An original radio drama in one act
Spooky organ music opens to set the stage for what’s to come, as an overly dramatic voice-over intones:
“And now, Radio Theatre of the Mind presents… The Kurse of the Kat Lady Killer!!!…
Organ music swells, them fades to the background as the principal character begins to tell their tale.
The story you are about to hear is true …
I know … because it happened to me …
There I was, backpack and sleeping bag weighing me down, in front of the last place I ever expected to see again. And on the first night of a waning gibbous moon, no less.
My mother’s house looked pretty much the same as it did when I left all those years ago, at least to the casual observer. Typical suburban ranch set away from the others at the end of a dead end street, in one of those cookie-cutter neighborhoods that developers cranked out in the 60’s, on land that had been farmed for generations before we started trucking our produce in from California. Or Mexico. Or even Peru.
But a closer look revealed the peeling paint, the torn screens, the gutter half hanging off, the trash cans filled to overflowing with now-rusted empty cat food cans.
I knew about the cats from checking in on my hometown paper online at the public library of whatever town I happened to be in.
It wasn’t long after I left that Mom had become known as the local Kat Lady, taking in dozens and dozens of strays and caring for them so lovingly that the neighbors never complained.
No, it wasn’t the cats that scandalized the town. It was the crime. The axe that was taken to my mother on a moonlit night, by what a jogger, alerted by her screams, described as “…a hulking figure staggering off into the woods behind the house.”
And the fate of the cats she left behind.
A fate that was never reported in the media, and never discussed in polite company.
What brought me back was a letter, a letter that I was expecting I’d receive eventually. A letter that had been trailing me as I wandered across the country, picking up an odd job here, panhandling for spare change there.
Every morning I checked General Delivery at the Post Office where I happened to be, and every morning my query was met with the same negative shake of the head.
But old habits die hard… they die hard…
Then one day, in the next stop on my one way trip to Nowheresville, a postal clerk made me show ID and sign a piece of paper in exchange for a thick envelope with the return address in fancy script and multiple names that practically screamed “white shoe law firm.”
As her sole heir, my mother had left me all her worldly possessions. As I expected, they consisted my mother’s run-down, crime tainted house, and, to my utter astonishment … an investment account containing just shy of $4.4 million!
Apparently Mom had been a savant when it came to picking stocks, particularly tech stocks that she bought and sold with an expertise that would make Warren Buffett jealous.
There was a catch, of course. Mom had always had a diabolical sense of humor. To inherit this windfall, I had to stay in her house on the first night of a waning gibbous moon, the moon that shone on the night of her demise, from nightfall to one minute past midnight.
Piece of cake, no? Then why did I have a feeling of dread that was making my skin crawl?
So that’s why, as darkness began to embrace me, I found myself standing at the front door of my ancestral home.
I looked up, at the dimming of the day.
I looked down, at the GPS transmitter that was locked to my ankle like a prisoner under house arrest, monitored from afar by a bonded security agency that the law firm had hired for the occasion.
There was no panic button, no rescue team standing by. I was on my own.
Things went fine, at first. I creaked open the front door, the beam from my flashlight illuminating a surprisingly neat and tidy interior, absent any indication of the mayhem that marked my mother’s tortured final minutes on earth.
Even more astonishing was the smell — there was none. Mom obviously cared fastidiously and affectionately for the endless parade of stray cats that had been in her care over the years.
As I lay on the living room floor, a warm feeling of nostalgia began to replace my fear, and I began to drift off to thoughts of happier times.
First a catnap, then deeper and deeper slumber took over…
…until I awoke to what sounded like the grinding of steel on a sharpening stone!
I sat bolt upright and turned in the direction of the sound, a piercing sound that cut through me like the scraping of a thousand fingernails across a thousand chalk boards!
A sound that foreshadowed unspeakable terror yet to come…
Just then, the kitchen door exploded into a hail of splinters, as the massive, ethereal figure of an axe-wielding maniac lurched toward me, eyes burning bright like the fires of hell!
There was no time to do anything but shiver in my sleeping bag and prepare to meet my fate, as the … the thing before me slowly raised the axe.
Time slowed to a crawl, as what I was sure were my last seconds of life tick, tick, ticked away in the dead silence …
But wait! What was that sound? A low, soft, vibrating sound, like the idling of a tiny engine. The purring … of a cat!
The creature heard it too, and the inexorable, death-dealing arc of the axe towards its target — Me! — slowed, then stopped.
Then the purring sound was joined by another, and another, and another. Ten cats! A hundred cats! A thousand cats!
Purring away to form a hypnotic feline drone that soon had the creature mesmerized!
I watched, paralyzed by awe and fear, as the axe dropped from the creature’s grip and it was enveloped in a swirling cloud of smoke…
But instead of vanishing, another figure appeared as the smoke cleared… the figure… of my mother!
MOTHER’S DISEMBODIED VOICE
Welcome home. You’ve come back, as I knew you would one day.
My heart was broken when you left. The only thing that gave my life meaning was giving the stray cats that appeared at my door a good home, in hopes that you, my own stray cat, would come back.
Sadly, one day I opened my door to an evil stray, an unspeakably evil stray that ended my life and has haunted this house ever since. It’s gone now, and you’re alive and well, thanks to the ghosts of the strays who’ve been patiently waiting for your return.
With that, the spirit of my mother vanished, and the house fell silent once more.
Shaking uncontrollably, I managed to look at my watch. One minute past midnight!
My cell phone rang…
SECURITY SERVICE AGENT’S
VOICE ON PHONE
“Congratulations! You’ve met the conditions of your mother’s will. I’d say you’re quite well-fixed for the rest of your life. You can leave any time you like.”
But I knew I would never leave that house, and I knew exactly what I would do with my inheritance….
[Music swells, then fades – END]
Lawrenceville resident George Point’s freelance work has appeared in the New York Times, U.S. 1, and other local and regional publications. He currently produces and presents Book Talk! for radio station WDVR FM in Hunterdon County. In past years he has served as a reader of submissions for the Summer Fiction issue.