When Jen saw that Benny was being returned to the cat shelter for the third time in as many years, she became convinced he was cursed. She had never been a superstitious person and she'd seen enough black cat go to enough homes to know that they were no different to tabby, ginger or bengal cats. But Benny was a special case and on that day she decided to make sure nobody would ever adopt this cat again.
To be fair to Benny, it would be difficult to pin any the strange events that followed him on him. He was, after all, just a cat. But there is that old saying: two is a coincidence, three is a pattern. And this pattern began three years ago.
The first owner to adopt Benny was Greg. He did not look like your typical cat owner. He stepped into the shelter that day wearing a Maserati cap on top of his sleek, gelled-back blond mullet. His perfectly maintained stubble accentuated his broad jawline and his aviator glasses completed the motorhead look he was clearly aspiring to. He picked Benny because he thought the cat matched his black leather jacket.
Greg drove the cat back in his Maserati to his tasteless modern detached house in the wealthy part of town where all the other tasteless rich people lived.
“You like the car, Benny? You'll see when I'm done with it, this thing is going to fly.” These were the first words he said to him.
Greg and Benny would spend most of their days in the garage, with Greg either on his back beneath the car or leaning over the open hood, tinkering with the engine to get it “all souped up” as Greg would put it. Benny, of course, didn't understand what was happening but he enjoyed the buzz of activity and the metallic noises and grunts coming out of Greg. He would mostly sit in the corner, curiously observing Greg.
“It's ready.” Greg finally said one day. Again, Benny didn't understand him but he could feel the excitement radiating from his owner.
Greg got into the car and turned on the engine. Benny bolted to the living room where had a view of the street. He always enjoyed watching the car pulling out of the garage and gently driving away. This time however, she heard the roar of Greg's engine and watched as his car screamed down the street and out of sight. There was a silence for a few moments before the sound of the engine returned and the car screeched back into view.
And the right as the car passed the house, Benny heard the loud snap of the brakes shattering and the ear piercing screech of the tires skidding against the road. He watched the Maserati slingshot off its trajectory and directly into a tree on the side of the road followed by Greg's body hurling through the windshield in a shower of broken glass and blood.
Benny was returned to the shelter the next day.
He was adopted a few months later by a downtrodden looking old man. He shuffled into the shelter to the sound of his wooden cane against the floor. His head was so sunken into his shoulders, it almost made his spine curve into the shape of a question mark. He barely looked at Benny as he left the shelter with him.
And so Benny arrived at his new home, a modest detached two-story house some ways into the country. The old man carried him up the stairs into the bed room, where his wife lay loudly coughing into a dirty handkerchief. She pulled the handkerchief away from her angular face with her talon-like fingers and looked in disgust at Benny.
“What'd you bring that in fer?” She demanded. The old man began to mumble out an answer before his wife cut him off. “Get it out of here!”
The old man shuffled back out of the room with Benny.
Benny liked the old man. He had a way of scratching him behind the ears he quite enjoyed and he bought a better brand of food than Greg did. But the old man always had a distant look in his eyes, like he was plotting something.
One day he came back with more groceries than usual and a crazed look in his eyes. Benny followed him into the kitchen and watched him get to work. He watched him use a rolling pin to flatten the dough and place it in an oven dish. He watched him peel and cut up half a dozen kiwis and place them in concentric circle in the dish. He watched the whole pie-baking process, right up to the last step which consisted of pouring into it the contents of a bottle with a skull and bones logo on it before putting it in the oven.
Benny watched the old man carry the poison pie up the stairs and stop halfway up to have a sneezing fit. He watched his hands turn bright red with blisters and drop the pie onto the stairs. Of course what the old man had forgotten, and what his wife would surely have reminded him of had she been present, was that he was deathly allergic to kiwis. And so Benny watched the old man collapse and fall down the stairs, dead before he hit the last step.
Benny was taken back to the shelter a few days later. The wife was taken to a nursing home.
The third and last owner to adopt Benny was Sheryl, a cheery 27-year-old young young professional. She immediately loved the mischievous look in Benny's eyes and took him home. It was a charming duplex in a well-to-do neighbourhood. Sheryl entered the living room and introduced Benny to Nigel, a listless and depressed looking man lounging on the couch. He barely reacted as Sheryl placed Benny on Nigel's lap.
“I thought he might cheer you up,” she said.
Benny would spend most of his days with Nigel who would alternate between smoking weed on the balcony and zoning out to TV in the living room, eating peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon. He barely paid attention to Benny who decided that this was his least favourite house so far.
Every night before bed, Benny would hear the muffled sounds of Nigel and Sheryl arguing behind the closed door of the bedroom. They ignored his scratches on the door when he wanted to attention and soon Benny gave up on trying.
One morning, Benny was sitting outside of the bedroom when Sheryl groggily came out and stepped into the bathroom. Nigel poked his head out behind her and once he heard the hiss of the shower on the other side of the bathroom door, he entered the hallway and slowly pulled the string hanging from ceiling and opened the trapdoor to the attic. He climbed the ladder that came down and Benny followed, curious about the room he had never been in before.
Nigel emerged into the musty attic and began rummaging through the bric-a-brac that lined the walls. Benny was barely paying attention to Nigel, content to sniff all the strange items he came across. The hiss of the shower could still be heard below them and Benny could feel the dampness of the wooden floor from the moisture.
When Benny turned to look at Nigel, he was standing on a stool with a rope around his neck. The rope was, in turn, tied a wooden beam above him. Benny watched the tearful Nigel kick the stool out from underneath him. The weight of Nigel's body pulled the rope tight and the wooden beam immediately cracked in two. With nothing to break his fall, Nigel crashed through the floor and landed directly on top of Sheryl underneath him, immediately killing her.
Benny was brought back to the shelter the next day and Nigel would eventually be convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to life in jail.
And so Jen saw Benny returning to the shelter for the third time in as many years.. As she put Benny back in his cage at the shelter, he looked up at her with his curious eyes. The look sent a shiver down Jen's spine.