By Edele Winnie
The thunder woke him. House shaking, teeth jarring thunder- sounding like an angry god right over top of their little house. He rolled over to see if Deanna had been woken as well but she wasn’t there.
He waited but she didn’t return. She’d always been a bit spacey- it was one of the things he liked about her. She wasn’t intellectual- she was emotional. She’d been called ‘slow” but she wasn’t- she just felt things first, before she thought about them.
She wasn’t in the bathroom, or the living room, or the kitchen. Had she gone outside? She liked storms and would often sit on the porch – tasting them, she called it- feeling the thunder, seeing the bright lightening flashes, inhaling the wind.
It was raining heavily now, and the wind was whipping the drops onto the covered porch in weeping gusts. He peaked out through the curtains and didn’t see her but then he saw something move in the front garden. A huddled shape struggling in the wind and pouring rain.
“Deanna!” He’d gone out on the porch and shouted into the storm.
It was her. He grabbed her arms and steered her into the house. She was barely recognizable. Soaking wet, covered in mud- she’d been digging in the muddy earth. He saw then that she was cradling a dead cat. She was crying.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I just had to hold her again.”
They had buried Frisky in the front garden, in a spot where she’d like to sit in the sun. The cat had died of kidney failure at 16 human years, several months ago. She’d had a good life, but at the end she was a cranky old cat who wasn’t frisky at all.
Deanna cradled the corpse to her face. The body was caked with mud and the hair was matted and gone in parts. The whitish yellow of the top of the skull showed through rips in the dead cat’s skin.
“Are you all right Deanna?” He had not known what else to say.
She was still crying and clinging to Frisky. “I just missed her.”
He rummaged up a shoebox for dead Frisky and found a towel for Deanna. He managed to get her to put the cat in the box and wrapped her in the towel.
“Did you have some kind of a dream?” He asked.
“Love never dies,” she said, wiping some of the mud off her face. “You know that. Love never dies. Even though she’s dead, I still miss her.” She was sitting on the hardwood floor in a puddle, and reached her hand out to pet the corpse in the box. A big section of rotted skin and hair came away from the corpse and she picked it up and caressed her cheek with it.
“That might not be sanitary,” he said, swallowing hard.
She looked up at him with hurt in her eyes. “Love never dies,” she said.
They stayed up for the rest of the night, her on the floor with the dead cat corpse and him curled up on the couch. If this was some kind of breakdown he wanted to be ready to help. The storm lessened and it grew quiet just before dawn. Deanna showered and cleaned up for work. He did the same, but when she left he called his office and told them he was going to be late. He reburied Frisky in the front garden, good and deep, and put the shovel back in the shed. He left her a note on the kitchen table; she always got home before he did.
But after work the house was dark and quiet when he unlocked the front door.
“Deanna?” he called but there was no answer.
He checked the bed in case she’d crashed after being up all night, but it was empty and cold. The note he’d left about reburying Frisky was still on the kitchen table, in the exact place he’d left it. She hadn’t been home.
He began to pace around the house, looking for something- anything that might help shake off his growing fear. But there was nothing to find. What was happening to her? She’d always been flighty and spooky but he’d always considered it sexy and fun. This was neither. He was wondering just how well he really knew her when the phone rang. They had an old ringing model and the sudden sound made him jump.
It was the police. Deanna was down at the station. They wouldn’t say why, just that she was okay and that he needed to come and pick her up.
He pictured a hundred scenarios as he raced to the station. She’d probably had a little fender bender, he decided. The police would have thought she was acting strange and kept her for her own protection. He tried hard to believe it, but the closer he got to the police station the more certain he was that something horrible had happened.
She looked up at him when he came in. She was muddy again, sitting in a chair, her hair askew. A policeman hustled him off to a private room before he could speak to her.
The officer’s face was gaunt, like he hadn’t slept in five years. “We caught her in the cemetery. You her husband?”
“Yes,” he said. “What was she doing?” He didn’t want to assume the worst.
The policeman hesitated. “She was digging,” he said. “She was trying to dig someone up. Just kept saying love never dies.”
She was quiet in the car ride on the way home. She looked awful. Her face was pale with red blotches. Her eyes seemed wide and empty. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to cause you any trouble.”
They were parked in the driveway at their house before he was able to finally say it. “What’s happening to you? You’re scaring me.”
She began to cry. “It was my auntie Deanna. The one I was named for. She used to hold my hand and take me for walks when I was little.”
She’d told him of her favourite aunt, but the woman had died long before they’d married.
“I just wanted to hold her hand again.”
“This isn’t normal, you know. Dead people….” What was he trying to say? “Dead people aren’t there anymore. They’re just dead bodies. You can’t hold onto them again.”
She didn’t answer. Instead she stared out the window. He couldn’t see what she was looking at. “You fixed the front garden.”
“I reburied Frisky.”
She wouldn’t get out of the car after that. He tried to reason with her but ended up getting mad and telling her that she needed help.
Finally he gave up and went into the house, cooked supper. He brought a plate out and tried to get her to eat but she wouldn’t look at him. He left the porch light on. He didn’t know what else to do. He went to bed. Even though he was exhausted he couldn’t stop thinking about her. Maybe he should call the hospital? Or some private clinic? Was it too foolish to hope that things would be different in the morning?
He must have fallen asleep for he was awakened when she wiggled in beside him. She was naked and her body was cold. She bit his ear lobe the way she always did when she wanted to fool around. He was surprised but not unresponsive. He lost his pyjamas, but then she was up and gone, into the back yard. It had happened before -he just went with it.
Clouds covered the moon and stars, but her pale flesh still seemed to glow. She put her arms around him.
“Are you okay?” he asked. This was more like her usual self.
“I don’t know,” she answered and her eyes glazed. Then she seemed to come out of it and looked right into his eyes. “But I want you to know love never dies.”
He hadn’t seen the big kitchen knife in her hand, nor did he expect it when she drove it into his stomach.
“I’ll dig you up,” she said, and jammed the knife into his chest, into his heart.
He toppled into the freshly dug hole behind him.