After over a year of dating, I finally gave in to my girlfriend's pleas to go visit her parents.
"Just for the weekend," she told me. "You will love it, I promise."
Her parents lived in a cottage in the middle of the woods, separated from the rest of society. Their nearest neighbor was at least ten minutes away by car.
"My parents like the quiet," Anna, my girlfriend had explained when I commented on the fact. "They worked all their lives in the noise and pollution of the city but chose to retire here. Where they can commune with nature, listen to birds sing and the wind whistles through the trees."
And I knew why the moment we got there. The place looked like it had been taken off a postcard.
The cottage itself was in the middle of the woods, surrounded by trees with paths cleared up for feet and vehicles. There was also a pond in front and everything was protected by their black tabby cat called Panda.
"He likes to think he's the boss around here," Anna told me as she stroked the cat. "And we just let him keep on thinking it."
I was given a tour of the place, I saw where they stashed their firewood, where they kept their backup generator in the event of power failure. And later, we were treated to a sumptuous dinner by Anna's Mom. And I had to admit, she was a pretty good cook.
The next day, I went to assist her father in chopping firewood, and as we returned to the house, Anna emerged with a cooler in hand and a fishing hook.
"We are going fishing at the pond." She told me, smiling beautifully, "you wanna come?"
Her Dad came along too. On getting there, the pond did not seem like a normal one to me. As we got closer, the surface of the pond began to bubble and gurgle. I changed my mind at once.
"Hey babe, no need to worry," she told me when I tried to leave. "That's how the water is."
"I think I'll sit this one out baby."
I returned to the condo and went to say hi to Anna's mother. She was busy in the kitchen baking cakes.
"You know what?" She said to me, "why don't I give you our family pictures to look at?"
"That would be great, ma'am."
She walked back into her bedroom and returned shortly with the album. It's cover was dusty and she cleaned it off before handing it over.
She said to me, "there are pictures here of our ancestors, going as far back as five generations."
"Wow." I gasped, genuinely interested in seeing my girlfriend's ancestors.
As I settled down to feast my eyes, Panda leaped into my lap and settled there, snuggling in as he purred quietly. I had no choice but to stroke him. I continued though as I found myself to be enjoying it.
The first picture was in black and white, it must have been the first-ever picture taken in the family's history. A whole lot of them had gathered before the camera, smiling like loonies.
I moved on to the next picture. It was pretty much the same concept. Just different faces. Another generation.
I flipped through the third and fourth pictures, wondering how far I would have to go before I started seeing recent pictures. It was as I got to the fifth picture that I noticed the oddity.
I studied the picture closely. I saw my girlfriend, posing before the camera along with her parents and brother, there were also some extended family members in the mix. In the picture though, there was a cat in the arms of Anna's mother. I recognized it at once to be Panda.
I went back to the fourth picture, it had been taken before Anna had been born and when her father was just a teenager. In that picture, another woman was holding a cat. Upon closer inspection, I recognized I recognized the cat again.
"What the..." I gasped out loud as I went on to the third picture taken when Anna's grandfather had been a toddler. And guess what, there was a cat in the picture as well. Posing with the rest of the family. Same thing for the second and first pictures.
Panda! Panda!! Panda!!!
It was the same cat that was currently snuggled in my lap, and I was stroking. I yanked my hand off him immediately, wondering what the hell was going on.
My sudden movement must have alerted it because the cat raised his head and looked up at me. I looked down at him as well. Our eyes met, I could feel the connection. I could almost hear him thinking, "what the hell is wrong with this puny human?"
Then he looked away and his gaze settled on the photo album. My heart began to race in fear and confusion. He looked back at me, holding my gaze once more.
He was looking at me with a look that said, "oh gee, you caught me! Will you tell my mommy?"
I could hear the words in my head.
With a yelp of fright, I jumped to my feet, dislodging the cat at once. It flew through the air and landed on the table. I slowly began to step backward, fear washing through me like a river. I knew then that I had seen something I was not supposed to. And this cat was out to silence me.
The feline smiled at me, showing me sparkling white, tiny, and pointed teeth as he stretched his body and braced for a spring.
I knew then I was done for. So I did the only thing that crossed my mind.
I ran out of the condo, screaming at the top of my lungs for my girlfriend.
This story is written for the Inkwell Flash Fiction Contest and it is inspired by the third prompt. Feel free to try it out.
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