She heard hissing and yowling from the hallway. A cat fight? But no one on her floor had a cat. A loud thump against the wall spurred her into action. She opened the door and listened to the hallway. The fight was over but something remained. She could hear an animal breathing, panting almost. She crouched down and began feeling across the floor toward the animal. Her hands touched thick sleek fur. Carefully she felt the animal for injuries. Starting with the back legs moving to it’s flanks and then to it’s neck. She felt it’s head. Something was not right. It was misshapen. She felt a ridge that started over it’s eye then went back over it’s forehead. She felt a wetness on the side of it’s throat. She probed the area and it yowled in pain.
The sound reverberated through her head and terror flooded through her body. She fell backwards on her ass and scrambled away from the source of the sound as fast as she could until her back hit the wall. And then it stopped. She was still breathing hard, heart racing, every hair trying to stand straight up but the terror was gone. A few deep breaths and she was almost back to normal. What had happened? She stood up and followed the wall with one hand until she reached her open doorway. She could just go back inside and close the door. But it’s hurt, she thought.
She turned inside and walked to her bathroom. From a top shelf she grabbed an old towel and headed back to the hallway. Again she crouched down and felt for the animal, she was almost sure it was a cat. Her hand touched thick fur again. She laid out the towel next to the animal.
“Hey, I’m not going to hurt you I just want to help ok,” she said hoping her tone would calm it. Reaching behind the back legs with one hand and under the shoulder with the other she transferred it to the towel. It made a pained chirp but was otherwise silent. She wrapped it in the towel and picked it up and carried it inside her apartment. Holding the animal close to her, she could smell a foul odor from it.
She set it on the kitchen table while she got her first aid kit. After washing her hands, she gently probed the wound on it’s neck. Some blood but it wasn’t free flowing, she couldn’t feel an open gash. A deep scratch maybe.
“This may sting but it’s for your own good,” she said softly to the cat as she began cleaning around the wound. The cat whined and meowed softly but did not yowl nor attempt to get up. The woman applied antibacterial ointment to the scratch. In the morning she would call her old veterinarian and try to get an appointment that day or the next. The cat while hurt did not seem to be critically injured.
The woman brought out Chester’s old cat bed and transferred the cat into it. Chester, her previous cat, had died of old age a couple of months before. She placed a dish with water nearby and headed back to bed. As she started to settle in she heard the cat meowing and chirping. Then she heard a man’s voice.
The woman slipped out of bed, grabbing her phone from the nightstand. She flipped it open and dialed 9 -1-1 and held a finger over the dial button. She crept to her bedroom door and listened.
“What no I’m not going to wake her so you can say goodbye,” the man’s voice said.
“Who’s there?” she called out into the kitchen from her bedroom.
“I’m sorry ma’am,” the man’s voice said louder now to reach her clearly, “I was looking for my cat and you seem to have found him. I’ll just collect him and be on our way.”
“How did you get in my apartment?” she asked
“I came in through the door,” he said.
“I locked my door,” she held her finger on the dial button, “If you don’t leave right now, I will call the police.”
“I ca-” the man’s voice was cut off mid word. A gust of wind blew through the apartment and there was a thump against the front door. She listened for the man’s footsteps or breathing but heard neither.
Someone knocked on the door. The woman walked toward her front door. “I’m sorry I trespassed against your wishes. I meant you no harm and only wished to retrieve my companion.” It was the man. The same man who had just been in her kitchen but he was now outside, in the hallway, on the other side of a locked door that had not been opened.
“Who are you?” she called through the door.
“I would prefer to talk face to face.”
“We can talk through the door or you can talk to the police.”
“That’s really not necessary. I… Ok, here’s the deal. I and my companion are devils.”
“Ok, I’m calling the cops.”
“Wait wait,” he said panicked now, “Surely you’ve seen my companion’s horns? Did they not seem odd?”
“I haven’t seen anything in a long time.”
The cat meowed loudly from the cat bed. “What? Oh my companion says you touched them while examining him.”
“The ridges on the cat’s head? Wait, did the cat just talk to you?”
“Yes and yes. What about the brimstone? You can smell it coming from my companion, yes?”
“I thought he just needed a bath.”
“So, do you believe me when I say we are devils?”
“Then could I come inside to explain everything?”
“Why should I let a demon into my house?”
“I’m a devil,” the man- devil sounded insulted, “Not a demon. If I promise not to harm you, then you have nothing to fear from me.”
“I should just trust any random devil?” the woman asked.
“Devils are bound by rules, laws, and promises. Normally in the course of our duties we are given special permissions to enter private property. These special permissions is only valid if the owner of the property does not banish us from said property.”
She thought this over. He had instantly left her apartment when ordered and he hadn’t reentered despite apparently being able to walk through walls. “First promise that you and your companion will not harm me.”
“Say all of it,” she said forcefully.
“I promise that neither I nor my companion will harm you. Now may I come in?”
She thought about it for another minute, “And you will not send another devil or a demon or any one or thing to harm me.”
“What?” he asked.
“I’m just trying to cover my bases.”
“Ok. I promise not to send anyone or thing to harm you.”
“You can come in I guess,” she said but did not move to open the door. If he was telling the truth, he could just walk through the door again.
Which he apparently did as his next words were from inside the apartment, “Thank you, now I will collect my companion and we will be on our way,” the cat chattered at him, “No we don’t have to do that,” a series of short meows, “No, we don’t owe her anything. She gave you aid of her own free will,” a single quizzical chirp, “Yes free as in no payment necessary.”
“What are you talking about?” the woman asked.
“My companion believes we owe you a gift or small boon for his care. I was trying to explain to him that you helped him out of the kindness of your heart and no repayment other than our thanks is necessary.”
She had helped the cat because she couldn’t just leave a hurt animal to fend for itself. On the other hand, a gift from a devil might come in handy. “I…” No, no, if she knew anything from fables, fairy tales, books, and tv, it was that deals with devils rarely went the way of the person. “I accept your thanks as payment. Nothing else is needed.”
The cat chirped at her. How she knew it was for her, she wasn’t sure but it had felt like it was directed at her. She walked over to the cat, still in Chester’s old cat bed, and placed a hand on him. He began to purr and arch his back against her hand. She followed the line of his back to his head to scratch between his horns.
The devil cleared his throat, “We really do have to be going.”
“Could you answer a couple of questions? As a favor?” she asked.
“Um, sure but just a couple,” he said.
“What were you doing outside my apartment?” she asked.
“Demon hunting,” he said.
“Demon hunting?” she repeated while continuing to scratch and pet the devil cat, “Is that a thing devils do? I would think angels would be better suited.”
“Yes, well you would be wrong. True demons are hard to contain or kill even for devils of the fifth sphere. Angels of the first sphere…” he sighed and continued, “Heaven and hell are a lot more complicated than you could understand. It’s not always light and dark. There are shades of grey. Devils have duties that some might call righteous. Just… not all devils are evil incarnate.”
“And some are cats?” she asked.
“Yes, some are cats,” he agreed.
“Ok, you can take the bed if you want. It’ll be more comfortable for him,” she added after a second, “Consider it a gift.”
“Thank you ma’am,” the devil said and walked to the table. She heard the bed slide across the table, a single farewell meow, and they were gone leaving only a faint whiff of brimstone.
Author’s note: This story came to me while petting my roommate’s cat. He came up beside the couch and rubbed up against my hand hanging over the side. I reached out and began petting him. I wasn’t look at him while petting him so all I could sense about him at that moment was what I could feel. Thought popped into my head that a demon(or devil as it turned out in the story) cat might feel very much like a regular cat except for some minor differences like horns. Then I thought “what if a blind woman rescued a devil cat” and the story flowed pretty much from there.