THE OFFERING • by Katie Stevens

It started with a dead crow left on the doorstep outside the kitchen. Its wings were folded tight to its body, eyes mercifully closed, feet curled up to its body. There was no sign of how it had died or where it had come from. I was unsettled, looking at the dead body laid there like an offering.

I live alone. I like it that way. There was no one to get rid of the body but me. I wore bags on my hands to pick it up and threw it in the hedge. Dead things make me squeamish and I puked up in the hedge next to it, haunted by the memory of its dead weight.

The next day I found a rabbit, its neck broken. I used to have a cat until my husband hung it by the neck. He was drunk and I was hiding. He left it swinging high in a tree outside my bedroom window.

I vomited before I got close enough to remove the rabbit. The body was rigid in death and my stomach heaved at the sight. I averted my eyes when I pushed it onto the spade with the edge of my shoe. It joined the crow in the hedge. I used half a bottle of bleach cleaning the blood off the step.

I came here to escape, to hide from a violent man who sought to possess me. I had felt safe until now.

The fox kickstarted the nightmares. It was blood covered and battered with a broken leg. The poor creature, still alive, hunched in a ball shaking, was shrieking the most god-awful scream. I swung the door open and it tried to run. Its movements were slow and agonised as it attempted to drag itself away. The sound of its screams pierced me to my core. I might have dumped two dead bodies in the hedge but I do believe in living with compassion and the state of the fox was cruel.

I didn’t own a gun. I never wished to possess the power to kill before. I moved around the house reluctantly, considering the options, hoping if I delayed the fox would do the decent thing. It didn’t and so I had to do it myself, with an old towel laid over it and a brick. I cried for a long time after.

That night my dreams were filled with blood, screams of terror and the sickening sensation of bludgeoning another being to death. I spent the rest of the night watching old Hollywood musicals on the internet, trying to blot out the dark images seared into my brain.

Deep down I knew the real fear; had he found me? Was this his declaration of intent? He always knew how to terrorise me so I would give in. My bungalow no longer felt like a refuge, there aren’t many places you can hide from the outside world if it wishes to peer in. If he wanted to find me I was there where he could see.

A sheep’s skeleton followed, the bones licked clean. It was a blessed respite from the previous day’s horror. Still, bones were bones and I’d had my fill of death. Garnering all my courage, which wasn’t all that much, I decided to stay up the next night and catch him at it. I had my camera to hand. At least I’d have something to show the police when I called them.

The moon filled the night with its muted glow, turning everything to silver. I stayed crouched down beneath the kitchen table until I had the sense I was not alone. Fear exploded in my chest as I saw the large shadow crouched near the hedge. I was rendered useless as my nightmare materialised before me.

But it wasn’t him and nothing could be worse than he was. The shadow was immense compared to its owner. The relief was intoxicating. Its black tail flicked as it fed pulling my gaze to what it ate, which was mostly blood and gore, but I was drawn to what appeared to be an arm complete with hand and fingers. I pressed my fist into my mouth to suppress a scream.

I must have emitted a noise for the cat’s head rose sharply. It looked me dead in the eye so I could see the bright moon reflected in bottomless wells of darkness. There was a flicker of recognition. It was like seeing myself, the darkest recess of my unconscious, brought to life. Or was this a dark angel protecting me?

I couldn’t move as it dragged the limb and dropped it at my feet. My stomach lurched; I recognised it, the large signet ring on its pinkie unmistakable. I ran my finger unconsciously across my cheek which bore its indelible imprint.

She mewed, sitting at my feet, head pushing urgently against my leg. I had heard that sweet supplication before, understanding and complicit in my inability to defend myself from his cruelty. I sat there, in the moonlit night, on the cool earth, outside my little house and wept into her soft fur.

I buried the limb. I hoped he had suffered in the losing of it. I recalled the dead offerings and suddenly recognised them for what they were, a promise. A reckoning in which my abusive husband would be brought to justice.

I don’t know how she did it nor will I ever know. When I ask her she just gives me an enigmatic stare, with those wide, green, unblinking eyes. Then she turns to lick her paws, that cat of mine, whom I had given up for dead, hanging from that damned tree.

I am no longer afraid. I no longer hide. I no longer feel the dread of discovery. My dark angel has set me free.


Katie Stevens says: “This is the first story I have written. I love fantasy and dark tales. In another life I write plays for children’s theatre.”


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 average 4.7 stars • 3 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Some great writing here. The mystery surrounding the ‘offerings’ kept me keenly reading. However, the ending was still a bit of a mystery to me with too many unanswered questions and ambiguities.

    • I found the blood, gore and puking to be overwritten and distracting. A softer setup with more mystery would have heightened the suspense. The premise was interesting but unfulfilled. I concur with the comments on some phrases. Writer shows promise given restraint.

      • This was supposes to be a general comment – working on iPad away from home 🙁

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Some great writing here. The mystery surrounding the ‘offerings’ kept me keenly reading. However, the ending was still a bit of a mystery to me with too many unanswered questions and ambiguities.

    • I found the blood, gore and puking to be overwritten and distracting. A softer setup with more mystery would have heightened the suspense. The premise was interesting but unfulfilled. I concur with the comments on some phrases. Writer shows promise given restraint.

      • This was supposes to be a general comment – working on iPad away from home 🙁

  • Wow. This is a very powerful story and I enjoyed reading it. How big was that cat?

  • Wow. This is a very powerful story and I enjoyed reading it. How big was that cat?

  • Jule

    I loved this story. Great big, wild cat, bringing up subconscious of the woman. I thought the author said too much, though, in that one paragraph: “flicker of recognition” and “it was like seeing myself’, I found to be overstatements, it took away from what the reader might experience in reading the story. I loved the story nevertheless.

  • Jule

    I loved this story. Great big, wild cat, bringing up subconscious of the woman. I thought the author said too much, though, in that one paragraph: “flicker of recognition” and “it was like seeing myself’, I found to be overstatements, it took away from what the reader might experience in reading the story. I loved the story nevertheless.

  • I am not sure that an injured animal would be left as an offering. I have a dog that likes to leave us critters, like a cat does. They are always dead. Not very often are they intact either.

    I stumbled on this phrase: “with an old towel laid over it and a brick.” I guess that I would expect an injured animal, like a fox, would fight back a little. That made me expect the brick to be rolled into the towel, like soap in a sock. The pronoun ‘it’ is a little ambiguous, not mention used three times in the same sentence.

    I think revealing the cat weakens the story. The buildup had me hooked. I wanted something more than a “Pet Sematary” ending. The internal struggle of an abused women manifested into a critter-killing, vengeful, shadow-encrusted entity or maybe leave it for us to fill-in our own expectations.

    I liked the story, Katie. Keep writing.

  • I am not sure that an injured animal would be left as an offering. I have a dog that likes to leave us critters, like a cat does. They are always dead. Not very often are they intact either.

    I stumbled on this phrase: “with an old towel laid over it and a brick.” I guess that I would expect an injured animal, like a fox, would fight back a little. That made me expect the brick to be rolled into the towel, like soap in a sock. The pronoun ‘it’ is a little ambiguous, not mention used three times in the same sentence.

    I think revealing the cat weakens the story. The buildup had me hooked. I wanted something more than a “Pet Sematary” ending. The internal struggle of an abused women manifested into a critter-killing, vengeful, shadow-encrusted entity or maybe leave it for us to fill-in our own expectations.

    I liked the story, Katie. Keep writing.

  • S Conroy

    That’s a very useful sub-conscious/angel of death to have. Nice morbid story for a dark November evening.

  • S Conroy

    That’s a very useful sub-conscious/angel of death to have. Nice morbid story for a dark November evening.

  • Gerald_Warfield

    Good story. The tension rose nicely in the first two-thirds of the piece. Reminded me of the old movie Forbidden Planet where the danger is “monsters from the id.” I agree that the puking is a little overdone, and the cat seems to be of two different sizes. More concrete evidence of the husband’s intent would have been good. Spousal abuse is despicable, but we should have had more evidence that he deserved death.

  • Gerald_Warfield

    Good story. The tension rose nicely in the first two-thirds of the piece. Reminded me of the old movie Forbidden Planet where the danger is “monsters from the id.” I agree that the puking is a little overdone, and the cat seems to be of two different sizes. More concrete evidence of the husband’s intent would have been good. Spousal abuse is despicable, but we should have had more evidence that he deserved death.

  • joanna b.

    you know, i got a phone call while first reading this and i got off the phone as quickly as i could to get back to it.

    instead of sending the author herself a dead lizard for this being so good AND being the first story she’s ever written, i contented myself by sending her five stars.

    i thought the shadow was large, the cat was ordinary size. i thought the husband hanging her cat by the neck was evidence enough that he deserved a death sentence. not to mention the permanent imprint of his signet ring on her cheek. i thought the story was excellent, puking and all.

    i did think the ending paragraph was not really necessary. it’s often a good idea for a writer, after finishing a story, to cut out the last line.

    congratulations, katie stevens.

  • joanna b.

    you know, i got a phone call while first reading this and i got off the phone as quickly as i could to get back to it.

    instead of sending the author herself a dead lizard for this being so good AND being the first story she’s ever written, i contented myself by sending her five stars.

    i thought the shadow was large, the cat was ordinary size. i thought the husband hanging her cat by the neck was evidence enough that he deserved a death sentence. not to mention the permanent imprint of his signet ring on her cheek. i thought the story was excellent, puking and all.

    i did think the ending paragraph was not really necessary. it’s often a good idea for a writer, after finishing a story, to cut out the last line.

    congratulations, katie stevens.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    t thought this was an exceptional story. There were a few unnecessary words, but–unlike with so many other stories–they didn’t diminish this. I’d have preferred this to end without the final paragraph.

    I was sorry about that fox, but a cat’s morality isn’t ours. There was a bloody truthfulness here.

    I’ll repeat what I said about someone else this week–one hell of a debut.

    • joanna b.

      sarah, i think our comments crossed in the ether or got to EDF at the same moment. it’s nice to agree with you without know that’s what i’m doing.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        Ditto and likewise.

        (And on those occasional occasions when I DON’T agree with your opinion, I always wonder why I’m failing to perceive…)

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    I thought this was an exceptional story. There were a few unnecessary words, but–unlike with so many other stories–they didn’t diminish this. I’d have preferred this to end without the final paragraph.

    I was sorry about that fox, but a cat’s morality isn’t ours. There was a bloody truthfulness here.

    I’ll repeat what I said about someone else this week–one hell of a debut [on EDF].

    • joanna b.

      sarah, i think our comments crossed in the ether or got to EDF at the same moment. it’s nice to agree with you without know that’s what i’m doing.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        Ditto and likewise.

        (And on those occasional occasions when I DON’T agree with your opinion, I always wonder why I’m failing to perceive…)

  • Wow, Katie, you certainly have taken on quite the scope coming out of the shoot for the first time. All and all your talent as a writer shines through the blood and gore.
    Keep the faith.
    I’d like to see one of those plays.

  • Wow, Katie, you certainly have taken on quite the scope coming out of the shoot for the first time. All and all your talent as a writer shines through the blood and gore.
    Keep the faith.
    I’d like to see one of those plays.

  • Carl Steiger

    Wow. Not your average cat story, to be sure!

  • Carl Steiger

    Wow. Not your average cat story, to be sure!

  • Kendall Furlong

    Good story, good arch, well told. Well done!

  • Kendall Furlong

    Good story, good arch, well told. Well done!

  • Kathy

    Great build up of suspense and tension – it kept me reading!
    I read the bio afterwards, surprised this is a first-time effort. I do agree, the story does not need to overstate the obvious. Just speculating: the “overstating” may be a matter of the writer not having had enough confidence in her own storytelling yet or in the readers’ ability to pick up on the full significance of each narrative detail. With the skills you have shown here, trust your instincts. Take the reader by the hand (just don’t hit him on the head); he will follow.

  • Kathy

    Great build up of suspense and tension – it kept me reading!
    I read the bio afterwards, surprised this is a first-time effort. I do agree, the story does not need to overstate the obvious. Just speculating: the “overstating” may be a matter of the writer not having had enough confidence in her own storytelling yet or in the readers’ ability to pick up on the full significance of each narrative detail. With the skills you have shown here, trust your instincts. Take the reader by the hand (just don’t hit him on the head); he will follow.

  • Jen

    A beautiful story for Halloween or any day. Thank you, Katie! This is a five.

  • Jen

    A beautiful story for Halloween or any day. Thank you, Katie! This is a five.

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