Attack of the Wolf/Cat Hybrid
Peter slid on his stomach down the roof’s incline and pressed his palms into the soggy-leafy gutter to keep from toppling over the side. In moments he heard a belligerent scraping noise near his backyard fence. Instinctively he froze his lungs, pressed himself into the damp roof shingles. An earwig tickled with impunity along the back of his neck.
The bushes ruffled at the edge of the yard. Peter saw the golden glare of its binocular eyes before anything else. When the animal emerged, it seemed twice as big as Peter remembered from his dad’s laboratory. He pressed his lips together, made himself still. The creature had a cat’s 200 degree field of view, he knew, and it enjoyed lupine auditory acuity—it could detect a discarded penny twanging off the thump of a boulder six miles away.
Peter meant to watch the creature. Perhaps develop a scheme to brain it.
The abominable wolf/cat hybrid skulked across the sparkling dew-damp grass and then sniffed at the sun-bleached garden gnome. Seeing the animal for the first time in broad daylight, Peter noted the 150-pound animal’s regal gray coat and with ruffled accents of orange cascading along its lean flank. The animal seemed treacherously cuddleable.
Much as a hungry dog might do when sniffing for phantom food residue, the wolfcat jabbed its snout into the gnome’s various nooks and crannies. Even from up on the roof you could hear the no-holds-barred sniffing. The occasional lapping.
Then, apropos of nothing, the wolfcat started batting said garden gnome with its long font-left leg, much as an anxious cat might do when drunk on catnip, which is to say: like a boxer practicing with a speed bag. But the wolfcat was big and strong, and on the third swipe of its paw, the ceramic garden gnome parted company with its own head. Crack! From deep within its throat the wolfcat issued an unholy cross between a whelp and a roar. It sounded very wrong.
The blood froze in Peter’s veins. A muscle in his jaw twitched. When he recovered from the shock of what he’d heard, he retreated backwards from the roof’s edge, and in so doing produced an untimely scraping noise—his metal belt buckle catching on the edge of a shingle and tearing it from the roof.
“Oh no no no,” he said.
The wolfcat perked to attention, its large amber eyes fixing at once on Peter, its blood-flaked snout locking onto his scent and geo-tagging him. Even the crickets fell quiet. The oak tree muted its breezy ruffle.
Through its eery frozen expression the wolfcat seemed to convey the following thoughts: Up there lies the youngling food-humanoid who’d somehow escaped the slippery buffet at the lab corridor. The feeding-game where I opened up his irresponsible geneticist alpha and unspooled his warm innards with my hefty paws. These new smells on the breeze speak of a familial connection. Yonder is the geneticist’s pup! Delightful!
A screw of ice drilled through Peter’s spine. His breath came in fast, frenzied pulses. Abstractly he became aware of the blood thumping in his palms, the smell the tar of the damp black shingles. Get out of its line of sight you fool he thought as he pressed his hands into the roof shingles and weakly lifted himself to his knees. In this moment of terror he was ever grateful of having the high ground. The creature was, after all, way down there in the yard at least thirty feet below. Was Peter any less safe than a boy at the zoo peering down into a concrete-walled wolf habitat? He thought not.
“Watchu gonna do?” he taunted meekly once he got his feet back under him.
But this wasn’t a wolf. It was a wolfcat.
The beast compressed into a spring-loaded squat, and with a single impossible bound it was—WTF?!?—on the roof with Peter, about five wolf-lengths away. Peter had felt the roof quake before he even registered what happened. Then he watched as the creature used its long nimble tail to keep balanced on the slanted surface. Its yellow eyes disappeared into anxious, hyper-reactionary black orbs. It hadn’t yet made the decision to strike, but it made itself ready—front end pressed low tot he roof, hindquarters raised into the air, long striped tail draped low to the roof. The pointy fluffy ears hardened like upraised scoops.
Peter became as motionless as the now-headless garden gnome 30 feet below. To him it seemed the impact of a single twirling leaf shard would ignite the wolfcat. His fingers trembled as he inched them, ever so gently, towards his jeans’ back pocket. Ahead, he could hear the wolfcat making a steady, high pitched sex whine, through which oscillated a canine snarl.
At last Peter’s fingertips pressed into a cool puck of metal. In a single motion he removed and brandished before him the can of White Albacore Tuna (in water) which he’d so brilliantly snatched from the pantry before ascending to the roof. The metal flared in the morning sunlight, throwing a twitch in the wolf cat’s eye.
Didn’t matter. No need to be sneaky now. Peter smiled at his own intellect. Here was a treat the monster’s cat-genes (the majority of its genetic material) could never ignore. The strong secret omega-3 oily smells which travel impossible distances at unheard-of speeds the moment they’re released into the world. Fish > Steak.
“Hunter-beast perfection maybe,” he thought. “But a regular human jerkwad still trumps you in the brains departme—“ He cancelled all further thinking when he realized that he’d, yep, forgotten a can opener.
And then he felt the roof shake and the weight of the beast was on him. Glistening inside a hot spray of blood, the can of tuna wheeled down the roof and plopped down a succession of asphalt tiers—pa-click, pa-click, pa-click— before dropping into the gutter, cushioned by the damp leaves.