Friday, March 4, 2011

The Cat From Hell

Stephen King's Short Story from his compilation, 'Just After Sunset'. AA.
The story is about a cat that comes from nowhere to take revenge for the atrocities committed on fifteen thousand cats in the name of an FDA approved experiment.
Halston is a hitman. He is sent by his contact to an old man in a wheelchair called Drogan.
"Who do you want hit?"
"Your victim is right behind you", says Drogan.
'Halston quickly grips the handle of the short-barrelled .45 hybrid that hung below his armpit in a spring-loaded holster that laid it in his palm at a touch. A moment later it was out and pointed at ... a cat.'
'For a moment Halston and the cat stared at each other.'
'Its face was an even split: half-black, half-white.'
"He's very friendly," Grogan said. "At first. Nice friendly pussy has killed three people in this household. That leaves only me. I am old, I am sick ... but I prefer to die in my own time."
"I can't believe this," Halston said. "You hired me to hit a cat?"
"Six thousand dollars. There will be another six when you bring me proof that the cat is dead".
Drogan is owner of Drogan Pharmaceuticals.
"In the four-year testing period which led to FDA approval of Tri-Gormal-G, about fifteen thousand cats ... uh, expired". 'Halston whistled. About four thousand cats a year. And now you think this one's back to get you, huh?'.
'Seven months ago there had been four of them here- Drogan, his sister Amanda, who at seventy-four was two years Drogan's elder, her lifelong friend Carolyn Broadmoor (of the Westchester Broadmoors,'Drogan said,'who was badly afflicted with emphysema and Dick Gage, a hired man who had been with the Drogan family for twenty years.Then the cat had come'.
'In mid-May, Gage had found Amanda Drogan lying at the foot of the main stairs in a litter of broken crockery and Little Friskies. Her eyes bulged sightlessly up at the ceiling. She had bled a great deal from the mouth and nose. They got to the head of the stairs and the cat got in front of her... tripped her...'.
'Carolyn Broadmoor was also attached to the cat. She had threatened to leave if he did, apparently.Near the end of June, she died in the night. The doctor seemed to take it as a matter of course... just came and wrote out the death certificate and that was the end of it'.
"Drogan, why don't you just have it put away? A vet would give it the gas for twenty dollars".
"On July third, I called Gage to this room and handed him a wicker basket... a picnic hamper sort of thing. Do you know what I mean? I told him to put the cat in it and take it to a vet in Milford and have it put to sleep. There was an accident on the turn-pike. The Lincoln was driven into a bridge abutment at better than sixty miles an hour. Dick Gage was killed instantly. When they found him, there were scratches on his face."
"And the cat came back?"
'Drogan nodded. "A week later. On the day Dick Gage was buried, as a matter of fact. Just like the old song says. The cat came back."
"It survived a car crash at sixty? Hard to believe."
"They say each one has nine lives. When it comes back.. that's when I started to wonder if it might not be a ... a ...."
"Hellcat?"
"For want of a better word, yes. A sort of demon sent..."
"To punish you."
'Halston smiled humourlessly. He began to stroke the sleeping cat's head and shoulders and back very gently again."All right, I accept the contract. Do you want the body?"
"No. Kill it. Bury it. Bring me the tail. So I can throw it in the fire and watch it burn."
'The cat was in a double-thickness shopping bag, tied at the top with heavy twine. The bag was in the passenger bucket seat.'
'Strange hit, Halston thought and was surprised to find that he was taking it seriously as a hit. He would park off the road beside one of these November-barren fields and take it out of the bag and stroke it and then snap its neck and sever its tail with his pocket knife.. And he thought, the body - he'll bury it honourably saving it from the scavengers. I can save it from the maggots.'
'He was thinking these things as the cat moved through the night like a dark blue ghost and that was when the cat walked in front of his eyes, up on the dashboard, tail raised arrogantly, its black-and-white face turned toward him,its mouth seeming to grin at him.'
'And suddenly the road was gone, the Plymouth was running down into the ditch, thudding up and down on its shocks. Then, second impact. And darkness.'
'It seemed to be grinning like Alice's Cheshire had in Wonderland.His arms would not move. Halston did scream, his mouth yawning open, and that was when the cat changed direction and leaped at his face, leaped at his mouth. It rammed into his mouth, a furry projectile. He gagged on it. Its front claws pinwheeled, tattering his tongue like a piece of liver. The cat was forcing its way into his mouth, flattening its body, squirming,working itself further and further in. Somehow it had gotten its entire body into his mouth. Its strange, black-and-white face must be crammed into his very throat. Protruding from his open mouth was two inches of bushy tail .. half-black, half-white. It switched lazily back and forth. It disappeared.'
'Above Halston's navel, a ragged hole had been clawed in his flesh. Looking out was the gore-streaked black-and-white face of a cat, its eyes huge and glaring.'
'The cat forced its body out and stretched in obscene languor. Then it leaped out the open window. It seemed to be in a hurry noticed a reporter from the local paper. As if it had unfinished business.'

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