It started as a typical rainstorm. There was a slight breeze that carried the scent of the upcoming rain and the distant sound of thunder. What I didn’t expect was that mixed in with the rain were the cat and the dogs. It was literally raining cats and dogs and water. The animals fell out of the sky with angry thuds. They were dead by the time they hit the ground. Their eyes were milky white with a far off stare.
When the birds started to fall out of the sky, I wasn’t shocked anymore, just amazed. How did they all die? Where did they all come from? Did they belong to anyone?
I scanned the news on the internet and television and it seemed that it had only rained dead animals in a fifty-square mile of my location. The news was reporting that the area animal shelters had all their animals accounted for and that area law enforcement offices were looking for volunteers to help collect and dispose of the dead ones.
I glanced out my window and sighed. Mother nature had left a knee-high pile of corpses on my front lawn. It was going to take more than a few volunteers to carry off the carnage and it wasn’t going to be a one-day gig. The process would take days and if the Southern summer weather had its way, the rotten stench of the sun baked dead would be the worse smell since my uncle Jack’s nuclear chilli gas.
Sighing, I checked on my neighbor, the cantankerous Mrs. Crabby Pants. That wasn’t her name of course, but that’s how she introduced herself to me and I never questioned. She was fine and had retrieved a few dead animals from her chimney shoot. She used a few explicit words that no one over the age of fifty should use which made me cringe in disgust.
Now that I knew Mrs. Crabby Pants was fine, I gathered all the garbage bags I could find in my house and anything that I could use as a container to seal the dead. I also retrieved a pair of rubber gloves from my cleaning bucket and a painter’s mask from the hall closet where four gallons unused paint sat collecting dust. I blew out the dust from the mask and pinched in place on the bridge of my nose. If the dust hidden in the fibers didn’t kick my allergies in and kill me, then I definitely didn’t want to die from whatever might be lingering on the dead in my yard.
I studied the massacre that was before me. The only thing that came to my mind was to divide and conquer, but I wasn’t even sure where to begin my dividing to start my conquering. I envisioned in my head the bloody fields of wars and the graves of mass murders and felt heaviness in my chest. Who cleaned up the mess of wars? Who laid the bodies of those that died to rest? There was no answer that came to mind so I just let it continue to go blank.
I was about to become Charon and no one was going to pay me for ferrying the souls in my yard.
After six gruelling hours of dividing and conquering the front yard, I had amassed one very large pile of dead animals. At first, I was filling garbage bags, then plastic tubs, and then finally, just chucking the remains into manageable piles. I was covered in the stench of my own sweat and exhaustion, but I also knew that I wasn’t finished with my work. I had realized two hours into my clean up that I needed closure for my soul and for souls of the animals. I calculated in my head the weather that had just visited and the wetness of the ground and had decided that a funeral pyre would be exactly what I needed.
As I sporadically doused gas on my pyre, I said a prayer for the animals that had died, the workers that would be working, and those too scared to leave their homes to do anything. Apparently I was the only raving lunatic in my neighborhood that bothered to step outside of their home after the animal raining. Every house was quiet and dark. It was as if the dead animals had brought on the death of the neighborhood. I didn’t let it bother me though. I knew that something had to be done and I wasn’t going to wait around for someone to rescue me. I’d just rescue myself and then flip the bird to whoever came to my aid a moment too late.
Standing with matches in hand, I said my final prayers and felt my heart close. I dropped the first match and it the gas with a flash and a scream. The flames slowly swallowed the mound of the dead and I stood by with more gas, matches, and garden hose ready. Whatever was needed, I was prepared.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the howling screams that echoed from the back of my house as the final part of the moon escaped to the rising sun. I didn’t know whether to run and hide or dive into the flaming pyre and pray that the flames saved me from whatever was on the other side of the house.
This page copyright © 2009 Shelia Taylor
All rights reserved
This was inspired by a story prompt from @StoryPrompt