Prompt Day #232: Possess a Pet
I was nine months pregnant when Dixie started acting strange. She’s always been an indoor cat, and it never bothered her. But in my last month of pregnancy she developed a fascination with sitting in the dining room window and just crying. She would paw and scratch at the window constantly. Once I yelled at her and tried to pick her up off the window. Dixie hissed and spat at me; she clawed my arm pretty bad. It wasn’t like her; she’d never acted that way before. I decided to let her out. Our yard is fenced in, so I didn’t think it would be a problem.
A few hours later, I heard her meowing at the door. When I opened it, there was Dixie sitting proudly behind a dead bird. The bird was laid out with its head closest to the door and its feet facing Dixie. Its wings were spread out. I took notice of it because it seemed such a strange way for a bird to just naturally fall dead from a cat’s mouth. I picked it up between my finger and thumb and carried it out to the trashcan. I scolded Dixie and let her back in.
“Well, I hope you got all that out of your system.” I said to her. She growled low and walked by me into the house.
Dixie’s desire to go outside didn’t end with the dead bird, she began mewing to go out every day. I let her. Sometimes I would see her sitting at the fence watching people go by and sometimes she would sit near the fence at the side of the house staring at our neighbor’s house. When she was in one of these moods, I couldn’t move her. If I tried, I risked another clawing. But she always came back before my husband came home.
When Mike came home, Dixie was her old self. She purred and rubbed against his leg. I tried to tell him how strange she’d been acting and how the way the bird was all spread out bothered me, but he said it was “pregnancy brain” and laughed.
The week before I had Amelia, I spent most of my time in the nursery folding onesies and tidying up. For a break, I would sit in the rocking chair and read some of the baby books. Dixie, too, began to spend time in the baby’s room. She would climb up on the changing table and jump into the crib. Getting her out of the crib cost me more arm skin but this was the baby’s bedding and I wasn’t having it. Dixie and I were no longer friends. I started shutting the door to the nursery when I wasn’t there but later I would notice it open again and there was Dixie asleep and purring away in the crib.
I’d had enough, I grabbed her up by the scruff of her neck (something I would never have done before) and held her out at arm’s length. She hissed and squirmed and clawed furiously at the air. I marched her downstairs and opened the door. Standing there with a hand up about to knock was Mrs. Winters, our elderly next door neighbor. I screamed in surprise and she jumped. I dropped Dixie to the floor and she immediately cozied right up to the old woman.
“I’m so sorry to startle you, Dearie” she said and then reached out and rubbed my belly. It felt intrusive and I wouldn’t have tolerated it from a stranger but Mrs. Winters rarely got out of the house, so I decided to let it slide.
“Oh, that’s ok. I hope I didn’t startle you too much.” I said, thinking that would be quite the thing; Old Mrs. Winters falling dead of a heart attack on my porch. “I was just about to send this bad kitty outside for a bit. She won’t stay out of the baby’s crib.” I looked down at Dixie who was just sitting beside the woman and purring innocently.
“Oh my, I don’t believe it. She’s such a sweet thing.” The woman bent down and ran a hand along Dixie’s back and then patted her head. She looked back up at me and winked. Her grin revealed a number of missing teeth, the rest were stained a dark brown around the gums.
“Well, won’t you come in and sit awhile?” I asked. I didn’t want her to; I’ve never been good with small talk and I really didn’t know the woman. Mike mowed her lawn for her and shoveled her walk in the winter. He would get her mail for her from time to time when the weather was bad but I had never had any real interaction with her.
“No, No, I can’t stay. I just wanted to bring you this.” She held out a Ziploc baggie filled with dried herbs of some sort. “It’s tea, my mum always called it Milk Tea. Good for bringing in the milk.” She winked again and had the audacity to reach up and squeeze my breasts. I stepped back unable to hide my shock at her forwardness. “Oh, do forgive me, Dearie. I used to be a midwife, you know, when I was younger. Back then, that’s how we’d tell if a woman was going to be a good milker.”
“Well, then, what do you think?” I asked. I was a little embarrassed now about my behavior.
“I think you drink that tea three times a day for the first week after you have her, and you’ll have all the milk you need.” She patted my belly again and handed me the baggie. She bent down and patted Dixie again too. “And you make sure you take good care of your new little mistress.” She turned without another word and headed back down the walk.
Dixie took off after her but stopped at the gate. That was good at least.
I was sitting in the chair in Amelia’s room when I realized that the woman had said “she” and “mistress” when talking about the baby. Mike and I hadn’t told anyone what we were having. I pulled the baggie out of my pocket and sniffed it. It had a sweet, warm scent. I thought she must really be a midwife.
I heard Dixie at the door again and headed back downstairs. I opened the door for her and there was the bird. THE BIRD he brought me before. I know you think I’m crazy, but trust me. It was mostly rotted, just bits of brown flesh and feathers left of the skeleton. Its eyes were black beads above its pale beak. It was lying there in the exact same way as before. Like an upside down cross. Dixie stared at me, never making a sound. Her eyes glowed green. I don’t know how she got the bird back. I swear I had put it in the trash weeks ago, yet here it was. The same bird. I kicked it off the porch.
“Get in here you bad cat!” I said and Dixie sashayed into the house. As she passed me she rubbed up against my leg hard, I felt more than heard her purring.
Just then a searing pain shot into my belly and I felt a gush of fluid run down my leg. I bent over, holding myself, waiting for the pain to ease up. That’s when I saw the blood trickling onto the floor. I looked at myself, I was covered in blood and the pain wouldn’t stop. I had to get to the phone. I shuffled into the kitchen. One more step and I would be at the phone. Dixie stepped between my feet and tripped me. I fell to the floor. That’s the last thing I remember before I woke up in the hospital.
When I awoke, Mike was there, holding my hand. He was smiling. He said everything was fine. He told me that Mrs. Winter found me and called an ambulance and then called him right away as well. He said that the doctors had to do emergency surgery but Amelia was going to be fine. She needed a little blood and so did I but we’d be able to go home in a few days.
“Thank God Mrs. Winters was there.” He said.
“Why was she there?” I asked.
“She said she was bringing you some tea. She said the door was open and she saw the blood on the floor. She came in to find you lying in the kitchen. Thank God she did.” He said.
No. That was all wrong, you see, because she had already brought me the tea hours before. It had been in my pocket. I asked for my clothes but he said they’d been cut off me. I had no proof. I wanted to tell Mike all my concerns but I forgot all about it all when they brought Amelia to me. She was perfect.
The doctors told me that I wasn’t making milk because of the stress of the emergency surgery. They said to be patient and it would come soon enough. I tried but I worried over every little thing; especially once we were home. Mike brought me Mrs. Winters’ tea one day and although it brought back a lot of unanswered questions, I was desperate. It worked like a charm though and I began using it religiously. I drank the tea, I fed the baby and then we both napped. That was our routine.
And then Mike went back to work. Without Mike in the house, I found it difficult to sleep. I worried that Amelia would cry and I wouldn’t hear her. I stopped sleeping. The new routine was tea, feed Amelia, put her down for nap and pace around the house, checking on her every five minutes while fighting sleep. That was how I discovered what Dixie was up to. I peeked in on Amelia and found Dixie standing on the baby’s chest, her face right up against Amelia’s. I swear I could see the cat try to suck the life right out of Amelia. I lost my mind. I grabbed the cat and pulled her off the baby. Just then, the baby gasped and took a deep breath. That damn cat was trying to steal my baby’s breath!
I screamed and smashed its head into the wall over and over and over. I couldn’t stop. This cat was the cause of my fall, my missing my own baby’s birth. This cat who tried to kill me and now was trying to kill my baby. I killed Dixie right there in the baby’s room. Her brains and blood stuck to the wall spotted with tufts of black hair. When I calmed down, I was horrified at myself for the violence, but honestly, I was not sorry that Dixie was dead. She was evil.
The doorbell rang just then. I stood there holding the dead, mutilated corpse of our family cat. I was covered in blood. Amelia was back asleep now that she had her breath back. I threw on my robe, ran downstairs and put the cat in a garbage bag. Opening the door, I jumped when I saw Mrs. Winters. Before she said a word, she leaned around me looking beyond into my house.
“Hello, Mrs. Winters, can I help you?” I said.
“Well, don’t you look healed! I was worried after seeing you in all that blood.” She smiled, still watching behind me.
“Yes, thank you. I’ve been meaning to call you.” I started. I wanted to ask what she was doing coming over here like that but I held my tongue.
“No worries. I just came over to check on that sweet little cat of yours. She usually comes over to visit and keep me company when I’m working in my garden, but I haven’t seen her in a while.” She grinned that brown Jack O’ Lantern smile.
That’s when I put two and two together. Mrs. Winters was a witch and she was using Dixie to get to us. I can’t explain it exactly, but I was sure of it. I saw the evil in her green eyes. They almost glowed like Dixie’s had. I yelled at her.
“Go to hell you old hag!” and I shoved her. She lost balance and fell backwards down the porch steps. There was no doubt she was dead when the fall was over. Her head sat at an impossible angle. I didn’t want to touch her so I turned around and went back in the house. I left her there.
“And that’s how Mike found things when he got home? Mrs. Winters dead on the lawn, Dixie dead in a bag in the kitchen, blood and cat brains on the baby’s wall, and Amelia dead in the crib?” Dr. Mattson asked.
“The cat, it stole all her air. She tried to breathe, I thought she was breathing when I left the room, I thought she was sleeping.” Emily answered. She could not believe that she was here, locked in this hospital.
“And Mrs. Winters was a witch who had possessed your cat in order to steal your baby’s breath?” Mattson was taking a lot of notes. She looked at the clock. She’d been here for an hour and a half. She was tired. She wanted to go back to her room, she wanted to sleep.
“Yes, yes. I’ve looked it all up. Witches use cats as familiars. She wanted Amelia’s soul. The cat was going to bring it to her. That’s why she stopped by that day. She thought I was keeping Dixie locked up.” She rubbed at her forehead.
“Ok, Emily, I understand. I think we’re done for the day.” He rolled his chair to the door and opened it. He nodded to the man outside who came in to help Emily up off the couch. “Tomorrow, let’s talk more about Amelia, can you do that? Let’s not talk about Dixie or Mrs. Winters, ok?” Emily nodded weakly. No one believed her. They all thought she killed Amelia, but she didn’t. She was trying to save her.
The man stopped in front of Emily’s room. “Here’s your stop, young lady” he said kindly. She smiled and walked into the stark white room. It was the lack of color that made the dead bird so obvious. It lay on her pillow with wings outstretched like an upside down cross.