THE SKOGKATT • by James Blakey

During the darkest days of the Troll War, the local militia captain dynamited the bridge spanning the Oterfjorden. Her plan proved a strategic success, disrupting the enemy’s supply lines and shortening the war by six months.

***

With permits, environmental impact statements and the competitive bidding process, years would pass before construction on the new bridge started.

The city, surrounded by two-hundred-meter-high, impossible-to-scale cliffs, was isolated from the rest of the country.

“But it is possible,” said the lighthouse keeper’s daughter. “I’ve watched the skogkatt rush up the rock face. He does it for fun.”

***

At a clearing deep in the forest, the mayor found the fairy cat, sleeping on the branch of a spruce tree.

The skogkatt was bigger than a house cat, nearly ten kilograms. His glossy, thick coat was gray, save for a white streak across his face. His bushy tail swatted at a curious butterfly.

“Herr Skogkatt,” said the mayor. “My city is cut off from the rest of the country. Only you can climb the cliffs. Will you help us?”

The skogkatt opened one sleepy eye halfway, yawned and returned to his nap.

***

“The skogkatt will not help us voluntarily,” the mayor told the city’s merchants. “Three years ago when the fog would not lift, a donation to the Weather Witch’s favorite charity secured her assistance. Perhaps a gift will encourage the skogkatt.”

The mine owner dumped a bag of silver nuggets beneath the skogkatt’s tree. The fairy cat ignored the offering. Instead he licked his chops while eyeing the songbird on the branch above.

The tailor presented a suit made from the finest cloth. “I had to guess your measurements.” He hooked the hanger on a low-lying branch. “But I provide free alterations.”

The skogkatt leapt, landed on the branch that held the suit and began to sniff. But it was a twelve-legged scribble-bug that had gained his attention. He had no interest in the clothes.

All agreed the dental hygienist to be the fairest maiden in the city. With fiery red ringlets and skin the color of the snows on Galdhøpiggen, she had little trouble persuading any man to do as she desired.

She sat on a boulder, smiled with perfect teeth and patted her lap. “Come here, handsome kitty.”

The skogkatt, immune to her charms, remained perched on his branch, where he licked his paws and washed his face.

***

The mayor assembled her advisors and department heads for a brainstorming session. “If we can’t appeal to the skogkatt’s better nature and he rejects our gifts, what options are there?”

“Threaten him,” said the constable.

“Hypnotize the skogkatt,” said the librarian.

The mayor wrote their ideas on the white board.

“Blackmail,” suggested the city solicitor.

“Ridiculous!” said the fire chief. “How do you blackmail a cat?”

“Any more ridiculous than hypnotizing one?” said the solicitor.

“I thought the idea of brainstorming sessions was to generate ideas,” said the librarian. “You’re not supposed to dismiss them out of hand.”

After many hours of arguments, the decision was made to scare the skogkatt. They enlisted the shepherd’s elghund. The hound was powerful enough to fight off wolves and had once downed a moose. Surely, the skogkatt would wish to avoid the wrath of such a brave and fearsome dog.

***

The elghund sniffed the skogkatt’s scent, spotted him in the tree and let out a low growl.

The skogkatt jumped from the branch, plummeted to the ground and swelled. Not like an ordinary cat, whose hair stands on end to make himself appear bigger. No, the skogkatt actually grew five, ten, twenty times larger.

The gigantic cat hissed, swiping at the dog with his mammoth paw. The elghund raced back to the city, whimpering all the way.

***

“We’re running out of ideas,” the mayor told the residents. “Does anyone have a plan?”

“Can’t we just bribe the necessary officials to speed up bridge construction?” asked the barber.

“No,” said the mayor. “We are Norwegians. We believe in good government, not payoffs.”

“We could get the skogkatt drunk,” said the tavern owner.

“I want to avoid a confrontation with a giant, magical, inebriated cat,” said the mayor.

The lighthouse keeper’s daughter shook her head as the suggestions grew progressively worse.

***

The keeper’s daughter trudged through the forest. “Why would they think the skogkatt would take notice of a judicial order?” she muttered. At the clearing, she pulled a herring from her sack and laid it on a rock.

The skogkatt sniffed the air, dropped to the ground and cautiously approached the offering. In an instant, he sprang on the rock, grabbed the fish, dragged it under the tree and devoured it. When finished, he gazed expectantly at the girl.

She reached into her bag, withdrew a ball of fluffy blue yarn and set it rolling towards the skogkatt.

He watched the ball with great intensity as it came to a stop. He batted it, sending the ball rolling again. He clawed at the interloper, chewed on a strand of yarn and became hopelessly entangled in a web of blue.

So intently was the skogkatt playing with the yarn, he didn’t notice the girl approaching. She reached out and rubbed his gray belly.

The skogkatt closed his eyes, flopped on his back and stretched out his legs, further exposing his underside. His purrs drowned out the other forest sounds.

When she stopped rubbing, the skogkatt opened his eyes, righted himself and grew to five, ten, twenty times his normal size.

With his teeth he grabbed the girl by her cloak and scampered up the side of the cliff. Before she could scream in terror, she was on the summit. Down below, past the forest, was the city. To the East she could see the road to Oslo.

***

“The price of transport: one snack, one toy and one belly rub,” the lighthouse keeper’s daughter told the mayor.

“But how did you know?”

She smiled. “The skogkatt may be a magical forest fairy, but he is still a cat.”


James Blakey is a Network Engineer in suburban Philadelphia. His work has appeared in Mystery Weekly and Beyond Centauri. He has climbed 38 of the 50 US state high points, and is planning on tackling #39, California’s Mt. Whitney, this summer.


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