's 2017 Horror Write-off:

The Dreamlands: The Cats of Mangor

Submitted by TheRedRage

There is a world inside the minds of men, a world where reality is an intruder and all dreams are true...

I have heard that the cats of the old city of Mangor are any colour but white. In the parts of the Dreamlands I have most commonly visited "when a white cat is born in Mangor," is a byword for something that is unlikely to happen.

Cats in the Dreamlands have minds as sharp as men, and are as skilled with their paws. In a city called Ulthar, cats are protected by law since it was here that the goddess Bast came after she left Egypt. The other reason no one in Ulthar dares to kill a cat is that the cats of Ulthar are fierce and can defeat nearly any opponent.

The saying of the cats of Mangor was one I heard many times, before I learned who they were and why the cats of Ulthar did not speak of them. If only I had never dared to meddle in the affairs of Red Eye!

The horror began in earnest the day I visited New Sarnath, the city the last descendents of old Sarnath had built after fleeing Bokrug's wrath. Of course, it was impossible to escape the curse, but by then other people had populated the city, so Bokrug left it standing. It is now a crossroads, where people from throughout the Dreamlands come, for divers purpose.

I entered through the market gate. This is one of the many gates that lead only to a small section of the city. Here were goods from across what may be called the Earth of the Dreamlands, and beings of equally varied appearance.

I discovered in the market area a small wigwam with a purple sigil on the front. The sigil resembled a large eye. The sign read, "My eyes can see your past and your future."

The occupant of the tent was an old woman, with earth-brown skin. Apart from this, she wore the typical raiment of a fortune teller. Her eyes were closed when I entered, and when they opened I saw that they were white with a grey pupil.

She bade me to sit, but I hesitated because I did not like the look of those eyes. "Come in," she said again. "I know your destiny." "How can you know that?" I asked of her. "It is quite simple, dear. I am an Arosh." An Arosh! I was startled now, for I would never have expected to meet one of these people, even in New Sarnath. Most of the Aroshanti live south of the plain of Leng, where they rarely leave. It is not often within a lifetime that one is seen.

Although human in most respects, Aroshanti have an extra pair of eyes, on the back of their heads. With the eyes on the front, they can see the past, like most of us. With the eyes behind, they can see the future. However, the Aroshanti do not often use this gift, for they cannot open both pairs at the same time. Besides, they prefer to keep the future hidden, even from themselves.

I entered now, my curiosity overcoming my fear of those pale eyes. When I was seated, the ancient Arosh explained that, even among her kind she was an oddity. Most Aroshanti can only see their own past and future, whereas she could see that of others, as her sign proclaimed. It was because she was a unique individual that she had brown skin and pale eyes, whereas most Aroshanti have dark eyes, and dark-green skin. I had thought that these might be the consequence of her advanced age, for the only other Arosh I had seen was a youth, of around 15 years.

"You are destined for great things, I can see," said she. "And I will tell you...for a price."

"What is you price?" I leaned inwards.

"You must bring me..." An extended pause followed, in which I was like to perish from anticipation. "The tooth of Red Eye!"

It was a menacing name for certain. I wondered what manner of creature to whom it belonged. Only ignorance, I believe, permitted me to say:

"Who is this Red Eye of whom you speak? How do I find them?"

The Arosh cackled in a harsh voice. "Red Eye? You cannot find him. No one knows where to find Red Eye."

"Then how do I get his tooth?" I enquired in confusion.

"The 'tooth' of Red Eye is kept by the cats of Mangor. It is a sacred object, given by their god to the first of their race. So it is said, anyway," she added, scornfully.

This was the first time I had heard of the cats of Mangor, save in the famous saying. I did not share the old woman's skepticism, since habit has taught me not to regard anything in the Dreamlands as pure myth.

"But how do I get this 'tooth'? I gather that the cats will not give it of their free will."

"Aye," said she. "If they catch you taking it, they will tear you apart, that much is certain." She reached under the table. "But I know how you can outwit them.

" What she produced was a brightly painted mask. For all intents and purposes, it resembled a cat mask of the kind that is worn in Ulthar during Bast's festival. It was coloured brown with black stripes.

"Wear this," said the fortune teller. "And to all eyes, you shall be as a cat. The charm shall hold so long as the mask is in place."

After that, I took leave of the old woman. I never saw her again. In hindsight, she doubtless belonged to Nyarlathotep and was seeking my destruction.

I did not don the mask until I had reached the surrounds of Mangor. No one living can remember the builders of this city, but, since time immemorial, it has been home to those damnable felines of the sabre-toothed god. The gate was guarded by two statues, each shaped like the Smilodon of the Pleistocene. At the gate I was met with a ferocious tomcat, whose hide was a nightmare of scars. He inspected me, and seeming satisfied, allowed me entry.

Mangor was mostly red stone and all of the buildings were old and crumbling. I can best compare the designs to an ancient Egyptian city, now abandoned to the ravages of time. It seemed that every house had a statue of a sabre-toothed cat, and some of the largest had several. Had the people of this old city worshipped the great beasts? Maybe Mangor was old enough that there were sabre-tooths living when it was built. There are none living now. As I wandered the deserted streets, I had reason to be glad that the mask disguised me so artfully. Many houses had corpses outside, some human, some feline. The one thing they had in common was that all were decapitated. The city of Mangor had more hideous sights in store. I witnessed a birth within one of the larger buildings. Once the mother was finished, another cat came forward to inspect her kittens. Upon seeing one of them, the cat gave a hideous yowl and several others leapt upon the family. In less than a minute, the mother cat and her litter were dead, and being dragged from the room.

"What is this?" I demanded of the one who had given the order. "You should know our ways," said he. He turned to the others "Bring the damned one!"

A mangled kitten was laid at my feet. "See it is white!" snapped the inspector. And indeed one of its paws was white at the tip. "If a mother bears a white kitten, she must go in the pit with all her offspring. That is the law." The leader glared at me. "Do not question it if you value your life."

I left the hospital much afflicted by what I had witnessed. Now I knew why never a cat here was born with white markings. To display any further ignorance would have been death, so I kept my distance from other cats. I followed the murderers, keeping a fair distance. They brought me to what seemed to be a huge well, but stinking of decay. The victims of the slaughter were thrown in, while their killers departed. The pit has an ill reputation, and no cat in Mangor likes to visit or even speak of it. As I pondered how to find what I sought, a great wailing went up across the city.

It sounded like a choir of cats and it called all the inhabitants of the city towards it. Not knowing what else to do, I followed the milling crowd. Gradually, the throng drew me to a great building deep within the ancient city. It seemed to be a church, although the construction was the same as the rest of the buildings. The largest sabre-toothed statue I had yet seen crouched above the doorway, but that was but part of the temple's horrors. The other part was the foremost wall.

The wall had perhaps a thousand nooks and the bottom rows were filled with skulls. The skulls were a mixture of human and feline, although there were more of the former. So this, then, was where the heads of the corpses had finished up, decorating the wall of the church of Mangor. I came, then, upon a great idea. Would not the tooth be within the church? Where else would you keep a sacred object but a sacred place? I entered the temple with the masses and began scanning for the object that I sought. Although there was a lectern where the preacher would stand, there were no pews, obliging us to sit on the floors. There were no windows and the walls were decorated with paintings of cats and sabre-toothed tigers. They stretched right around the room and seemed to represent a story. There it was, behind me! The tooth of Red Eye hung above the doorway as long as my forearm. I seated close to the back of the room, so as to be as close as possible.

As I waited, the cats stared as one towards the lectern. A large ginger cat leapt upon the top and stalked back and forth, swishing his tail. Once he had the attention of the masses, the sermon began. "Long ago, Red Eye fell from the heavens. Every day and every night, he goes once across the sky, pursued by the terrible Nighthounds. They want to kill him and bring darkness to the world. On that day they caught him and there was a terrible battle, at the end of which he fell from the sky.

"To raise him once more to his place in the heavens, Red Eye created our kind. In those days we were large and strong, with teeth like his. We lived well for a long time until the day when certain of our race turned from Red Eye and went to live with humans. "

It was a white cat that led the blasphemers, cursed be their kind! For this infraction, Red Eye took our teeth and reduced us to our present size."

I looked at the assembled ranks. All attention was on the speaker. If any should catch me stealing the tooth, it would be he.

The preacher had worked himself into a dogmatic fervour, almost shouting at this point. I learned for the first time how the illusion of superiority could erode the nobler qualities of a race.

"Our ancestors made a pact with Red Eye, whereby we would demonstrate our undying hatred of those heretics. As a sign of this covenant, Red Eye broke off his tooth and gave it to us, the very tooth that still hangs above our church door! "

Every one of our enemies who is slain adds a skull to our wall. When the wall is full, our power will be restored to us and we will finally be able to crush our enemies, those damned cats of Ulthar!"

(Indeed, it is the skulls of the Ultharians, among others that adorn the church of Mangor. The cats of Ulthar regularly steal the skulls to give them a proper burial. As a result, the wall is unlikely to be filled, and I pray it shall never be till world's end.)

I had reached up and removed the tooth from the alcove. It vibrated beneath my touch, as if a swarm of angry bees were imprisoned beneath the surface.

I'm certain the preacher had seen the tooth moving from it's place but for a moment, he did not know what he saw. The illusion of the mask made me resemble a cat and no cat standing on the ground could reach the tooth. It seemed as if the tooth was being levitated from the alcove and the priest would either see it as a miracle or refuse to believe the evidence of his eyes. Abruptly, the spell was broken.

"Who is it that dares to touch Red Eye's tooth?" exclaimed the preacher.

"I do not know," Said the scarred sentinel of the gates. "He entered the city just this afternoon."

"I know of him. He was angered by the execution of a tainted family. He does not know our ways."

I had been discovered. Upon hearing those fatal words, I flew from the temple, with the entire population of Mangor in pursuit.

Even in the Labyrinth, my life was not endangered as it was now. As I ran, I prayed to Yib Tsil the Drowner, Bast of Ulthar, Bokrug the Water Lizard and all the gods of the Dreamlands that I might escape the terrible horde. I even offered prayer to Nyarlathotep to protect me from the followers of Red Eye.

There was a wide, fast moving river, traversed by a narrow rope bridge. I crossed the bridge and cut it, knowing that my pursuers would have to find another route. After a few miles, I came to the Unknown Residence, a building of mysterious origin that has been abandoned for all ages. It was a welcome sight, for in all the ages of it's existence it has not decayed and there is a strong latch on the door.

I hid in that house for an age before the cats arrived. By now I had taken off the mask, yet they all knew who I was. They did not attack the house, but stood on the hill several metres out. They appeared to be waiting on something. As one, the cats of Mangor gave voice to a dreadful cry. With alarming suddeness, the moon vanished from the sky. I looked up, but no cloud covered it. I noted, however, the approach of some enormous monster over the hills. It started out as high as the heavens but as it approached it became smaller. In spite of its great size, the beast's footsteps made no noise as it approached. When it came to the line of the armies of Mangor, it was no taller than a bull elephant. It looked as though a piece of the night sky had become a formidable sabre-tooth. One of the monster's eyes was pale white and the other was as red as a giant sun. The left tooth was broken off and by this I knew it must be Red Eye himself. The cats of Mangor believe that the sun and moon are the eyes of their deity. During the day, Red Eye watches over his people. At night, he is always looking over his shoulder at the Nighthounds, so his blind eye is visible. At the end of every night, they catch him and his eye closes a bit until on the New Moon night he is dead. After that he revives and, as he gains strength the eye opens again. It was now half closed.

"Return my tooth!" Red Eye roared in a voice that shook the ground. He began pacing the Unknown Residence, repeating this same command time and again.

Since he might smash the house in, I had no choice but to agree to the demands of the sabre-toothed god. Without the tooth, I had no chance of learning what fate had in store for me but knowing the future is never as important as securing the present. I opened the door a crack and passed the tooth out using the tongs. It was well that I did so, for Red Eye struck the tongs with abominable force, wrenching them from my grasp. When I looked, the tongs lay twisted upon the ground. Red Eye had vanished and shortly after, the cats of Mangor departed, taking the tooth with them. Even so, I remained within the house till I returned to the waking world. Afterwards, I wondered about the legend that, if Red Eye was killed or otherwise deposed from his place in the heavens, darkness would fall upon the world forevermore. Regardless, I shall never dare to tempt the gods of the Dreamlands again.