In our home, we’ve always harbored a fondness for cats. As a child, I had a particularly special dog, but it has been cats that have journeyed with me throughout my life. It was my elder sister who initiated the tradition, tirelessly bringing home lost or abandoned kittens when she was but a wee lass. Invariably, one of these feline waifs would endear itself to our parents’ hearts and find a permanent abode with us. Years later, I discovered that my paternal grandfather also had a penchant for cats, which, in one way or another, meant they were always a part of our lives. Perhaps that’s why I resonate so well with them. When selecting one, I am discerning; not just any cat can join my clan. They mustn’t be of any commercial breed, must exhibit a spark of intelligence, and should never be older than seven months when they join our family—especially if they’re strays. Older cats always retain the lessons imparted by their mothers and never fully trust you. A younger kitten, however, swiftly adopts you as its colony, and sometimes even as its mother.

With years spent in the company of these furry companions, it’s easy to spot an intelligent cat. That’s how I came to recognize Panther. But before I delve into his tale, it’s essential to know that I live in Carasa, a village in Cantabria nestled beside a stunning estuary where street cats are common, thanks to people feeding them to keep at bay the rats that dwell among the rocks on the shore. My house, perched on the outskirts of the village, upholds the custom of feeding the cats that wander near. We don’t allow them indoors nor do we consider them family members, but we feed them year-round. This is how we met Panther. We named him so because he was pitch black, and ‘Panther’ just sounds cool.

Gatito negro / Black Kitten

Panther as a kitten

The truth is, Panther was born in the neighborhood, as I recall seeing him as a kitten when his mother brought him to feed. However, it wasn’t until he matured into adulthood that he began visiting regularly. He wasn’t a troublemaker; he allowed the alpha male to eat without confrontation and also any little kittens. A serene cat, yet one who never allowed me to touch him, always maintaining a cautious step away from me.

One morning, I rose as usual to commence my virtual English class, one of my jobs, and like every day, I set water to boil for my cup of PG Tips tea. I fed Déjà Vu, our also black-colored family cat, and then, with a small bowl in hand, I scooped up a portion of cat food and stepped out into the garden to feed Panther, the sole stray who awaited me at that early hour. There he was, waiting, but it was clear something was amiss. He moved with some difficulty and sported a torn ear. My initial thought was that he had skirmished with another cat, but it was deep winter, and no felines were in heat. Neither were there city tourists in the nearby houses rented out as rural homes, who usually bring their terribly ill-mannered dogs that attack anything that moves, including farm animals. But the houses were empty. Approaching Panther, he didn’t shy away. I gently stroked him and left his food, which he ate without issue, then I retreated to my home office to log in and teach my class.

The following day started with the same routine, until I saw Panther. His hind leg was badly torn. Despite the grim wound and his limp, he approached me, waiting for his food. Before serving him, I extended my hand for him to sniff. He didn’t back away and allowed me to pet him again. I left him to eat, but it was evident something unusual was happening. Mid-morning, I went upstairs to have coffee with my wife. As she is a lighter sleeper than I am, I asked if she had heard anything during the night, wondering if Panther had fought with some animal, but she hadn’t heard a thing.

The following day was a repeat, but Panther’s injuries were worse. The wound on his leg was bleeding, exposing muscles beneath his skin, and his entire left side was marred by a gash that started at his shoulder and nearly reached his hind leg. I gave him his food, but he struggled to eat. I spoke to him gently while he ate and stroked him when he allowed, but he only glanced at me once. After finishing, he slowly retreated to a corner and lay down to sleep. I went to the garage, which served as our storeroom, found a box, lined it with old towels, and placed it beside him. Hours later, he was curled up inside, sleeping.

That night, I kept waking up at every sound, but heard nothing resembling a cat fight. Yet, in the morning, as I prepared his food, I saw that Panther was in a much worse state. A wound crossed his right eye, and I was sure he had lost it, but on closer inspection, I saw he still had it, though the wound was bleeding and the one from the first day was oozing pus. He could barely move, let alone eat. I only had classes in the afternoon, so I decided to bring him inside to try and treat him. He resisted at first, but the lure of Déjà Vu’s canned food was too tempting. I took him, along with his box, to my basement office, providing food and a litter box, but he did nothing but sleep all day. In the late afternoon, I woke him and carefully cleaned his worst wounds. Aside from some hisses warning me to be gentle, he let me finish. After my work was done, I went upstairs, but I could hear him meowing, a sound that continued throughout the night. Everyone in the house slept terribly.

The next day, I descended to find Panther restlessly pacing around the office. He had knocked over a few items but seemed to have more energy. I set down his food just as my phone chimed with a message informing me that all my English classes had been cancelled. Puzzled, I called back, knowing my students were pleased with my teaching method. They cited internal issues within the company and promised to notify me if classes resumed.

That day, I spent hours dispatching resumes, though hope was scarce, having struggled to secure and retain those English classes. I took the opportunity to better tend to Panther’s wounds, which he now allowed, though his tail kept swishing from side to side, so I was cautious not to hurt him, wary of a potential scratch.

That night, Panther’s cries grew worse, and I heard more than a few sounds of crashes coming from the office. The next day, I discovered one of the noises was my laptop, now unresponsive, and one of the monitors lay on the floor, cracked from top to bottom. I was beginning to regret bringing him inside. I was jobless, and now without a laptop and a monitor. Nevertheless, I continued to care for him, and he seemed to be moving better and eating well. But for us, things took a turn for the worse as my wife’s Chi Kung classes in Solares were cancelled, and her private clients said they would return later. My eldest son, who was supposed to go to Madrid, fell victim to a scam on Bla Bla Car, losing two hundred euros. Things were definitely going from bad to worse.

That night, I couldn’t bear Panther’s harrowing screams mixed with thuds in the office and his hisses and meows. So, I opened the door, and he shot out, stopping at the entrance of the house, staring towards the line of trees marking a eucalyptus plantation and a small untouched native forest. He gazed in that direction for a while, then sat as if waiting for something. I had to find out what was happening, so I decided to stay awake. On the second floor, there was a window overlooking the front of the house, where I could see the gate, the path leading to the house, and the trees about a hundred meters away. I placed a chair and waited to see if I could discern what was happening.

I woke with a start. I had fallen asleep unwittingly, but something had roused me. I looked outside, but everything remained the same, except Panther was intently staring at the trees. At night, everything seemed like a dark blur in the distance to me, but I thought I saw movement of something approaching. I turned off the hallway light to let my eyes adjust to the darkness and saw what appeared to be animals running from the forest. To my astonishment, I saw two deer, several rabbits accompanied by a family of foxes, and various smaller animals I couldn’t identify, all running in the same direction away from the dark line of trees. The strange assembly sped past the front of our house and disappeared towards the water. Panther kept his gaze fixed on the trees, so I did the same, feeling a strange sensation begin to engulf me. Every hair on my skin stood on end when, in the darkness of the trees, I saw a part of it become even darker, as if separating from the forest’s blackness and starting to approach. Panther stood up, his fur bristling, but made no sound and waited.

Continue reading…

That strange sensation I felt morphed into the most visceral fear I had ever experienced as the shadow began to take form into something, some kind of being that walked upright and was enormous. As it neared the house, I saw it clearly, and a fear that filled my entire being took hold. I wet myself, but in that moment, I didn’t realize it; all I saw was a being over two meters tall, of deep black color, with muscles that defined each of its movements. Its arms were akin to those of a gorilla, but its legs were straight and thick, and its head, small in proportion, bore a single eye that seemed to shine with a brutal darkness. In my head, a small voice insisted it couldn’t be real, that ojáncanos don’t exist. And although my modern, educated, internet-using adult self told me this wasn’t real, there it was, this being from the mythology of this land, stepping towards my house. It wasn’t like the illustrations by Sara Temiño, or perhaps it was, but the fear it generated, which engulfed everything, wasn’t depicted in her books. Everything except Panther, who, bristling so much he seemed twice his size, yet tiny compared to the being, took a few steps towards the gate.



The ojáncano stopped and looked at the cat, and suddenly I realized it knew I was there watching. It lifted its head and looked straight into my eyes. Honestly, I don’t know if that was when I wet myself or if it happened a second time, as I was only aware that this being saw me and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t escape. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t even blink or scream. At any moment, it would enter the house, and it would be the end for me and my family. The being took another step, but Panther didn’t yield his ground. Then something unexpected happened. All the darkness of the being disappeared, and in its place stood a tall, blonde, incredibly attractive woman. I felt a tingling between my legs when she smiled at me, and then I knew I was lost. Whatever this strange woman wanted to do, I wouldn’t stop her. She smiled while looking at me and opened the gate. I don’t know how it happened, as it was very quick, but Panther was on top of the alluring being, a fury of teeth and claws. She stepped back, her nails turning into claws, and gave Panther a terrible blow that sent him flying through the air and landing in the garden. But he got up and went back at her. The being paused, turned, transformed into a shadow that seemed to have wings, and flew away towards the forest. I was still terrified, but now aware of the house, of being wet, and that Panther needed help. I rushed out and found him lying at the entrance of the house with a wound that had torn his entire right leg, with the rest of his wounds open and bleeding. I carried him inside, cleaned his wounds as best I could, and placed him in his box, but in the living room. I showered and put my clothes in the washing machine. When I returned to the living room, I found Déjà Vu sitting beside him, watching him. I told Deja to take care of him and went to bed; my wife hadn’t noticed anything, which surprised me greatly.

The next day, the company I taught classes for called, saying they had resolved the issue and that we would restart in two days. Bla Bla Car acknowledged some responsibility for the scam my son suffered and refunded part of the money. My wife received news from Solares that new people had appeared, and she could continue her Chi Kung classes. I didn’t need much to realize that the dark creature had been responsible for those days of negativity and bad luck, and also who had stopped it. So, when Panther wanted to go out into the garden that night, I let him, despite knowing he likely wouldn’t survive the night. I watched him for a long time, injured and sitting at the entrance of the house, then closed the door, leaving him alone to face that thing. Ashamed of my cowardice, I went to bed and, without realizing it, slept through the night.

I found him lying at the house’s door. He was motionless, but I noticed he was breathing. I carefully picked him up, as he had more open wounds than I thought an animal could endure. He left a pool of blood on the spot, and I placed him on a clean towel. I disinfected his wounds, and he didn’t even flinch. After washing the blood off my hands, I bandaged him as best as I could. Using a syringe, I fed him the jelly that comes with canned cat food. He slept all day, but at night, he woke up and limped to the door, looking at me. I remembered the terror that had engulfed my being the night I saw it, and I let him out. It would be his last night, and I didn’t know what would happen next. I felt terrible for leaving him to face that thing when I knew that protecting my family was also my job. This knowledge raised an ancestral instinct which gave me unexpected strength, and I went out into the garden. I stood with my back to the house’s door, facing the forest, and we waited.

The darkness approached in the form of an ojáncano. With each step it took, the house seemed to tremble. I couldn’t understand why it didn’t wake everyone, but that was preferable to the fear invading me. Panther stood up and walked towards the gate, and without realizing it, in front of me stood that tall, blonde woman with curves reminiscent of my wife’s, leaving me breathless. She wore a garment that was both a tight and flowing dress and a cape, revealing just enough skin to let the imagination do the rest. I was unable to move, yet I began to feel an erection growing at the sight of those suggestive curves. I couldn’t comprehend it. Every part of me knew this was not a woman, and my entire body wanted to scream and run away, but instead, an erection. The being smiled, opened the gate, and stepped forward while looking at me. Panther attacked, but the ojáncano was waiting for him, bared its claws, and prepared to strike the final blow. Powerless and more in a whisper, I said “no”. The being turned as if I had shouted, and headed towards me, in the form of a Nordic woman but with claws like a tiger’s. I had forgotten any arousal and awaited my death, when Panther scratched it, and for a second, the being looked at him. Then, a shadow as black as the deepest night, but with a yellow collar shining like the most beautiful star, pounced on the being’s neck and bit deeply and fearlessly. It was Déjà Vu, my little cat. The monster’s scream was like a gust of wind that hit the whole house, and seconds later the forest, and suddenly there was nothing. Only me, Panther lying on the ground, and Déjà Vu licking his wounds. I approached the two cats, knelt beside them, and cried as I stroked the little cat.

The next day, I took Panther to the vet, who couldn’t believe he was still alive. I left him there as he would need several surgeries and returned home. I didn’t know how to tell my wife what had happened, but as I drove home, I decided the best way was to tell it like a story. Just another tale among many.


This story is based on a tale by Neil Gaiman that I greatly enjoyed, and as he himself says in his MasterClass on writing, one should not hesitate to write things based on the ideas of other authors, so here you have Panther. It is based on the original “The Price“.

I obviously must thank Neil for the inspiration, but also Loreto Alonso-Alegre for the first reading of the draft and Dolores Póliz for the editing. Both in the Spanish original. But also to Panther and Déjà Vu, who are very real. He is a stray who comes to our house every day and she is the fifth member of our family. The two are great friends.


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Alejandro Ahumada Escritor, podcaster y Administrador de sistemas informáticos
Alejandro Ahumada ha navegado su vida entre cambios y constancias, desde los cerros de Valparaíso hasta los valles de Cantabria. Tras la caída de Salvador Allende, que desencadenó una brutal persecución política contra personas como los padres de Alejandro, este se exilió con su madre a los trece años, encontrando refugio en el Reino Unido. Su travesía incluye Escocia, Nottingham, Dublín, Francia y Euskadi, hasta asentarse en Cantabria con su esposa, sus hijos y su gata, Déjà Vu. Ingeniero informático de profesión, Alejandro equilibra la lógica con la creatividad. Como escritor de relatos de fantasía y ciencia ficción, sus historias han sido descritas como "Realismo Mágico Personal". Inspirado por autores como Neil Gaiman, Isabel Allende, Terry Pratchett y Ursula K. Le Guin, su escritura convierte la vida en un lienzo mágico, donde cada experiencia revela la magia oculta en lo cotidiano.