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The Visitations: Horror Short Story by cam, 3/3

Across the yard, where a footpath enters the woods, a tiger stares at me. My joints lock. I stand motionless. A tiger? Around here? I dare not move. To get back to the house, I'd have to run halfway toward where the beast sits. It stands on all four massive paws. The tiger roars, a deafening sound that would rival the most violent thunder. I am in the eyes of the tiger. It closes the distance, tail twitching one way, then the other.

It stops in front of me, bears its teeth and growls. It roars. Hot breath strikes me in the face. I want to run, but my body will not respond. I want to fall to the ground and hide my face in the grass, but I can't move. It raises its head and engages me eye to eye. It feels like the last second of my life.

It rubs its head against my legs. The black spot on its cheek resembles a dimple, just like ... "Tabby?" He rubs his face against my chest. I raise my hand and gently scratch his head.

He moves around me and steps into the thick growth of amaranth. The big cat begins to dig.

"Tabby, no."

He raises his head and growls.

I back away and slowly walk to the door. Inside, I find my cell phone. Do I call the sheriff's department or do I wait? Wait for what? I watch from the kitchen window.

Tabby steps away from the grave and sits on his haunches.

After several minutes, I know something is happening because Tabby stands and takes a step forward. I hurry outside and position myself next to the big cat. I can hear it too, a gasp for air, scraping of a body against the ground, grunting as effort is expended.

What scrambles out of the hole is beyond any horror I can imagine. Her head is crooked and she seems to be having trouble using her neck to turn it. The eyes appear to be working, but even as we watch, one falls from its socket and dangles. The moment is both disgusting and alarming. On one hand, the eye has fallen out. On the other, the optic nerve has somehow become reattached. But what is most alarming is the fact that the woman's corpse is alive.

She sways while she examines her hands, arms, and body. Far from being the haunting specter that has returned from the grave to terrorize the living, she appears to be in emotional and physical distress. Naked she stands among the amaranth, touches the full seed heads, smells the rich aroma, then disappears beneath the red and magenta foliage.

Tabby and I wait until I wonder if she has died –– again. The amaranth parts, a miniature sea of red, and Tracey rises. She steps out of the flower bed, a healthy, whole, and naked young woman. She walks forward and stands in front of me. The shade of her red hair contrasts with the magenta background.

"Thank you." She reaches out and takes my hand.

I search for my voice and finally manage to stutter. "Let me get you a robe or a blanket."

"I'm fine," she says. "Unless it bothers you. I won't be keeping this shape for long."

I take off my lightweight jacket and drape it over her shoulders. "For me, if not for you."

"I wanted to speak with you before I leave. Your questions deserve answers." She holds out a hand to Tabby, and the cat sits beside her.

"Why did your husband do this?"

"Two reasons. He had found someone else. After that, they discovered that I am a witch. They dismembered me and buried the parts in various places to hinder my activities after death, a myth concerning witches with some basis in fact."

"And who brought you to me?"

"Tabby, that's what you call him. I always called him Rufus."

I scratch the big cat between the ears. "Is he a tiger or house cat?

"Neither. He is what we witches refer to as a familiar spirit which can take the form of an animal. He is very fond of you."

"The feeling is mutual."

"Rufus –– or Tabby if you prefer, and I have business to attend to." Tracey gazes toward the woods. "May we visit you from time to time?"

"I would be honored." Tracey steps forward and kisses me on the lips. The effect is sensual, but not sexual. My senses are more alert to the natural world around me. For example, I know my bird friends are near but waiting.

Tracey retreats to the cover of the amaranth. She immediately springs forth with a roar and lands in front of me, a tigress as impressive in size and beauty as the tiger who now rubs his face against hers. They walk toward the trail that leads into the woods, the path Tabby has taken so many times.

I spend the next hour scouring my yard for any sign that they have been here, all the time knowing that my silence makes me an accessory to what is certainly happening a mile down the road.

I consider going inside to monitor the local news on the radio, but instead, I sit on the deck and wait for the sweet avian chorus to return.

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