Thursday, May 19, 2005 - Green Eyes
I happen to believe in an afterlife, and I have every right to do so, having seen things which would not have been possible otherwise. Consider the time when my first black cat was struck by a car.
I have always prided myself in the fact that I've had a good cat by my side at all times. My cats were, as a rule, incessantly affectionate stand-up comics with minor weight problems. Black cats have always been my favorite sort, and this taste had earned me no small amount of half-hearted peer criticism over the years. It has been said that I'm a creepy enough fellow without having a familiar constantly skulking around my feet.
The ill-fated creature in question was a lovely twenty-odd pound beast named, of all paradoxical things, Baby. I remember well how she would jump up on my bed at night and curl up in the single most awkward place imagineable at the time: purring, preening and snoring.
When she was killed in the street, I was overcome with a surprising depth of grief. Yet it was an accident, and I could not let it ruin my life, so I took her down to her favorite beach and buried her in a remote spot, then continued my life as if nothing had happened.
The very night she died, however, something most unusual occurred. I found myself awake, even though there seemed no cause for my waking. It was as if some sound had aroused me but was no longer audible, or perhaps the strange, incredibly faint odor in the room has been the waking agent. Baby was curled up against my leg, looking at me as if her sleep had been disturbed as well.
I thought nothing of it until the next morning, when I realized the impossibility of such a thing. Either the dead cat had not been mine, or the living cat was not mine, or the entire ordeal had been a dream. The problem nagged me throughout the day, but when night came she appeared again.
This time I had not yet fallen asleep, I don't think, though such things are notoriously hard to judge. Whatever my mental state at the time, I rubbed her stomach, evoking her trademark roll-and-stretch. There was nothing wrong with her except that I knew she was dead. The odor was there again, weak if not wholly imaginary, but I could make nothing of it until a few more nights had passed. Each night the stench was stronger and the cat less active, as if her vitality was evaporating to create the scent. Eventually I realized that it was the horrible reek of bad meatthat assaulted my nose, and a displeased spectre which shared my bed.
By the ninth evening of these increasingly unpleasant visits, she lay against me uttelry motionless, gazing absently at me with her glazed white eyes. I could not pet her, and I certainly didn't turn on the light for fear that I would find a ragged maggoty corpse curled up against my leg.
My sleep cycles had been shattered by these unsettling events, and I began to feel sick and desperate throughout the day. I knew that something had to be done to rid myself of this odorous nuisance, and my fatigue told me what I had to do.
That night I picked up a shovel and hiked down to the beach. There in a secluded gully, I dug up my companion's mossy remains and dropped them into a plastic shopping bag. I walked all the way back through town with my stiff buredn, avoiding people most earnestly.
Once I got home, I dug a small grave in my backyard under an overcast pinkish sky and deposited the bag and its grisly contents within. I said a few words to the dirt from my heart as I packed it in, then, moving in some mechanical way which suggested sleepwalking, I returned to my bed. Cathartic with the sense of having done right, I proceeded to track down and capture all the sleep I had lost.
Some while later, I woke to the scratchy feel of a cat's tongue on my arm. There were no terrible scents in the air, just a comforting, earthy feeling. I grabbed my overweight, departing friend and played silly cat-games until she faded and could not be touched anymore. The spot of air where she had been purred me to sleep.
She never came to me again after that, and I can't help but think that she had wandered off to find contentment somewhere. Oddly enough, later that same month, an exact duplicate appeared on my doorstep, this one only a few weeks old. The same eyes, the same tail, the same silly habits and personality. The same fate, too, as it turned out, but that's a different story.
-- end --
Published in 1130 Club #4/5 (12/86).
Published in Year of the Twist (6/01).
Posted on writing.com (1/02).