Lulu - a space oddity


“I think there’s something wrong with your cat,” said Mathew as his friend Riley came into the living room with a jug of coffee. “She was acting really weird. She lay down in front of me, and her head kept twisting like she was having some sort of seizure. She’s run behind the sofa now.”

Riley didn’t look overly concerned. “Oh, that’s normal. Lulu’s always acts a bit crazy when we have friends over. Sarah keeps asking me to pick up one of those cat-calming aromatherapy things, but I think they’re a con.”

 “No, really, I think you should take a look. I’d get her checked out at the vet.”

The two friends watched as Lulu squeezed herself out through the gap between the sofa and the armchair. She paraded up and down in front of them, her green feeling eyes unblinking and staring and her fluffy brown tail waving from side to side. It was almost as if she was trying to hypnotise them.

“Lulu,” called Riley. “Come over here and get your belly rubbed.”

But instead of trotting over to Riley as she usually did, Lulu froze. She gave an angry hiss, which almost startled the men from their seats. Then, as if pushed over by an unseen force, Lulu slumped over onto her side, rolled on her back, and began shaking her head from side to side. Riley opened his mouth to speak, but no sounds would come out.  Lulu’s head seemed to blur with the force of the motion. It was like watching a speeded-up horror movie.

“See, that’s what she was doing before,” cried Matthew. “I told you it was weird!”

Riley leapt up and bolted for the door. “I’ll get Sarah. You keep an eye on Lulu.”

Matthew edged his way around the shaking cat. “I’m not staying in here with that.” He hurried after Riley, slamming the door so hard behind him, he heard the frame crack.

They went into the kitchen where their two wives, Sarah and Ruth, were sitting at the kitchen table with Riley’s young son.

 “Sarah, we need to take the cat to the vet now,” said Riley.

Sarah put down her potato peeler and looked up. “Can’t Lulu wait until I’ve made Daniel’s lunch? You know he gets grouchy when he’s hungry. What’s wrong with her?”

Riley shook his head. “I don’t know. I think she’s having some sort of fit.”

“I hope it’s not serious,” said Ruth, who was trying to entertain Daniel by waving a toy rabbit in his face. Daniel grabbed hold of the rabbit and threw it into the nearby sink. He leaned back in his highchair with a look of triumph on his face.

Sarah sighed. “I’d better go and see. Lulu seemed fine this morning, although she didn’t finish all her biscuits. Where is she?”

“In the living room” said Riley.  “I think I’d better get the cat box out before you try and pick her up, though. She’s freaked out Matthew and me.”

Sarah chewed the corner of her lip. “That doesn’t sound like my Lulu. Ruth, keep an eye on Daniel for a minute while I go and take a look. And take that potato peeler out of his hand, will you?”

“Sure. We’ll watch him.”

“Be careful,” said Matthew. He moved away from the door, in case Lulu escaped from the living room. He shuddered and muttered, “flea-ridden thing,” under his breath.

“I’m not sure if you should…,” said Riley. But Sarah had already headed out to the hallway.

From the safety of the kitchen, the friends listened out for the creak of the living room door as it opened. There was a short pause, interrupted by a cry from Sarah, followed by a high-pitched yowl that echoed through the hallway. The living room door slammed shut again, and they heard rapid, retreating footsteps.

Sarah burst into the kitchen. Her breath came in short, sharp gasps, and her peachy complexion had ripened.  “I found Lulu standing in the middle of the room,” she panted. “As soon as she spotted me, she started hissing like a wildcat and hurled herself towards me. I nipped out of the door before she could reach me, but I felt her body slam into the door like a juggernaut.”

“But why is she so aggressive?” said Ruth.

Sarah shook her head. “I don’t know. You don’t think the vet will have to put her down, do you? What if she attacks Daniel?”

“You’re getting a bit ahead of yourself, aren’t you?” said Matthew. “She might have a urine infection. It happened to my gran once.”

Riley snorted. “Did your gran’s head shake like a mad thing? Did you watch it go all blurry?”

“Er, no, I didn’t.”

“Then I think it’s unlikely it’s a urine infection.”

“Matthew’s only trying to help,” said Ruth. “Will the vets even be open? What with the covid.”

Sarah went over to Daniel and picked him up out of the chair, hugging him to her. “Whatever do you mean Riley?  What was going on with her head?” Daniel wriggled at the tightness of Sarah’s grip and began to cry.

“Probably a trick of the light” said Riley. “The vet will sort her out. They’ll be open for emergencies. I think Lulu counts as one. Would you guys look after Daniel? The vet’s only five minutes in the car. It shouldn’t take too long.”

Ruth smiled. “It’s no bother at all. To be honest, I’d rather take on Daniel than that cat.” She went over and took him from Sarah. “It’s alright, Daniel. Your Auntie Ruth will take care of you, won’t she.”

Riley went off to fetch the cat box from under the stairs, while Sarah abandoned her potatoes and fetched out a jar of baby food from the cupboard.

“Stop fussing, we’ll manage,” said Ruth, settling Daniel back in his seat. “I’m sure the vet will put your mind at rest. He’ll probably just give her some injections.”

“Can you come with me a minute, mate?” said Riley reappearing with the cat box. I think it’s going to be a two-man job catching Lulu.”

“Wish me luck,” said Matthew as he walked reluctantly back to the living room.

***

“Is your hand still hurting?” asked Sarah as they drove the short distance to the vets.

Riley winced and pulled his sleeve down to conceal the stripe of congealed blood decorating his left hand. “I’ll be ok. It’s only a scratch.”

“But it looked nasty. Shouldn’t you have put antiseptic on it before we left?”

“I’ll be fine. At least her claws missed Matthew. You should have heard him when she lunged at him. He screamed like a girl.”

“Everyone on the street must have heard him yelling, and it didn’t help when Daniel decided to join in. You sure you got your mask?”

“Yes, you’ve got spares in your bag, haven’t you? What’s Lulu up to now?”

Riley turned around to look at the cat box strapped onto the back seat. Lulu was banging against the side of her box, a hard-rhythmic thump. He wrinkled his nose up in disgust as an acrid smell filled the car. Thank goodness Sarah had stuck a newspaper on the bottom of the box. “Lulu’s going to knock herself out if she keeps banging about,” he said. “Actually, it might be a good thing.”

“Poor Lulu. I’ve neglected her lately, what with Daniel so restless. Should I pull over?”

“No, we’re almost there; it’s the next turning on the left.”

Morden Vets was the first unit on the block, and they managed to find a parking space right outside. Lulu seemed to have calmed down by the time they fetched her out of the car.

“She’s catatonic now,” quipped Riley.

“Don’t bother with the jokes. This is my sweetheart, we’re talking about,” snapped Sarah, putting on her mask and peering through the glass doors. “The waiting room looks empty, thank goodness.”

            They went in, and a receptionist, whose makeup suggested she missed going to clubs, greeted them with a wide smile. “It shouldn’t be too long to wait,” she said. “We’re still not busy; people feel safer indoors.”

At the sound of an unfamiliar voice, Lulu, jolted into life and restarted her assault on the cat box. Riley checked the fastening on the front, and as he did so, Lulu stuck out her paw to swipe him. “Watch out; she’s quite feisty,” he said. “We’re very glad you’re open.”

The receptionist grinned. “We were ‘emergencies only’ for a few weeks, but it’s nice to be back full-time, to be honest.”

“Yes, I’m sure,” said Sarah. “But do tell the vet to be careful, won’t you. My husband has already been scratched. It’s so out of character. Lulu’s a big pudding really.”

“Mr Ellison’s used to it. You should see some of the animals people bring in. He got bit by a snake once. Can I take down Lulu’s symptoms?”

“Symptoms! I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Riley. “I mean, it was kind of unnatural.”

Before Riley could elaborate further, a middle-aged little man in a white tunic appeared from a side room. “Who’ve we got next, Milly?”

“It’s us, I’ll come through,” said Riley. Mr and Mrs Martins.

“Sorry,” said the vet. “We’re not letting anyone else in the consulting room at present. Social distancing and all that. I’m Mr Ellison, by the way.” He bent down and peered into the grill of the cat box. “Now, what’s been happening to this little one?”

“This is Lulu,” said Riley.

At the mention of her name, Lulu, yowled like a banshee. Riley almost dropped the box as she lunged forward, butting her head against the grill like a battering ram and struggling to escape.

“Hmm,” said the vet, pursing his lips. He stepped back. “Extreme aggression, I’m guessing. Is she usually like that?”

“No, normally she’s a soppy little thing,” said Sarah. “We don’t know what’s causing it.”

“This is going to sound a bit odd,” said Riley. “But earlier, her head twisted back and forth so fast it appeared to blur. I found it quite terrifying to watch.” For a second, Riley’s eyes blinked in quick succession as if he was trying to wipe the image from his brain.

“Here, let me take it,” said Mr Ellison. As he did so, Lulu hissed like a python and glared at him.

“It’s been a bit of shock, really,” said Riley. “Are you sure you can manage?”

The vet’s legs buckled under the weight of the gyrating box. He flashed Sarah and Riley a nervous smile. “I might call a veterinary nurse to hold Lulu while I examine her, but I’m sure she’ll be fine. We’ll probably need to take some blood to get to the bottom of it, though. Wait here. I’ll try not to be too long.”

“Thank you,” said Sarah. “Now you be a good girl for the vet, Lulu.”

“Hiss.”

Mr Ellison carried Lulu into his consulting room, and Sarah and Riley went over and sat at the opposite end of the waiting room reserved for cat owners. Pictures of cats glared down at them. There was no escaping those keen, bright eyes and sharp white teeth.

“Maybe Lulu ate something that upset her?” said Sarah.

 Riley shrugged his shoulders.

They sat in silence until…

“Arggh! Get off me!” A shriek pierced the silence of the waiting room, and Lulu burst through the examination room’s door and back into the waiting room, hissing and spitting. Only Lulu was no longer an average-sized tabby. She had grown to the size of a large Alsatian. She paraded around in a circle then stopped in front of the entrance, yowling and baring her teeth.

“Lulu?” cried Sarah, grasping hold of Riley in terror.

Milly got up from her desk and backed up against the wall. “Mr Ellison,” she called. “Are you ok?”

Sarah and Riley gasped as Mr Ellison staggered out from the consulting room, blood dripping from his fingers and a scratch down the left side of this face. He stumbled forward and reached out for the edge of the reception desk.

“Grab her,” he croaked. “For God sake, don’t let her escape.”

Lulu coughed, and then she coughed again. Her throat shuddered and twitched, and she arched her shoulders back.

“I think she’s going to be sick,” cried Riley.

Lulu wasn’t sick. Instead, she coughed a third time, and a gigantic lump of fur, the size of a cricket ball, flew from out of her oversized mouth. Another furball followed, and Sarah and Riley watched in horror as the furballs rose in the air and propelled themselves like rockets towards Mr Ellison and Milly. The first struck Milly in the face pressing against her mask as if trying to burrow through it. She managed to grab it before it got any further, hurled it to the floor and stamped on it with her boot.

Mr Ellison was not so lucky. He had removed his mask in the consultation room, so the flying furball hit him square on the lips, catching him unawares. The furball forced its way into his mouth, and soon he was choking. He crumpled to the floor just as Lulu coughed again, and a third furball travelled in the direction of Riley, but he kicked it away like a football.

“Help him!” shouted Milly as Lulu sprang forward and landed on Mr Ellison’s chest, Now, she was tearing at his clothes with her claws.

Riley grabbed a bag of cat food from a nearby display. He threw it at Lulu and, despite the size of her, managed to knock her off Mr Ellison’s chest. She turned, hissed and took a leap towards him.

Riley managed to sidestep Lulu in time. He aimed a kick at her head, striking her on the back of her skull. For a moment, she appeared stunned, but then seconds later, he was convinced she would lunge again. Instead, she turned and ran headfirst towards the glass door. It opened automatically, and Lulu streaked away in the direction of the main road.

Riley dashed over to the injured vet while Sarah tried to comfort Milly, who was crying behind the desk. With concerted effort, Riley managed to drag the furball from the back of Mr Ellison’s throat. Mr Ellison lay unconscious and barely breathing, but he was alive.

“Call an ambulance,” said Riley. “I’m going to go out and look for Lulu. You stay with Mr Ellison until the paramedics arrive.”

Sarah started crying, “Don’t go out there; it’s too dangerous”.

“I’ve got to. What if she decides to head home?

“She’ll never get through the cat flap. But please don’t go. She almost killed someone and….”

The sound of gunshots interrupted Sarah’s plea. “What the..?”

Riley pressed his face to the window. “It came from the road. I can see armed police.” He looked up as a police helicopter swooped overhead, and the air was filled with the sound of sirens. Riley darted out of the vets, and keeping low, he ran over to a tree near the road. Creeping around the side of the trunk, he had a clear view down the street.

Two police cars blocked the road, and he saw two marksmen taking aim. Riley gasped when he saw their target. Three cats, grown to an unnatural size, ran like cheetahs in a bid to escape a hail of bullets. As the cats disappeared into the distance, Riley recognised the cat at the front with the big fluffy tail. It was Lulu.

Riley heard a further round of gunfire, and then the shooting stopped. The marksmen got up, climbed back into their cars and drove off in the direction of the cats. The helicopter flew off, and the street became eerily quiet.

Riley rushed back into the vets. Mr Ellison still lay on the floor, covered with Sarah’s jacket. Milly was sat down next to him, sobbing quietly, and holding his hand. Mr Ellison didn’t speak, but his eyes were open.

“I think he’ll be ok,” said Sarah. “The ambulance is on its way. But what about Lulu? Did they catch her?”

“I’m sorry, Sarah,” said Riley. “Lulu didn’t make it.”

***

Back home, Ruth and Matthew were treated to all the gory details of the trip to the vets. After several glasses of wine, the friends crowded around the TV, expecting to find reports of an outbreak of giant murderous cats dominating the headlines. To their amazement, there wasn’t even the slightest mention.

“Surely that would have made the news?”  said Matthew “Come on. There’s nothing on social media either.”

“Maybe it’s too soon to report it,” said Sarah. “By the time we got back in the car, Morden was deserted. It was all over in a flash.”

Matthew frowned. “But you said there were other cats. Surely someone else would have reported that? Maybe you should report it?”

“Yes, but who is going to believe us?” said Riley.  “I hardly believe it myself. People will think we are mad.”

“But the vet. Surely, they will believe him?” said Matthew. “You said the receptionist saw it too?”

“What’s anyone going to do, though. We can’t tell the police they’ve already sorted it. I’m inclined to leave well alone.” said Sarah. “What’s Riley’s work going to say?”

“But it’s the story of the century!” cried Matthew.

“Sarah’s probably right,” said Ruth. “Who’s going to believe it? If there’s nothing mentioned in the news. Did you see anybody when it happened?”

Riley shook his head. “No, no one even came out of the corner shop opposite.”

 “But somebody must have posted something about it,” insisted Matthew? What about the gunfire?”

“Wait, look,” said Ruth pointing at the TV. “There is something on the local news.”

A shot of Morden flashed up on the screen, and a reporter announced, “An incident occurred in Morden today. Armed officers were called to arrest a man who was shooting at cats with an air rifle. Several animals were killed, but no members of the public were involved. The man, who has a history of similar incidents, is now in custody.”

Riley stood up. “What man with an air rifle? They’re making it up!”

“Are you surprised?” said Ruth. “The more I think about it, why would anyone report it? Covid’s bad enough without people worrying about killer cats. Somebody will pay off the vet and the receptionist. Get them to say they were attacked by a dangerous dog. After all, let’s face it, what you are telling us doesn’t really sound possible.”

“Oh, it’s possible, alright.” snapped Riley. “We saw it. What if the cats have caught the covid and the virus has mutated?”

“We’d better be off home,” said Ruth getting up. “I’m sorry about Lulu; I know how fond you were of her. We’ll probably never know what really happened.”

“Sometimes it’s best not to know,” added Matthew.

“Perhaps your right,” sighed Sarah as she gathered up a well-chewed cat toy from the floor. “I’ll miss her dreadfully, though.”

***

And so Riley and Sarah tried to forget about the incident. But a few days later, as Sarah hung out her washing in the garden, her foot banged into something in the grass. The lawn desperately needed a cut, so she hadn’t noticed it before. As she tapped the object with her sole, she saw it glint in the sunlight.

She crouched down and parted the grass.  The objects looked like a silver metal sphere, the size of a grapefruit, and it had split open. Intrigued, Sarah picked it up to study it, turning the sphere around in her hands. On one side, someone had embossed a row of tiny paw prints. On the other, strange symbols formed a thin spiral. As she opened the sphere further, a shower of small brown blobs rained onto the grass below. They reminded Sarah of cat biscuits, but with one key difference. The blobs were glowing.

She stood up and called, “Riley, come here a minute, will you?”

Riley called from the kitchen. “I’m just putting Daniel down for his nap. I’ll out in a minute.”

Sarah put the sphere on the picnic table and sat down facing the house. “Whatever could it be?” she asked, to nobody in particular.

Riley came out into the garden. He stood on the patio, grimacing at moss pushing its way up from the cracks in the flagstones. “Now, what do you want?” he said, finally looking at her. “I promise I’ll mow the lawn in the bit. It’s been too damp to do it.”

“Never mind the lawn, come and see what I found in grass. It’s a strange container with some sort of cat food inside it. Maybe it could explain what happened to Lulu. Get over here and take a look.”

“Not right now,” said Riley, his voice trembling. “Sarah, stay where you are. Don’t look behind you. Walk slowly towards me, without looking back.”

“What’s wrong?” said Sarah. “Why are you looking so worried?”

“Just start walking,” whispered Riley. “There’s a fox, the size of a lion behind you, poking its head out the shed.”

* * *


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