Written by Jonathan Wojcik

Last time, we looked at The Heebie Jeebies. Today, it's time for...

The Caterwaul

We all know a Halloween bat is often just a vampire in disguise, while a Halloween wolf is probably usually a werewolf...but what about all those spooky, wild-eyed black cats, sometimes much bigger, much toothier, even much more anthropomorphic than they ought to be? They can't very well just be cats, and the common explanation that they may just be transformed witches or a witch's familiar doesn't quite satisfy me, either.

If we're going to start thinking of extra spooky kitties as monsters in their own right, I feel like "caterwaul" is an appropriately obvious name for them. As an archaic but whimsical-sounding word for any cat-like racket of yowling and screeching, it's already been used as a name for all sorts of cat characters and cat monsters out there; there's even a "caterwaul" already in Dungeons and Dragons, and it's exactly what you expect: a very large, very mean, screaming feline.

We're not just going to rip that off and call it a day, though. It's still a bit too basic. Caterwauls warrant a bit more spook factor than a glorified panther, a bit more of a magical twist.

It's only appropriate that these beasts would associate a great deal with witches, but only because witches are sort of the glue that holds Halloween together, the go-to link between the human world and the spirit world. Though certainly ideal as witchy minions, Caterwauls should still be their own independent concept, just like vampires, mummies or ghosts, all of which they might also enjoy scheming and cavorting with.

So, if a Caterwaul is a supernatural mega-cat, what kind of powers would it boast? If we take a cue from Lewis Carrol, their most notable ability may be to change their shape, size and density. A Caterwaul could dissolve into little more than mist to pursue prey through so much as a keyhole, dissipate all but its skeleton to frighten an attacker, flatten into an animate shadow or leave only its hovering eyes and fangs gleaming in the dark.

The creature could alter its size as it pleases, though its density would change appropriately, remaining the same weight regardless of its dimensions, and though it could change into almost any shape, it would retain its feline fur and facial features, taking on forms such as humans, serpents, spiders, birds or even plants with the "skin" of a cat.

Most important would be the question of where Caterwauls come from, and I think we can tie that into some real-world folklore pretty gracefully. It was once a commonly held belief - and amazingly still making the rounds now and again - that cats are capable of killing people, especially infants or the elderly, by "sucking out their breath."

This is, perhaps, actually completely true, but only for those special cats with Caterwaul blood, who may also be far more intelligent than a common cat or even any human. Not all would choose to be so diabolical, of course, but it may be through this "breath stealing" that a cat is able to steal an entire human soul for itself.

To become a full-fledged, magical Caterwaul, a cat would have to collect eight of these additional souls, increasing in power and intellect with each, and acquire a final ninth during the Witching hour on All Hallow's Eve. Fail, and the animal reverts forever to a harmless, mundane pet, and never even remembers being anything else.

...But if it succeeds.........

...Well, that would be the really funny thing about this monster. However powerful, however ancient, the Caterwaul would still literally just be a big pussycat at the end of the day, interested more than anything in eating, sleeping, sunning, grooming and just watching the world go by, a life of eternal hedonism and many fragile vases entertainingly knocked off shelves.

...The only big difference is that with all its terrible powers and terrible brilliance, a Caterwaul could enjoy hunting much more than birds and rodents.