By Rachael Green
Each day she worried more and more over the cat, convinced that it would die, that this day was its last. She worried that it would get up from its nap in a rush at the sound of kibble falling into its dish, and the suddenness of this exertion would topple it, cause its heart to seize and shut down.
When it was not in her direct line of sight, she was sure it was already dead. When she left the house, even just to stop in at the corner deli for bread or eggs or beer, she knew that the oven had been turned on, had begun quietly leaking gas into the air, and that the cat, having nowhere to escape and no place to hide, had grown faint and disoriented and lay down to die.
When the cat was in her line of sight, she would periodically disturb it from its rest, needing the reassurance of a sudden jerk of the head or cock of the ears to know that it wasn’t dead. Even so, she thought, it would be dead soon enough.
Before long, determining precisely how the cat had died had become an ongoing preoccupation. Had she killed it intentionally or through some act of negligence? Had someone broken into the apartment at night to rob her and, in a panic at encountering another life form, shot or stabbed at the creature before realizing that it was not human, not even a dog that could bark to alert the occupants? Nothing that she was aware of had gone missing though, so that seemed unlikely.
More likely, she was the culprit. She had caught herself, after all, on more than one occasion, slicing an apple or tenderizing a chicken breast. Who was to say she hadn’t, on one of those occasions, taken the knife to the cat’s throat or the mallet to its head? It was true that there were no bloodstains to be found, but the crime could not yet be ruled out. After all, she may have simply cleaned up the mess and made everything appear as if normal, right down to the cat. What could have been her motive, though? She bore no particular malice toward the cat. She loved it, even. Until she could discover some intent that she was not yet aware of, she set aside the possibility that she had murdered her cat.
Negligence seemed much more likely, given the circumstances. After all, she sometimes left windows open on hot days. The cat may have leaped out of one and unwittingly plummeted six stories to its death. More to this point, she usually bought cheap kibble. Perhaps the factory had produced a bad batch, and the cat had been poisoned. Worse still, maybe she herself had fed it something from her own plate, something which was harmless enough in her stomach, but deadly in a cat. There were, as well, cables and outlets scattered throughout the apartment. The cat may have chewed through a wire or otherwise electrocuted itself. Strong arguments could be made in favor of all of these explanations.
However, when she remembered the fire escape which led directly to her unlatched bedroom window, she was forced to revisit the intruder hypothesis. For all she knew at this stage of the investigation, she had been killed, too. It would certainly explain why she and her cat both lay about, behaving as if nothing at all had happened. It would also explain why she was able to carry on with activities like showering or baking or descending the six flights of stairs which led to the street without some calamitous mishap killing her. In fact, the only irrefutable explanation she could think of for not yet having died was that she was already dead.
That was it, then: neither negligence nor malice but her own death, which killed her cat. Being trapped in the apartment with her corpse, it got by for a while, months even, lapping from the toilet bowl, tearing open the bag of kibble, and ultimately, feeding on her unused organs before eventually running out of food and succumbing to starvation.
Yes, that had to be it. It was the only explanation that accounted for all of the evidence at hand. Having thus satisfied herself that the case was solved, she stood up, stroked the cat’s fur (gently waking it), and filled its dish with kibble.