Presumed Dead | Teen Ink

Presumed Dead

May 26, 2021
By QueenWoomy, Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey
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QueenWoomy, Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey
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Author's note:

A short story I had written for my Genres of Writing class back in October of 2020. I would like to give a special thanks to my writing teacher and writing classmates for all their help in making this story come to life!

  Aika's slim, hungered frame sunk into the bright green grass at the side of the blue-ish, rocky road, tufts of her Bengal hair seeping onto the dirt. The she-cat's eyes were dulled and tired as her almost furless tail curled delicately around the softball of fur curled at her belly. Hāto was her blessing - her life - despite her last few months closing in, she didn't dare allow her eyes to leave him. This strange illness that had begun to plague her life was taking her soft and beautiful fur far away from her reach, leaving it mixed with the bright grass, unable to be replaced. Most nights were cold and unforgiving; others were too foreign against her exposed skin. She had always been used to her fur, and now, with it gone, she was in no way used to anything splashing against her bare figure.


  Her muzzle shifted towards her son, delicately grooming his ear. The chestnut and chocolate-shaded fur shifted between her tongue; a feeling she had grown quite used to since the cream-colored kitten had been brought into the world. Heaving herself up to her shaking paws, Aika nuzzled the sleeping kitten, stirring him awake.


  "Aw, ma, do we have to leave already?" Hāto complained, his amber eyes catching the dark stars that danced through the sky.


  Aika frowned slightly, grooming Hāto's face as the little Tom Cat stood on his feet. He was barely as big as the rocks by the river but held the same foundation - strong, stubborn, and selfless. Her little ray of heart was growing to be just like his father, who, unfortunately, was killed by a moving vehicle barely a season ago. At that time, the Furless rushed about when the heat was at its highest, allowing themselves to be swallowed in their moving beats to be taken closer to the sun.


  Aika had never learned the name of that place. She was a housecat for a short amount of time and was surprised to learn those beasts had no tongues nor teeth to swallow her up with. Of course, that never calmed her anxieties. Why would it?


  Pushing away her thoughts of the past, Aika's cold tail draped along her son's back, padding away from the temporary home they had built the night before. She barely heard the cars whizz past the darkened street. The dim lights decorated the two Felidae. The road during the day - and even night - was beautiful and captivating. There were long rolling hills, and during the hottest days of the year, cats from as far as the eye could see would come to experience this quiet street, letting the kittens play to their heart’s content.


 "We must be wary crossing the street," Aika commanded, giving her kitten a stern look. "Be careful, but don't be too slow. If you see a beast or a Furless, run over to me. Don't ever stand still, do you understand me, Hāto?"   


      "Yes, ma'ma," Hāto replied with a simple nod. Aika stared at him for a single moment before glancing at each side of the street. Seeing none of the loud, rumbling beasts, the half-hairless cat bound across the road, her eyes wild as she practically leaped onto the grass on the other side. Her chest heaving, Aika relaxed into the drizzled grass, a few droplets of light rain trickling down her dying fur. 


  "Alright, heart," she called, heaving herself up on her front paws to remain in a seated position. "Do what I did; look both ways, then run."


  Noting her son's anxiety, Aika was about to go over to retrieve him when Hāto leaped across the little patch of grass. His little legs propelled him against the puddled road. His rose-colored paw pads slammed against the black and yellow pavement, a loud rumble echoing from behind him. Hāto stopped to listen. Aika's back curved upwards, her eyes wild. She recognized that sound.


  "Hāto, get back!" She cried. "Beast! Beast!" But her son didn't move. Golden light dazzled his slim frame, the rumble getting louder and louder. It was as if the stars allowed a spotlight to shine on the little kitten, allowing him to be seen. Joyfully, he raised his head proudly, as if the world could see his delicate little face blessing the-






  In an instant, Aika rushed to her son's side, dragging him away from the street and to the grass. Hāto winced before sitting up. A large bit of blood was raging from his side, leaving a deep gash that exposed his flesh and organs. It would have made the almost-hairless cat vomit.


  "My dear, are you hurt?" She cried out, rubbing her cheek against Hāto.


  "I'm fine, ma! I just… feel strange." The kitten replied, his now-crooked tail swaying as Aika lifted an eyebrow. She couldn't ignore the scent of death radiating off of her son. His normally glowing amber eyes were now dull and clouded.


  Aika groomed him relentlessly to stop the bleeding. "You're alright, my heart. I'll carry you while you rest," feeling the hot grass tickle her hairless belly, Aika leaned down. "Climb on, dear." 


  Obeying, Hāto climbed upon her back, soon fast asleep on Aika's bare skin. Aika frowned, feeling how suddenly light the usually plump kitten was; she supposed he hadn't been eating much while they were on the move but she swore he was heavier just last night. Focusing on the feel of Hāto's fur against her spine, Aika realized he wasn't breathing, and his puny, senseless heart was at an everlasting halt. Scrambling to her son, Aika allowed her tongue to rake against his fur. Hāto stirred, opening his dull eyes. "Mama, why did you wake me up?"


  "You aren't breathing, my heart," Aika breathed, her heartbeat racing as she felt her muscles quiver.


  "I don't need a breath of air to survive, ma. My heart doesn't beat, but I am still here, aren't I?" As Aika stared unblinkingly at her son, Hāto spoke again, "Aren't I, ma?"


  Aika blinked, realizing with dread. Her son was alive but dead - dead but among the living. His heart would no longer beat, and he could no longer draw air into his lungs, yet he walked among many who would see him as dead.


  "Of course, my heart," Aika spoke slowly. "Of course."





  "Ma! Ma! Come away! Come away!"


  Aika stared at her maggot-covered son. Most of Hāto's flesh had been eaten away, only leaving some clumps of muscle and fur. His intestines lay hanging out of his tiny ribcage, and his motionless heart rested to the left of it. Hāto's lungs had all been decimated by those little termites which threatened to begin eating away at Aika's own body. The nights seemed endless as she constantly squished the little bugs.


  Now, it had been several weeks since Hāto was hit by the beast. He was quite old for a kitten when his life was technically taken away, but now, he was only a head smaller than Aika herself. Despite being barely more than bones, he could still grow, much to Aika’s confusion. She would have been interested if it wasn’t so gross.


  Feeling a touch to her hairless ear, Aika flicked it, turning towards the larger, fluffy she-cat beside her. Aika and Nozomu had grown quite close since Hāto's little "incident"; so close, in fact, Aika could call her a suitable mate. Delicately, the reddish-orange spotted tabby pressed her muzzle against the now-fully hairless, ill Aika, causing the smaller to exhale a relaxed purr. Her illness had accelerated and Aika knew her days would soon end; however, she was relieved to know Nozomu would be by her side through it all. Nozomu was her blessing - her life - her hope.


        From the side of her gentle green eyes, a flash of pale bone swiped past her, shoving her aside as the shape dove for Aika's dearest Nozomu. A terrified shriek filled the air before the world stilled.


  Nozomu's body was mangled and broken. Her once golden yellow eyes were dulled and rolled back, her jaws left open as if she was trying to let out one more dying shriek. A horrid slash left the molly's stomach sliced open, her intestines exposed and sliding out of her body. Blood roared onto the graying grass beside the street.


  "Mama… you're safe now, mama," Hāto whispered to her, swiping off some fresh blood with a bony paw. "I've saved you. I'm a hero like you always said, aren't I?"


  Looking at her son in shock, she noticed the rotting heart that once rested in his chest was now missing.


  "Mama, speak to me. I'm a brave little kitten, aren't I? I'm your heart!" Hāto; well, technically now, Hātoresu; churred. He was no longer “heart”. He was “heartless”. Hāto died on that street and became someone… some thing else . This thing was not her son.


  "You killed her," Aika barely managed to whisper the words out. "You… I loved her."


  Hātoresu scowled, the remaining fur on his spine shooting up. "You can't love her! Papa wouldn't want you to!"


  Aika frowned. Was this what this was all about? Perhaps, she realized; however, she smelled more blood on her son. She remembered the fresh and rotting carcass of cats left on the hills and side of the road. Adults were horribly torn apart, older cats were viciously slashed at, pregnant females had their stomachs slashed open, exposing the unborn creatures inside, and the little tiny kittens were easily squished, leaving an explosion of guts and blood.


  Could that have truly been caused by him?


  "You’ve killed them all, Hāto.” Aika breathed in shock, her eyes wide with terror.


  "You can't replace him!"


  "This is no longer about your father. Cats have been peacefully laid to rest here just like he once was. Look around - look at what you’ve caused!”


  "I’ll rip you apart, just like I’ve done to them!"


  Aika flinched. It couldn’t be true. "Hāto, listen to me, please. You’re being delusional -!"


  Feeling sharp claws rake into her flesh, Aika's weakening body crashed to the ground. Blood-tainted, cracked, bony claws swiped at the molly relentlessly, combatting the enraged hissing above her. Feeling her body reach a slope, the two cats rolled down the hill as they tousled and struggled. The sting of blood roared from her cheek as the bony body on top of her slashed furiously. Hātoresu’s jaw opened, revealing horrifying, razor-sharp teeth, which dripped endlessly with fresh blood. 


In a desperate attempt to free herself, Aika kicked with her back legs. Hātoresu screeched, falling into the deep lake beside the hill. Water coated his bones and rotting flesh, turning the liquid red.


  Aika breathed heavily as she struggled to her paws. Blood welled from her wounds, her neck-bone and shoulder muscles easily exposed. Her spinal cord stuck out from her back, and her stomach hung out painfully from her belly. The ill cat's heartbeat slowed down before inevitably coming to a halt. Collapsing to the grass, Aika exhaled one last breath before going still. 


  Now, that country road where cats once relaxed and played is where you will see scattered, bloodied, unidentifiable cat corpses left to decay; some headless, some missing limbs, and only a few leaving bones behind; it’s what some Furless have deemed Cemetery Road. 


  Some say it’s named after the deaths of hundreds to thousands of cats; young and old, male and female, housecats and wild. The Furless think it was caused by a sudden outbreak of disease, but in reality, it was all induced by the little cluster of bones at the bottom of the lake. He had been left under the water to rot, alone, forgotten, and surrounded by liquid.


Until the day he emerged, his mouth dry with the urge to draw blood and slaughter again.

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