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Note: This story was originally an entry for Halloween part of the Chilling Tales for Dark Nights 2019 Writing Contest However, it didn't meet the standards for the Halloween submission period of The Simply Scary Podcast Network

Thank you to Craig Groshek who did the final editing



It was Jacquelyn's turn to hold the Lughnasadh Tea Ritual. With careful attention, she prepared the buffet-style table with clean tableware and matching tea service. She properly baked a tidy assortment of Lammas loaf owls and Corn King cakes, and Goddess scones, and made the savory finger-sandwiches, even cutting off the crusts for the fussier guests. On the porcelain enamel stove, the water awaited her, ready to be heated once her fellow Wiccans arrived.

Jacquelyn was fourteen when she converted to the Wiccan ways much to the chagrin of her Secular Rationalist family. By the time she was sixteen, she had dedicated herself fully to all things eerie, mysterious and magical.

As she puttered around, meticulously checking off her list of formal arrangements, Jacquelyn worried about whether anyone would notice that she was using bovine milk rather than licorne cream and if Phoebe would still be angry about what happened last time (when Jacquelyn’s little aspie brother randomly mailed out the party notices and invited half of the neighborhood), and were the sandwiches elegant enough to make up for using just plain three-tiered cake stands, or would they gossip about her store-bought brand afterwards like they'd gossip about Murielle's... and then she noticed the cat in the garden again.

The cat had been skulking about the place for a while. Jacquelyn considered shooing it away. It was a mangy looking thing-- matted blue-black fur clinging to its wiry, whippet-like form. On any other day, Jacquelyn wouldn't even have bothered with the scare tactics. Would even have thrown some table scraps to it. But tonight was the Lughnasadh Tea, and she didn't want to put the coven into yet another uninvited guest situation.

Sighing, the wannabe teen witch stepped outside with her broom. Then she halted because the cat was sauntering towards her, smiling very broadly like the Cheshire one from Alice in Wonderland.

"Do you often keep your guests waiting for quite so long?" Its voice grated like a rusty gate hinge.

"Oooh, nice one, guys,” she said, glancing around the dimly-lite garden. “You had me going for a minute!"

Stifling a chuckle, she turned back to the cat. “Oh, no!” exclaimed Jacquelyn, feigning absolute mortification. “I'm so sorry, but there's been a miscommunication. Due to the venue size, we're keeping the guest list quite small. This means we just do not have room to fit everybody on the list. I'm so sorry that we can't extend an invitation, and even more sorry about this miscommunication. I hope you can understand."

“Oh, well, no matter,” the cat carelessly replied. “I’m quite sure your tea room’s big enough to accommodate up to three-hundred guests very comfortably.”

"Uh-huh,” Jacquelyn said with a smirk. “Sure, pal!” She looked around the garden again, and then continued. “But alas, I only have room for, like, twenty.”

The cat sat on its haunches, its yellowish eyes and teeth gleaming in the porch lights.

After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Jacquelyn responded, “Yeah, twenty of my best fashionable, A-list, celeb-sisters of the Goddess friends... who all know how to combine classic essentials of high fashion with the latest Pagan Society trends... and probably do a bit of punking on the side.”

The cat continued its eerie stare-down. From the shadowy, meadow-like borders of the garden, there came a faint stealthy rustle as if the dried autumn grass was being crushed under the pressure of soft-but-heavy footfalls.

“Okay, like seriously, holy fuck! How are you doing this trick?!” Jacquelyn shouted to the surrounding privet hedges. “‘Cause it’s seriously freaking me out! Did someone slip this here cat some shrooms, LSD or something? It’s, like... so majorly tripping out here.”

The night was silent, apart from the strange outdoor noises and the deep, purring thunder at her feet.

“Ugh, fine,” Jacquelyn muttered as she turned to go inside. “This is like getting, like, totally old fast... so five minutes ago!”

Behind her, the steady purr deepened to a growl, growing quickly to a snarl. Jacquelyn froze, the broom falling from her limp fingers and clattering on the floor. She felt a sharp prickling on the back of her neck and a sibilant whisper in her ear. “The Old Gods are not to be mocked,” the voice said. “Thou cannot deceive us, and we wilt not permit thou to mock us withal pretended instead of real services.”

Jacquelyn spun around with a gasp, wide-eyed and mouth gaping. The porch was empty. In her mind, she was screaming, but no sound passed her lips.

She stared incredulously, jaw dropping farther, as the garden swarmed with a feline horde. They moved like a wave up the gravel drive toward the mansion, flowing over the masonry walls and topiary hedges and erasing all signs of the lawn. The air soon filled with a shrill trilling and incessant meowing.

Her left eye began to twitch uncontrollably as the whole pack surged over the threshold, whiskers forward, their eyes glinting with slyness and hunger.

Within minutes, the cats were inside fighting over the banquet and Jacquelyn's remains while a pack of feral dogs slunk a safe distance away, drooling and whining in frustration.

As it was, the helpings proved generous, and by the time everyone finished, they were completely sated.



Written by Mmpratt99 deviantart
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