THE CAT APOCALYPSE
by Mariah Gese
When it happens we are prepared. The way we know it’s a real apocalypse: the portents of headless voles on our pillows. We divine it in the depths of carpet vomit, in the bones of small birds they bring us. The glorious future in the spilled water bowl.
If it wasn’t meant to happen, then why the adorable begging eyes, containing within them the tantalizing fullness of our futures, round and perfect, like globes of sweet fruit that grow huge and pop on the vine? Why the delicate rasp of tongue, the ephemeral curl of tail? Their fur, too, that velvet smoothness we are forever petting for the drugged feeling it awakens in us. Cats are better than caffeine and sugar, chemically, they are better than mimosas or wholesome friendship or anything we used to love. They rearrange and better us inside, ideal parasites. They are just so cute.
We worship them for thousands of hours in the new age of re-playable video. Cats are the only internet species that can still reproduce, you know. Every breath is a prayer to cats. They multiply for us. Every gulp and sidelong glance and every sharp grin and brittle high gasp of laughter, for the cats. Replay. Grasp at their esoteric beauty, grasp to cuddle at your chest their indomitable domestic cuteness. At some point we realize this hunger is not emotional. Replay will not satisfy. We knew then, we had to eat them.
Everyone eats their own cat first—no one wants to be rude—but then we prowl the neighborhoods. We snatch cats from alleyways, dumpsters, window sills, and pet stores, we catch them in the act, eating birds, or meeting lady cats for drinks, or licking their tight little assholes. We sleuth out every cat, and pet and baby and worship and devour each beautiful singular one. Some of our more desperate number paw at video screens and moan for the pixel cats tucked away inside. We pity them and treat them like children playing pretend, which is charming for us to pretend. We move on, we hunger for sweet sweet pussycats, we hound them all down.
The animal shelters close within the week. PETA eats more cats than the rest of us combined, because they’ve been waiting so long. They’ve earned it.
We miss the cats we eat, but we can feel them growing inside us, batting around the gallbladder, scraping claws down their ribbed cage, mewing in the hollow emptiness of the stomach, calling to each other in the acid dark. No cat escapes, though sometimes we can feel them clawing their way up the esophagus, adorable but doomed cat reflux. We spit up hairballs, like they used to.
We are coming down to the last cats.
People with allergies crowd the hospitals, their puffy eyes glued to screens that feature cats frolicking, on repeat all day forever. The search weakens us. We suffer existential and gastrointestinal angst. When we eat the last cat we are sad, but is has to be done. We eat slow, we savor our victory and lick each other clean.
For a while, satisfaction. The glorious feeling of fullness, of cuteness squeezed and eaten. We talk among ourselves like pregnant ladies, expecting contentment from our secret appetites. But then the hunger comes back. There are more cute things out there. Not as cute as cats, sure, but have you seen bunny videos? Yes. Puppies, too, are mouthwatering at this point, we have noticed. Our quick eyes discover the nature channel, we regroup to plan.
Those of us with ambition hunt the lions. It is even better than eating cats. Power drips down our chins as we die of our hunting wounds.
Those of us left have lesser hungers. Curious eaters, we set rabbit snares, we pick the spines from toads. Popping rolling eyes between our teeth, choking on the slick defenses of small red fishes, we die of weird poisons.
Those of us left, we sickly, we delicate, can only dream of the hunger then wake with unyielding shame. We wish for pretty fur of our own, we wish to hide our teeth. We do not hunt—we whistle and lick our fingers. We of sneaking hunger, sly coward hunger, we go to the dogs.
Mariah Gese is an MFA candidate in fiction at Indiana University. She is from a historic village known for making wooden toys, so as you can imagine, she mostly writes horror. When not writing small, weird fictions, she is at work on a novel about classic cars and murder.