It seemed every night Alex awoke to a scratching sound under her bed. She would always lean over the edge of the mattress, attempting to catch a glimpse of whatever it may have been clawing away at her wooden floors, but there was never anything there. Though her sister told her she was hallucinating, she began to suspect her own cats. They held a record for ruining her clothes and furniture, so they had already made a bad impression in Alex's eyes.
Coincidentally, whenever she awoke from her slumber in the morning, both cats would be laying in her bed, stretching as she opened her eyes.
With every passing day, she grew increasingly paranoid. She was positive they knew that she was onto them. She could see it in their cold, implacable eyes. Each would glance at the other anytime she looked back at them as she prepared for work. They were plotting against her.
So she planned her counterattack. At first, her attempts were subtle. She would leave out lilies on the dining room table, knowing they were toxic to cats, in hopes the infelicitous felines would devour them as they did everything else that was hers. They didn't even look at the lilies; they were too smart.
She began growing tired of their constant mocking. They paraded around her room as if she was some type of imbecile, incapable of outsmarting them. She couldn't let the cats get the upper hand... So, after countless failed attempts at getting them to eat the lilies, she upgraded to leaving out what most cats found irresistible: tuna. Though to humans it is not toxic, when consumed in excess by a cat, they quickly succumb to mercury poisoning.
Unfortunately, even the tuna went unnoticed by the cats. They just stared upon it as days passed without even the slightest bit of food filling their bellies.
Something wasn't right about those cats. Why would they willingly starve when food was readily available to them? They either sensed her devious intent or they simply didn't have an appetite. Either way, they sure as hell didn't budge. So after trying everything she could to rid of the damned cats, she made a trip to the attic; The attic that housed her .22 long rifle.
As she searched the attic for the rifle, she came across a box she had long forgotten about. It was the box the two cats were in when she found them on her doorstep. Curious, she opened the box, locking eyes with what was inside. Slowly, everything began to make sense. The markings on the box, written in what appeared to be a language she had not taken in years, suggested the cats could not be destroyed. She skimmed through the dialog, ignoring the grass at the bottom of the box before coming up with a sinister plan.
Hastily, with her new courage, she walked down the attic's stairs toting a rifle in one arm and the box in the other. She called for the cats once she sat the box on the ground, waiting for them to approach, but neither so much as purred. Instinctively, she snuck into her room and found the two laying on her bed, stretching as they always did.
"I'm so happy you two are in here together," she said, aiming her rifle at each of their heads.
They both seemed to glare at her, hissing as she applied pressure to the trigger.
Boom, boom, boom.
The other tried to run, but he wasn't quick enough.
Eagerly, she approached the two dead cats, a smile overwhelming her face. Though adrenaline surged through her body, once she knelt before their small corpses, she noticed something odd. Not a spec of blood exited their bodies... She looked to her bedroom walls, expecting to see blood splattered over them, but there was nothing.
"What kind of cats don't bleed," she thought to herself.
But, she shrugged off the observation as a new one arose... An overwhelming stench permeated in the air. Plugging her nose, she rushed towards the box, readying to throw them into it. But, once she returned, she noticed something strange.
The cats were crawling with maggots. The fresh bullet holes seeped out the disgusting pests as she slowly stepped closer. They began crawling on her sheets as she stood before the decaying cats. Kneeling, she could tell they had been dead for a while. Days, even. Their bodies were cold and stiff, well into rigor mortis. But, it was impossible for them to have been dead long enough to crawl with maggots. She had witnessed them stretch on her bed this morning. She saw them moving. They even scratched at her floors as she slept for days on in. But, the putrid stench in the air derived from their decomposing bodies. There was no way they could've been alive minutes prior to her shooting them. No way in hell.
So she went into shock, falling to the maggot infested bed as tears streamed down her cheeks. Attempting to wipe away the tears, she realized she was still holding the box in her hand. Naturally, she glanced down at the box, reading the writing now recognized as her sister's. On the front it read: a gift to you, Alex. Slowly, she began to remember the cats being an early birthday present. Looking back into the box, with tear filled eyes, she noticed the bounties of dying flowers. But, one in particular caught her eye... The single nightshade stem hidden amongst the grass.
"Oh no," she repeated, dropping the box to the floor.
The nightshade. She had mistakenly eaten one of its berries the day she opened the box. She began to remember now... They died the day she received them. She hurt them. She hurt them bad for scratching under her bed. The scariest part of it all... she thought they were alive all of this time. It was the nightshade. Her sister was right. She was hallucinating.
Written by GreyOwl