Bony fingers gripped a wooden spoon, as it stirred in a black kettle. With her eyes firmly shut, the short, stocky, old woman inhaled the aroma. "Ahhhh! A smell so delicious and sweet, it must be kitty meat." Wild eyed, she chuckled at herself. The old woman often spoke in rhymes. A symptom of her neurosis.
From beneath the wooden floor came the aching meows of a hundred some cats, demanding there supper. She banged her heel against the floor, "Silence I say, or there'll be no supper today!" But the hungry meows from the cellar below persisted. She decided her soup needed more time to simmer. Plenty of time to go out and fetch something for her hungry cattle of kittens.
Her kittens required fresh meat to remained juicy and plump. If they became too thin, they would not sustain her through the long winter months. She grabbed her lantern and shovel and stepped out the door.
Tied to a post outside awaited her mule. Her bony fingers worked to untie the knot as the mule snorted and jerked. "We got work to do, Gus," she muttered. But Gus continued to protest. The old woman, angered shook her fist at him and shouted, "Be still I say! Or you'll be food for the kitties!" The mule poised with terror, protested no more.
With the lantern held high, she lead her mule down the usual path into the deep, dark woods. As they traveled, a howl from a distant coyote startled Gus. He stopped dead in his tracks and honked defiantly at the old woman. "Come on you!" She hollered back. "There's no need to fret.... We haven't made it to the cemetery yet." Gus reluctantly pressed on. He hated coyotes... Hated cemeteries too. But what he hated most, was what he had to do night after night.
The old woman and her mule came to a clearing and saw there destonation. The cemetery upon the hill. Fog rolled off the grassy mound while head stones stuck out like jagged teeth. Once on top of the hill an orphanage could be seen down below. That was where many of the deceased had once lived. Abandon children, who mysteriously feel ill and died.
The old woman searched down the rows of headstones until discovering what she had hoped she would find. The freshly buried corpse of an orphan who was unfortunate to find the poisoned sweets she cleverly hides within the courtyard of the orphanage. She quickly retrieved her shovel from the mule's backpack and went to work. The grave as always was very shallow. No more than four feet at the most. The undertaker didn't put much effort into burying someone who had no family.
When finished she tossed the shovel from the hole and leaped out. Then came Gus's part. She grabbed the rope from his bridle and hopped back in to tie it to the end of the casket. Then with a loud raspy whisper she yelled out, "Pull mule, Pull!" Carefully Gus backed up, pulling the four-foot casket from its shallow grave.
Gleefully she picked up her lantern and raced over to open the lid. She delighted at what she found.
There, under the warm glow of the lantern lied the body of a chubby, little boy. "Ah... this one's perfect. Perfect indeed. A plump little piggy for my kittens to feed!" She flung the body over the mules back. Then hurried down the hill to the courtyard, to replenish her stash of poisoned sweets.
As she quietly lurked in the shadows, her task was interrupted by the slamming of a door. The mule startled by the sound bolted wildly towards the woods. She yelled for him to come back but Gus would not listen. He decided he had enough. Better to chance the coyotes than go through another night of this.
She went to call out again but was halted by the boom of a man's voice. "Hello! Who's out there!?" A shadow of a man called out from the entrance of the orphanage. Panicked, the old woman too scurried away towards the woods. She did not stop until the orphanage was completely out of sight. Once in safe distance she stopped to catch her breath. "Good for nothing old mule!" she cursed. "I'll kill him if I find him."
On her way home she was relieved to stumble on the body of the boy she had labored so hard to dig up. She assumed the mule must have managed to buck him off is back. "All is not lost after all," she thought. She grabbed the boy by his ankles and drugged him from behind. When she finally made it back, she realized that the body had grown cold from being dragged along on the cold ground. Therefore, she decided to warm the body, before serving it to her ghoulish friends. She dragged the body over to the fire place and stoked the coals. Then she returned to her kettle to check its progress.
From her big wooden spoon, she sampled the soup. "The broth is much too thin," she said. "Better to stick another cat in..." She opened the cellar door and crept down the rickety old stairs. Bones cracking beneath her feet, she stumbles in darkness. Searching with her arms for the lantern that hung from the ceiling. She lights it with a match and surveys the poorly lit room. Cats linger at every corner, on every box and shelf. Pointing her finger she chants, "Eeni, meenie, minie, moe. Which little kitty wants to go?"
"Ah!" She said, with here finger pointing at one in particular, "You will do." She crept towards the black cat, who sat cleaning its paw on an old hope chest.
The cat seemed unconcerned with her at first. But before she could grab it, the cat quickly leaped off the hope chest. She looked around and discovered the cat was now perched way up on a bookshelf, used to store her jars of poison and sweets. She reached as high as she could, but the cat managed to stay just out of reach.
Determined not to be out witted, she used the bottom self to boost herself up. But as soon as the cat got within reach, it pounced onto her head, sinking its nails into her scalp. She yelped wildly as she tried swatting it off her head. The cat let out a violent hiss as it dug its nails deeper and deeper. The old woman began to loose her balance and tried pulling herself closer to the shelf with both hands.
Too late, she realized that the opened back bookshelf now to became off balance and was falling towards her. The cat quickly hopped off, before the bookshelf came crashing down. Amongst the loud crash of mason jars, she could hear her own neck snap. Then all was black...
She was awakened by what sounded like a hundred little mouths smacking and gnawing. She tried to move, but could feel nothing. As she opened her eyes, she gasped in horror. While she was unconscious. The cats had been busy. Her fingertips were missing... her arms had hunks of flesh eaten away, while cats wondered up and down her body looking for tender spots to eat.
Then, the black cat she had pursued, sat down on her chest. It stared her in the eye as if pleased with itself. The old woman could not help but chuckle at the irony. But her laughter turned to cries as the cat leaned in and ate the nose from her face...
Where are you going? The story isn't over yet...
Slowly the boy opened his eyes and sat up. He looked around, bewildered by his surroundings.
He did not know were he was... nor how he got there. The last thing he could remember was getting a stomach ach from some candy he had found and deciding it best to sleep it off. He tried to remember a dream he had... something about riding a donkey, but it wasn't clear.
"Hello!?" He called out. But there was no response. He wondered through the decrepit house before smelling something in the kitchen. He went to the kettle to investigate. From the long wooden spoon, he tasted... "This is delicious!" He announced. And continued to eat more. He decided that he should return to the orphanage... But not without taking the kettle.
As for Gus... The undertaker found him. His lead rope had gotten snagged under a dead log and was stuck out there until dawn. Not knowing who the mule could possible belong to, the undertaker decided he would make a fine cart mule. Therefore, Gus spent the rest of his days carting around dead bodies and caskets for the undertaker. He still hated cemeteries... but at least there were no coyotes...