The sound was pretty unbearable. Like if you were being murdered alive but the murderer placed a mirror in front of you and was whispering all of your worst moments into your ear. It was the sound of someone watching themselves die while being forced to remember their every failure during their final breaths.
“Um Mom?” Ace said. Her mom popped up almost immediately. Like she had been waiting for her oldest daughter to ask something of her. “What the hell is that?”
She stopped to listen, “What is what? Please don’t use that language with me, honey.” Ace rolled her eyes. She was back home visiting her parents for the first time in two years — though she actually hadn’t meant to go that long. She lived in LA and her family and friends kept taking the opportunity to visit someone in warm weather. Everything here was still the same though which was comforting but always kind of eerie.
“Don’t tell me you don’t hear that.”
Her mom took a second to listen again. “Oh! That’s nothing.”
Ace stared, expecting at least one more sentence. “Awesome,” she said. “Is it just one person being murdered each night or…”
“Sweetie of course no one’s being murdered. It’s just a fisher cat.” It was the first time Ace ever heard of this animal but by the tone of her mom’s voice, it had seemingly been an active and integral member of the community for decades.
“Is it just one fisher cat being murdered or…”
“You remember the fisher cats, they’ve always been around.”
“No, I definitely would have remembered this noise.”
“Oh stop it of course you remember the noise. What else would it be?”
Ace took a moment to stare at her mom again.
“So is the fisher cat getting killed or is it killing a small child?”
“Honey enough, it’s a fisher cat. They make that sound when they’re, you know, hunting or just out and about.”
“Out and about?!” Ace repeated, but her mom had already walked out of the room, saying she was going to go make them a nice cup of tea.
Ace searched for fisher cats on Google. Member of weasel family, smaller than an otter, native to North America, mostly solitary etc. etc. Next she typed in fisher cats + her hometown. Nothing more than a few social posts of people recording the shrieks XX
But she did find one small article on her local paper’s site from a couple years ago. The reporter had interviewed a local conservationist about how these fisher cats seeminelying appeared out of nowhere. Finally, Ace said to herself. The conservationist agreed it was odd but even more odd was that, apart from the noise at night, she hadn’t been able to find any trace of them in the area. “No burrows, no nests, no tracks, we haven’t had a single sighting, and no small animal carcasses —wherever these fisher cats are they seem to be in hiding” the conservationist was quoted. “Except at night.”
Ace tried to find the conservationist on Facebook then Twitter and Instagram, but she didn’t seem to exist outside that one article. Eventually Ace found a small biography of her on a website for an environmental non-profit where she was a member. It said she had been missing since 2018.
The next day Ace went to visit Harter, one of her closest friends from high school. Harter recently moved back to the neighborhood from Boston with her partner and their six-month-old because of the space and the schools and the chance to have a driveway or something.
“Can you fucking believe it?” Harter said as she opened the door. “I’m a suburbanite.”
Harter gave a quick tour, but not so quick that she wasn’t able to show off the fact that her and her partner both made tons of money. Then she ushered Ace through the open concept kitchen/living room that was contemporary but also edgy? Ugh. To the back deck, which was huge and beautiful and dripping with string lights. There was a gorgeous charcuterie board and an opened bottle of cabernet waiting for them on the table.
“The suburbs definitely has perks,” Harter said.
Ace looked across the lawn, secretly admiring the perfectly designed garden that sort of outlined the inground pool where, uhhhh—
“Harter what the fuck is that?” Ace pointed to a large red splotch that was for sure blood on the edge of the pool.
“Hah! You probably think we’re sacrificing virgins out here or something.”
Just like with her mom, Ace waited for more words that never came, “Well are you?!”
“Oh my god of course not, it’s the suburbs not Jonestown, it’s just a fisher cat.”
“Did the fisher cat die or did it kill something?”
“It probably killed a bunny or something.”
“I know it looks like it, but I actually don't have a security camera set up in the back of the house.”
“Did you see the dead rabbit carcass when you woke up this morning?”
“No when I woke up at 4am to feed my child I did not immediately inspect the pool to see whether or not an animal had killed another animal during the night.”
“But that spot wasn’t there yesterday? And we’re sure it’s animal blood?”
“Jesus, Ace, we’re in the suburbs. What do you think’s happening out here?!”
Harter snorted. “Ugh I know, the silence can feel sinister. And the fisher cat scream is honestly terrifying.”
“Harter, I never heard of a fisher cat until last night.”
“Of course you have, all that LA sun probably just evaporated your memory or something. I’m sure I remember hearing them as kids.”
Ace left around 9 pm. She was a little drunk and looking forward to the 10-minute walk back to her parents’ house in the warm but breezy late summer air.
She reminisced with herself of all the times her and Harter had drunkenly stumbled around this neighborhood. Running back and forth between friends’ basements, hopping fences to jump in the neighbors’ pool or on their trampolines. She thought about how she’d never get used to the fact that they were the adults now. That Harter would soon be punishing her own child for the same drunken antics they’d gotten into which felt like not even that long ago. Then she heard it. That fucking screech.
Ace was across the street from the small wooded area that separated her hometown from the next one over. The fisher cat couldn’t have been more than a few feet into the trees. So she turned on her phone’s flashlight and took a few steps in. Then she took a few more. Each step made the sound louder and more alarming. In her Google search she also learned that fisher cats typically make this noise when they’re mating. She hoped to see two fisher cats fucking and then all her conspiracies about creepy shit going on in the depths of suburbia could finally melt away.
Before she clocked just how many steps she’d taken, the noise was right in front of her. She pointed the flashlight at the base of the tree before shining it across the surrounding brush. Nothing.
She moved her phone higher up, so it lit the large oak directly in front of her. “What the hell—“
There was a small black recorder, taped to the tree with a silver piece of masking tape. “Why would —“
As Ace reached to touch it, she felt something behind her. She turned around so fast she dropped her phone, flashlight side down. Something small rustled in the leaves. The sound was small enough that Ace could ease her mind that she’d been freaked out by nothing more than a bunny or chipmunk, or maybe like a baby fisher cat, whatever these things were.
She knelt down to feel around for her phone though it wasn’t even that dark. The streetlights cast a close enough glow that she quickly spotted her bright green case, grabbed it and headed back towards the street. The recorder must be a prank by some middle school kids.
The screeching suddenly started again. Was this thing on a timer? Ace walked back towards the tree. The recorder was gone. Instead there was a mirror, taped up with silver masking tape. This time she knew something was behind her.
Meanwhile, at her parents’ house, Ace’s mother heard a scream and jumped. “Oh those dang fisher cats,” she said to her husband and laughed. “They get me every time.”
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