A Piece from the Beginning
It started the day after the cat died.
In retrospect she knew that it had begun earlier than that, perhaps earlier than she even knew, but it only really dawned on her the day after the cat died. She was sitting on the back porch, looking out over the wrought iron grate that was part of the wall and suddenly he was sitting there, staring at her.
Bloated, dirty and staring at her with oddly phosphorous eyes that were somehow still flat and dead. After all, he was her cat and her cat was dead, so of course his eyes would be dead too. Yet he was sitting there, staring at her.
She stared back for what seemed like a long time but probably wasn't long at all. The shovel was still leaning against the wall from when she had buried the cat the day before. She could see the fresh dirt still clinging to its blade. Without any clear intention of doing so, she stood up, walked over and picked it up.
The cat continued to stare. It made no move toward her, just stared with that awful flatness that seemed to look beyond her. Through her. She stood there with the shovel in her hand, not entirely sure what she meant to do with it. She shook her head. This couldn't be her cat: her cat was, after all, dead. Dead and buried. She had dug the hole and put the sheet wrapped body in it. They had had a funeral; her boy put flowers on the stiff little bundle and then she had covered it with dirt. With the shovel she now held in her hands. This was some other cat. A cat that was strange and smelled of damp earth and was dirty in a way that no cat ever allowed itself to be. And looked just like…
Her cat had been old. For eighteen years he had gotten up and made little cat noises until he was fed and then went back to sleep for most of the day. Occasionally he brought a decapitated mouse or a half eaten lizard to her so that she could praise and stroke him. And then one day he just didn't wake up. She had been so sad, her boy too. Not her husband but then she didn't expect him to be.
Today she had come outside to think about that old cat and remember him.
She certainly didn't think she would see him again.
She leaned against the wall and swallowed. Her heart was beating too fast and the feeling of dread that she felt was making her nauseous.
He was her cat.
And as horrible as the thought that she might have accidentally buried him alive would have been, she knew she hadn't and that this was far worse.
The cat had been dead. When she found him, he was stiff and cold. His bowels had evacuated all over her bathroom rug.
He was dead.
He was sitting there, still staring.
Their home was so rural that most of the time it seemed like the rest of the world was another planet. They were isolated and the things that bothered other people were not the same things that bothered them. Issues like the price of oil and terrorist attacks made her husband grumble under his breath. A story about a flash flood that left families homeless would make her shake her head in sympathy. But the reality was that, for them, it was more important that they get the vegetables in the garden out before the bugs got them and that the chickens were in the coop at night.
Still, the news was on every evening and some of the recent reports came back to her now. Half- listened too and yet still they had wormed their way into her brain, waiting in the back of her mind… whispering to her about things she didn't want to know.
A family dead in what was at first thought to be a murder-suicide. Then the father got up out from under the sheet they had covered him with and attacked an EMT at the scene. Cops put him down once and for all when he wouldn't stop tearing and biting at the man.
One man and the parts of several others found at a homeless camp in the desert. The lone survivor attacked the charity workers trying to bring in supplies. Two went to the hospital, one to the morgue.
Morgue worker attacked …
The cat was still staring at her.
Her husband said that the news reporters were making things up. "Sensationalizing the truth," he told her. Dead is dead, after all. Ratings: that was the problem. The news shows all wanted ratings so they were making mountains out of molehills.
The cat was making a noise now. At first she thought it was growling but it sounded more like a moan.
It began to take halting steps toward her.
The guy who got up and attacked the EMT had not been dead, obviously.
Who knows what goes on in those homeless camps? Probably all wacked out on meth or something.
The morgue workers…
The cat was moaning louder and getting closer. She knew what was going on now. There wasn't any news conspiracy to drum up ratings.
The EMT attacker …
The homeless man…
What happened in the morgue…
The outside world was no longer another planet. The problems that had plagued it were nothing compared to the one that was beginning now. And that problem was here, now, staring at her with flat, dead eyes.
She raised the shovel and brought it down hard. The blade severed the cat's head from the rest of it. The staring eyes were still flat and dead, but the moaning had stopped.
For awhile she watched, waiting to see if it would rise again, but the pieces lay still.
When she was convinced that they would stay that way, she put the shovel down and slowly walked toward the house.
After all, the cat was dead.
It was time to get ready for the rest.