Cat and the attic
The winter was a cold one when I received a letter in the mail from a woman who I hadn’t seen since University. Her words had a warm sway in her cursive writing which made me smile with delight. Her name signed at the bottom.
The note slipped between my fingers as I read each line from top to bottom. My eyes melted on the paper like butter on a gas stove and my imagination ran wild.
The note was short and it said:
I am writing in the hopes you’ll read this message as I have a dead cat inside my attic. Since you were a close friend I feel you should know. You’re the last one I can count on. Please visit ASAP at 17, Cobblemint Avenue.
P.s. Rachel Dowly.
I folded the paper and made the attempt to call Rachel’s mobile. With no answer I sent a text message that evening and I received an immediate reply.
I unblocked her number and sent a series of texts as I got dressed in my bedroom.
The texts went along the lines of:
‘Hey Rachel! I got your letter.’
‘Louis it's good to hear from you. Yes he is dead. The neighbours I think did it.’
‘I am sorry to hear. I’m getting ready now and I’ll be over soon.’
She did not answer for a few minutes as I threw on a scarf around my neck and tossed a brown coat over my shoulders. I slipped on a pair of gloves and reached down for my helmet.
The phone buzzed as I tied my shoes and I smiled at the screen.
Her final text read:
‘Thankyou! No need to hurry. Mum is making dinner so maybe you can stop by and eat?’
I didn't have a car because I’m like a vegan who wants to save the planet. I buckled the helmet and pushed the bicycle. Each foot on the pedal I’d reminisce the old days.
On our first date I’d rock up at her house in a Mercedes and we’d go to the drive-in movies. That third date was magic because we made love for hours in the backseat with cigarettes and marijuana. That was the pinnacle of my life as now I’m unemployed, single and live with an ill mother.
I cruised down the street like a beach ball on water as my coat danced in the wind. Down past the store, between the houses and through the alleyways paced a speed that would leave Usain Bolt in smoke.
I’d Imagine Rachel's face when I’d rock up at her doorstep and the closer I got, the more my stomach twirled in excitement.
I parked my bike against a tree outside the Dowly property and I knocked on the door. Mrs. Dowly answered and she threw her hands over my shoulders with a screech of Joy.
“Oh, Louise! How are you?”
I repostured my spine and embraced the old woman’s waist with a laugh. I saw in her eyes how pleased she was that I’d visited the Dowly household. Yet in the back of my mind I felt she didn’t expect the visit.
“I am doing well.” I said. “Is Rachel home?”
Mrs. Dowly looked to the floor and cocked her head into the house as if unsure.
“She must be upstairs, love. Come inside and I’ll find her.”
I walked into the house and I was surprised to find the furniture still the same after all these years. It was like I had stepped into a time machine and memories of the past flourished within the crevesses of my mind. I wanted to chuckle because the last time I walked into this house I had beautiful surfers hair, torn up jeans and a passion for guitar.
Mrs. Dowly skipped up the stairs into the upper rooms calling out Rachel’s name.
I took a slow pace across the lounge-room and observed family pictures. There was one photo of Rachel with an ex-boyfriend near the beach.
Poor man, I thought. He died a month after met him at Rachel’s birthday party. It is said he was riding a motorcycle four times the speed limit and he ran into a pothole. Mr. Dowly answered Rachel’s phone that morning and she said the boy broke his spine and died at the hospital.
I didn’t attend the funeral and felt guilt when I saw his face smiling on the photo.
Mrs. Dowly called my name and I followed her voice upstairs where I saw an open attic. The old woman pointed up into the roof. The dark attic awaited my arrival and so I scaled the stair.
“Rachel.” I whispered.
“Louise,” said a voice. “Is that you?”
Rachel was at the end of the attic beside a window where a beam of light shone over her face. She was beautiful with her blonde hair down to her shoulders and I froze in my spot. I couldn’t breathe.
“I … ugh.” I cleared my throat. “I came as soon as I saw your letter.”
She smiled and her cheeks flushed red. She wore a dress down to her knees and she appeared to be speechless. After a minute she turned to the window and looked outside.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I found my cat this morning.” She said. “He was murdered by my neighbours outside and I found his body in the backyard near a tree. Louis, he was still alive and looking into my eyes.”
“Where is he know?” I asked.
Rachel pointed to a stack of boxes on the right, somewhere near the shadows and I walked with hesitance. A surge of dominance possessed my body as I approached. Each step triggered heartache because I bought Rachel that cat on our last date in the city.
She hugged me that night out by the water and I didn’t want to let her go. I didn’t want tell her that I felt a lack of romance … I knew she was having trouble with family. Mr. Dowly was in hospital with cancer and it was said he had six months to live. A dark tale which followed our relationship to a brink.
We didn’t need to exchange words after that night as we separated onto our own walks of life. With a text message she said she wanted to take a break because I wasn’t making her life easier. I blamed myself for that self-fulfilling prophecy and I let her go.
I peeked my head down between the boxes to find a creature whose fur had been mangled and his neck cocked to one side. The cat’s face held a horror of its final experience alive. His face pressed down to its open mouth, one eye looking back at me with a loose tongue.
I took a deep breath and smelt death linger in the attic.
Rachel’s eyes swelled red when I glanced at her. I moved closer and she fell into my arms with tears.
“We’ll bury him together.” I said and embraced her warmth.
“I didn’t know what to do.” She warned. “When I found him I didn’t know what to do!” Her voice pitched in stress and I pulled her closer to my chest.
“Let’s go make some tea and we’ll talk about this downstairs.”
We walked downstairs and Mrs. Dowly was in the kitchen making dinner for that afternoon. Mr. Dowly hadn’t returned home from work and Rachel prepared us tea as I waited on the sofa. Her eyes watched me as she placed the cups down on the coffee table.
“Thank-you.” I said.
“That’s okay.” Her voice was a little calm now and she was breathing in a soft pace. “I am sorry for the late notice, you must have been busy. I wanted you to know about it.”
I chuckled because I had no plans that afternoon and by surprise Rachel returned a smile. We sipped tea in the afternoon sun which reached in through the windows and her blonde hair glowed like a cloud. We spoke for an hour about her recent years after graduating Uni until a silence lingered.
“We’ll bury him in the backyard?” I asked.
She placed down her tea cup and nodded. I wasn’t sure if this was the last time I’d see Rachel: but I was grateful for being in her presence once more and somewhere in my guts I sensed she felt the same way.
The room fell into a silence that lingered on my mind because inside I wanted to ask her how the cat died. Rachel was staring off at a wall and I felt odd for speaking. The tone in my voice was hoarse and near the end it cleared.
“Did you say the neighbour killed him?”
She nodded, “Yes. Mum said it was the dog that got to him last night. She heard growling and barking around 3 am. I thought the neighbour threw the cat over the fence to die.”
“Does he own a dog?” I asked. “I don’t remember the Johnsons ever owning a pet.”
Rachel sipped her tea and her eyebrows folded, “No. Neither did I.”
“Can you show me where you found the cat?” I asked and she stood to her feet.
I followed Rachel into the backyard and she led me down to a tall tree which was a stump when I first met her. She pointed down at a flat patch of grass. I took a careful note of the crime scene and saw that there was a fork.
“Is this yours?” I asked, taking it into one hand.
A smear of blood grazed the material on my glove and I was disturbed. Rachel shook her head and leaned over to look for herself. There was a knife on the grass as well which glistened under the mellow sunlight.
“What is a knife and fork doing here?” asked Rachel.
I had no answer but I was curious to find out. I peeked over the fence and saw in the Johnson yard that there was no dog but a table. A beautiful table set with candles and napkins and ribbons reaching between the trees.
“I don’t think it was a dog, Rachel.”
The absence of thought and emotion which coiled around my voice crept me out a little. Rachel’s eyebrows raised up like a bird opening wings to fly. We stared at one another for a minute and I dropped the fork on the grass.
“I’ll go check upstairs.” I said. “I’ll be back soon.”
“Okay.” replied Rachel. “Should I call the police?”
I didn’t answer but that sounded like a good idea. I ran up into the attic to find the cat’s body huddled amongst boxes. I placed a finger on the old boy’s fur and scoured along the blood in search for injuries. I held my breath.
“Mr. Dowly is home!” Said Mrs. Dowly. “Dinner, everyone!”
Her voice echoed the upper chamber of the house and my blood ran cold. The cat’s stomach had been cut open and on its neck there were human teeth marks. With the glove I pressed against its tummy to find its insides emptied.
I walked back outside because Rachel called my name. While Mrs. Dowly greeted her husband I caught Rachel peeking over the fence with her finger bones gripped on the wood panels.
“What’s that?” I asked.
She didn’t answer. The first thing I hear is a deep growl like a dog. I looked over and see a man squatting on a table covered in blood. His stiff hair tangled in red liquid as his face shook.
In an instant two eyes lifted to meet our gaze and in his teeth locked an organ. The growl deepened and the man leapt off the table. Rachel screamed as I guided her inside. For the past half an hour we’ve waited inside. The man bangs his head on the glass door. We wait on the sofa for police to arrive.
Submitted May 24, 2019 at 08:02AM by IsaacJMadigan