Fictober, Prompt 29 – “I’m doing this for you.”
Warnings: monster, creepiness, not much else. Horror, of sorts.
I reeled in another clump of lake weed, and pulled in a deep breath, cultivating patience. Fishing was not my favorite pastime, a feeling exaggerated by the fact that it wasn’t going well today.
“How much longer must we sit here?” the monster asked from the other side of the boat.
Frustration surged up despite my best efforts, and I spun around to face it, scowling.
“I’m doing this for you,” I pointed out, “because you desperately wanted panfish for some unexplainable reason, and even more inexplicably you wanted me to do the fishing. You are well aware that I’m bad at this.”
“The contract—” it began, scowling back.
“The contract,” I interrupted sharply, “states that we will provide you sustenance in the form of livestock, once every two weeks. Anything additional to or apart from that is on a voluntary basis only, and I’m fast running out of a desire to continue volunteering. If you still want panfish caught by me, then shut up. If you don’t, then tell me so we can both go do other things.”
Not that I knew what the monster did with its time when it wasn’t bothering someone in town, but at least it might stop bothering me.
It bared sharp teeth (the one thing about its form that it couldn’t hide or change) at me.
I bared my blunt, human teeth right back at it, snarling. “Well?”
The teeth vanished behind something that was dangerously close to a pout, and it turned away, apparently unwilling to call it quits.
If part of me was less disappointed about that than it should have been, I saw no need to acknowledge it.
Rebaiting my hook, I cast my line back out into the lake, and waited.
The monster continued to…sulk? Its semi-furred back was to me. It had chosen a weird shape today, vaguely humanoid but with fur and other, almost cat-like features, though no cat had ever looked like that. It almost reminded me of that one musical with the weird cat costumes, now that I thought about it. Did the monster know about that? Had someone given it access to the internet? That was a truly terrifying notion.
“Why did you want me to catch your fish?” I asked to break the silence and my own increasingly weird train of thought.
Its head turned slightly until one gleaming eye was peering at me over its shoulder. “Because you smell the best.”
My hands, occupied with reeling in my line again, froze. A chill crept down my spine as the monster shifted, creeping closer itself, its movement somehow not rocking the boat at all.
“Out of everyone here, you have always smelled the best,” it whispered in my ear, hunger and longing in its voice. “So delicious.”
I was acutely aware that we were alone out here on the lake, and that no one could reach me in time if it decided to break the contract.
“But I would hate to eat you,” it went on, voice still soft and low next to my ear, “because then you would be gone.”
That was…not as reassuring as it seemed to think it was.
“I’d just as soon not be gone, thanks,” I managed after a long, long moment where the only sound was water sloshing against the boat and the wind rustling distant leaves along the shore.
“Do not fear me too much,” it told me then, withdrawing slightly, “I will not break the contract. It was drawn in good faith, and all have kept it in good faith, and I do not take that lightly.”
“Good to know,” I said, and my voice still sounded a bit strangled. But the worst of the adrenaline rush was passing, and some weird instinct told me that the monster was being honest.
It had never once broken the contract, nor even come close, not in the two decades since the town had written it. It even, I dared to think, seemed to like all of us in its own, monster-y way. I had a suspicion that it had gone to some effort to keep our town safe from other monsters, other weird things that roamed the world.
“So, do you actually want fish?” I asked, taking a guess, “or did you just want to hang out? Because we could go watch a movie at my place or something, if you want.”
It blinked at me.
I hoped that had been the right thing to say.
It smiled, grin wide and sharp. “I find that I am no longer hungry for fish.”
Swallowing, reminding myself that it liked to speak that way and that it had explicitly said it wasn’t going to eat me, I let myself nod in relief. “Good, because I’m not catching any, and it’s getting cold.”
I pulled in my line, packed up the fishing gear, and got the motor going again, steering us quickly for the dock outside my place. My house was tiny, but I was lucky to have inherited one right on the shore.
If our town weren’t so weird, and if I really wanted to live somewhere else, I could have sold it for good money, even as small as it was.
But our town was weird, and we had a monster, and in spite of those things, I really didn’t want to live anywhere else.
Part of me whispered that it was really because of those things that I never had any desire to move.
I ignored that, and decided I was going to make the monster watch a musical as payback for making me try and fish.
But definitely not the one about the cats. It didn’t need any more ideas than it already had.