Trigger warning: this story contains violence towards animals.
My cat died a week ago.
I woke up from a nightmare about fingernails and hair glued to my bedroom walls. When my eyes opened, the reality was worse. Bella, my little orange tabby, lay on the pillow next to me, her body still and unmoving. I placed my hand on Bella’s head and scratched behind her right ear. Even with all her fur in the way, she felt different.
The soft glow of my night light filtered across Bella’s fur coat. Her chest refused to rise and fall. I tried to wake her up, but she wouldn’t budge.
I spent the rest of the night trying to make things right. First, I took Bella to the closest animal clinic and tried to persuade them to fix her, but there was nothing they could do. They offered to cremate or bury her for me, but I wasn’t parting ways with her so soon. She was only 3 years old. Bella couldn’t be dead yet.
After the failed trip to the vets, I took Bella home and placed her back on her pillow. Then I closed my eyes and fell asleep, hoping that in the morning she would be normal again.
When I woke up, nothing had changed. I put food in her bowl and refilled her water dish, hoping that the smell would attract her.
The only scent that made any difference was Bella. On the second day, her body started to rot. I tried to ignore it and laugh it off as a bout of passing gas.
The third day, I lit candles. Bella’s foul scent was filling my tiny apartment and I couldn’t get rid of it. The flowery smoke helped mute the odor enough to get on with my life.
The fourth day, flies began filling the bedroom. I watched them cover Bella and crawl into her nostrils. I would have shooed them away, but I was secretly hoping they would tickle her nose and make her wake up.
The fifth day, I noticed the maggots. They were crawling around inside her mouth, and by the time I opened her jaw to check, they had already started to feast on her tongue.
The sixth day, I decided it was time to do what the vets had been unable to. I was going to open her up and figure out what was wrong.
I started with the fur, tearing at it with a vicious energy. The smell made me choke, but I wasn’t going to give up. Whatever was making Bella so sick, I had to get it out. I tore clumps of her fur and flung them to the side. A chunk of flesh and fur stuck to the wall.
I slowed down, checking to make sure Bella wasn’t in pain. Her eyes were closed and she seemed to be sleeping.
Within minutes, I had her open. As I suspected, she was infected with some awful disease. Her organs didn’t look normal or healthy. I pulled them out and placed them to the side.
Next, I scraped away the bugs that had made a home inside her. I opened the bedroom window and flung a writhing mass of white maggots outside. I cleaned her insides as best as I could, and once I was satisfied I sat back on my own pillow and examined her.
Bella was in pieces, but she looked a little cleaner. More carefully now, I began to put everything back together. It was like a puzzle, except the pieces were a little more complicated. I spent the rest of the day sewing each organ back in place. It was not easy, but once the final stitch was in she looked nice and tidy. The stitches would take some time to heal, but I suspected Bella would be happier and healthier than ever before. Satisfied with my handiwork, I passed out next to her, exhausted from my labors.
It is now day seven and I’ve finally accepted the reality. The maggots have returned, and the smell is even worse. It’s too late for grieving now. I’ve made a mess and there’s no fixing what I’ve broken. In the corner of Bella’s left eye, I see a worm wriggling its way out. She stares back at me, her scarred and infested face begging to be laid to rest.