Léa

Short Story Apr 3, 2020

1997.
Normandy, France.
6 AM.

Five year old Pierre sits on his front porch, holding a fresh glass of warm milk. Acres of expansive and lush green farmland lay sprawled in front of him. Cows graze about — their collar bells tinkling and ear tags dancing in the chill spring breeze. Pierre’s father, a 34 year old Paul holds a transistor to his ear, listening to the early morning news.

Static screeches in ears. Paul nearly drops it in response to this unexpected noise. He tries adjusting the antennae and moves about the porch but there is nothing anymore — a worthless piece of junk. Paul sighs.

‘Dad! What’s that?’ says Pierre pointing at the sky.

Pierre, aghast and confused, looks at the object suspended in mid-air.

‘Umm.. a.. trash can?’ says Paul.

‘Why is a trash can flying dad???’


8 AM.

News blares on Live TV:

Flying trash can casts a shadow over farmlands.

9 AM.

Live TV reports again:

COWS IN NORMANDY DISAPPEAR!

A farmland owner Léa speaks to the news anchor:

‘I am in shock. We had about 120 cows on our little farm. One moment they were grazing here and the next moment they were gone!’

A cowherd:

‘I don’t understand how this could happen! What about our livelihoods?’

A young boy:

‘Does this mean schools will close and I will have more time to go spelunking with dad?’

Paul:

I saw a trash can like object in the sky. My transistor lost its transmission and conked. And now, my cows are missing too!


Léa had grown up all her life on the farm, taking care of their family business of dairy farming. She grew up with chickens clucking about, dogs and cats licking and fighting with each other, shepherded goats, and rode horses. Her backyard was home to a kitchen garden filled with vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spinach. She sold them at the local bio-market and sent some to her aging parents who lived down the road. Pacing up and down in her house, she imagined what could have happened and how she would have to deal with it.

She turned the TV on.

‘Normandy is a region best known for its dairy farming.’

‘it’s distressing to see that someone has stolen these cows in broad daylight!’

‘The object’s shadows were seen in Paris’

‘Small boy upset over missing cow’

She switched the TV off, poured herself a glass of gin and tonic, and drew up a plan.

More than just my 120 cows are missing.

The only livestock missing are cows.

Why cows?

Why Normandy?

Léa took quick strides to explore the acres of cow paddock behind the house. She walked across the pink and white daisies, purple plumerias, orange bougainvillea, yellow hibiscus and red poppies fluttering in the wind, bordering the sides of her stone building. She spotted something in the paddock. Their metal ear tags and brass bells were lying on the grass, glinting in the morning sun.

She got into her Jeep and drove to the nearest tannery. The owner was slumped in dejection. Léa shared her sentiments with him and said ‘I would like to buy some cow hide from you’. The owner was confused but sold her some anyway. He needed the money, after all.

Léa went back home, covered herself in the stinky cow hide and waited in the paddocks. She felt stupid for even attempting this, but this was the best she could do, in this bizzare situation. She waited. After what seemed like an eternity, there was a deafening noise.

WHOOOOOOOSH.

ZZZUP, ZZZUP, ZZZUP.

Léa was sure she was travelling inside a tornado, for she could see her own body being vacuumed into something, and it was cold. She was shivering.

THUD!!!!

She fell into a familiar space. A mooing paddock.

Holsteins, Jerseys, Guernseys, Dexters, Aubracs, Indian buffaloes, and all other kinds of bovines. Acres and acres of cows mooed, grazed, flopped on the grass and played with each other like they were on vacation. The size of the land seemed to stretch, the more she tried to understand where it began or ended. There was sunlight, clean water flowing in the river next to the pasture, and some yaks moved about slowly. But not a single farm house was in sight. Or a human being, for that matter.

She began walking around aimlessly and looked at the sky, but it was a glass roof. She noticed a few things. The moment an animal shat, the dung hung in the air for a second, turned into tiny dry pellets resembling coffee beans, and floated into a pipe that led to a conical metal furnace. Urine functioned in a similar manner, turning into dry pellets. There was a conical metal furnace in every corner. The river filled itself, as if there was an unlimited reservoir somewhere.

Out of nowhere, she saw a black cat with purple eyes, perched atop one of the apricot trees, looking at her bewildered. She inched further to say hello. The cat slunk away into the shadows. There was something extremely unsettling about that cat. Léa followed the cat into alleyways that suddenly turned dark and dungeon-like, and lost her way trying to emulate the cat’s quick movements. She ran too fast and rammed into a pink stone wall that felt like rubber. An alarm buzzed and the wall tore in the middle, revealing a round cavity with automatic doors. She peered down to see a small tunnel — its orifice the size of thickest Christmas candle. She decided to squeeze herself through it.


Merve and Eddie.

‘Merve, we’ve got a problem. There’s a human being on the spaceship’

‘A human BEING? Pray tell me how you’re going to get rid of it?’

‘I don’t know Merve. We’ve never met human beings, have we? We’ve only read about them in textbooks.’

THUD. THUD. THUD.

Léa falls in and gets up, brushing her elbows and looking around. She’s in a carpeted room with grand elements such as candelabras, giant portraits of cats with purple, green or yellow eyes, a blinking screen installed in the middle of the room, much like the TV but touchscreen.

‘Oh, look! The problem brought itself over to us, Eddie.’

‘Eddie.’ said Léa, softly. ‘You both can speak?’

Merve sat up on her hind feet and crossed her front feet in front of her chest. ‘Yeah, so? Why are human beings weird? Aren’t you able to speak, or something?’

‘You speak English.’ noted Léa, unable to contain her surprise and discomfort.

Merve and Eddie raised their eyebrows and stared at her.

‘Why are you here?’ Eddie asked.

‘Well, you all have abducted our cows and I had to find a solution, to understand why this was happening.’

‘Hmpf!’ said Merve nonchalantly.

Léa walked up. Without hesitation she picked up Merve and Eddie by their scruffs.

‘Now release my cows and send us back home, back to earth’

‘Jesus, how dumb are you Léa? I know your name because as cats we are intuitive. Now, we’re very much on earth. Else there wouldn’t have been gravity and you’d have been floating like a fool and we’d have found you sooner!’ shrieked Merve.

‘Put us DOWN. You dumb human being. If you harm us, you wouldn’t even know your way out’ said Eddie.

Eddie and Merve led Léa across pathways that lit up when they both walked and took her to their MotherLord, who was sitting behind a desk, playing with a ragged piece of yarn.

Welcome to CAT TOWN read the board at the entrance.

MotherLord was an orange cat with black stripes. His nameboard reminded Léa of her childhood.

G.FARFIELD.

‘What are you doing here, G.Farfield?’ asked Léa.

‘What are you doing here?’ said Farfield.

‘My cows…’ began Léa.

‘Shush. Go back home. We wanted cow’s milk to keep ourselves alive and our spaceship working. You saw the shit furnace, didn’t you? Also, you human beings were having a lot of beef…over cows…drinking their urine and bathing in their dungs, cutting them up into coats and slicing them into sling bags. Not to mention bathing statues with milk?’

‘Yeah, but…’

‘But, what? No cows. No problem. Now get back.’

WHOOOOOOOSH.

ZZZUP, ZZZUP, ZZZUP.

Léa got up and washed her glass of gin and tonic, turned her TV back on and wondered what had happened to her cows.


A bunch of us wanted to write 1000 word stories during this Coronavirus lockdown. We give each other prompts and a 24 hour deadline, with which we would have to come up with stories.

Prompt:

The cat slunk away into the shadows. There was something extremely unsettling about that cat.

Use the word ‘spelunking’ somewhere in the story.


Photo by Stijn te Strake on Unsplash

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