Gretas house didnt know what to do with itself. It dripped shingles from the roof like shame, mostly at night. At least it seemed that way to Greta who was often at the window when they fell in the dark. She saw the digital clock next to her bed hit 3 am almost every morning and sometimes told herself she had no use for rest, that it was a foreign idea, that she belonged at the window at this hour because someone had to watch the shingles fall.
It was a weary hour, a time for emptiness stifled during the day to rise and announce itself with a nearly inaudible sigh. Greta always greeted the emptiness with relief before it covered her and she felt nothing. Then her name was not Greta anymore, she was not a girl with long legs and red lip gloss and short blond hair, but she could see that girl as she had been earlier that night. Then her mouth had felt the scarlet coating all sexy and shiny on her thin lips. She had been slick and shiny and red throughout her being a human tube of lip gloss.
Now as she smoked a cigarette and stared out the window her lips were a wisp of gray smoke, her hair the dust on the windowsill. She wondered how much longer they would live in the house before something really went wrong, broken pipes or a good-sized hole in the roof, and they had to move into the trailer park with her mothers sisters. Greta felt like an alien among all her relatives. Her mother Toni had blue eyes like Greta, but otherwise there was no resemblance. Toni had been a cheerleader with a devoted group of energetic girlfriends who shed forsaken for a boy so pale and silent he could have been a corpse. Toni had tried to revive him with her body; sometimes at night she was startled awake by the memory of his hands moving with unbroken speed over her seventeen-year-old skin. It was like being caressed by an efficient steel machine. She remembered worrying about whether loving him meant she was a sexual deviant. When Toni got pregnant it seemed like a strange phenomenon, not a natural event, and in fact he could not be convinced it was his child. So both he and the group of girls who used share their laughter with Toni were long gone, replaced by a mysterious daughter who was about as otherworldly as Tonis ex-lover and a cat whose fur was never clean.
Greta put out her cigarette out on the side of the house and recalled feeding the cat before shed gone out earlier that evening. She was always the one who fed the cat. She thought it probably had some kind of problem with its grooming instinct, because it was a very dingy white and you could always tell when it had been slinking through a junk heap or the graveyard where it picked up rashes. Greta wasnt sure of the cats sex, so she called it Silver although it was anything but. After she fed Silver and gave it fresh water she went outside to wait for Garrett to pick her up in the Civic. She never said where she went at night. Toni had asked once, and Greta told her it didnt matter to either of them whether she knew or not, so why ask. After that Toni never said anything before Greta went out. In fact they hardly spoke at all. Greta thought of it as a sensible agreement on silence.
That evening Garrett already had three people in the car when he reached Gretas house. She slid into her privileged place of shotgun next to him and flicked her tongue against his ear before they took off. She always sat next to Garrett. Theyd been dating a month or so, and Greta knew he was the only reason the other people in the car tolerated her. They were his friends. Shed heard the girls in black whispering about her: Slut, could her lipstick be any brighter? What is Garrett doing with such an airhead? Greta didnt have the naive idea that she could explain Garretts motives, but for herself she could say she was simply being a girlfriend. She was being the one who held his hand and played with his hair and fucked him. She could think of worse things to be than the girl who Garrett fucked.
That night they drove to the graveyard, the one where Gretas cat had gotten into something poisonous. Greta didnt like the graveyard and she didnt hate it, as long as she got to drink scotch with Garrett and fool around on the grass in the moonlight. The others performed pretend ceremonies there, which Garrett sometimes went to join, and she would smoke cigarettes and wait for him. Greta figured either they just got fucked up and talked about raising the dead or they actually did things, chants and sacrifices. She wouldnt put it past them, with their chains and black makeup and awful music that Greta pretended to like. She didnt care what they did. Sometimes she could enjoy the harshness of the music they played, if she was numb enough, if she felt like death.
When she climbed out of the car she saw there was no moon. She figured this meant something to Garrett and his friends, two girls and one other guy, because they got excited and laughed like the good kids did before the prom.
Shit is gonna get fucked up tonight. Really fucking crazy, look at that darkness, evil on our side.
Hes watching us, hes waiting for us.
We come to serve You!
Greta thought these kids didnt know what they were saying. She knew evil and it wasnt enthusiastic calls to the devil. It was emptiness. She thought, if youre really evil you cant worship anything. Sometimes Greta believed in vampires, but she didnt think they really always drank blood.
Greta tried to hold Garrett back from the others; a few times theyd stayed in the warmth of the car, in the backseat where he had to lie right on top of her the whole time because there wasnt any room. This time he pulled away from her.
Hey Rick, you got the acid? he asked a tall kid with snakes tattooed on his arms.
Garrett, I dont have money for it, Greta said.
Yeah man, I holdeth the shit, Rick said. Three for everyone except your girlfriend, Gar. The girls opened their mouths and Rick began to place the tiny slips of paper on their tongues. Communion, the body of Satan, he said with a laugh.
Greta can take two, if you got em. My treat. Garrett smiled at Greta in the dark. She was always amazed at how innocent he looked, a pretty boy, hardly any hair on his body. Garrett put her acid in his mouth, kissed her, and she sucked it off his tongue. She felt a surge of energy, as if the chemicals had begun to work as soon as they got into her mouth.
They sat on the stone wall that circled the graves and passed a joint around until the acid started to kick in. Greta saw something white go by among the graves.
I just saw a ghost, she said.
Wow, youre fuckin stoned, Rick said. Anyone else see anything?
I think it was a cat, said Jess, who looked like Winona Ryder. Greta worried about Garrett getting interested in Jess. A cat has responded to our call. Its a sign. Jess ran her delicate fingers through her long hair, studying it as though she could see each fiber and follicle.
The stop sign is in the shape of a pentagon, isnt it? suggested Majela, the other girl, who owned the Satanic Bible.
Pentagram, idiot, Rick said. Thats weird, no, I dont think that could be right, that would be like a sign that we shouldnt do anything. Because, like, it means stop. Rick couldnt conceive of such a discouraging message.
But the stop sign doesnt have anything to do with the cat, Jess said.
They went on like this for a while, the conversation deteriorating further until the comments hardly seemed connected at all. Finally Rick declared it was time.
Greta, honey, you want to come with us this time? Garrett asked.
She can jerk you off onto a gravestone, Rick said. Garrett had told Greta once that Rick wanted to do an orgy with Garrett, Greta and Jess. Greta thought shed be fine tripping on her own, looking at the graves, thinking about things with the exaggerated intellectual confidence she always got from acid. But she didnt want Garrett and Jess doing anything without her there.
Sure, Ill come, Greta said. She realized the double meaning of her words too late and laughed, but no one else seemed to notice.
Majela and Jess looked at each other. They didnt want Greta there. She wasnt one of them. Fuck them, Greta thought. Garrett wants me.
She followed them on a walk through the graves, which seemed a very long in time and distance to Greta. It occurred to her that the trees looked strange, but she wasnt really seeing them. She had retreated into her mind and saw everything as if it were on the other side of a long tunnel. She almost tripped over her cat Silver, and then remembered shed left the cat at home, shed fed it before she left. She was already seeing things. She felt a dull, resigned anticipation which might pass for excitement if she were someone else.
Hey... Jess whispered. Is that the cat again?
O-kay! Rick said, all right, we got us an animal sacrifice! He picked up the cat which Greta had in fact not imagined, and handed it to Jess.
Rick, no way, man, not that shit again, Garrett said.
Garrett, you damn sweet bitch, the night would not be complete without it. As Jess said, its a sign. This cat is here for us tonight, and here for Satan. Rick stopped in front of a stone cross. This is it. Bitch! He snapped Garretts gaze away from the trees and said, Shall we turn it over?
Oh, cool, this is so fucking cool, Majela said, cackling like a real witch. She looked obscene.
Rick, on the other hand... Greta thought there was something attractive about him as he worked to turn Christianity into chaos. He was so dramatic and shallow, so invested in his evil image that Greta could actually believe his fascination with Satanism was genuine. His weakness stirred something in Greta, something she thought might be hunger.
They got the cross tipped over on the ground, but couldnt get it to stand upside down.
We dont need superficial symbols, said Rick. We have the real thing here. He petted the cat. Its fur was filthy. It was Gretas cat, Silver.
That cat, Greta began to say. But she stopped. What could she tell them? That it was her cat who no one liked except her and it was dirty and she couldnt tell what sex it was? She shivered and the air shook with her.
Whats that you said, Greta? You would like to be the first to taste the blood of the sacrifice? Rick said. The words sounded like they had come from an ancient tape player. His pupils were dilated from the acid, huge in the dark; his eyes looked completely black. Greta imagined hers looked the same way. She inexplicably felt like crying, but she laughed instead and was surprised at how carefree she sounded. She took Silver from Jess. Youre such a pretty cat, she crooned. No one out there loves you, no one. Youre perfect. Were going to bring you home to hell.
All right! Rick shouted. I love this girl. I love her! He kissed Gretas neck and beckoned to Garrett. You know what comes later, my sick friends, he whispered. We satisfy our lust in the presence of the Demon.
Rick, damn, what are you talking about, Garrett said, laughter spilling out of him.
But now, Rick continued, now we cut the meat. He took a razor blade from his pocket. These things are the sharpest tools. Everyone pay your respects to the sacrifice.
Jess and Majela cuddled the cat and whispered nonsense words to it. Greta heard Silver start to purr. While Jess stroked the cat, Rick ran his hand over Jesss dark hair as if she were also a pet.
Rick began to chant words that may have been Satanic prayer, or just a product of his chemically altered imagination. Jess, smiling like a mother, held up the cat so its belly was exposed; it began to wriggle away, but Rick seized its neck and quickly pierced the cats fur under its chin with the blade. It started to bleed, a bright frisky red fluid staining the white fur. Silvers tongue protruded from its mouth as the blood spurted unevenly from the gash in the cats neck. Greta thought, now Ive actually seen a throat being slit. She felt her own blood running, pulsing, pushing at the surface of her skin, threatening to burst out of her body at the slightest touch.
Fuck you, Greta whispered to no one in particular.
Thats right, Greta, she heard Rick say. He had tears in his eyes which somehow touched her, somewhere in the mess of her mind. Its beautiful, isnt it. Greta... He kissed her, bit her lip and she tasted blood, her blood and everyones blood in the whole world, everyones self-pity. It was like an entire jar of bitter horseradish dumped on one plate of food.
Greta choked and screamed, Stop! into his mouth. She pushed him away. Thats my cat. Thats my cats blood, Rick. You fucking slit my cats throat. Why wont it just die? The cat was still writhing, hissing and spitting blood on the ground now with Jesss hands over it soaked in blood. Jess cried.
Greta put her hand on Jesss bare shoulder as if to comfort her and then dug her nails in, making half-moons in the skin but not breaking it. Jess seemed not to notice and kept crying and stroking the cat. After a while it turned limp and still. Rick, god, look what you did, its really dead, Rick, you killed Greta's cat, Jess moaned. Her crying began to mutate from demure tears into gagging motions of her body and mouth.
Majela sat beside Jess, not moving, just staring.
Yes I did kill the cat, and it isnt coming back the very next day, the cats gonna stay away. Kitty kicked the bucket, Rick said. He smiled and rocked back and forth on his feet. And my work isnt done. We have to eat the heart. He was tripping hard, his head jerking around to catch glimpses of phantom demons applauding his work.
Oh shit Rick, not that, havent we fucking done enough, Garrett said. Kitty (Did he just call me Kitty? thought Greta in utter confusion), were going now, come on. Garrett tried to pull her away from the mangled cat.
She was purring before, Greta said. She felt sorrow hovering over her chest, about to descend. She had to break through it. I want to go first.
What? Garrett said, squinting at her. Greta. What?
She wants to eat it, Garrett, Majela said. And I for one want to watch.
Garrett sat next to Jess and put his arms around her and murmured in her ear. Jess was up to her elbows in blood, but she wouldnt let go of the cat. Rick took hold of Majelas left hand and Gretas right, and intoned: We are the three who have survived the test of blood and death. Now we must take the next step together to be fully saved.
Shut the fuck up, Greta said. Dont be such a poser. This isnt anything holy.
Oh, I see what you mean, Rick said, but he smirked.
Blood and guts, Rick! Greta screamed. Thats what its about! Bloody fucking guts and death! Hate! I HATE YOU!
Ricks face went slack. He blinked twice and then his eyes slid half-shut. Ooh, but can I help, Greta? he said, almost drooling. Can I cut the kitty open for you? Please?
Yeah, Greta replied, feeling tired.
Rick guided her hand toward the remains of the cat, colliding with Jess who was still holding it. He produced his razor blade again and began to slice through the cats chest. Jess pressed her bloody hands to her face, hysterical. She cant take it, Greta thought. Rick grunted with effort as he cut. Blood seeped rather than poured; they were almost finished with Silver. Greta reached into the incision and grabbed the first solid thing she felt, a lump of something, a slimy indistinguishable piece of innards, and pulled. Rick used his razor blade to sever the lump from the rest of the mess.
Greta licked her lips and brought the handful of slimy red cat stuff to her mouth. Lip gloss, she thought. She looked over at Garrett and Jess. They both held their breath as they stared at her. Greta shifted her glance to Rick. He gazed at her and she just knew he was coming up with some new ridiculous insight, something like, To be alive one must taste death. Greta dragged her tongue across what she now thought must be Silvers heart.
3:30 am. Greta watched another shingle fall from the roof. She took a new cigarette from her pack as she blew out the last puff of smoke like breath exhaled in the winter. It was summer, but she was cold. She examined her fingers holding the cigarette, a young girls fingers stained dark red. She recalled feeding the cat before shed gone out. She was always the one who fed it.