Nine Lives (short story)

My cat, Chaney, was the only one who knew or cared that I was dead. Even I didn’t care in the beginning. I just laid on my bed thinking that the naysayers were right after all, that the world had come to an end. Imagine my surprise when I got up and out of bed, probably on the third day, though I can’t ever be sure, what with my brains already decomposing, to discover that I was physically dead.

Yes, I have since discovered that the dead have emotions. It’s a bummer, but we don’t really stop being who we are after we die. I don’t know about those who pass-over to the other side, or if there is another side, or heaven or hell. All I know is that I died and I am still here and I do not see other dead people around.

I was always a recluse and Chaney was and still is my best friend. I found her in a ditch when she was barely a week old, all wet and with her eyes still closed.  I heard her soft mewing whilst I was walking home from work one day and I knew that she was calling to me. Her first two nights were spent at the vet’s on a drip and it saved her life and cost me three hundred dollars. Well, that’s not important anymore as Chaney proved to be much more than a pet for me.  She is my one true companion and now, my saviour. Funny how the roles have reversed.

Anyway, the night I died was a cool summer’s night. I had left all the windows opened thinking that the breeze felt like silk wrapping around my body. I came home from work at around six, as usual, fed Chaney whilst I ate my own dinner and I had watched some tv before bed. I don’t know what happened and I guess I’ll never find out, but I just didn’t wake up the next morning. I remember either thinking or dreaming that the world had ended, with little remorse or sadness.

When I came to, I heard Chaney mewing really loudly and my neighbours were shouting for her to stop. Thinking that I had missed her feed, I tried to bolt out of bed, but I ended up floating straight across the room. I saw my body for the first time, lying on the bed, being consumed by maggots and covered in flies  I read that it does not take long for an exposed body to decompose and I guess I had been dead for a few days. Though I was shocked and horrified at the look of my own body, it was an odd feeling, as without a body, you don’t really react. It just became a fact that I got over really quickly. I was more concerned that Chaney had not been fed yet.

Chaney was fine. With the window open, she was able to go out daily to this old lady that lives in the block across the road from us who puts out boiled fish for her. She probably eats better there and I was glad. I was sad though as I was stuck in my apartment, with only my rotting corpse for company. I couldn’t do anything with myself, other than float around and wonder at how I will be able to get out.

I guess because the windows were opened, the smell wasn’t a problem and none of my neighbours were really bothered that they had not seen me in a while. Why should they when I did not speak to them when I was alive. I tried leaving the apartment, but there seemed to be some kind of a barrier. Reaching through the open window just felt like the window was shut. I tested the edge of every wall in my apartment and it was the same, I was stuck.

It was probably two or three months later, I don’t know, you kinda lose track of time when you’re dead, when I noticed that Chaney had gotten bigger. She would still come to the apartment every day and mew loudly, but no one took any notice. Otherwise, she would get on with her routine of sleeping in her favourite spots, scratching the sofa and chasing her catnip fish around each time. I was convinced she could not sense me at all. Well, not until that time about two or three months later.

Chaney came in and was cleaning herself in her favourite bed when she had suddenly sat upright and stared straight at where I was. I tried speaking – it’s not a habit that’s easy to break out of even after you lose the ability to do anything physical – but even though nothing came out, I felt a kind of connection with Chaney, perhaps through my thoughts. She continued staring at me and now she purred.

I moved towards her and was pleased to sense that she was purring even more loudly as she started rolling on her back, giving me the ‘stroke me pose’. It was frustrating watching her being so affectionate and unable to respond in anyway, so I just stayed there as close to her as I could. She reached out with paw and touched me. I thought I was life-size until that moment, when I suddenly felt like I was just a ball. As she pulled at me with her paw, she pressed me against her belly, nuzzling me in her fuzzy soft fur.

I think the thought of being nuzzled in her belly was enough to make me feel safe and happy. I don’t think I actually felt anything, as I physically couldn’t feel, but it was a calming sensation. As I took in this new sensation, not only being able to communicate with Chaney, but also being able to be close to her, she grabbed me tighter, pushing me further in. That was when I moved past her fur, her skin, I found that there was a space in her that I could fit in, wrapped up in the warmth of her womb, next to four other kittens. She was pregnant, and she was carrying a litter of five and I was the fifth! Chaney had known that one of her kittens was a stillborn and she knew that I could use the dead foetus as a vessel and had come to collect me.

Chaney didn’t waste any time. As soon as I was snugly in her, she got up and made her way out of my apartment. I could somehow read her intentions and figured out what she was trying to do. I instinctively knew that she was helping me get out. She didn’t go very far, just a few blocks away, to a local morgue. In the five years that I lived in that flat, I had no idea that we were so close to a morgue, or that a morgue could be located so centrally in a city. We sat just outside of an open window for quite a long time, before Chaney decided to make her way, squeezing in between the window bars.

Chaney ran in like she knew the place well and quickly picked out her target. There was a fresh corpse on a metallic table in front of us. She jumped straight onto the dead body and that was when I thought I heard her speak in my thoughts. It was the only time Chaney ever spoke, I think, and it was a very rough “Get out!”

I pushed my way out and found that I had gone from Chaney’s womb straight into the body on the table. I laid there, taking in the feeling of actually lying down when I felt Chaney’s wet nose rubbing at my hand. Yes, it was my hand and I could feel it!
I sat up and found that it was no different than when I was alive, in my own body, except that this body was a little bigger… and male. Chaney jumped off the metallic table and growled at me, which was when I realised the sounds of men talking in the other room. They were moving towards us and I guess Chaney wanted us to leave quickly.

Without thinking, I followed Chaney and she led us to a back door in the building, which I was able to open with my hands!  I smiled as I felt the warmth of the sun hitting my new face, as we walked down the streets. I felt free again, but that was not until I caught my reflection off a shop window. I was a guy now, over six feet tall and looking quite dead. I was now grey and dull, looking like a zombie.

That was when it hit me. I was a zombie.

I started to panic. There were people walking around me on this busy street and someone will surely realise that I was a walking dead body. I looked around in fear and realised that Chaney had been sat by my feet all this while. As I looked at Chaney, she started walking, leading me to quiet back streets, weaving through the city until we came away from everything.

She brought us to the entrance of an old monsoon drain where we had shelter and was away from prying eyes. She is a genius.
Chaney takes care of herself. She goes on her own to shops and restaurants that will offer her food and she comes back to be with me and to take care of me. She had her litter of kittens not long after and I got to watch her tend to her kittens, teach them survival skills and let them go when they were ready. I helped her bury the little fifth kitten that had helped me escape.

She gave her kittens to a good home at the edge of the city one night. She picked up one of the kittens and had motioned for me to follow, so I picked up the other three and walked with her, until we reached a beautiful tree-lined suburban housing area with large bungalows. Chaney went straight to a beautiful bungalow that had a swing in the front and a massive tree with a treehouse in the garden, and she dropped the kitten on the doorstep. I followed suit and put the other three on the doorstep too. Chaney jumped onto a bench next to the door and tried to reach for the doorbell. I realised what she was trying to do and helped. After we rang the doorbell, the both of us left the house quickly and hid in a nearby bush. We watched as a beautiful woman carrying a crying baby opened the door.

The baby stopped crying as soon as he saw the kittens and the woman smiled. She called out and a young girl came out to the door a few minutes later, with a basket to collect the kittens and brought them into the house.

Chaney rubbed herself on my legs and walked away. We never saw the kittens again, but Chaney didn’t seem to mind.

My body didn’t last too long. It still decomposes even though I am in it, so I guess that really makes me the walking dead. It is not a problem for me as thankfully, I can’t smell and I have lost interest in vanity. I rely on Chaney to let me know when I need to change bodies.

We travel by foot, Chaney and I, walking from city to city, moving from morgue to morgue. We borrow dead bodies of all kinds. I have been in a fox, a squirrel and even a bird, but I don’t stay long in animal bodies as I can’t control them as well.

I don’t know what I would do when Chaney dies. Perhaps I will be able to pass over to the other side, or go to heaven, though I don’t think heaven can be any better than what I have right now. A simple life, travelling with my best friend.

I drew this for my short story Nine Lives, which is featured in the zombie anthology, Eat.
I drew this for my short story Nine Lives, which is featured in the zombie anthology, Eat.

This story is featured in Eat, a zombie anthology that is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.