It’s amazing what surfaces in a moment of finality. Isolation, desperation, justification, and defeat. The decisions we’re forced to make scar the deepest part of our soul, never leaving us entirely. Clarity, regret, rage, and a bitter realisation of how insignificant we truly are in the grand scheme of things. The beauty of companionship melts, replaced by our duty, our moral compass, spinning, screeching, clawing our thoughts into a mangled blackened pile of shattered emotion. What is. What was. What’s not and what’s to come. All in a single, passing moment. The weight of our world, our existence, our understanding of reality crashes down around us, leaving nothing more than a withered lump of flesh; a vessel to merely survive in.
Those moments define us, leaving us only one of two choices… move forward or accept in the inevitable; a total disconnect, something far worse than death itself.
One can only linger in total darkness for so long before there is no hope of safe return.
“It’s time. We have to leave.” The words swirled around me, never fully penetrating. I’m not ready. Not yet. I just needed a few more minutes, and then a few more. Don’t we all? When we lose a loved one? It’s never the right time, never the right moment.
I nodded, indicating I’d heard what Jeremy said. “I’ll be out soon,” I replied, shifting my weight from one foot to the next, and then back again. It’s all I could muster the strength to say. He knew, I could tell by how he lingered in the doorway, his soul-sick presence heavy in the air.
“Okay. I’ll be in the living room. You don’t have to do this alone, you know.” I knew. But he was my responsibility. I’m the one who’d been with him since birth, the one who’d seen him through to old age. And now I’m was the one who had to help him leave the world so he didn’t suffer at the hands of others, or worse, all by himself, scared and alone.
“I know. Thank you. I’ll be okay,” I said, struggling to keep calm. The door closed behind me and I braced myself for what was to come. What was and what was not. What I had to do.
“Hey there, buddy. You know I love you, right? You know that if I could…” I trailed off, scrambling to think of something, anything, sensible to say. “I would do anything to avoid this. I know you know that.” George moved closer to me, his one foggy eye stared right through me, like a ghost in the night, but his still-good-eye shone just as brilliantly as it always had, touching my heart. His tabby fur, shagged out and speckled with grey, emphasized the single tooth protruding from his wrinkled mouth.
“It’s better this way. You wouldn’t make it a day on the road, let alone the rest of your life. You’d starve to death if I left you here, even if I opened fifty bags of cat food for you. There’s no telling when that’ll run out. I couldn’t sleep at night knowing that you were back here, trying to scratch your way out of the apartment. We had a good run and I’ll never forget you.” I needed to remind myself, out loud, what had brought me to this wretched moment in our tangled lives.
I scratched the top of his head, just the way he liked it, and then I grabbed the pillow. I didn’t allow myself to pause. I couldn’t. I had to just do it and not think about it. If I didn’t, I may as well have just laid down and died beside him, twisted and lost in the world around us. Times were brutal now, since the world collapsed. I didn’t have a gun or drugs I could crush up and put in his food. The only way out for him was suffocation, dealt by the only person he truly trusted.
I held the scruff of his neck, applying as much pressure as I could manage. He fought, scratched, growled hoarsely through the material. He didn’t understand why, after all those years, I’d hurt him like that, betray him. Why I had no choice. In his last moments, he only understood the primal instinct that plagues us all; survival. That just a minute ago, he was old, fat and content living out his last days in our stagnant Surrey apartment. And that now, now he had to fight a losing battle, a battle he fought to the bitter end of his courageous existence.
Eventually, after what felt like a warped, fucked-up lifetime, his ferocity dulled. He struggled one last time to fill his lungs with air, and then he went limp. I held the pillow to his face for a few minutes longer, making sure he wouldn’t come back from the dead. I couldn’t bear the thought of making him relive that horror again because of my stupidity. My hands shook, but I didn’t let myself cry. I couldn’t.
My stomach flipped and I swallowed my puke, the bitter taste flooded my mouth with every heave. I wanted to let go, to walk away and never look back, but something held me there, frozen in my murderous stance. Then, finally, the door creaked open and Jeremy took my trembling hands, peeling them from George’s corpse. He covered the rest of his body with an old towel, wrapping him ever-so-carefully, like an angelic doll. He whispered something to the dead, little bundle in his arms, and then he left.
I didn’t shed a single tear for George. I couldn’t. If I did, I would surely shatter and Jeremy would be left to pick up the pieces. He had enough to deal with. We both did. I had to change my thinking. I had to let go. I had to do whatever it took to save the ones I loved from suffering any more than they absolutely had to. I had to be strong, to think of more than just myself.
George, my best friend, my confidant, my ray of fluffy weirdness since my sixteenth birthday, was dead. Dead and gone. Dead by my own treacherous hands. Dead by necessity. George would live on now only through my memory.
We’d spent seventeen beautiful years together and had things been different, had the world not turned cold and demented, we quite potentially could have had many more years to come. But it wasn’t the case for George and me. Our time together had to be cut short.
We had to go our separate ways.
© 2016, Anisa Claire. All rights reserved.
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