Whiskertense and Bristlefur Electric, We Prowl

Mathew Gostelow

Whiskertense and bristlefur electric, we prowl. The night is ours and we have become one with her chill air.

Three weeks since that grunting stink, that lumberlurching, lumping redface wrapped us in an airless sack and damned our souls to this canal. Three weeks since the end of us and we have laid so patient in the deep.

The dank and stinking waters of the cut are thick with bodies, the mud aflood with swarming, swimming souls. The slipfoot drunks and bruisy brawlers, working girls who walk the risky roads. Unwanted young – the babes, the pups, and us. The unmissed and the lost and woebegone.

But the cold light of a plumpfat milkwhite moon revives our angry bones. Reborn, undead, we scrabbleclaw our way back to the surface. Retake the towpath, slip unseen into the softlit streets.

Of water we have had our fill, for milk we have no hunger. Our appetite is only for an icycold revenge and jets of hotred blood to wash it down. We are more night than flesh since this blackmagical rebirth. The darkness hugs us close and warms our bones.

The moon has cast an icewhite path to lead us to that sackdrown fiend, and yet we cling to inky shadow, moving liquid, without sound. Overwall and throughfence, how we run and jump and glide. We sense our prey, the hot smell of his murder-guilt grows close. So silently we shadowslink towards his musty den.

You may call me Moonblade, and my sisters prowl beside me. Razorfang and Clampclaw are their names. We navigate these alleyways and streets with sleek assurance, the back paths and the black paths, over roof and under arch. Our senses are huntready; twitching ear and skywide eye, our noses reaching out to catch the secrets on the breeze.

We sense the warmfur, softpurr solace of our mama in this place. The ruthless ratter, Needlemouth, a killer, born to hunt. She had no time to teach us all her secrets when we lived, those precious days before the sackman came. Yet now we know her lessons in the marrow of our bones, the ways to rip, and shred, and crunchingbreak. We hear her prowling cellardeep, quietcreep slowstalking all the scritchfoot rats and mice that nest down there.

How we would love to join her, in the darkness of downstairs, to lurk, to pounce, and capture by her side. But there’s no time for skittish mewlingplay on this cold silver night. Our prey is something bigger than a mouse; a snoring, sweating sackrat in the upstairs of this house.

Through the window, silentcreep and now in glinting moonlight’s glare revealed. Three weeks submerged have left us rot-a-bone, all patchfur, stinkflesh, hollowskull. But strong enough in jaw and claw to see this last hunt through. To end the man who ended us so cruel.

Around the bed we slither, ready, sneaking to his sleeping form. My sisters take position, crouching silent by his fists, while I creep up to stand upon his rising-falling chest. I hear the rushing blood beneath his skin. My pawpads sense the thumping heart within.

We pounce as one, my sisters slashing wrists with razor claws. Crimson fountains pulse across the walls. My own blades sink through eyelids, blinding sackrat as he wakes. My belly smothers up his screams in rotflesh stink of putrid guts. My back legs kick, and tear, and shred, gouging out his fleshy throat until the struggles cease.

And just like that, the grunting stink lies silent, slack and still. So lame and weak without his grabbing bag and cold canal. And just like that, our angry bones are done with vengeful work. I rub cheeks with my sisters, sharing one final embrace, as the moonlight takes us back to rest in grace.

Mathew Gostelow (he/him) is a dad, husband, and fledgling writer, living in Birmingham, UK. Some days he wakes early and writes strange tales. His stories and poems have been published by The Ghastling, Ellipsis, Stanchion, Cutbow, Myth & Lore, and others. He has won prizes in contests run by Bag of Bones Press, Bear Creek Gazette, and Beagle North. You can find him on Twitter: @MatGost.