It all began two weeks ago. Man, time’s flown. Anyway, it was one of those cold November nights, around three in the morning. Me and my little brother were sleeping tight on our big creaking bed, when suddenly, lightning broke out. We both jumped and Tommy – my brother – started to cry, although he wasn’t even fully awake.
I put my hand on his shoulder. “Shh… It’s just thunder.” He shivered for a while, half asleep, and soon he relaxed. Big brothers have that effect.
But just when we started to settle down again, another light tore through the dark sky. Tommy gasped; I gasped.
“I’m scared”, he whined, “Bobby, I’m scared.”
“Quiet!” I snapped back. “It’s nothing, and you’re a big boy. Go back to sleep.” Easier said than done: the rain pattered on the side of the windows like a thousand drums, and the winter wind howled.
“Go to sleep”, I said again, more to me than to him, and lay back down. For a while, there were shadows, and the rain, beating on the glass. From the corridor came my father’s occasional snoring, loud and clear even under the storm. Slowly, my eyes grew heavier, and the sounds faded away.
Around three-thirty, I woke up again. It took me a while to figure out why, and my first thought ran to the storm. But strangely, the rain had calmed, coming now more gently on the window glass.
It was something else. I turned and checked on Tommy, who was fast asleep. No problems there… even Dad had gone quiet.
And then I heard it. A soft, scratching sound, coming from where our desk was. I listened to it, the hairs on the back of my neck rising. Not knowing what to do, I just lay there, hoping that it wasn’t what I thought. That it was just the rain, or the wind, or –
The scratching sound stopped.
“Bobby, what is it?”
“Shh. Quiet. You’ll make it run, and who knows where it’ll go.”
A minute passed. No sounds, no scratching – just the rain.
And then it started again, the soft scratching sound.
“… I’m scared.”
Scratching, and now some chomping.
“Bobby, please turn the light on.”
I hesitated. The light would scare it, and the thought of it scurrying across the bedroom floor gave me the creeps. But my little brother was shivering, and sibling duty called.
“Okay. Hang on.” I stretched my hand to my side lamp, and found the switch. Mustering all the courage I could, my body tensing and my eyes peering through the dark to the direction of the scratching sound, I flicked it on.
It didn’t run at once. The light must have dazed it because it stood there for a moment, sniffing the air, its head turning around wildly. And then it ran towards our bed.
Our screams resonated louder than any thunder and any storm. The next thing I remember is me and Tommy up against the wall, and my parents at the door, scared to death.
“Thomas! What is it?”
“What is it, Robert? What’s happening?”
My lower jaw was shaking, but in my panic I managed to spit out the words, the horrible words of the horrible creature now hiding under our bed:
“It’s… a… cow!!!”
My parents stood there for a while, dumbfounded. My father was the first to come to.
“Are you serious? You almost gave us a heart attack because of a stupid cow?”
My mother, hugging us both, turned to him. “Please Frank, they’re both scared stiff. They’re shaking. It gave them a fright.”
My father shook his head, still looking stern. “They’re big boys, Catherine, they should act their age. Anyway, where’d it go?”
Eager to re-establish my masculinity, I slipped away from my mother and pointed at the bed. “It went under there.”
“I think so, sir.”
“Okay, help me move the bed.”
My mother stood up, with Tommy hiding behind her robe. “Wait, Frank. Let me get Tommy out of here, and I’ll close the door. I don’t want that thing making its way to the kitchen.”
My father was already grabbing the foot of the bed. “He should stay here, and face his -”
“Okay, okay. Take him downstairs.”
When they left, my father turned to me. “Grab the other side, and if you see the cow, don’t drop the bed. Alright?”
“Yes, sir. I’m sorry about before, Dad.”
“It’s okay, son. We’re not exactly used to having cows in the house. Now lift.”
The bed moved, and we just caught a glimpse of a tail, as it pulled back under the bed.
“Yeah, he’s there alright. Pull your side again, let’s see if we can get it to come out.”
With my dad near, my fear was gone. I took a breath and pulled. The tail re-appeared, disappeared, and suddenly, there it was, the nasty creature, running out from under the bed towards the desk again, but only to find that it was dangerous open space there, with nowhere to hide.
“We’ve got him now, son!” My father dropped the bed with a thud. “Get your trash bin and cap him!”
Wild with hunting fever, I lifted the bin and made a step towards the cow. It stood there, trembling, trying to make itself small against the wall. I took another step and turned the bin upside down.
And then another cow dropped on the floor at my feet. It must have been hiding in the bin, too scared with all the commotion to get out. I yelped and took a step back, lost my footing and fell flat on my back.
I groaned and got up just in time to see the two cows scurry past my father, who, unlike me, tried to stomp on them. The cows passed him, ran to the door, climbed the wall and disappeared through a hole I wouldn’t have noticed in a thousand years.
The next thing we heard was my mom and Tommy screaming.
It wasn’t long before the house was infested. Cows breed fast. They were in the kitchen, in the rooms, in the attic. At night, we could hear them walking around the house through the wood, inside the walls. My brother even found one inside the toilet. No food was safe to leave out anymore. They’d eat a lamb joint in seconds; they chewed through the boards like butter; they nested inside the cupboards.
We pulled away the furniture, sealed all the cow holes we could find, but they’d always find a way into the house. You’d walk into the living room and you’d find cow droppings on the sofa.
My mother took it the hardest. She laid cow traps all over the house, and baited them with hay. Every so often we’d hear a trap go off, snap! and the cow would screech its last breath. Even Tommy got used to them, and helped his mother clean and re-load the traps. We’d go to bed with cows walking all over the room and it wouldn’t even bother us. I’d turn the light on to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and there’d be a cow on the bed, happily munching on something. I’d shake it off and go about my business.
By the end of the first week, the cows were everywhere, eating the food, the plants, the furniture, the house.
And then, the cows stole my brother. Just took him away. I woke up one morning and he was gone, just like that. We spent the whole day looking for him, but he was nowhere to be found. My parents were grief-stricken, especially my mother. We talked about moving away. About burning the house to the ground. My father mumbled something about a curse.
That night, about a week ago, the cows took away my mother. This time though they had my father to deal with; he told me that he gave them quite a fight. Even managed to stomp on a couple, although one of them was still a calf. But the cows were quick and many; they distracted him and took my mother away when he turned his back.
“Get me a drink of water, son”, my father said.
Those were his last words. By the time I came back from the kitchen, the cows had gone off with him.
It’s been a week now. I’ve barricaded myself in the bathroom, where there are fewer cow-holes. I’ve taken as much food as I could carry – cans mostly, and coffee – and used wax to seal the holes. I can hear them outside, around the house, grazing, walking about freely, slowly, now that they own the house.
I’ve taken my father’s shotgun, and an axe too. If they come in here they’ll have a fight. But I know they are too many, and I know that I won’t hold off forever. So before I locked myself up, I went to the attic and got some of that dynamite my grandpa used to use for fishing. I’ve strapped it around me, and have the fuse handy. They’ll never take me.
I’m tired and lonely. But I’m not afraid anymore. Outside, the whole world echoes with mooing and chewing and clomping and chomping. They’re everywhere – everywhere except here, in my little fortress. For how long, I don’t know. But I do know that sooner or later, they’ll come.
The cows will come.