‘It’s perfect. I’ll take it’. Gladys, the realtor sends a silent prayer of gratitude. Cliffside Cottage is a hard rental to sell and she needs the money.
‘I’ll send the paperwork. See you on the 17th.’
Callie Babas needed a break. Her work was dragging behind and she had an exhibition looming which needed 7 more pieces. Getting away from all the noise was the only answer. Calli has no intention of telling anyone where she was going, just that she would be away.
She changes the message on her answering machine, leaves a note for her neighbour with a key and is packed and on the road within hours. The sun warms her face through the windscreen and the windows keep the cold outside.
Callie scratched Whiskey’s ears.
‘You’ll love the cottage, kitty. Lots of mice hopefully outside for you to chase. We need the break huh?’ Kitty purrs in agreement and Callie puts her foot down, she wants to get settled before dark, all stocked up and a cold white wine in her hand while listening to the waves. Callie’s thoughts turned to her husband Andy, gone 6 years now. His life cut short by cancer. It’s amazing how different people treat you when you are widowed as opposed to divorced. Every time she tells someone she watches in fascination how their expressions change. Eyebrows and mouths droop, a hand comes out and rubs hers. Callie snorts, shaking her head, its sad but she hates the pity its created.
3 hours later she pulls into Evie’s Cove. Its sweet and simple, every house whitewashed and tiny, facing into the wind like soldiers. Gladys gives her the key, a cheap bottle of wine in a pink bag and directions to the closest food store.
‘I…I should probably tell you…’ Gladys tries, but Callie waves over her shoulder and keeps goings. She not the small-talk type.
All stocked up, her car twists and turns along the cliffside road, eventually coming to a quaint, weather-beaten shack, her home for the next few weeks. The sun gives one last peek over the sea and disappears.
Unpacked and as promised, a chilled Sauvignon blanc in her hand, Callie lights a fire, scratches kitty’s ears and peers out into the darkness. She can hear but in the dark, can barely make out the waves crashing on the rocks below. It’s terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. Picking at her instant supper, her mind plans her art. She has to finish in time or else there will be consequences.
From below her balcony, well outside the warm circle of light, it watches and waits. Blacker than the cliff night, only pale-yellow eyes can be seen. It’s hungry, having not eaten for a long time. Too long. It sniffs her scent and waits
Callie wakes from a good sleep, stretches and yawns, ready to face the day.
By mid-afternoon, she has finished planning her paintings, her supplies all set out and with a sigh, she starts. Callie loses herself in her art. Colours and feelings dance on the crisp canvas. Its her happy place. Hours later, she realises that she’s squinting in the last of the daylight. Her shoulder and wrist ache with the effort but it feels fantastic. Too much distraction at home means she never gets to paint like this. Its amazing and gratifying.
She feeds Whisky and eats other instant meal, vowing to make something more substantial for her next supper. A hot shower and she’s in bed, dreaming of colours, lights and laughter. She can feel Andy on the edge of her dream and misses him. Something pulls her from her sleep, it’s a hissing sound.
‘Whisky stop it. Ssshhhhh…’ she scratches his ears and he calms. The rest of her sleep is uneventful and dreamless.
Callie gets up early, eats crunchy toast with a small fruit salad and starts again. By midday she’s up to her elbows in paint and starving, she puts it down to the sea air. The steak she planned for supper beckons and she grills it on the ancient stove, makes a fresh mushroom and garlic sauce and a baked potato. Its warm enough to sit on the deck and Callie breathes in the fresh sea air.
Her range of art comes from light and colours today. She paints as she feels and the blues from the sea and black from the cliff merge into a beautiful landscape broken by patches of tiny wildflowers scattered in the rocks. Its stunning and Callie knows it will sell well at the show.
Suddenly Whisky skitters inside and dives under the bed, while Callie looks on amazed.
‘What’s up Whisky? Come. Come Whisky.’ The cat won’t move out from under the bed and Callie looks around confused. What could have scared him? Maybe the seagulls. She clears away her dishes and is soon painting again, forgetting the cat’s strange behaviour. The afternoon and evening fly past and Callie gets to bed early. This time the cat’s hissing doesn’t wake her.
The next day is cold and fistfuls of rain hit the window as if being thrown. Callie lights a comforting fire and sips her coffee at the window. Inspiration is harder to find today and her colour change to dirty green and pale yellows. It takes the shape of the sea, churning, wild. Her arm moves as if possessed and Callie finishes a whole painting in the afternoon.
‘Damme I’m good.’ Callie admires her artwork and rubs her sore arm. She pours herself a wine and stares at the painting. It’s not what she usually paints but has more, more…
‘Soul? Emotion?’ She ponders on the picture, grateful for it and sips her wine. She realises its late and she’s starved, poor cat must be too she thinks.
‘Whisky? Whisky?’ she calls and shakes his food bowl. ‘Where did he get to? In this rain.’ She peers outside but can’t see much. The waves boom below the cottage and she shivers.
‘Thank goodness for these thick logs’ she thinks. ‘And I better get more from the stockpile in the yard when the rain stops.’ Callie wants to keep painting but knows it will be a lost cause in the dull lamplight. She picks at her supper still worrying about Whisky. She calls again and chances a walk outside onto the deck, but the cold bites through her thin jersey and she quickly retreats.
Her dreams that night are darker, inciting fear. She is walking under water, its freezing and the waves are pushing her so that she sways. She’s looking for Whisky but her cries come out in bubbles of muted sound. She shouts, harder and harder trying to run but she’s mute and slow. The dream lingers with her as she rises from sleep suddenly wet and cold.
‘Whisky! Where have you been bad kitty?’ He’s soaked, shivering and dirty, poor things. She gets up, throws her last big log on the fire, rubbing the cat with a towel. He looks miserable and gulps down his food. ‘Poor kitty…” she hugs and cuddles the cat until he is warm and happier. The shack warms nicely with the fire and she tucks him in with her, feeling sleep pulling at her eyelids.
Callie opens her eyes to butter-yellow sunshine and is relieved. Whisky is on the windowsill in the sun, looking like he’s in charge and she scratches his ears gratefully.
‘Glad you came back naughty kitty, where did you…” Suddenly he jumps up and runs under the bed hissing again. Callie is confused, what is it kitty? A flash of black on the deck catches her eye. She turns in time to see a huge, black paw with vicious looking nails, disappear around the corner. Gasping she grabs the broom and heads out.
‘No you don’t! Stay away from my cat.’ She shouts and whacks the broom on the deck, hoping that would scare it away. Callie searches every inch of the deck and outside the house to no avail, wondering what the hell it was. From the size of the paw she saw, it must be as big as a medium size dog. Callie shouts again, whacking the deck but nothing.
‘Its ok Whiskey, he’s gone love.’ She scratches at his ears, feeling concerned.
After she showers, its dark outside. The dark is more ominous than it was. Deeper. Colder. She listens at the door but all she can hear is the waves battering the bluff below her deck. Callie loves the sea but a cold shiver joins the feeling of being watched. She closes the curtains for the first time since arriving, hope that tomorrow will be better. She falls asleep trying to plan her paintings for the next day, she has 3 more to go before she’s done.
Callie awakens to pitch black, taking a few seconds to orientate herself. A low growl reverberates next to her ear, slowly she turns and is relieved to see its Whisky. He’s staring at the blackest shadows in the corner of the kitchen, barely visible in the shadows. She reaches out to scratch him and he’s shivering in terror.
There is a responding growl coming from the corner!
It chills the blood in her veins. Lifting the covers, she shoves her cat deep inside and tucks him in… the shivering bundle doesn’t move and the growl is now muted.
‘Bastard! I’ll kill you for scaring my cat…’ Callie leaps out of bed, fully intending to whack the hell out of the creature and grabs the broom. ‘Come! Come..’ she shouts towards the corner. The creature slowly pours out of the corner. Its blackest of black. Only its eyes glow piss yellow in the dark. They are slotted, cold and bright. The creature keeps coming. Callie realises in terror that its not a cat, dog or anything that she’s ever seen. It grows and growls, it keeps coming.
Instinctively Callie knows that if she shows fear, its over. She hunches over the broom, using it as a barrier. Unwillingly fear trickles through her veins. The creature is as big as a pony, ebony black, with claws and teeth. She stands no chance and hesitates in terror.
It jumps straight for her face, all she sees is steel claws a moment before they sink into her cheeks. Callie screams in terror and pain as her cheeks split from jaw to ear. She realises that she’s the target, not her cat. Wet lava runs from her cheeks, wetting her pyjamas, the floor and the walls. Lifting the broom she knocks the creature off her, it comes straight back and sinks its teeth into her breast, gnawing and Callie screams.
A bolt of fur shoots past and hooks its claws into the creatures face. Its Whisky. ‘No Whisky’ Callie screams, it turns to a gurgle as the creature bites right through her cat into her throat. Shock stops her pain but not the absolute horror she is experiencing. Her mind slowly turns from black, to grey to white as her life is sucked away at her neck as the creature feeds.
The estate agent will find terrible blood stains a month later. No-one will ever know what happened. The legend of Cliffside Cottage remains.