My beauty betrays me

A giant claw scrapes against the flagstones of the garden shed. My heartbeat thunders in my ears. The stink of brimstone is all around me.

She is here.

harrylebeau_E13I have an almost overwhelming desire to clean my paws, but that would not be wise.

Another scrape on the flagstones, and this one draws sparks. I can smell them. I can hear them crackling.

I can hear whispering too. She is not alone; the ranks of vampire mice are with Her. Discovery is only a few seconds away.

I do my best to look like an old sack, but it is impossible. My beauty betrays me.

I am not afraid, however. This is my destiny. As soon as She is close enough, I shall spring out at Her. I may not win, but I shall die fighting. I shall perish with Her demonic neck in my jaws.

All I ask is that, in return, someone somewhere remembers me with a little fondness. Perhaps they will write songs about me. Or a poem for my gravestone. Something like—

‘Harry-le-beau was an elegant cat; he was not too thin and not too fat.’

Those deathless words give me courage. I brace myself. The scraping sound draws closer. The flagstones beneath me are growing so hot that my paws feel as if they are on fire. The sacks begin to smoke.

With a roar of fury, I leap from my hiding place.

They are waiting for me, row upon row of vampire mice, crouched on the flagstones with their , sharp little teeth bared and their wings raised. And looming over them like a nightmare—

The reek of brimstone almost stops me in my tracks. But there is no time for hesitation. There is not even time for a battle song. All I have on my side is fearlessness and a beautiful tail. I swat ten vampire mice out of my path, and spring into the air.

But it is like London all over again. My claws rake the She-demon’s feathers but cannot reach Her flesh (if she has any). My teeth fasten on nothing. The air is so full of smoke and sparks that I can hardly breathe.

What is more, the hordes of vampire mice have launched themselves after me, nipping at my ears and tearing at my beautiful tail. I bite their heads off and spit them out, but there are so many of them that even I, Harry-le-beau, cannot prevail. I fall back to the ground with a hundred mice piled on top of me.

This is the end. I hope those faithful colonials will give me a good funeral. Nothing too grand – I am a simple cat at heart. Just a black coach, pulled by six black horses with black plumes nodding on their heads. And mourners, of course, a thousand of them walking behind the coach, wailing and tearing their garments. And perhaps a 21-gun salute. And it would be nice if there was a speech by the lieutenant governor, where he apologises for calling me Stinky Tom and hands in his resignation—

I am dragged back to the present by a giant claw. It sweeps the vampire mice to one side, and snatches me up from the ground. In my final few seconds of life, I see the She-demon’s head coming closer and closer. Her red eyes gleam. With a blast of heat, her terrible beak opens.

‘Farewell, cruel world!’ I gasp. ‘I, Harry-le-beau, shall die as I lived; brave, handsome and surprisingly modest. Remember meeeeeee—’

And all is blackness.



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