the cat to come and claw at her again. Further and further back she was driven before she was back on the well-lit street, the animal hissing at her with its heckles raised. “Fine, fine, I’ll go the long way home. Stupid cat.” With an annoyed grunt, she followed the pavement around. It took just over thirty minutes for her to get home, down a glass of water and fall into bed.
She was awakened by the blaring ring of her phone. Grumbling to herself, she rolled off the small double bed and picked it up. “What?!”
“Oh thank god you’re okay, Bex!” It was her colleague, Natasha.
“I know I had a bit to drink last night, but of course I’m-”
“You haven’t heard?” Natasha gasped. “There was a murder in the park last night. I know you cut through that way sometimes, like an idiot.”
Bex felt her stomach drop. “I almost did but some cat told me not to.”
“… A cat told you not to?”
“Don’t laugh. It…” With a pause, she looked down at her legs. There were thin red lines running down her shinbones. “… It just scratched me, that’s all. So I went the long way instead.” Her stomach felt like there was a massive weight in there. “I’ll talk to you later, okay?”
“Okay, Bex. Just, call if you need anything, okay?” Natasha said before hanging up.
Bex quickly showered, applied some antiseptic cream to her shins, and dressed before heading off to the park. Police cars and vans were dotted about, all the entrances sealed off with police tape as reporters said their pieces to camera with the park entrances as a backdrop. Walking the half hour around to get to the other side, she saw the tortoiseshell perched up on the wall, chin resting on its front paws and ears flat.
Crossing the street, Bex popped into the corner shop and bought a pack of boneless salmon flakes. Checking both ways, she headed back to the cat and opened the pack. “I brought you some fish. To say thanks.” She said, looking up at the cat.
After a moment, a pair of eyes fixed on her before the skinny animal leapt down to circle around her legs. With careful fingers she held out a chunk of pink fish for the hungry animal. “I won’t take any more shortcuts.” She said as the animal ate. “And I won’t drink as much either.”
The cat meowed, licking its lips before going for another piece of fish.
“You didn’t have to scratch me so much though.” She smiled. The look the cat gave her was one of doubt before swiveling its head to look up the road. “Okay, maybe you did have to.” She said as another set of police cars came past.