Halloween Contest 2023

The Cat on Cherry Hill by Madeline Wilson

Maggie Grace became familiar with a graveyard. Every day, she hiked the hill on the edge of town, wearing the color of mourning and wandering row after row until she reached her destination: one white gravestone, under a cherry tree, with a name she knew well. Such a sad little thing. She’s hoping her father will turn up. The townspeople had much to say.  

Concerned and embarrassed, Maggie’s mother presented her with a cat whose black fur softened their familial grief. It went everywhere with Maggie, clinging to her feet, so that she frequently lost her footing. When her mother was carried off in a body bag, the cat was there.  When her aunt came to visit and fell ill, the cat was there. When she met, and then buried, her foster parents, the cat was there. It was the repeated, offensive moments that became suspicious, so that soon, Maggie looked at her cat without loving eyes and, instead, saw it for what it was: a curse. 

For three months, Maggie attempted to rid herself of the cat. I’ll take it to the farm. And so, she did, only to awaken that night with it still curled at her feet. Maybe the station. And so she did, only to find herself at a wrecked scene, twenty passengers dead in the railway car; she and her cat leaving, unscathed.  

She’s cursed. Don’t let her in. It’s that cat. No, it’s her. She’s creepy. The townspeople talked once again. And she felt their words stain her like the cherries that lay on the graveyard’s floor. Isolated by those who once celebrated her life and thwarted from living by a cat whose presence caused death, she took herself back to the graveyard, and began building her house — on the hill, next to the white gravestone, by the tree that spilled fruit and stained the ground red. 

She wandered at night, with her cat at her feet, and jolted when, one evening, she caught sight of a man coming up the hill. Afraid her cursed life would cost him his, she began to run at him, grabbing branches of the cherry tree and flinging them this way and that as she carried herself towards the man. Swoosh swoosh swoosh. She yelled at him, cursing him to turn away, but just as she saw his face – familiar, and began to put down her arms, she was tripped, by an animal with fur, black. Down she fell with all branches scattering but one, which snapped, and pierced her through the heart: a new stain upon the ground.  

And so it was that her father now stood, a black cat at his feet, at one white gravestone, under a cherry tree, with a name he knew well: the gravestone of Maggie Grace.