[EPR] Denise 3

All it ever was supposed to be was a peaceful night of crocheting. Maybe it would get wild and Denise would make herself some tea. She would even warm up some cream, it had been months since the October milk riots. They know what they did. 

The night however, was all interrupted by a strange scratch at the door. Denise knew the scratches of all the cats not present, and anyway, they used the windows. The scratches grew frantic, giving the immediate air that the creature was in danger.

“Don’t answer it,” said Snowball.

“How can you say that?” said Slushy.

Denise rushed to the door. She could already hear her pleading through the door. “Help me please!” she shouted.  “He’s coming for me!”

Instinct ran through her and she lept to the door handle. 

Cleopatra and Mark Anthony lept between her and the door.  

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Cleo asked.

“There will be no turning back,” said Mark.

Something in the way they said it made her freeze. Cats had a way of knowing things. It was rare that they let these things be known. 

“He’s coming to eat me! Please, I beg you!” The creature begged.

It was the cycle of life. This needed to happen. This is the world. But she couldn’t; she wasn’t strong enough. 

She pulled the door open and the rabbit ran in. She was out of breath and was openly bleeding on the carpet. Denise grabbed gauze from the cabinet and tried to catch the crazed animal.  “He’s here, he’s here!” it shouted.  

The cats everywhere in the trailer were meowing and protesting in surprise and discomfort at the odd smell.  “Intruder!” they hissed.  “It’s hurt!”  “What is it?”

Finally, Denise was able to pounce and catch the rabbit in a towel. Its eyes were wide and crazed. The small animal was gripped in shock. Denise wrapped the struggling creature the best she could. Once it was wrapped, she swaddled it in the towel to try and bring the creature it’s senses. Denise whispered to it, trying to calm it down by stroking its ears.

Several deescalating moments, she asked, “What is chasing you?”

This sent a more violent shiver down the rabbit, but once she understood that Denise could speak to him, he had to say something.  He whispered, almost inaudible.  “Coyote…”

The small living room erupted, “A coyote?” “A coyote!” “Is he still here?” “Is he coming for us?” “Can he get in?”

The name shot fear through her. Many of her cats lived outside, they were the free spirits of the bunch. They were tough, but not coyote tough. She looked at her friends who shared her concern. She tucked the rabbit into a stack of newspapers. The rabbit was quivering, but she didn’t run.

She turned to her family. “I need to go out there,” she said. “I need to see if they’re okay.”  

“No!” the chorus answered immediately. “It’s dangerous.” “There’s a coyote.” “It will eat you.”

“I’ll be fine,” said Denise. “I’ll scare it away.”

“Be safe.”  “Be careful.”  “Don’t go.”  “Bring a gun.”

A gun wasn’t a bad idea, but Denise didn’t own a gun. She wasn’t fond of loud noises and though the police department offered her one several times, it seemed like she needed to talk to a lot of people, and she didn’t want to do that. But that meant that she had to improvise.  

Ultimately, after some quick scrounging around her trailer, Denise’s coyote fighting kit consisted of a baseball catcher’s mask and pads, a broom, and a can of Raid. She was well aware that Raid was meant to kill bugs and not coyotes, but she couldn’t imagine any mammal would appreciate bug spray in its face, regardless of how big its teeth were.  

The cats didn’t want her to leave, but understood that they had friends out there that needed to be protected. “Be safe,” they said. “Be careful.” “I’m scared for you.” “Come back as soon as possible.” “Don’t go.” “Can we have food while you’re away?”

She cracked the door and looked out into the moonlit woods. Her motion sensing porch light glowed out into the night, but only made it so far before it gave way to the realm of darkness.  Immediately she identified the unmistakable metallic smell that sat heavy in the humid air.  Something violent happened here.  

She edged out of the house, broom first, clearing the way for each step for invisible coyotes that would materialize and maul her to death. “Hello?” she called out to the wood. “Are you there?”  

Nothing.  

Something was shaking out on the porch as she walked out in full. She realized however, it was her. She couldn’t control the subtle tremor of her nerves.  

She ventured out beyond her porch and the scent grew stronger. That’s when, out in the woods, one of the heaps didn’t look like the others. It was slick with blood. In the moonlight, she could make out the orange fur of Saint Aloysius.  She broke into a run and kneeled beside the corpse and confirmed her fears. She threw the catcher’s mask and knelt beside the body of her friend.  Tears fell freely from her face.  She wanted to pick him up and embrace him, but he was too mangled to resemble his original form.  She could only weep for him in the woods.   

But that wasn’t the end of it.  Out in the dark woods, in silhouette she saw the corpses of two more cats. One was Penny Tentoes. The other was Artemis. Denise sobbed into the night.  They were alive hours ago, now their warm fluids sank into the earth.  All because a stupid rabbit ran this way.

I am sorry, said a wispy, almost spectral voice.  

Denise turned and saw the coyote looking at her through the dark of the wood.  Its eyes beamed out yellow in the skim light of the forest.  It stood perfectly still, yet its fur seemed to rustle without any wind.  Blood dripped from its jaws. “You’re a monster,” she shouted at it.

I am the nature of things, said the coyote. Nature consumes itself. The plant gives life to the fish. The fish gives life to the cat. The cat gives life to the coyote. Things die, but in order to live, they must eat. Only man thinks, who seeks to create her own nature, lives outside these principles. But they are steeped in the same nature as I. 

The regret was hot in her veins. “Now you ate,” she barked at the creature.  “So leave.”  

You have disrupted the balance, it said. You traded the life of one for the lives of others. 

“One rabbit?” she said. “For three innocents? Fuck you and your natural order. Where is my repayment? Where is theirs?” 

The coyote stared silently at her. The ripples echo and the debts must be paid. You have now woven yourself into the stitching of the events that will transpire. I see a boy, in his possession is a great treasure whose value is beyond his comprehension. You must assist him in restoring the balance of the world. 

“For saving a fucking rabbit!?” she had grown hysterical with fear and remorse.

The coyote didn’t seem to share the same concern. Go west from here. You will find a grove with a well long abandoned. Seek the Raven and the Sparrow. Tell them of a man named Hargrove. 

“Riddles?” she shouted. “Will that bring my friends back?”

What is consumed will remain consumed, said the coyote. But what can be saved may still be saved.

“Cryptic bullshit,” she said. 

Good luck to you, Greenspeaker, said the Coyote. I hope we do not meet again. With that, the coyote dematerialized and disappeared in the nonexistent wind. 

Denise was left alone in the woods with the dismembered corpses of her friends. She wept into the void, alone.

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