This longish narrative poem (136 lines) was inspired by actual reports of missing black cats in North Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. The more fantastic details are, of course, complete invention.
Though small town cops may know quite well when family pets are missed,
Reports of absent cats and dogs are typically dismissed.
But calls that trickled in from ‘round the old North Yorkshire station
Have duly spurred police to open an investigation.
Now, Mrs. Boyd and her three kids, aged five and eight and ten
Are worried they will never see their kitty cats again.
They’ve asked of all the townsfolk, and their posters are adorning
Most every shop and lamppost, so that hope delays their mourning.
The posters name one cat as Arthur and the other Austen.
For two years they had played outside and never gotten lost in
The woods by their suburban home, the town of Croft-on-Tees,
Until they seemed to suddenly be swallowed by the trees.
When they had just been kittens they had set the Boyds atwitter
At being welcomed in as twins who’d sprung from the same litter.
These brother-cats became well-known explorers, both of which
Were famous with the neighbors for their fur as black as pitch.
But even in adventuring, the two were rarely parted,
And in the sight of strangers were appropriately guarded.
So when one cat returned alone, the family’s consternation
Was just a hint of what would grow upon this strange foundation.
“I think,” said Mrs. Boyd, “that Austen must have started grieving,
Except his twitching ears imply some message he’s receiving.”
And two weeks after Arthur up and vanished, then the other
Demanded to be let back out, and went to join his brother.
If someone went and trapped two cats, what are the odds they’d be
Both black, each independent, but from just one family?
The neighbors know they’re missing, and it rather seems absurd
That even dead or dying, they’ve been neither seen nor heard.
When one more week had passed, there came a neighbor’s tearful knocking.
Her kitty, Tom, had not returned when last he went out walking.
“Our town is such a lovely place for cats to make a home in,”
She said, “but now that three have gone, is this some kind of omen?
When I regain composure, I’ll go knock on other doors.
I started here because my pet is similar to yours.
The cats around this neighborhood must number in the dozens,
But no black fate has fallen on Tom’s different-colored cousins.”
Now Mrs. Boyd, a lecturer renowned for skills of reason,
Has cast a superstitious eye upon the coming season.
Throughout the end of summer she had searched the roads and ditches
Until she shocked her neighbors with her mentioning of witches.
The neighbor, Jackie Schmidt then struck the townsfolk just as weird
By eerily insisting Tom had simply disappeared.
“They may have all been taken,” she admitted, “but one wonders
What purpose there could be in nabbing black cats, and no others.”
A call in late September from a nearby town accorded
With Mrs. Boyd’s conclusion this was something very sordid.
A farmer called Jane Parlour wasn’t very optimistic
About her cats’ behavior– called it “uncharacteristic”.
A mile down the road upon the near side of the river,
Two felines kept positions by the door to growl and quiver.
She said, “I would have paid more mind to their unseemly hissing
If I had known that this was just when Arthur had gone missing.
A myriad of cats patrol my home from ground to attic,
And never once have they been known for acting so erratic.
The others all seemed normal as they chased the mice and starlings.
The only difference is these two are black, like both your darlings.
If you would listen further, ma’am, my story still grows stranger.
For I do not believe my cats were warding off some danger
That lurked outside or spread its scent across the forest floor.
Instead, they barred my exit with their backs turned to the door.
This went on nightly ‘til at once they turned around and made me
Unlatch the door whose opening they lately had forbade me.
I watched them walk off side-by-side, their home life roughly spurned,
Until the darkness from their fur could no more be discerned.
I pined for them for several days while calling them inside,
Then just as the last storm of summer flared and swiftly died
I heard two simple meows and so I went out in my wellies
To find them in the barn, both nursing full and drooping bellies.
Although I cannot match your family’s sense of loss and yearning,
I know two other cats in Dalton left without returning.
There’s not much more to tell, I am afraid. However, lastly:
These cats were also black, my dear. You needn’t even ask me.”
It was around that time when someone told the Yorkshire bobbies
To make a case of missing cats, and maybe cultish hobbies.
Though skeptical, they took to asking what some folk had seen
In this the witching season leading up to Halloween.
While some investigators griped of unattended jails,
They sat among suburbanites to hear their wild tales.
And further toward the countryside, the evidence that mounted
Was largely seen as natural and eagerly discounted.
Another Dalton farmer tried in vain to calm his horses
While showing off a couple badly mangled chicken corpses.
The cops stood by and listened as he ticked off all the boxes
For witchcraft-panic when he cried, “This wasn’t done by foxes!”
And then police were asked to help in getting to the bottom
Of incidents reported on the first full day of autumn.
A village child awoke to hear a howling on the breeze
And looked to see five sets of glowing eyes within the trees.
Though no one quite believes her, still the little girl knows
That she has seen the missing cats hold council with the crows.
The grownups paid no mind when she insisted they were dancing
Or when she said the frightful scene was nonetheless entrancing.
Investigators followed up, however, when she told them
About the human shadow that would meet the cats and hold them
Aloft with ceremony by the neatly tended fire
For upwards of an hour while the smoke kept rising higher.
In fact, police have found a pile of campfire ash still cooling
Where hikers say they heard a choir of cawing mixed with mewling.
The constable has raked away the ash, always displaying
Dispassion, although some suspect he knows more than he’s saying.
It’s said that farther onward, slaughtered in a ring of pebbles,
They turned up several animals, like offerings to devils.
The cats were not among them, as initially expected,
But signs of feline paws and fur would later be detected.
Forensics have concluded something no one understands:
Implausibly, this carnage wasn’t caused by human hands.
“But what has this to do with Croft and Dalton?” some protested.
“It’s just a silly story. We’re already too invested.
You know we can’t conclude that these are credible reports.
We might as well start searching for old hags with bulbous warts.
For cats aren’t known to run together, hunting in a pack,
Much less to place their rodent-prey all neatly in a stack.”
Then some days later someone called the cops in sudden fear
And said the same dire fate had now befallen adult deer.
“We didn’t stick around to search but made a swift retreat
When crows descended thickly on the body like a sheet.
But as we ran away, we thought we heard an eerie yowling,
Like half a dozen cats around the dead deer’s feathered cowling.”
Police arrived upon the scene a half an hour later,
And though they found no cats, their horror couldn’t have been greater.
The first man to investigate knelt down and sharply scowled.
“My God, this massive creature’s been completely disemboweled!”
It seems that claws and beaks match every miniscule incision
Save one that opened up the hind with surgical precision.
On one hand it appears the situation’s escalating.
And on the other, some suspect that something worse is waiting.
With entrails splayed across the wood, a path of grim destruction,
The Parlour cats keep pacing like they’re waiting for instruction.
There’s something odd afoot around these towns upon the Tees,
And those who own black cats must plug their ears against the pleas
For their release; they must shut out the unfamiliar lowing
Until there is a clearer sense of where they keep on going.
So lest another local cat abruptly disappears
Keep watch for any twitching of their little radar ears.
There’s something calling out to them, and as Samhain grows nearer
Its voice is growing louder, more insistent, yes, and clearer.