Well, look what just turned up in the post, my author’s copy of Weird Tails, a brand new compilation of Mythos fiction, which is inspired by both HP Lovecraft and horror fiction’s ongoing fascination with all things feline.
It’s a fantastic folio of freakishly feline fables and features an array of authors from the Innsmouth Writing Circle, of which I’m really proud to be a member.
No matter how many times it happens, and nowadays it does somewhat regularly, I can still never quite get over the thrill of being a published author and receiving a new book to which I’ve made a contribution.
The smell of a freshly published tome, a crisp white flick of its pages, the undeniable delight of seeing your story there in black and white.
It’s certainly a beacon in these dark times and renews the creative juices for when you’re staring at a blank page trying to creating new work. “Braining words is hard” as a fellow author so recently and memorably put it.
My ‘tail’ is called Mouser and features “Bernard” or Savage Shadowclaw (which is his proper cat name and title), a feline guardian who is charged with protecting his uman household against a supernatural terror on Walpurgis Eve, that most terrifying and unsanctified of all nights.
Elsewhere, The Constellation of Alarion and Other Stories, my new sci-fi short story collection, is done and being laid out ready to launch in the New Year. Work also continues apace on Keeper of the Hidden Flame, the third Mon Dieu Cthulhu! novel, which is shaping up to be a monster.
As 2020, a year like no other, draws to a finale, have a merry Christmas and a happy new year. I wish you peace, prosperity and urge you to secure yourself some bliss in these dark times, you definitely deserve it!
After an absolute bastard of a year, 2021 will surely bring better times for us all. I look forward to sharing them with you again. We will endure.
There are sounds of movement from upstairs, a regular thud-thud as the uman called Cheryl-mother trudges down the stairs. The kitchen door opens slowly, so slowly.
“There he is, already waiting. How is my little fur baby today?”
Silence uman, you must feed me immediately, I yowl, but as usual she doesn’t comprehend, either my words or the urgency of my needs.
“Yes, yes, let me just put the kettle on. Then I’ll feed you.” Water draws, there’s a click of the boiling device and then she is shaking the victuals container at me.
“Who’d like some breakfast then?”
I would of course foolish female, but the prospect of sustenance is appealing and despite myself, I can’t help but emit a deep resonant purr of approval, as I anticipate the forthcoming nourishment.
“Who’s a good boy then, who’s my best boy?”
I ignore her blandishments and wind my way around her bare calves, which I have found encourages her to perform this vital task with more alacrity. Rations rattle into the bowl, and I set to, famished after my night’s endeavours. She gazes on approvingly for a while then says,
“Oh, look at your nose, have you been fighting again? Naughty boy.”
I ignore the disapproving tone and continue to feed. But do you see the kind of rubbish I have to put up with? You have no comprehension of the kind of night I’ve had. Umans.
But where are my manners? Now that my immediate needs have been met, let me introduce myself. My familial name is Bernard and I am the Smith family’s custos cattus or ‘cat’ in uman terms.
Four others abide in this dwelling, the aforementioned mother, a kindly uman female of middling age, who is also designated Cheryl. ‘Dad’ is Cheryl’s long suffering mate, a quiet but cheerful male who is known as Dan-father. From upstairs, I hear distant sounds as their litter of two starts to emerge from their slumbers: these are Daisy-kitten, a charming and imaginative female of some seven summers, and Mike-kitten, her small, rather serious sibling who at five, is the runt of the litter.
I, for my sins, many and varied as they are, am their custodian and keeper. It is an ominous yet profound duty and I take it extremely seriously. They all call me Bernard, but my cat name is Savage Shadowclaw.
Full to the point of satiation, I retreat to the tower apparatus and cradle myself inside its comfortable, fluffy walls. After such a vigorous night’s activities, I must recharge and renew, especially for the evening in prospect and I am soon curled up and entering the dream realm, where my consciousness roves the cosmos, alighting on the world known as Cattus where the perpetual summers are long and drowsy, leaping fish are in abundance, and there are numerous social and mating opportunities. Felines may visit this paradise at any time by falling into a slumber, eyes closed or open, it matters little, and it is where we congregate and socialise with felines in their many and varied forms from all across the multiverse, especially the lofty Ultharians who we secretly refer to as the ‘cosmic cats’.
I spend some time in leisure and recreation (for time moves in a different way and at a very different pace in that place) and take counsel from some wise and ancient members of my race, Lord Treetail and Lady Softpaw. By the time my slumbers are being rudely interrupted and I return to the waking world, I am feeling suitably refreshed and reinvigorated.
“Bernard?” It is the Daisy-kitten who has interrupted my meditations and while a feline is never entirely pleased to be prematurely awakened, she at least, knows how to treat a guardian. A gentle ear scratching and chin stroking which is amongst the most pleasant of ways to be roused, ensues. I have a soft spot for this kitten who is amongst my favourite umans but she seems to have urgent business on her mind, for her little brow is creased thoughtfully.
“Bernard. Bernard! You must wake up.” She whispers in my ear, but I fail to see the urgency.
Why little one? I purr, still half a doze.
“Look, look!” she insists and points a chubby finger a grave expression crossing her face. I am stationed on the lower floor of my tower and she has gained ingress on one of the two open sides, thrusting her visage so close, she looks like a small moon.
What little one?
Her eyes dart leftward and I come half awake now. There, perhaps two yards away (felines remain conservatively imperial in all units of measurement), a small rodent has paused in its skittering to take the air, whiskers twitching. Its mouth contains a small morsel of food and it is evidently returning to its nest with its haul.
“Shouldn’t you, you know?” Daisy says, her face becoming very concerned and in the process, quite comical.
I contemplate the creature. Unconsciously I have already detected its scent, tracked its path, predicted its position and now I can even hear the beating of its tiny heart as it senses unseen danger. For a moment, ingrained instincts take over, eyes widen, muscles come alive, body tenses, tail flickers, but then the rational part of my mind intervenes. This is small beer, no threat, scarcely worth of the title of prey at all and far beneath my remit and my notice. Killing it would be a waste of time and effort for all involved. As I follow this line of thought through, the mouse scurries off and disappears into a crack between the floor and skirting boards.
“Oh, Bernard, you’re supposed to chase them at least.”
Do not lecture me on my duties, young one. Chasing mice is for the very young or the very feeble minded.
“Don’t expect too much from him, Daisy. For all his virtues, he is a rather lazy cat.” It is the Dan-father who has entered, casually giving voice to this most profound of slurs, while he hauls his kitten out by her ankles, and tickles her sides which provokes whoops and giggles. When he has finished teasing, he wraps her up in his arms.
“But daddy,” she says, “I thought he was supposed to hunt mice?”
“Well, he is, snookums, but Bernard’s pretty much a law until himself, aren’t you Bernard? He has many admirable qualities, but he’ll never be a mouser. He’s no hunter.”
“Just because I suppose. That’s his nature.”
I answer this most wounding of insults with an exaggerated yawn and return to my slumbers.