(Patreon) SoBros Short Fiction: Bucky Was Onto Something

Bucky is a good cat, about a year and a half old – a chunky round orange-haired tabby, born out on a ranch in Gladeville, Tennessee to a feral barn cat mother who pretty much left her litter to fend for themselves after just a few days. The folks tending to the ranch took Bucky and his two sisters in, but after having no luck putting them up for adoption because apparently no one wants to take in feral cats, they were stuck with ’em. Knowing this litter was used to humans and thinking they had a shot at a better life than that of a barn cat, they took to social media to find homes for them all.

Lance just happened to be looking for a companion. Right-place. Righttime. Living out in the hills of Auburntown… in the veritable middle of nowhere… was beginning to take its toll on his sanity from him. Tired of the ever-present construction and congestion of what Nashville had become, Lance bought himself a cabin tucked away and retired there to finish working on the novel he’d started 10 years ago. Running away from the black cloud of gentrification and what it did for the cost of living proved to be a worthwhile endeavor, but he couldn’t seem to shake the loneliness.

In a way, Bucky saved Lance from heading back towards the buzzing Music City and the anxiety disorder that came with it. Lance spent his mornings making coffee, reading books, and dangling a piece of string over the table for Bucky to play with. After breakfast, they’d spend a few minutes staring at the birds through the window before Lance would head up to his office and get to work churning out a few more chapters of Ghostly Feelings, an admittedly hokey working title that he wrestled with every day. When the sun began to set, he’d withdraw from his office for the day, crack open a cookbook to find some recipe he’d never tried, whip up a hearty dinner, feed Bucky, and rest.

Every now and then, Bucky might stick his face in a glass of water or jump up on a countertop, knowing he wasn’t supposed to. But, by and large, he was a surprisingly well-behaved cat. He and Lance hit it off immediately, and it didn’t take much time at all for the two to develop a deep, strong bond. Bucky had been in the house for a year, and he’d never chased shadows before. That’s what made it so puzzling as to why he started when he did. It was frustrating for Lance – he couldn’t take a step at night without Bucky darting between his feet. As far from civilization as he was, if he were to take a nasty tumble down the stairs, it might spell the end of him.

Lance tried everything to keep him from chasing shadows – he turned on all the lights in the cabin, thinking an abundance of light might flood the shadows out. It didn’t work. He tried distracting Bucky by shaking the treat bag. It didn’t work. He tried dangling that string in front of him. It didn’t work. Bucky would fixate on the shadow, watching its every move. Lance shouted, “they’re not real, Bucky.” But, nothing seemed to determine him from chasing Lance’s shadow across the walls.

One night, a particularly exasperated Lance seemed to throw up the white flag. Bucky, with a full head of steam, charged the wall and jumped two feet into the air, trying to capture the shadow of the beer bottle Lance was carrying towards the couch with the attempt of enjoying along with a late night viewing of The Shining. Lance couldn’t help but laugh in a way that indicated he had accepted fate.

He began to play with Bucky through his shadow, back lit by the kitchen light – raising his arm, dropping it, dangling his fingers in the air as the imprint danced along in sync. Bucky was in a frenzy – claws going ravenously at the shadow on the wall. “Hey, hey now – it’s okay,” Lance said, attempting to calm Bucky down. Maybe this was a bad idea after all. He knelt down to pet the poor cat, who seemed angry and anything but playful. But, he started a bit when he noticed that his shadow on the wall stood as it was…without moving.

Lance took a quick step back and shook his head as if ridding it of any cobwebs residing inside. The shadow was stationary. I have thought, “I haven’t even started drinking yet.” A hiss broke the silence as Lance stood motionless attempting to process what he was seeing. He raised his arm. I have lowered his arm. The shadow on the wall didn’t budge.

A chilling bolt surged down his spine, shock spreading across his face – the head of the shadow on the wall tilted to the side, as if it was examining Lance. “I’ve lost my mi…” – the thought couldn’t even finish crossing Lance’s mind when a hand emerged from the shadow, clutching Lance’s throat, and forcefully slamming him face-first into the wall in front of him. He felt his throat closing – a completely disorienting sensation that Lance could not fathom as real life or fantasy… simply terror and pain. The air had left his lungs from him. He could taste his own blood from him, trickling down from his broken nose from him. He could feel the muscles around his neck writhing and stretching. He began to plead for his life with the faceless figure blacked out across his wall from him.

He was beginning to panic, squirming and thinking he wasn’t ready to go yet. not like this. Then, I heard a growl, a hiss, and the sound of a claw digging into the wall. Just like that, after a couple of harrowing moments, air flooded his lungs again. Weakened, he fell backwards onto the floor and fainted.

Lance had no idea how much time had passed between whatever had happened and now, but he awoke to a hefty orange tabby curled up on top of his chest. He came to, sore and beaten, and was greeted by a playful chirp from his companion of him. It was as if Bucky was letting him know he was happy to have him back.

Lance wasn’t interested in figuring out exactly what had happened to him. His immediate reaction from him was to collect his valuables from him and get the hell out of that cabin. But, for the moment, he was thankful to be alive. “Good boy, Bucky,” Lance said, “…but I thought cats were supposed to ward off evil spirits.“Bucky stared back – it was a look that Lance couldn’t quite decipher…it was the same look he gives when he wants a treat, but something told him Bucky wanted badly to say”I tried to tell you, dude.

Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network, and a Dogs Playing Poker on velvet connoisseur. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD, #BeBetter, and ‘Minds right, asses tight.’ “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Nashville, Yankee Candle, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley

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