ATTENTION: Allow me to say that I had almost indecent fun putting together this entry for Anna Meade and S J I Holliday’s amazing Once Upon a Time flash fiction contest. So much fun that I really don’t care if I place for any of the amazing prizes (of which there is a plentitude – check it out!). I am excited because I am pleased with what I’ve done here. Very pleased.
If a nursing home seems an odd place to find the beginning to a fairy tale – well, all I can say is that I have spent copious amounts of time in nursing homes over the past several years, as various loved ones have gone there as their last “holding place” before their death-leaving.
I’ve had lots of time to think about Moosie and Cooper, and fiesty Beulah Judson.
But that’s for another post. Read the entry, check out the contest, and enter with a creation of your own!
COOPER AND THE DEATH-CAT
Moosie the death-cat made another circuit at Woolsey Nursing Home. She sniffed the air at each doorway, tufted ears pricked and tail swishing, before moving on to the next room. The overworked, checklist-choked staff sometimes second-guessed when death was near. Not Moosie. She always knew.
“Tag on Judson, room nine,” said the aide to the nurse fumbling with her medicine cart.
“Moosie’s in the door?”
“No – on the bed.”
On the bed. When Moosie took to someone’s bed – you called in the family.
The nurse left her medicine cart in the hall and peeked in room nine. Beulah Judson was upright in her hospital bed, talking to her toes.
“Don’t look at me like that. Cooper wouldn’t like it.”
As usual, thought the nurse (they never had learned who Cooper was); but where’s Moosie?
An angry hiss answered her from beneath the bed. There she was – under the bed, not on it. Her back was arched, fur bristling, tail straight as an arrow.
“I’m not leaving yet. Cooper promised.”
The nurse pricked up her ears. Beulah Judson wasn’t usually this lucid – even when she did talk to Cooper. And what was wrong with Moosie? This was not her usual bedside manner.
Hiss. Scratch. YOWL. Scrambling beneath the bed – a blur of striped fur – and Moosie flew from the room, screeching like a banished demon.
“Cooper! Leave the cat alone!” scolded Beulah.
Another voice lilted through the room – a cool, sprightly voice that nonetheless sent chills up the nurse’s spine.
“The cat was here to take you,” said the voice. “I thought you weren’t ready to leave.”
“Damn you, Cooper – what took you so long? I’ve waited decades.”
“Too many changelings, not enough children.”
“I’m too old to changeling,” said Beulah, while the nurse looked wildly about for the source of the voice.
“To have a changeling,” the voice – Is that Cooper? – said. “And you’re never too old to trick the Others. Do you want out?”
“Hell yes,” said Beulah.
“Then how will you leave?” said Cooper. “By death – or changeling? We could use you, you know.”
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