La Rue du Chat-qui-Pêche

Paris was a much different place, once upon a time. No vast cityscape splayed across the painted sky, save for Notre Dame. Her gloriously gothic gargoyles glare down on demons scurrying beneath the tall towers. The now polished streets and grand bridges dropped off at their edge, plunging into the depths of the Seine and earth-shattering oblivion. Without the interference of massive street lamps and glowing windows, night was pure darkness and the moon was pure, brilliant light. Small roadways twist and turn in ominous shadows, dancing underneath the stars. Dark, hooded figures flit in and out of the cathedral at all hours, praying beneath the painted colors of stained glass and the pitiful statues martyred to the walls. The Latin quarter is home to clergymen and students alike, both studying in their respective fields and searching for answers to the curiosities of life. But while scholar and student rest peacefully in their beds, cloaked in the comfort of darkness, tiny black paws prance along the riverbank. Scrit, scrit, scrit. Claws scratch against stone, ringing through the silence of midnight. Electric green eyes blink in the black of night. The glimmer of moonlight rippling across the river illuminates the faint outline of a small cat, gracefully dipping her paw into the water and retrieving a silver-scaled fish for a late night snack.

When morning dawns, university students stumble sleepily into the streets, books in hand, clumping together as they drag themselves to class. By early afternoon, energy has swept through the quarter and laughter rings in the street. Young adults pool together, eating lunch in front of the grand buildings and strolling along the riverbank. Three young men jauntily approach a group of women, sitting daintily on the steps of the library. The largest of the three introduces himself, “Bon apres-midi mes jolies demoiselles. Je m’appelle Maximilian, and ce sont mes amis, Guillaume et François.” The smallest of the three girls, a delicate, fair-skinned blonde allows a small giggle to escape the corner of her lips. Her companions shoot her sharp, but playful looks. “Gisa!” Marine, an olive skinned brunette, groans while rolling her eyes. Maxim’s dark features break into a smirk. He runs his hands through his jet black hair as he continues, “est-ce que c’est possible qu’on peut—” “Oh là là, monsieur est-ce que c’est possible que vous fermiez votre bouche si on vous permet d’asseoir?” Alainne, the final brunette, interrupts. Guillaume and François roar in laughter as Maxim sheepishly slinks onto the step near Gisa. “Au moins, elle pense que je suis charmante…” he murmurs, head hung low and eyes glued to the cobblestone street below his feet. Gisa blushes and places a tiny, soft hand on his shoulder, “Vous êtes beau, oui.” she murmers coyly, as she twists a glittering gold chain around her delicate finger. Maxim’s head snaps up and his eyes brighten. “Mais charmant…” she finishes, “je pense pas.” He slumps a little, but is clearly pleased with his progress, blushing feverishly.

Afternoon passes into dusk, as the six students converse joyfully, jeering and chiding each other playfully. The group begins to say their goodbyes for the evening with Maxim and Gisa splitting off, the former offering to escort the latter home. As they begin to part ways with their friends, Gisa slides her hand into Maxim’s arm, prompting him to straighten, and extend his elbow in an incredibly elaborate and gentlemanly fashion. This gesture earns him yet another giggle and eye roll from Gisa, but she burrows closer to him, nonetheless. Night falls as they walk slowly; a severe chill breaking through the crisp autumn air. Darkness suddenly descends, bearing down on them like a bloodthirsty predator cornering trembling prey. As they approach the cathedral square, a harsh wind overtakes them and eerie green light emanates from a dark corner to their right. Maxim and Gisa exchange a wary glance, but her face hardens in determination, and without a word, they both turn down the tiny alley into the cover of darkness. A tiny window sits at eye-level; Maxim bends down and Gisa lifts onto her tip-toes to peer inside. They press their cheeks together and begin searching the glowing green room. Gisa gasps and latches onto Maxim’s hand. His eyes widen and though he doesn’t let his terror show, he squeezes Gisa’s hand just a little bit tighter. A bony skeleton of a man draped in the brown cloak of a deacon pours over a large cast iron pot. Glass vials of brightly colored liquids rest next to the smoking concoction and the glowing brew illuminates his sunken, bloodshot eyes. His long, bony fingers reach into a drawer in his large alchemist’s table. He pulls out a round, pink object, delicately carrying it over to the light of the ghostly potion. As he holds it up over the pot and into the light, the obscure outline of a jaggedly severed ear takes form.

MEOWWWW!

Gisa shrieks and Maxim turns ghostly white. The Alchemist’s head whips toward them in one sharp movement and blood red eyes burn into them with searing intensity. Gisa drops to the ground and Maxim starts to pull away from the window.

Skrit, skrit, skrit.

Their eyes search the darkness for the source of the sound. The moon shines a spotlight on a small black cat sitting behind her mangled supper, a pile of massacred fish meat and bones. Gisa leaps up from the ground and cries “Allons-y!” They tear down the tiny passageway towards the river, but as they approach the narrow entrance, a shadowy figure appears, blocking their path.

A few days passed and the old clergyman known as Dom Perlet had been skulking around the quarter with the black cat not too far behind; however, there had been no sign of Gisa or Maxim. Their friends gather on the Pont Neuf, each of them anxious and worried due to the rising number of disappearances that had become a frequent occurrence as of late. As Marine stares at the swirling river below, she notices a glimmer on the riverbank. She sees an agile black creature slinking along the riverside with a glimmering gold chain wrapped twice around her neck creating an elegant collar. The cat blinks up at her for a moment and returns her attention to the water. “C’est le collier de Gisa!” Marine cries. The others follow the point of her finger and their eyes land on the cat just as she delicately dips her paw into the water and comes up with a shining silver Gardon fish hooked in her claws. She lays it over to the side and proceeds to pull up another, and another, and another. Four fish in total, laying on the riverbank, gasping for air. “Impossible!” François gasps. The frail, older man in deacons robes sidles up beside the cat, placing her four fishy prizes into his bag and walking off, with cat in toe, a faint green glow emanating from her sinister eyes. While tales of Monsieur Perlet and his witchcraft had echoed through Paris, no one bothered to believe it… until now.

Dusk sweeps across the burning horizon, as Guillaume, Marine, Francois, and Allaine huddle at the base of the Pont Neuf. Hours had passed since they decided to follow the old man in the cover of darkness, intent on finding their lost friends. Walking in the cold silence of night, they search for his skeletal form in the darkness. Just as they are ready to give up, an ominous shadow passes, causing a menacing flicker of moonlight to ripple across their faces.

Scrit, scrit, scrit.

Suddenly, green eyes scream into the night.

MEOWWWWW.

A cold, bony hand claps around Marine’s wrist. She releases a crippling scream that echoes across the pavement. Green light blinds them as a harsh wind encircles, forcing each body closer and closer, like cornered mice. In the distance, A shadowy figure emerges, extending twig like bones and pointing straight into the heart of the now seemingly small group of comrades. In an abrupt instant, claws wretch into Guillaume’s skin. He roars in agony. Simultaneously, Allaine screeches as her eyes are shredded in their sockets and blood pours down her face like horrible tears. Marine and Francois feel teeth sinking into the veins in their arms and necks, piercing through their fragile capillaries. Suddenly, they are thrust with a mighty force, hurtling them back towards the Seine. Before splashing into the murky abyss, Guillaume manages to latch onto a furry tail, pulling the cat under and suffocating her green eyes with the black Seine. Water fills five sets of lungs gasping for air; muffled mews and silenced screams bubble to the surface. The night becomes suddenly still; a gentle breeze peacefully passing over five dead bodies and a dark brown cloak filled with dried bones, heaped into the mud of the cobblestone.

A few weeks of peace follow the harrowing event, and the disappearances stop entirely. The Alchemist has vanished, his spirit seemingly squelched by the destruction of his feline familiar. The city forgets about the affair just as quickly as it came about.

But one winter night, when darkness has fallen gracefully over the city like a blanket of snow, emerald green eyes sparkle against the rippling water.

Meow.

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