“When One Door Closes”
Cameron D. Blackwell
Lyta was left with a list of instructions on how to care for Duke L’Orange, the cat she was watching for the weekend. While she didn’t think she needed to be told how to keep a cat alive for three days, Mr. and Mrs. Mercer thought differently. She stood in the kitchen and read the litany of tasks required to make sure Duke was not emotionally distressed during his owners’ absence. Replenish his water bowl every two hours because Duke refused to drink old water; feed him specific flavors of Fancy Feast at specific times; put on his cartoons at noon, but only let him watch them for an hour; brush him every three hours, and so on. Lyta joked with herself about whether she was watching a cat or a 3 year old child. The final rule was handwritten in red Sharpie in capital letters: “NO CLOSED DOORS!” This made her smirk. For reals? This had to be the most ridiculous rule ever. She shrugged and set the instructions on the kitchen island, intending to never lay eyes upon it again.
The first thing Lyta did was investigate the fridge for noms. They had two, so the possibility for good grub was high. She opened the first one and dug in. Her excitement diminished as she found nothing but organic vegan cuisine. Her stomach grumbled its objections as she closed the fridge. She told it that she wasn’t going to let it starve to death. She went to the second fridge and was pleased to find real food inside, mostly meats and gluten galore. She was scared for a second that she’d have to get food delivered, which would cut into her profits of this job.
Once she was assured that she wouldn’t die of starvation, she set about searching the house for her charge. She wandered the large two story house calling Duke’s name, hoping he’d make himself known. She found the fat orange cat laying on the bed in the upstairs master bedroom. He glared at her as she approached him. She extended her hand for him to sniff, but he turned his nose up at it and promptly jumped off the bed.
“Fuck you, too,” she said wryly as she watched him saunter out of the room. “I guess I’ll see you at lunch time.”
She left the room and explored the rest of the house. It was massive and there were so many rooms, all with open doors. She peered into them and found they were devoid of anything, no furniture, no decorations, no carpets, nothing of note. She shook her head at the sheer waste of it all. She hated rich people for their excess and waste. Why bother have these rooms if they weren’t going to use them? Homeless people could be housed here, but the rich kept everything for themselves and gave nothing for free. Disgusted, she went back downstairs to find the living room.
The living room was obviously where the Mercers entertained. There were ornate still life paintings of bowls of fruit on every wall, a cushy red carpet, two lavish purple leather couches complete with matching ottomans, a large coffee table covered in books about New York architecture and beavers, and a TV that was the size of a movie theatre screen. “Fuck,” she whispered. She hoped that the Mercers’ plane would crash and she could stay in this house for the rest of her days.
She found the remote and turned on the TV. Duke’s cartoons were already on. She wasn’t content to watch Bubble Guppies, so she changed it to HGTV in the hopes that House Hunters was on. Of course it was. She watched that for three hours. Before she knew it, noon had come and gone. She wasn’t too upset about it, but the same could not be said for Duke, who scowled at her from his cat bed on the second couch. She gave zero fucks. He’s a cat, he’ll live.
Lyta figured she’d offer him food as a bribe. She went to the cupboard and grabbed a random can of Fancy Feast. She presented it to Duke in his orange cat bowl. Duke sniffed it, gave it one lick, and then meowed in protest. “What? It’s food!” She looked at the can and saw it was whitefish and tuna. She supposed it was the wrong flavor at the wrong time. “Mommy and Daddy aren’t here, so you’ll eat what I give you! Capiche?” Duke meowed again before he stormed out of the kitchen. Lyta smirked as man had once again triumphed over animal. Now she could go back to watching HGTV. The Property Brothers were on. Those guys were hot as fuck.
As she watched, Duke glowered at her unceasingly. At first, Lyta didn’t care, but as time went on, she felt more uncomfortable. She could almost feel the intensity of his hatred for her radiate from his fat, furry body like heat. He was judging her. She scoffed as she tried to dismiss the absurd notion. Could Duke really be upset that his water hadn’t been replenished since she’d been there? He’s a fucking cat! But Duke continued to glare at her. She felt the sudden need to be far away from him.
She stood up and went upstairs to find a place to hide. Was she really hiding from a cat? No, she just needed some space. That was what she tried to convince herself of, but she knew she was hiding. She thought about hiding in the master bedroom, but Duke would easily think to look for her there. After she had that thought, she asked herself if she really thought Duke would come looking for her. For some reason, she thought he might.
Lyta found the upstairs guest bathroom and instinctively dove inside. She closed the door and leaned up against it. Her fingers fumbled for the lock, then realized that cats didn’t have thumbs. She sat on the toilet and took out her phone. She had Candy Crush on it and began to play, glad for the distraction. She hoped she could hide out for an hour or so, just enough time to let Duke cool off. She was not so lucky.
Almost immediately, she heard scratching on the door. Duke truly had hunted her down. Hunted, that was an interesting word choice, but apparently it was accurate.
“Estoy pooping,” Lyta said, remembering a meme she saw on Facebook. The scratching stopped only to be replaced with pounding. “Estoy pooping!” she shouted. The intensity of the pounding increased in response. The door shook with each bang. Then a combination of clawing and pounding began. Lyta flinched with each impact. She clutched her phone tightly and pondered whether she should call the Mercers or 911. Then the growling and snorting started. “The fuck!” she shouted. The banging was suddenly coming from the middle of the door rather than from the bottom. The growling sounded like there was a bear on the other side of the door. What else could be out there with Duke? Mrs. Mercer didn’t mention having more than one cat or another animal.
The banging grew more frantic. Tiny slivers of wood fell from the center of the door. Then four large white claws penetrated the wood, sending more splinters to the floor. Lyta stood up and backed herself up against the wall to the left of the toilet. There was a small window present, but she was too big to climb out of it. At this moment, she regretted her enjoyment of tacos.
She clutched her phone so tightly, it hurt. She needed to call the Mercers. She found their number in her contacts and pressed the call button. She could barely hear the ringtone over the growling and banging. The line went straight to voicemail. Dammit, she thought. They must be on the plane. The next plan was to call 911, though she didn’t know how to explain what was happening. Being attacked by a mutant cat was definitely going to be seen as a prank. She figured she would try it anyway. She dialed 911 and waited for the line to pick up.
“911, what is your emergency?” asked the woman on the other end.
Lyta took a deep breath before she screamed into the phone, “A cat is trying to kill me just because I didn’t let him watch cartoons at noon, or didn’t give him the food he wanted!”
“Excuse me, ma’am, are you messing with me?”
“I swear to God, I’m telling the truth!” Lyta looked at the door and saw a hole had been created. A massive orange paw reached through it and swiped madly for its target. “It’s huge and it’s breaking down the door!”
“It’s like a fucking cougar now!”
“So is it a cat or a cougar?”
“I don’t fucking know! Just get here now!” Lyta cried. She shouted the address just before the door that stood between her and certain death fell to the floor in several pieces. She screamed as a creature that hardly resembled the cat she once knew stomped into the bathroom to tower above her. Its fangs glistened in the light, drool dripped from its gnarled lips, and its putrid breath permeated the air as it panted angrily. It’s horrid green eyes glowed as they stared down at Lyta. The woman whimpered a quiet apology before all went dark.
When the police arrived, they had to kick down the front door to gain access to the inside of the house. They searched the entire house, but only found a cell phone with Candy Crush pulled up in a blood splattered bathroom, and the most adorable fat orange cat licking its lips in a satisfied manner. There was no sign of the woman who made the call. And there never was again.
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