Molly slowly opened her large green eyes and blinked at the glowing red numbers on the bedside clock cutting through the dark. 1:30 AM it silently announced. Perfect. The meeting would be starting in half an hour, giving her more than enough time to grab a quick snack and check on the rest of the house before heading out.
Slowly stretching her long lithe limbs, she arched her back and let out a satisfied sigh. Getting to her feet, she stretched once more for good measure. The nap had been a good one. The kind of nap that left one feeling rejuvenated and clear-headed.
Before exiting to the kitchen, Molly gave a quick look over her shoulder. Thomas was still fast asleep. His mouth slightly ajar, a soft snore tickling the back of his throat. Contented that her movements hadn't awoken him, she padded down the hall to stir up some grub.
Moving quietly from room to room, Molly checked each door and window to make sure they were securely locked. She then made a point to check on each sleeping person, taking extra care with the children. Satisfied that their breathing was regular and all was well, she headed for the back door.
Once outside, she broke into a fast trot, sticking to the shadows. She hurried to the McCreedy's barn across the field from the small farmhouse she made her home. The night was crisp with the first inklings of fall. Molly loved how the cold air felt rushing past her ears.
Molly made it to the McCreedy's yard just as the distant town clock tower gave a double chime. At the same moment, Angel's long-limbed figure came into view from the opposite side of the yard followed by her younger sisters, Bets, and Paige. The trio nodded a silent hello to Molly, and together the four of them entered the barn together.
Inside the barn, a group of about twenty had gathered in the shadowy space whose darkness was periodically interrupted by shafts of blue moonlight seeping through the cracked and weather-worn roof. The effect was melodramatic, adding to the tension felt by all in attendance.
“As you all know, we are here to discuss a very serious matter,” proclaimed Miss Cups' confident voice, quieting the din produced by small talk and greetings from the meeting's attendees. She stood on the far side of the barn from where Molly had entered atop makeshift stage supplied by farmer McCreedy's dilapidated tractor. Seeing that she had everyone's attention, Miss Cups continued, “So far, three of our number have fallen prey to the vile beast posing as the human Mrs. Mary Carter. This alien creature has taken up residence in our fair and humble community, keeping hoards of maddening parakeets, and poisoning felines every chance she gets!” Miss Cups swished her tail with agitation, punctuating her words.
Mrs. Carter was of the alien race known as the Lyrans. As far as cats were concerned, these aliens were either the best or the worst thing to take up residence on earth. This particular breed of alien had a penchant for keeping small, cute creatures as pets. These included, but by no means limited to, hedgehogs, birds, most breeds of small dogs, rodents, and even cats. This scenario was always mutually beneficial when cats were the object of affection but usually went terribly awry when other small fluffy creatures were the “pet” of choice. As one can imagine, cats also have a great taste, so to speak, for small, fuzzy creatures. This ended up being a point of contention between the Lyrans and the cats, especially since Lyrans took to poisoning the offending felines, causing local cat populations to retaliate.
“The presence of this interloper must be eradicated before more harm can come to us!” Miss Cups announced, raising her hackles. “We must do away with this menace before more of us are harmed.”
“What do you suggest we do?” asked a gruff voice from the back of the barn.
Molly turned her head to see who had spoken. A large ally cat emerged from the shadows, revealing smart yellow eyes in a large orange head.
“As you well know Midas, we cats have our ways,” replied Miss Cups. “You who were right beside me during the Reptilian Invasion five years ago know what we are capable of.”
“A family of three is hardly an invasion,” retorted Midas huffily, swishing his long tail and twitching his fight-notched ears. A few giggles rippled through the crowd at this. “Have you stopped to think that this Mrs. Carter knows what cats are? What we're doing here?”
Miss Cups snorted and rolling her eyes, “Only the insane think cats are alien spies delivering messages to their overlords. Not even other aliens believe the rumors are true.”
This fact had often bewildered Molly. Cats had been deposited on Earth by the Andromedans thousands of years ago, along with the blueprints for the pyramids at Giza and the South American Ziggurats. After assisting the ancient Egyptians in constructing the vast monuments to their Pharaohs, the Andromedans had left behind cats as a means of gathering information on human advancement. During naps, everything a cat sees and hears is psychically transmitted directly to the Andromedans where is it recorded and filed away for later editing and archiving. Over the centuries, this tactic had been played out on several other class M planets throughout the solar system, giving rise to the abundance of cats throughout the cosmos. As a result, the Andromedans have one of the most complex and well-documented libraries on alien existence in the universe. One had to wonder why more didn't believe what cats were really up to. After all, wasn't all that napping suspicious?
“As far as Mrs. Carter knows,” Miss Cups pointed out, “cats are only a threat to her parakeets, not to her personally. She has no idea of our advanced mental status. She only sees us as bird killers that need to be poisoned to protect her precious feathered friends.
“All right. What do you suggest we do to take care of her?” Midas asked, curling himself into the seated position and neatly wrapping his tail around his paws. Molly noted how majestic he looked in the shaft of moonlight raking through the barn's roof.
A cat to Miss Cups' right stood and came forward. He outlined a plan involving most of the cats gathered to rid their community of the horrible and murderous Mrs. Carter. Tiger had been the military mastermind behind the obliteration of the epic rat plague perpetrated by the Reptilians as a food supply. After the trio of scaly intruders had been expunged, the town's sewers and surrounding fields and farms had been almost overrun by rats. The local cats had gotten to work, systematically exterminating the furry scourge.
Having finished doling out instructions and parts to be played, Tiger dismissed his makeshift army of felines until the following night where they were to meet at Mrs. Carter's home and execute the plan to carry out her “accidental” death.
Molly said her goodbyes to her cohorts and made her way back across the field to her family's house. She silently entered the kitchen through the cat door, and curled her sleek gray body against the warmth of her Thomas' feet and waited for sleep as she mentally reviewed the plan for the following night.
Just before one, the following morning, Molly joined Angel under the hydrangeas bordering the redwood fence of Mrs. Carter’s backyard. A few minutes later, the clock tower gave its solitary chime, and together they silently scaled the fence and tightroped along its edge to the garage. Once atop the roof, they quickly located the open bedroom window with the damaged screen, compliments of Tiger’s visit a day earlier, and tiptoed into a vacant bedroom.
When the spry pair were safely in the house, they looked up at the walls of their entry point. The moonlight streaming in through the window they had just climbed through revealed that every spare inch of wall space was covered with framed photographs of parakeets. The whole scene gave Molly a shiver. How could anyone be so obsessed with squawky little birds? The idea was beyond Molly's comprehension.
“More than a little creepy,” commented Angel of the room's decor.
“I couldn't agree more,” Molly whispered in reply. “Let's get this over with.”
Angel arrived at the door to the hallway first and made sure the way was clear. The duo slowly crept down towards the stairs to the living room. Here they silently sneaked through the landmines of cloth-covered birdcages where forty plus small parakeets slept.
Finding their way to the kitchen on the opposite side of the house from where Mrs. Carter slept, Molly leaped easily onto the Formica counter and nosed opened the casement window overlooking the farmhouse’s wraparound porch.
Slowly, cat after cat funneled stealthily in through the kitchen window. Like a well-oiled machine, each found their place amongst the many birdcages, doorways, and overstuffed home furnishings. Molly and Angel transversed the living room again and took up their assigned post at the top of the stairs next to the grandfather clock which read 1:10 AM. The last two cats to enter were Miss Cups and Tiger. Both went around double-checking to see that all were in their appointed spots and ready to proceed with their dark plot. Contented, Tiger gave the nod.
At his signal, the ten or so cats positioned around the living room lunged and jumped at the fabric blanketed enclosures in which the tiny birds slumbered, toppling them and causing their occupants to shriek and cry out in fear and alarm.
The cacophony rang throughout the house. The closed door at the far end of the hall flung open, exposing the rotund, female figure of Mrs. Carter, complete with hard-rollered hair wrapped in a kerchief, and flannel nightgown falling to mid varicose mapped calves. Brandished in her right hand was a wooden baseball bat at the ready to dispatch who or whatever was causing this caterwaul from her precious parakeets. Just as she was about to take her first step through the jam, Bets, and Paige, without missing a beat, moved from where they had been waiting just outside Mrs. Carter's bedroom door, and blocked the old woman's way.
The result couldn't have made the war party happier. Being so focused on the commotion downstairs, Mrs. Carter didn't notice the two small cats right in front of her. When her bare foot came in contact with the furry body of Paige, she lost her balance and began to topple forward. In an attempt to regain her equilibrium, she hopped forward on her other foot, only to set it down on Bets' tail. The combination of cat screech and bony tail only served to upend Mrs. Carter further. She completely lost the battle to stay on her feet and tumbled in a heap of plastic curlers and chubby limbs just outside her bedroom door. The fall caused her to bang her head rather harshly on the hall’s hardwood floor, loosening her grip on the bat, the force of which sent it sliding down the smooth polished wood, just out of reach.
Paige and Bets, having finished their first task, headed for the open kitchen window, and out onto the porch to await further instructions.
Lying on the cold floor, Mrs. Carter took stock of her situation. Nothing felt broken, but she was certainly bruised, and taking into account the wet feeling emanating from where she had banged her head, a little bloodied. Bewildered and confused, she slowly pushed herself to her feet and peered into the dark hall. Spotting the dropped bat, she began to move toward it, but before she could make it to her destination, Sweets, a tiny calico who had been lurking in the shadows of the hall, hissed and swatted at Mrs. Carters exposed ankles. The benign attack startled the old woman, causing her to turn toward Sweets giving Angel and Molly a clear line of sight of her chest. Together they burst from where they had been concealed in the shadow of the grandfather clock, and leaped into the air, landing squarely on the old woman's sternum, and knocking her towards the top of the stairs. Tiger and Miss Cups, seeing their cue, charged up the stairs, and twining themselves around her ankles, caused the old woman to fully begin her backward descent, her arms cartwheeling madly as she tried to remain upright, but failing to find anything to grab. As gravity took a firm hold, Mrs. Carter eyes dance wildly, looking for whom or what was to blame for this inexplicable series of events. Her eyes caught Molly's green, intent stare, and the full motivation of the attack became completely clear to her.
“Cats?” she whispered, “But that's just a rumor.” Before she could say more, Mrs. Carter tumbled down the stairs, landing in a heap at its foot, her neck at an impossible angle.
Mikey and Snubbs, part of the crew who had attacked the cages, crept cautiously up to the prone figure and gave it a tentative sniff. Mikey nodded to Tiger at the top of the stairs, letting him know they had accomplished their objective.
Miss Cups sprang to the banister and addressed the cats in attendance, “Good work everyone. The alien known as Mrs. Carter is no more.”
A cheer went up from all the cats in attendance, which from an outside perspective would have sounded less than joyful unless you're the type of person who likes the stridencies of yellowing of cats.
As the war party was congratulating themselves for a job well done, Snubbs let out a grief-stricken cry that cut through the exuberant din.
A short, calico tale could be seen protruding from underneath Mrs. Carter’s heavy form. The group looked on in horror as Midas slowly advanced on what appeared to be the crushed figure of Sweets’ tiny frame. Midas gave the tail a tentative sniff, and finding no life in it, gave a single nod to Mrs. Cups from her post on the banister.
Miss Cups began slowly. “Once again, our number has suffered a loss. Today our family mourns the loss of yet another. Yet, however despairing this tiding may be, we shall have to forego our grieving for now. Our work here is not yet finished. We still need to release some of the birds.” Turning to Angel, she said, “Tell your sisters to bring in the patsy, and then close the window behind you.”
Shaking her head in despair, Angel trotted off to help her sisters. In a few minutes, the three cats reappeared, dragging with them a dead raccoon.
“Place it halfway down the stairs,” ordered Tiger.
“What about Snubbs?” Came a faceless voice.
“We’ll have to leave him here. We can’t possible move her corpses off him,” Midas said, giving the limp calico tail a loving nudge before moving up the stairs.
With a cage worth of birds flying wildly around the house and the dead raccoon positioned on the stairs, the cats gathered themselves into a procession and gave Snubbs a last sniff before exited through the parakeet room, and back to their homes.
The next morning Molly awoke to hear her family discussing the untimely death of their neighbor, Mrs. Carter. Apparently a hungry raccoon, along with one of the neighbor’s cats had sneaked into her house sometime in the night and tried to get at her parakeets. Mrs. Carter must have come out of her room to see what was going on, when she startled the creatures, and in their attempt to escape back to the upstairs window, tripped the poor old woman, sending her tumbling down the stairs to her death where she apparently landed on the neighbor’s cat, crushing him.
Molly stretched and lolled on her back in Thomas' empty bed. A pang sliced through her heart at the mention of Snubbs and his sacrifice for this community. The sadness quickly transformed to triumph at the thought of what a few cats could accomplish when organized. The satisfaction longs for by cats everywhere glazed her eyes as she closed them and began to purr.
Ah, how wonderful humans are, she thought. They always look for the simplest answer to any situation.