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Catgirl in the Pantry

An Anime-Inspired Reverse Isekai Adventure Romance

By Brennan Smith

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Chapter 1:

It all started when I heard a knock on my door.

My pantry door.

“Hello? A little help? I’m stuck in here.”

A girl’s voice, from inside the pantry. I was confused and a little nervous. Dad was working late. Mom had taken my four-year-old brother Evan out shopping with her. I was alone in the house. At least, I thought I was.

The wiki article I was writing would have to wait. I hopped out of my desk chair and walked to the pantry door as the knocking became more insistent, transitioning into harsh banging.

“Look, I don’t know where I am or what’s with all these boxes, but—” she paused and thumped the door again. “But, so help me, if somebody doesn’t open this flimsy little door this minute I swear I’m breaking it down.”

When I arrived at the door, I looked up at the top of the doorframe. The door was locked.

You see, Dad installed a bolt latch at the top of the pantry door to keep Evan from snitching candy without permission. In theory, you could use it to lock somebody in the pantry. I certainly felt like stuffing Evan in there sometimes when our parents weren’t home. Heck, the candy would even keep him quiet.

But this wasn’t Evan, and I wasn’t the one to lock her in.

“Hey, uh…” I started lamely. The knocking stopped. “How did you get in there?”

“I was going to ask you the same question,” the girl’s voice said. “Where am I?”

“Pendleton, New Hampshire,” I said. “32 Vrost circle. Pantry.”

“Who are you? What are you?”

“Gavin,” I said. “And I’m, uh… a high school senior?”

“How did I get here?”

“No clue,” I said, still on edge. “My turn. How long have you been in my pantry?”

“All of about twenty seconds,” the voice said. “Now, the door?”

I wanted to keep it shut until I had more answers, but that wouldn’t do any good. If she wanted to break the door down, she probably could, and I didn’t want that. All she’d need to do is charge the door from the length of the pantry and hit it with her shoulder. The lock was meant to keep out a four-year-old, not trap an adult.

“I’d like to talk a bit more, first,” I said. “Need some light in there?”

“That’d be nice, yeah.”

The pantry light switch was on my side, so I flipped the lights on.

Inside, there was a surprised yelp. “How did you do that? What… what’s that?”

“What’s what?” I asked.

“The glowing thing on the ceiling?”

“You mean the light bulb?”

Silence on the other side. Too long to be comfortable. Finally, the girl spoke up. “Nature’s glory… am I in a science world!?”

“Uh…” I stammered, dumbfounded. “Yes?” I said hesitantly.

“Are there guns?”

“Not in the pantry, no,” I said.

“Do you send energy around through wires?”

“Electricity, yeah.”

“Are there buffalo? Elephants? Corgis?”

“What are you even… yes! Yes to all those things.” I started trying to think of what in my house might be usable as a weapon. A kitchen knife? Something was not right with this girl. “Are you okay?” In retrospect, it was a dumb question, but it’s what came to mind.

“Yes! This is awesome!” I heard the rustling of some boxes from the other side of the door. Cereal? “What’s this? Food?”

“Probably. You’re in my pantry. Speaking of which, you’re in my pantry. Why?”

“Dunno. I just appeared here. Maybe you beamed me in with a transporter or something, like in those stories.” I heard the sound of a box ripping.

“Who are you?”

“Lilah,” the girl said. “I’m one of Nature’s Emissaries. Hah!” she chortled. “These look like giant deer droppings! Do you eat these?”

“Nature Emissary? Is this some kind of joke?”

“Probably,” said Lilah. “What with the whole ‘beam me in from another world and trap me in a pantry’ thing. Okay, I’m gonna put one of these in my mouth. Ready?”

“Another world? What are you even…” I trailed off, the implications slowly dawning on me.

Two possibilities. First, there really could be a girl from another world in my pantry. That seemed unlikely. On the other hand, maybe this was some sort of joke where somebody locked a girl in my closet and she was pretending. That also seemed unlikely, but way more likely than a visitor from another world.
Which was kind of disappointing; It’d be neat if this was real.

All sorts of inane questions floated through my head, such as “Are you sure you’re from another world?” or “This really isn’t a joke?” But I couldn’t think of anything that would actually get me any closer to figuring out what was going on. There was just one way forward.

I reached up, undid the latch, and pushed open the door to see the girl inside.

She was standing there, holding a box of malted milk balls. It would be an understatement to call her beautiful; her face was cute and her figure was perfect. She had long, braided, tan hair in which were nestled a pair of honest-to-goodness cat ears. A tail draped on the floor behind her, flicking gently. She was shorter than I was by a few inches. I’d have guessed she was in her late teens, certainly no older than twenty. Her skin was fair, but her face left her ethnicity indeterminate.

But I wasn’t focused on any of that. Not even the cat ears. I was focused on her clothing.

She was wearing a loincloth that draped down to her knees and several long, beaded necklaces.

And that was it.

I stared at her naked chest for far longer than I felt comfortable.

“These things are really sweet,” she said, holding up the box of chocolates. “Do you always eat stuff like this?”

I snapped out of it and clamped my eyes shut—not that it helped much. The image had seared itself into my poor teenage brain. “Where the hell is your shirt!?”

“Back home, I suppose. I didn’t wear it today. I wasn’t expecting to talk to humans.” I heard a crunch as she bit into another chocolate.

“I’ll get you one. Stay right there!”

I jogged up the stairs to my closet to get her some clothes. If this were a joke, it was some joke. I opened up my drawers and pulled out a T-shirt and some sweatpants. There was a catgirl in my pantry. A naked catgirl. Well, almost. I wasn’t sure if the loincloth counted. I’ve got to admit, I was frightened. Sure, lots of guys dream of being in a situation like this, but it’s something else entirely to experience it.

This wasn’t a dumb harem anime. This was real. For all I knew, this would end with a police investigation, or I could get my face clawed off, or she could use nature magic powers to turn me into a pig or whatever. And even if this was the sort of catgirl you’d find in an anime, I wasn’t sure I’d have what it took to handle that either. I’d never been good at talking to girls. I’d never even had a girlfriend.

I went back down the stairs, clothes in hand. Lilah had left the pantry and was looking around the kitchen in wonder, tail swishing behind her. Her back was to me this time... but her loincloth only covered the front.

I looked away from her naked rear and stuck out my arm. “Here, clothes,” I said. “Take them. Let me know when you’ve changed.”

I heard Lilah chuckle a little. “You humans and your clothes. You sure I have to put these on?”

Yes,” I said forcefully. It’s a… a cultural thing.” I felt the weight of the clothes leave my arm as Lilah took them.

“Wow,” she said. “The weave on this is really tiny. I’d have thought that… wait. Is this knit?”

“I don’t know,” I answered. “They’re machine-made.”

“A machine? You gave me clothes made by a machine? Do they do anything cool?”

“They’re clothes. They cover you. Isn’t that what clothes are supposed to do?”

“I guess,” she said, sounding disappointed.

I shook my head as I heard clothing rustling behind me. This girl was either really committed to her role or actually from another world. Or insane. I guessed that could be true. But then what about the tail? The ears could be fake, but I’d seen the tail swishing around. A real girl wouldn’t have a fully functioning tail, no matter how insane she was. “So… you’re Nature’s Emissary?”

“Yep! One of them, at least. The Emissary of the mountain lion, specifically. Don’t suppose your village worships mountain lions?”

“No,” I said. “My family’s Christian. We even go to church every other Sunday.”

“Ooh! That’s so cool! How many vampires have you killed?”

“What? None!” I said. “Where are you getting this from? You know about electricity and… and corgis, but you think we fight vampires?”

“Hey, how am I supposed to know what parts of the bardic tales are accurate or not? So far as anybody knows, science stories are just fun tales you read about in books or tell around a fire. There’s this string in the front of the pants. Do I just pull it, or…?”

“Yeah, you pull it to tighten it and then tie it off,” I said. “So you’ve got no idea how you got here?”

“None,” the girl said. “I had just finished my morning bath and was at home boiling some mushrooms, and then suddenly I was in the dark here in your pantry. Okay, I’m done.”

I looked behind me. Thankfully, Lilah was fully clothed, so I finally got a chance to take her in a bit more. Her ears and tail were the same tan color as her hair. Her ears were furred on the back with the same tan fur, with tufts of white fur in the front where her ears met her hair. The spots where her ears should be, if she were a human, were smooth and bare. This was looking less and less like a joke.

Honestly, now that I’d had some time to talk with Lilah, my initial fear was slowly being replaced with excitement. I’d been studying myths about monsters for years, from ancient ones like the minotaur to modern ones like the chupacabra. It was sort of a hobby of mine. Lilah was a dream come true. A real life monster in my house! Sort of. A non-human, at any rate. And unlike most mythical monsters—which could kill you in a variety of creative ways—she seemed safe. And friendly!

Also highly attractive. But I swore that wasn’t the main reason I was excited.

The clothes I had given Lilah didn’t fit her well. The pants were too big; the fabric was bunched up in weird places and the crotch drooped nearly to her knees. She had rolled the bottoms up to keep them from covering her feet. The shirt was baggy and long. Because it was a men’s shirt without extra fabric in the front, it hung weird over her breasts.

I nodded. “Thanks. That’s… that’s better.”

She smiled at me, then held up her loincloth. “What do I do with this?” she asked.

I had no idea. “Just keep it to yourself for now,” I said.

“What, you mean you don’t want it?” she said, tossing it to me.

Girl’s underwear. Kind of. I panicked and stepped back, letting it fall to the floor instead of catching it. Lilah chuckled at my reaction.

“What’s with you?” I asked.

“Just teasing you is all,” she said, putting the beaded necklaces back around her neck. She looked a little confused.

“Is that just a thing Nature Emissaries do?”

“Sometimes, yeah. We’re playful. At least the cat ones,” she said, wiggling her ears. “Don’t try and joke around with, like, a bear Emissary. They won’t appreciate it.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“So you don’t have any Emissaries here?” she asked, stepping forward to retrieve her loincloth.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “Is that a job? Or like…” I tried to figure out how to phrase it delicately. “Or... like a race?” I finished. It seemed a more polite word than “species.”

“Both,” said Lilah. “Emissaries are born into the position. It’s… hard to say no to.”

“Then no,” I said. “I’ve never seen anything like you before. If we had Emissaries in our world, then we’d probably have pictures or videos of them. Unless maybe… do you show up in photos?”

Her eyes went wide. “I don’t know!” she said, excitedly. “Is there any reason why I shouldn’t? We should try!”

I pulled my phone out of my pocket to take a picture, and she excitedly bounced up and down.

“You’re taking a photo of me with your hand-held computer! This is so cool!”

“It’s a phone, but close enough,” I said. I pointed the phone at her. She appeared on the screen just as I’d expect. One snap later, I had her picture in my phone. No issues. I turned the phone so she could see it, and her grin got even wider, showing more of her teeth. I noticed with a small degree of alarm that her incisors were sharper and more triangular than a normal human’s, and her canines were more pronounced.

“That’s so cool!” she said.

“Yeah. So… I guess either we’ve got no Nature Emissaries or they’re really good at avoiding being seen.”

“Weird,” she said, shaking her head.

“Yeah. Um…” I started rubbing the back of my head. Having Lilah suddenly appear in my pantry was fantastic and all, but it opened up lots of questions. Would anything else be appearing in my pantry? Would she be able to get home? And, in the more immediate future, what were her plans for, like, the next ten minutes, and where would she be when my mom got back with Evan?

“So… what’s your plan now?” I asked.

“Go explore, I guess. What’s your name again?”

“Gavin,” I repeated, holding out a hand.

“Good to meet you, Gavin!” she said, smiling and bowing slightly instead. “Where’s the way out?”

That’s it? I’d had all of about ten minutes with her, and now she was leaving? “Over there,” I said, motioning to the front door. “But are you really going outside?” I asked, hoping to discourage her from leaving. “It’s mid-February. Do Nature Emissaries not get cold?”

“We get cold, sure. But it’s the middle of the day. How bad could it be out there? Thanks, Gavin. I’ll probably run into you again some day!” And with that, Lilah loped to the door and opened it.

For a moment, she just stood there. Then, she put one of her unshod toes into the snow outside.

“Gavin! There’s frost on the ground here. And it’s a foot thick!”

“You mean the snow?” I said, walking up to the door.

“Snow? Is that what you call it? Is this normal?”

“It’s normal for this time of year, yeah. In fact, this year’s snowfall’s been unusually light.” Right now, the sun was shining in the cloudless sky, glaring on the surface of yesterday’s newfallen snow. Compared to most days, it was positively balmy in the low 40s.

“How are you supposed to get anywhere?”

“Cars,” I said, shrugging. “How would you get around in the snow?”

“I didn’t… I didn’t have snow.” Lilah said. She shivered a bit and hugged herself, taking a slight step back. “It’s so cold out there!”
I stepped past her to shut the door. “Yeah, that’s winter in New England for you.”

“How long until it warms up?” Lilah asked.

“A couple months, at least,” I said.

“Months? Like, I’m stuck here for a whole forty days?”

“More like sixty, actually.”

She threw up her hands. “Why are your months so long!?” She huffed and sat on the floor. “Great. A whole brand new world I could explore, and it’s too frozen to even go outside.”

It seemed I’d have Lilah around for a little longer. At least until my parents came home. I wondered how they’d react.

“So… what’s your plan?” I asked again.

“I… I don’t know,” Lilah said, somewhat forlornly. “I guess I’ll stay here for now.”

“Sounds good,” I said, nodding. My excitement mixed with nervousness, though. I’d have to explain her presence to my mother. And it would be awkward enough trying to introduce a girl to my mother, much less one with cat ears and a tail. Wearing my clothes.

At least she wasn’t naked anymore.

My mother had to let her stay. What else would we do? Kick her out on the streets? My family lived in a rural part of New Hampshire. It’s not like we had homeless shelters or soup kitchens around. If we sent her outside, she’d freeze to death, assuming Nature Emissaries could die. No, she needed to stay. At least for now. I started trying to plan how to broach the subject with my parents.

They’d agree that she needed a place to be, but they’d take issue with her for sure. If she were a normal girl, things might be different, but catgirls were kind of a symbol of sexuality in most parts of the internet. And they’d definitely object to their son living with a symbol of sexuality.

I wondered if maybe I could keep her secret from my parents to avoid having to talk them into hosting her. It’d be hard, sure, and if I got caught, I’d be in huge trouble. But I could do it.

Both my parents worked and had long commutes; they usually didn’t come home until 7:00 or so, except for weekends. My mom left Evan at Aunt Sandy’s place on her way to work and picked him up on her way back, so he was gone until 7:00 too. Every afternoon, I had the place completely to myself. Besides weekends, Lilah would only need to be hidden for a few hours each evening, until my parents went to bed.

And if I did tell my parents about her, what would they do? Probably find some way to kick her out. But they weren’t heartless. They’d find someplace else for her to stay. One of my aunts, maybe. Like, Aunt Kathy in Vermont didn’t have any sons, just a teenage daughter.

In fact, that made a lot more sense. That’s probably where Lilah should live.

At which point my mind snapped shut. This girl appeared in my pantry. I’d never seen anything so cool in my life, and I wasn’t going to have her go live with my cousin just because my parents thought I couldn’t be trusted with a girl in the house. In retrospect, it was crazy of me and probably driven mostly by hormones, but at that moment I decided I was going to have her stay with me. Somehow.

Given that Mom and Dad wouldn’t approve, that meant hiding her.

“Okay, here. Come up to my room,” I said, beckoning her toward the stairs.

She smiled and came with me.

“Here’s the deal,” I said as we climbed. “I’d love to let you stay here, but you’ve got to stay quiet about it. My mother doesn’t like catgirls. I mean… cat Emissaries.”

“What? Why not?”

“Cultural preconceptions,” I hedged as we climbed the stairs.

“Didn’t you say you didn’t have Emissaries?”

“That doesn’t keep us from having stereotypes,” I said, opening my door.

I guess I’m lucky that I’m a clean person. Most guys I know wouldn’t be able to invite a girl into their room if one happened to magically appear in their pantry. Sure, my desk was a little cluttered, my bookshelves had books stuffed in at odd angles, and my dresser had some junk on it, but my floor was clear, my laundry was out of sight, and my bed was made.

Lilah’s polite smile turned into a grin of amazement. She put her hand on the bed and pushed. “Wow. Is this for sleeping on?”

“Yeah,” I said, nodding. I still wasn’t sure what things were like where she was from, but I suppose raised beds weren’t the norm there.

“It looks really comfortable.” She spun around and sat on it, bouncing slightly. Then she giggled and bounced twice more intentionally for good measure.

I smiled. It was going to be exciting showing her around.

Her smile faded after a moment, and she suddenly became more sober than I’d seen her yet. “We need to talk, though.”

“Sure. What’s up?”

“I’m basically hiding out, right? What does that look like? What am I going to need to do?”

“Okay, so my parents come home at seven o’clock, except on weekends when they—”

“Hold up, hold up. What’s ‘o’clock’? When does the week end?” She looked at me intently.

I sighed. I still didn’t know what she knew and what needed to be explained to her. I’d have to start simpler. “Okay, so the day is divided up into…” I started, before thinking better of it. “You know what? Never mind that. Just… A short while after sunset, my parents come home. They go to bed a short while after that. During that time, you’ll need to stay quiet up here. Same thing in the morning. They hardly ever come into my room, but just in case… you’ll probably want to be hanging out on that side of the bed,” I said, pointing over at the side of the bed opposite the door. “If my mom comes in, just roll under the bed and hide out there until she leaves.

Lilah nodded. “And what happens if they catch me? How intolerant of Emissaries are they?”

“They’d kick you out, for sure.”

“And let me freeze to death? Really?” Her face looked pained. Partway between anxious and disgusted.

I knew they wouldn’t. I could pretend they would, to raise the stakes, but lying to this girl didn’t feel right. “No, they’d… they’d probably just try and get you to stay with some other family.” I felt my chances of having her stay start to slip.

“Would staying with another family really be a problem? I mean, if your parents don’t…” she trailed off. Realization slowly dawned on her face, and I became increasingly uncomfortable. “It’s not that I’m in any danger is it? You just think I’m attractive and want me to live in your room!”

“It’s not like that,” I protested. “I just… I—”

“Of course it’s like that,” she said, standing and walking toward me, an annoyed expression on her face. “I know I’m pretty. Humans keep telling me that.”

“No! I just think it’s cool that you came from another world! I’ve never seen anything like you before. Not in real life. I want to learn more about you and where you came from. It’s not like I—”

At that moment, I heard the garage door open. I jumped a little, like you normally would when you’re worried about getting caught doing something sneaky and there’s a loud noise nearby. But it didn’t hold a candle to Lilah, who dropped to a low crouch with her arms guardingly in front of her. I hadn’t noticed until now that her nails were triangular and curved, more like claws than fingernails.

“Easy,” I said. “It’s okay. That’s just my mom coming home.”

“What in the world…”

I wanted, instinctively, to put my arm around her to comfort her, but those claws gave me pause. Instead, I held my arms up, palms forward, in what I hoped was a comforting gesture. “It’s just a really loud door,” I said, The sound abruptly stopped, and Lilah straightened up warily. I heard footsteps downstairs as my mother and brother came through the entryway. Lilah cocked her ears and listened.

Finally she looked toward me, intent. “I’ll stay here, like you want,” she whispered, “but I want to get something straight first.” Her ears twitched as she locked eyes with mine. “I’m here because I think this’ll be fun, not because I need to. I’m not your housepet. Not your toy. Don’t try and trick me into thinking I’m dependent on you. I’ll smell that ruse a mile away, and then go straight to your parents, and they’ll send me someplace else. I’ll disappear, just like that. Got that?”

I nodded.

“Great, then,” she said with a satisfied smile. “Thanks for sharing your room with me. I call the bouncy-bed.” And with that, she twirled around, off balance, and collapsed onto the bed, humming softly as she took armfuls of the bedding and bunched it up against her.

I sighed and went downstairs to say hi to my family.

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