This was supposed to be a simple hit. Kill the old woman, steal the painting, destroy the evidence. Matters were complicated somewhat when my car decided to fail on me at the 11th hour, so I had to enlist the help of a friend. He arrived to pick me up, muttering something under his breath about having a lack of normal friends. I remember thinking that the day couldn't possibly have got off to a worse start when I heard dry heaving behind me. My cat was on the floor, retching and convulsing like a rabbit who’d just been clipped by a car, but not dealt a fatal blow. My best friend agreed to accompany us and look after the cat. She bundled the feline into a blanket and got into the back seat of the car, and we drove.
The ride was short. There was a white truck waiting outside, but no sign of the workmen transporting the painting. I stepped swiftly from the car and swept up the stairs to the front door. The door was open. The old woman was in the living room on her ornate sofa with her back to me. I lifted a tarnished silver candleholder. She knew I was there, I could tell because her body stiffened in anticipation just before I cracked her across the back of the skull.
I carried her limp body outside, where I took the painting from the van. It was a wax crayon drawing on canvas. I threw both in the back seat along with the girl and the cat. The cat was getting worse.
We drove up to the moorland. It was raining but not misty, so I didn’t fear the hounds. I took the woman and the cat outside and placed them both under a blanket. The cat started to cry and writhe on the ground, and slowly before my eyes began to change. In moments I was looking not at a cat, but at a chubby girl, perhaps in her teens. The girl looked brain dead. Her eyes were sunken and hazy, her lips dry. She looked right through me. I remember thinking she was revolting; the ugliest girl I had ever seen, despite having no obvious deformities.
As instructed, I cut the old woman up with my knife into as many pieces as possible. It was laborious work, made even more painstaking because I was so worried about the cat. I left the pieces of the woman in the blanket on the ground, and staggered back to the car under the weight of the girl. I sat her in the back seat beside my friend, and climbed into the passenger seat. As we drove back down to the town, I could see the girl’s eyes staring at me in the rear view mirror. Her mouth began to ooze blackness and she transformed back into the cat.
I went to collect my money, and was surprised to discover who my employer was. He was in his late thirties, perhaps early forties. He was tall and handsome, well dressed in an expensive suit. He smelled really good. He thanked me for my services and winked at me. And then proceeded to ask my friend to accompany him out for dinner that night.
I was livid, and the more furious I became the more their relationship blossomed.
I followed them for days. They would visit cafes and art houses together, drinking lattes and playing the roles of pseudo intellectuals so well. I was rife with jealousy. If this woman were actually my sister I might have let it be, but this woman was not my sister, just like a sister, and the bonds that held us together were not so tight as that of siblings. I scribbled hastily in my sketchbook, the crosshatching creating the interiors of the cafes and bistros, the sensual structures of his face, the deceitful curves of hers.
It was on my 47th day of following that I felt a hand upon my shoulder, breath in my ear. "I thought I told you not to look at us?"
He bought me a coffee, and invited me home. But I had to kill her first, and so I did. It was satisfying and ritualistic. I left the pieces of her body on the moors where the old woman’s had been. I assumed the hounds ate them.
When I got back he gave me my own room. I placed the cat in the closet under a blanket and with a bowl of water beside him. He shifted into the ugly girl who stared at me for some time. I closed the door so I couldn’t see myself reflected in her eyes.
The bed sheets were new. There was layer upon layer of them, all different patterns, colours and textures. I climbed in and instantly felt trapped beneath their weight. I lay like that for hours, pinned beneath their great weight. I lived for hours and days and years with him. Every so often I would find my sheets were changed.
“She mustn’t see that they’re yours,” he would say. He was worried she would be angry. He was also worried about a smell, but I could smell nothing. He asked me to get rid of my cat. The cat was changing more frequently now, back and forth, caught between spasms and painfully wretched paralysis.
"But my cat is sick!" I exclaim woefully, watching his handsome slits of eyes dilate into human pupils, and the glassy, vacant stare of the repugnant chubby girl returned.
"Not sick, dead." He retorted. "The smell is so bad I can hardly stand it. I know you loved your pet but I just can't bear the stench. Keeping an animal carcass is just morbid."
I put my teeth close to his and hissed quietly. "As morbid as having someone else kill your wife and cut her up into a million tiny pieces?"
He conceded the point and left me standing over the girl, who was now my handsome cat again, struggling for breath, twitching in agony.
I went out that night, and returned to find my cat gone. He had already made arrangements to have the house fumigated, and I was asked to leave by a man in a protective mask. I killed him and stole his outfit, and went into the house with all the other men there for the fumigation operation. The hallway was decorated in delicious citrus hues, all oranges and lemons. In the center of the hallway was his wife, but she looked younger. She was wearing a silk robe. She could not see my face because of the mask. She showed us around the house, pointing out which rooms we would have to focus on. When we reached my room she said, “The stench in here is unbearable.” We left for her room. All her clothes were still lined up in the giant closets. I ran my gloved hands over the copious curtain fabrics, the sunlight straining through. She removed a pair of black underwear covered in sequins and threw them at my mask.
“You should know these were his favourite, whore.”