Christmas Hiatus: Ruse

The blog is on hiatus for the Christmas season. New stories will return in January. Here’s one from the archives:

Harper sneezed himself awake at four in the morning. He lay still, but sleep seemed unwilling to return. He saw rain decorating the windows, causing the nascent sunlight to flicker across the carpet. He lifted his head and looked over to where Beautiful lay curled up in her basket. Her golden fur ruffled gently to and fro and her tail twitched. She was probably dreaming about chasing rabbits again.

A strange scent caught his nose, some unusual tint that seemed unfamiliar and unwelcome. Harper felt suddenly alert, senses straining, ears flicking round for any hint of noise. Yes, there was something. It was coming from the kitchen, masked by the rumble of the refrigerator and the odour of last night’s food. Something that did not belong here. Harper stood up and padded towards the kitchen door. He pushed it open with his nose, and peered in.

A string was hanging over the edge of the countertop, and climbing down it was… what? It looked like a human, although much smaller, about equal in size to the carrot that it clutched underneath its arm. It was wearing clothes, a red checked shirt, blue dungarees and a conical green hat. It reached the bottom of the string and dropped to the floor. Harper saw it had a grey beard that reached almost to its little brown shoes, and two fluffy grey eyebrows that shot up in surprise as the being turned and found itself face-to-snout with a very large Alsatian.

Harper bared his teeth and let a growl roll quietly around in his throat. The interloper stood, shaking, eyes wide with fright. Then it dropped the carrot and sprinted underneath Harper, between his legs, heading for the door. Harper yelped and leapt out of the way, spinning around to see the creature once again stopped in its tracks. Beautiful stood blocking the doorway, calmly regarding the little curiosity with sleepy eyes.

“Hullo, what’s this?” she said.

“A gnome, by the smell,” said Harper.

“It’s not a gnome, it’s a pixie,” said a voice from up on the counter. Charcoal, the family cat, black and green-eyed, leapt down onto the kitchen floor and sauntered towards their unwelcome guest.

“I’m not a pixie, I’m a gnome!” squeeked the pixie, attempting to stand tall against his three accusers.

“Really?” purred Charcoal. With a quick slash of an extended claw, the pixie’s beard was torn from its face and landed on the floor, ear hooks plain for all to see. “Pixie!”

“Were you trying to start another war?” asked Harper. “Wanted us to attack the gnomes tomorrow?”

The pixie snarled furiously, clicked its fingers and disappeared in a puff of smoke.

“Not again,” sighed Beautiful. “Well done, Charcoal.” She turned and went back to her basket to sleep.

“Let’s hold a council this afternoon,” said Harper. “We must keep the peace.” He picked up the carrot from the floor, lay down and started to chew on it thoughtfully.

“Meow,” said Charcoal, licking her paws.

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