[Here’s one from the reject pile. A local writer’s group holds a Flash Fiction contest every year around Halloween time. This year’s theme was Cats, Rats, and Bats (or any one of those creatures, or any combination of the three).
This is my entry, which was not selected as an award winner (every year they pick a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winner as well as a few honorable mentions). It’s not a requirement that stories be scary or spooky, but it seems as though it’s encouraged, which might be one of the reasons this piece was not selected a winner. This story is neither scary nor spooky. But it does have a cat in it, so there’s that. Enjoy!]
“Tell us what happened, Frank.”
“Um, OK…but…well, it was really weird. Like, I don’t even know—”
“Oh, you’d be surprised at some of the stories we’ve heard. But please, continue.”
“OK…well, um, what I remember is that I was in bed, asleep, on my back. Then, I, um, felt something on top of me, like, on my stomach, so I opened my eyes, and there was a, a cat on top of me.
And I don’t even own a cat. I mean, it did kind of look like a stray I had seen once or twice around my building, I mean, it could’ve been…I’m pretty good about not leaving my door open, but, I don’t know, it could’ve been that cat that got in somehow.
So that was strange, but—and this is going to sound crazy, but you asked me to tell you what happened so this is seriously what I remember happening—well, the cat had a gun.
Like, a handgun. And I don’t even own a gun. I mean, I wasn’t even sure it was a gun at first—it was kinda dark in the room, but when I woke up and, and…processed that there was a cat on me, and that it had a gun or, you know, something that looked like a gun, um—I mean, you know, I got startled and I kinda jumped and…well, then I think the gun fired.
I mean, I saw a flash and heard this kinda ‘POP!’…and the next thing I remember is being here.
But I don’t know, the whole thing happened so fast, I mean, it all happened in, like, three seconds, it was just—”
The older of the two women facing Frank raised her hand in a “chill out” gesture.
“Frank, it’s OK. We appreciate you sharing your experience.
So…you’re probably wondering where you are and how you got here. Well, I have good news and bad news.
The bad news: You’re dead. You’re here because you did, in fact, pass away in your apartment earlier this evening.
The good news? You’re dead, AND in Heaven. I know this particular room isn’t much to look at, but don’t worry—you aren’t spending eternity here. Trust me: The rest of God’s Kingdom is much nicer.
Oh, and what’s more, you were not, as it turns out, murdered by a stray cat. It was your heart; you passed peacefully in your sleep. The cat and the gun? Well, I don’t know where that came from. You must have been having a bizarre dream at the time of your death. What did you eat last night, anyway?”
The older woman and the younger one seated to her right chuckled. Frank stared back at them for a moment, then laughed a bit himself.
“Just kidding. Anyway, you probably have a lot of thoughts going through your head—well, what used to be your head. You look the same when you’re here but you no longer inhabit a physical body, and…well, it’s best not to get too wrapped up in the details. Suffice it to say, your friends and loved ones will mourn, of course, but the thing is, you’re here for eternity, so relatively speaking, everyone you knew on Earth will be joining you in the blink of an eye, so I hope that gives you some pea—”
“Actually—sorry to interrupt—but, um, actually, I already feel at peace. I mean, it’s blowing my mind—or whatever I have now—that I’m dead; it’s very, you know, surreal, I guess. But I really feel OK. I really do.”
“Well, fantastic! I guess the whole eternal life thing is already working its mojo on you. It probably helps that it turns out you weren’t shot in the face by a cat, huh?”
The women laughed; Frank joined in.
“Yeah, guess that’s true, huh?”
“OK, Frank. You are free to go and enjoy all the good parts of Heaven! We really appreciate your time. You can exit right through that door behind you. This place is set up to be pretty intuitive. You shouldn’t have any trouble making your way around. Take care, now.”
“Um…OK! OK, um…wow. I guess I’ll just check out Heaven, then! OK, bye.”
The women remained seated and watched Frank exit.
When the door shut behind him, they jotted some final quick notes and straightened their stacks of papers.
The younger woman spoke for the first time that evening. “So, you ever think about this? What we do?”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, how here we are in Heaven, and we’re…well, we’re lying to people.”
“No. No, I don’t. I mean, this is Heaven: Why don’t we have white robes and wings, and harps to play? Why aren’t we glowing?” the older woman said as she started to rise from her seat, her voice dropping to a flat tone. “Let me tell you something: You can go crazy around here if you think too much. All I know is, we got the call that it was Frank’s time. And he was healthy; there wasn’t gonna be a way to make it look like natural causes and unfortunately, that is our problem. Bottom line, the job got done and at least sorta kinda looked like a suicide. I mean, it sucks that that’s what his friends and family think happened, but what are ya gonna do?
I’ll tell you two things you’re gonna do: One, not tell Frank that he actually was shot by a cat and that’s why he’s in Heaven now, because why? Not to mention how? How do you explain that in a way that makes any kind of sense?”
“I don’t kno—”
“And two: You’re gonna get in touch with Cupcake and tell that moron tuna-breath fleabag that if he wants to continue working for us, he needs to stop being so freaking sloppy.”