After running over her brother's cat with her car young Michelle becomes tormented by feelings of guilt but is that the only thing haunting her?
The Cat's Out of the Bag by Morgan Moore
Music by Ray Mattis http://raymattispresents.bandcamp.com
Produced by Daniel Wilder
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The sound of tires screeching tore through the air as a Mitsubishi Lancer came to a sudden and jerky stop.
Bursting out of the drivers side of the car came a girl of about 15. She made her way to the back of the car, as her passenger… a girl as well, joined her.
The two girls looked down at the ground and saw a black cat in rough shape.. its midsection had been crushed in, and it’s brains oozed out.
“Oh shit!” The former driver croaked out, panic flooding over her face.
“What’s the matter?” Her friend asked. “It’s only a cat.”
“No it’s not just a cat. It’s my brother’s cat!” She explained as her face grew red and her voice jumped between panic and frustration.
“Oh. Well shit is right then. You’re screwed Michelle.”
“Like I didn’t figure that one out Arianna!” Michelle nearly shouted at her friend.
It didn’t take her long to figure it out at all. The cat had been living with Michelle and her family for a couple of months now. They had noticed it coming around the neighborhood and specifically that it was hanging around their house.
Michelle’s mom figured it was maybe because some old cat food from their last cat might still be in the yard since it lived outside, or that it was trying to just find scraps from the garbage. Cats in general always seemed to roam around their neighborhood, and so they paid no attention to it.
That is until the darn thing somehow got itself stuck in their attic.
Her dad managed to get it down and once it saw her brother Mark it became attached to him and vice-versa.
Mark loved the cat and never let it outside out of fear it, which he later named ‘Munk’, would leave and never come back. To the credit of Mark and her parents, the cat was never let out and they did everything they could to make sure it couldn’t escape.
Unfortunately it seemed they didn’t do the best of jobs today.
Michelle didn’t know how Munk got out, she could only guess that maybe she and Arianna didn’t shut a door as well as they normally would in their rush to go meet up with some friends. No matter how the cat got out, it did, and in their focus on friends and fun, didn’t pay attention as Munk began to cross the road in front of them… they only knew they had run over the poor cat as they did the deed.
“Dammit, what am I going to do?!” Michelle questioned.
The two teenagers looked again at the cat, their stomachs churning at the grotesque image.
Arianna was the first to break the sudden silence.
“Just get rid of it. It’s just a dead cat… nobody saw us hit the stupid thing, so just throw it away somewhere and problem solved.”
Michelle looked at her friend in astonishment.
“You want me to just dump it? You want me to just dump my brother’s cat?” Her voice grew in anger.
“Well… yeah. It’s not like he’ll know you did it. He’ll figure it jus… ran away or something.”
“You do realize how protective he is of the stupid thing right? He goes apeshit if it even looks like it might escape or get hurt.”
“Look,” Arianna started in a soothing tone. “Mistakes happen. Maybe we didn’t close the door all the way… maybe the wind blew it open enough for it to escape… heck, you said the cat once got in your attic… maybe it did a similar thing this time. Point being… shit happens, and cats are tricky little shits. He will never know and never has to know.”
The two girls looked down at the cat again, the image of its corpse becoming a bit easier to handle.
Michelle had to admit that Arianna had a point.
To the best of their knowledge, no one had seen them hit the cat, and even if they did they wouldn’t know whose it was.
Michelle sighed and took a deep breath.
“You’re right. Shit happens. Besides, cats tend to just… leave anyway.” Michelle opined.
“See? Now you’re thinking. Plus it’s a black cat, they’re unlucky. Maybe it rubbed some of that bad luck on him.” Arianna suggested as a smile grew on her face. “Hell it crossed your path, maybe you’ve been marked for bad luck now.” She added with a small snicker.
“Oh shut up and help me get rid of this stupid thing.” Michelle returned.
The two girls leaned down and picked up the cat, their faces twisted in disgust as the unfortunate animal’s blood ran through their fingers and down their arms… a final warmth before the coldness of death.
They moved quickly over to Michelle’s car and put the cat in the back seat.
Each girl gave a quick look around the area before getting in the car and speeding off.
Later the girls arrived on a secluded bike path and, once deep into it, threw Munk’s body into a group of trees before running back to the car.
Once inside Michelle and Arianna looked at each other. After a moment they nodded their heads and drove away, off to spend time with their friends.
It didn’t take long for Mark to notice.
That night, when Michelle came home, she found her parents and Mark trying to hunt down the cat… Mark was in an outright frenzy.
Her parents explained that Munk had somehow ran out from the house and they couldn’t find her.
They had driven and walked around the neighborhood and even had asked some of the neighbors, but neither they, nor anybody, knew where the cat may have gone.
This brought some relief to Michelle… enough so that she was able to fall into a deep, guilt-free slumber that night.
As the days went on the search for Munk grew. Her folks put up posters throughout town and made posts on social media asking friends to keep an eye out… and Michelle did so as well, never letting on that the cat’s blood was on her hands.
Mark however went from searching in a frenzy, to searching in flat out hysteria.
He would stay up all night looking around the neighborhood, putting out her favorite treats to try and lure her back to him.
This led to him skipping school to continue the search, something which both the school and their parents became more than upset about.
This resulted in Michelle’s parents trying to reign in the grief… to regain the control… to make restrictions on the time allotted to searching for the feline. All this did was make Mark angrier at the situation… and while he would go to school, the random unprovoked fights he instigated proved he had nothing but hostility regarding the situation of losing his beloved cat.
Days became weeks and then weeks became a month and no sign of Munk had yet to surface… not that one ever would.
It was at this point that Michelle and Mark’s parents simply stopped looking and caring. They kept reminding people on social media about the reward, but the intensity they first had vanished and they simply came to the conclusion Munk was gone forever.
Michelle went through the motions of her normal life, but the guilt was bubbling more and more as she watched her brother become more obsessed and depressed over Munk being gone.
Whenever she and Arianna hung out they would never bring it up, only acknowledging it every so often with a knowing look… even in private they never discussed it save for Arianna asking how Mark was doing and leaving it at that.
And so their days became ever more hellish;Mark was falling into a deep depression, and Michelle was overwhelmed with guilt and shame that continually churned inside of her. Any cat she saw made her think of Munk.
When she would be alone in the dark she could swear she saw the cat moving in the darkness,waiting for an opportunity to strike and exact revenge on her.
Soon it was becoming clear to her that she was falling into a pit of paranoia.
In the back of her mind she thought that it was due to the folly of her and Arianna, their rush to go meet with friends, that gave Munk the chance to sneak out. At first she would blame Mark for not teaching the dumb thing to not even approach a door, let alone to fear going back outside now that it had a home.
But in the end there was no clear sign as to how the door was able to open enough and why Munk decided to go out for a stroll. The only thing crystal clear was that it was Michelle who ran over the poor thing. It was Michelle who went along with the idea to simply just dispose of the body. It was Michelle who made the decision to not tell her parents what had happened, and it was she that made the decision to not tell her brother. No matter how she spun it in her head, no matter what Arianna told her, no matter what it was purely and simply Michelle at fault, and she was tired of the guilt she felt.
After about two months of searching Michelle decided it was time to come clean about the whole situation.
She came home from school one day and saw a note from her parents saying that they’d be gone for the weekend to visit some relatives. The siblings were on their own.
Michelle went upstairs to tell her brother about it and saw him sitting on his bed, his face distraught and filled with sadness. Now was the time to tell him. Michelle knocked on his door and her brother turned his head some to see what the cause of the noise was.
“Mind if I come in?”
“No… ” Mark replied solemnly as he returned his gaze downward.
Michelle walked over to his bed and sat down. She never really enjoyed being in her brother’s room. It always smelled putrid even with both him and mom going through cans of air freshener and wax melts.
Her parents theorized it was due to Mark’s room having a little crawlspace that tended to catch a lot of water whenever it rained, and so the smell probably came from rotting wood. Arianna had once said her brother’s room smelled too and that it’s normal for all boys to have rooms that stink. Even if all that was true Michelle doubted it could be as bad as this.
“Mom and dad are gone for the weekend so it’s just the two of us. What do you want for dinner?” She asked.
“I don’t care.” Her brother replied in a flat tone.
“Oh, okay.” Michelle replied.
The two sat there in silence for a bit until Michelle caught a glimpse of her brother’s face. His eyes were red from tears, something which she and everybody else who saw him had noticed on just about a daily basis. She had to tell him. Now was the time. It may have been better to wait until her parents returned, but she simply had to get it out now.
“Hey Mark.” Michelle squeaked out.
Mark looked over at his sister, his face still painted in sadness.
She took a big gulp and looked over towards the door of his room and began to tell him everything. From how she and Arianna ran Munk over to how they disposed of the poor feline, and to how she hasn’t told anybody until now about any of it.
During the course of her telling him, Michelle refused to even take a look at Mark out of fear of how he’d react and lose her courage to talk about it. Eventually, after about half an hour, Michelle finished her story and took a deep breath. She turned to look at her brother, afraid of the venomous anger he would more than likely have in his eyes.
However she did not find that, instead she found him still looking at the floor. The only change she could notice was that his expression was now one of blankness, drained of all emotions.
This confused Michelle immensely. Where was the anger, the sadness? Nothing she expected and had prepared herself for was there.
“Mark… ” She began quietly. “… a-are you okay?”
Her younger brother took a deep breath and finally spoke out, his tone normal as if he was speaking about the weather or some other boring normal topic. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
This surprised her even more. “Are you sure?” Michelle stammered out.
“Yeah. It sucks, it really does. I loved Munk. And yeah, I’m mad about it. But I understand. You were scared like anybody or any animal would be in a similar situation.
I don’t think I’ll understand why you didn’t just come forward about it, but I get you were scared and probably didn’t know how to tell me. I can’t say I forgive you right now, but maybe down the road I can.” Mark explained calmly and collectively, looking at his older sister while doing so.
Michelle was utterly surprised by this. She was expecting a violent outburst of anger and grief. But instead she got this, just plain old fashioned understanding. It just about brought her to tears but she was able to control herself.
“Alright then. Well, I’m sorry, for everything really. I’ll leave you alone now and let you know when dinner is ready.”
Michelle stood up and began to make her way out of the room. Before she could fully exit though Mark spoke up.
“Michelle, could you do me one favor real quick?” He asked.
“Sure thing. What do you need?” She responded with a smile.
“Would you go spray some air freshener in the crawlspace? It smells really bad.”
With a smile she left the room and returned with a can of air freshener.
Michelle made her way over to the closet and got on her hands and knees and pulled away a trunk Mark always kept in front of the door to the crawlspace, most likely so that Munk would never get in there. She opened the door and a wave of foul odor assaulted her senses, it smelling like something was dead in there.
As he started spraying though Michelle looked inside of the crawlspace, something which she had never done before.
Her spraying stopped and her face became awash with horror.
Inside of the crawlspace were the corpses of cats, lots of them, ones she could faintly recognize as previous cats the family had.
Before she could fully react Mark used her stunned state to his advantage and pushed her into the crawlspace. Michelle's body sank some on the dead bodies, the odor overtaking her as she started to scream.
Filled with panic she tried to turn herself around towards the door, her hands pressing and clawing away at the corpses.
Once she finally did turn herself around she saw Mark, his face devoid of emotion… but his eyes filled with a gleeful anger.
“Don’t worry sis, I’ll let mom and dad know you went out with some friends and, well, I didn’t see you after that. Who knows, maybe I’ll tell the truth. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s better if I act like my older, more mature sister.”
He spoke all of this with a contempt and joy in his voice she could not believe.
Before she could move even an inch towards the door Mark slammed it shut and moved the trunk back to its position as a doorstop and makeshift lock, he began to laugh as he did so.
Michelle clawed at the door and screamed, but it wouldn’t budge. She screamed and screamed and screamed as she slowly began to realize that this was her fate… that indeed Arianna was right about Munk rubbing some bad luck on to her, that this crawlspace, that this cat graveyard of her brother’s, would be her new home… forever.
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