Memento Mori

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18

I was sitting on a tufted, velvet sofa in the main chamber of Viola's mansion. I was reading a board of health report from the 1930s. 'There were a total of 93 deaths by Yellow Fever in the city of New Orleans for the twenty-four hours ending yesterday at noon. This is a decrease of 5 from yesterday.'

Tie Mr. Exterminator up to a Cypress tree in an infected mosquito infested bayou. Hopefully the symptoms will be severe and he'll die from organ failure.

I heard a swift scratching at the front entry. I opened the door and a blotched tabby cat stormed in. It had golden almond-shaped eyes, large ears, and a sleek body with short hair. It ran to the kitchen and pounced on the counter.
"What are you doing in here?"
I tried approaching the menacing intruder. It swatted at me and ran. It leaped off the counter and scaled the antique white cabinets.
"Get down from there!"
The ferocious beast made a sharp hiss and dashed along the top of the cabinets, knocking down jars filled with dried floral buttons and flower stems. Next, the frustrating feline sprung to the floor and scurried to the upstairs.

Sonuvabitch.

The animal made a loud howl then dashed further down the hall. I heard a loud commotion and quickly raced up the stairs. It knocked over an antique console table.

The furry intruder was driving me into madness.

I had trapped it at the end of the hall. It looked at me with it's large eyes and tilted it's wedge-shaped head.
"Mew," it cried.
I bent down to detain it, but it extended it's razor sharp claws and ripped the flesh on my arm.

The wound stung and itched like a mother fucker. Taking advantage of my disorientation, the foul creature escaped me once again.

I remember when I was younger, my neighbor had a Ragamuffin cat and I wanted one so bad. Of course, I was told a stern no.
Mom would say, "all cats do is bring paranoia and superstition! They symbolise all things bad, even the very devil himself!"
I was starting to agree with her.

The evil invader was nowhere in sight.
I discovered a shredded, unraveled roll of toilet paper. The unwound sheets led to the master bedroom. I swiftly shut the door behind me to confine the little trouble maker. I could hear a loud purr come from beneath the bed.
I bent down and cautiously lifted the bed skirt. I could only see darkness — for a moment. The fuzzy creature ambushed me and struck my head, knocking me unconscious.

I remember I couldn't breathe. I felt like I had a strong physical force on my chest. I woke up gasping for air. It was the cat. It was comfortably in a loaf position on my chest. Like it had overcome and conquered me.

"You done playing with Clawdia?"
Viola was sitting in a brace position against the bedroom door.
"Clawdia almost killed me!" I gently pushed the naughty feline off of my chest.
"You have a cat?"
"No. She's a Lutine. A spirit creature that can take any form, mostly a companion animal. They're mischievous and love playing harmless tricks on us."
"Obviously." I crawled over to Viola and sat next to her.
"Behind the furry disguise, they're really the spirit of a child who has died before they could be turned away from sin and selfishness."
"That makes sense, like everything else."
Clawdia was laying at the foot of the bed, curled up with her head tucked in toward her chest.
Viola leaned her head onto my shoulder.
"Did you have a good day?"
"It was… different. A compulsive hoarder read my mind and Nasim bought me some ice cream."
Viola smiled.

We sat on the floor, unworried and content. She placed her hand against my palm.
"They say the strength of fingers can tell a person's character." She forcefully pressed her fingers against mine. "A strong index finger determines your shrewdness and strength. The middle finger represents responsibility and growth." Viola smooshed our index fingers together. "People with flat fingertips dislike uncertainty."
"What about round fingertips?"
"You avoid conflict and fear disapproval."
Viola nestled against my chest.
"Can I ask you something?" I looked to Viola. "What's something you've never told another living soul?"
"When I was a living girl, I thought about suicide quite often. Even as a young child. I constantly had intrusive thoughts, and had no idea that entertaining the idea was not a normal thing."

Poor girl.

"What about you?"
I let out a long, deep breath. "I had an imaginary friend my entire childhood. I called him 'Buddy'. He was my best friend. We were inseparable."
"What happened to him?"
"The same thing that happens to everything else. My mother. Twelve year old boys don't talk to imaginary companions under her roof. They're a sign of weakness and demonic possession."
"Some of the most poisonous people are disguised as our own flesh and blood."

Viola sprung up and signaled me to follow her.
"Come with me. I want to show you something." She went over to an armoire and reached beneath some folded bedding. She pulled out an embossed keepsake box. Inside the box was a beautiful piece of jewelry made with human hair. "This is my mother's." She held the precious heirloom close to her heart. "Do you want to know why I never got to say goodbye to my mom?"
"Why?"
"My father was broke. He had spent all his money on my mother's illness. I had just become a woman, and wanted to help out as much as possible. I had become a handmaiden for a wealthy businesswoman. Her husband was a self-proclaimed gentleman named Willton Culver.
Where I come from, the scent of a woman on her period aroused men, since it implied maturity and the ability to conceive. Wilton was squirrelly for young, ripened snatch and confessed his desire for me. He was a handsome man, and I was dumb and naive. He committed adultery with me. Several times. I knew it wasn't love, it was just a way for me to cope with the difficult situation back home. Inevitably, my irresponsibility had come with a consequence. I became pregnant. Wilton was infuriated. He told me to drown myself, and said he would help me do it.
I was scared. Scared and ashamed. I ran and never saw him or his wife again.
The day of my mother's death, I was stuffing purgatives and turpentine down my throat, squatting over a pot of steam."
"V, I'm sorry."
She kissed the piece of jewelry and placed it back in the keepsake box. I put my arm around her waist. She turned around and hugged me.
"Let's get out of here," she whispered in my ear.
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