Date released:
September 15, 2021
October 2, 2021
Short story
Photo credit:
Pacto Visual


Dead kittens don't meow. And the night can grow hands. Night tells you of fire, a lapping smoke-on-curtain, and a burning brother curled in his crib. Justice is when you watch the embers of the fire engulf the house. Or did you just watch it, but didn't you start it? Dead kittens don't meow, just as dead brothers don't rise from their burn and curse. So that same night, after the fire calmed and your brother's screams ended, you recited the Psalms and asked God for forgiveness. The darkening forest said Amen.

You are forgiven - aren't you? All you needed to do was close your eyes, think about a burning cry in a crib, about you jumping through the window, and your brother's cry fading. You wanted to save the crib - or did you? A brief rain fell, wet the forest, calmed the fire into wholly black smoke, and some neighbours - men - who went into the house of smoke never came out.

Dead kittens don't meow. In a smallish grave, you buried a dead kitten in silence. You heard stealth steps behind you. You held your breath. Your mother calls it justice - "Dead kitten has God and can't be strangled." The dead kitten whimpered as you covered it. You covered it quickly. You did not know that green eyes in the trees were the ones crying. Your brother too, was crying from the trees. Big cats, emerging from the forest, breathed fiery mucus. Your brother's half-burnt face was staring at you, speaking in silence.

You ran into your house of smoke, hoping the smoke would shield you from the green eyes. But they didn't. You heard footsteps of your brother, firm on the threshold, and dead cats and kittens meowing.

"This is his room," your brother spoke. You hid under the burned bed. You remember the kitten you strangled as it stared at you with its green eyes. The smoke under the bed burned your throat. Shadows entered the room. You whimpered but did not want to cry. A flame flickered. The door creaked. Things clattered. Feet shuffled the room. They searched for you. The smoke clasped you in its pages. You heard the wind bellow, the women speak in low tones, some wailing, a man spoke, and others hissed. Rain was coming again. You heard the sway of the trees. The trees, too, were standing on the threshold, telling the shadows to drag you out, that you should die.

A shadow looked underneath the bed with glowing eyes. You screamed, but the Shadow did not let go.

"I must not see him. It's taboo."

“Come and bury your brother. His corpse has been found" The Shadow's voice was lugubrious. The Shadow carried you into the night, where the candlelight swayed, where the men turned home, where the women cried loudly beside your burnt brother, beside the dead kitten's grave. This is where your brother deserves, beside an animal you had strangled.

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