Content warnings: Moderate gore/body horror, animal death, drowning

I find it in an alley.

There’s a whole bag of them, bobbing and squirming in a barrel of rainwater; I see it dripping down the side as I approach, the rivulets turned silver by the starlight. They kick and thrash and mewl, but their cries come out only as bubbles that slip through the weave of the fabric and rise to the surface of the water. If I was closer, I think I would hear them choke on it, would hear the water entering their tiny lungs and sapping the life from them, but I don’t. I can’t hear anything, and by the time I reach the barrel, and thrust my hand beneath the water to pull the bag free, there’s no movement at all.

I open it all the same. I tear the cord from the neck, tip its contents carefully to the sodden alley floor. They tumble free in a mess of limp limbs and wet fur, tangled and twisted as though they’d been clawing at each other in their desperation to escape. Not one of them moves. They lie on the ground, still as carved rock, as the water slowly seeps from them.

And then one of them coughs, wheezes, tries to open its half-blind kitten eyes. It’s a tiny thing, ruined and bedraggled and drowned, with bones as delicate as a birds pressing through its skin and soaked, matted fur. It coughs again, all hoarse and pathetic. When I touch its chest, I feel its heart beat sluggishly beneath my fingertip, so slow and patient that I feel as if I could stop it if only I pushed hard enough. That I could send it to join its brothers and sisters, and rejoin its litter, and be once again a dead and drowned thing.

But I don’t. I touch its chest, and feel its heart, and know that I must save it. It’s the right thing to do in that sort of situation, isn’t it? To save the poor little creature, to save the sweet little kitten. I take off my jacket and bundle it up in it. It’s so small in my hands, so light. It’s like there’s nothing there at all. I think I could fold my jacket all the way up, and crush it, and never even notice.

The kitten coughs again. Water trickles from its mouth, splashing onto the heads and bodies and splayed legs of its siblings. When it breathes it’s with an awful wheezing sound, as though the air is echoing around in its lungs. It sounds like a death rattle.

I take the kitten home.


In the morning, the kitten is dead once again.

In my numb curiosity I poke at it, run a finger along its back from nose to tail-tip. I feel out the lines of its ribs, push my fingertip beneath its lip to touch its tiny, milk-white teeth. It is such a little thing. My finger slips, and the tip of its tooth pierces my flesh, causing a small bead of blood to well and stain the enamel scarlet. Immediately I pull my hand back, step away from the dead mass of fur and water. My finger doesn’t hurt where the kitten’s mouth bit me, but I wash it all the same, wrap a plaster over it and call it done.

I return just in time to see the kitten twitch. Its eyes flutter beneath its lids, just briefly, and its mouth opens in a silent yawn. A tongue the colour of old roses darts out, and licks my blood from its tooth. It swallows.

The kitten coughs, wheezes, opens its eyes.

It lives once more.


Over time, the kitten grows. I don’t name it. What it is is more than a name, cannot be contained within a name. Its fur fades to the colour of water in starlight; its eyes, once they open, are a soft and pale yellow. It is a beautiful little thing, this kitten of mine. It pads at my heels, follows me from room to room. I feed it milk, and cat food, and the scraps off my plate. It likes the scraps the best. The kitten never jumps up on the table, never paws at me for more. It just watches, waits, still and quiet and patient until I feed it. It’s always hungry. Even when I cannot see it, I know that it is hungry. I feel it curl against me in the night, a cold and dripping mass, and I feel its gaze upon my face, upon my hands. It never bites. It never claws. It is a dear and wonderful thing.

It stops accepting food from my plate. Instead, the kitten starts to eat from my hand. In exacting, delicate bites, it eats. I feel its teeth, needle-sharp, drag against my skin. It feels like the touch of something holy. They are so sharp, so savage, and yet they eat with such care. They do not close about my hand, pierce my skin and let the blood flow to stain the soft fur around the kitten’s mouth. My kitten is good, is sweet, is altogether gentle and beloved. I have never loved anything so dearly. As it eats I pet it, run my fingers along the length of its spine and remember how its tiny kitten ribs had felt beneath my hand. I remember that fleeting thought I had when I first found my kitten, to push on its slow and sluggish heart until it stopped forever. It’s a horrible thought to me now. Awful. I could not hurt my kitten.

The kitten mews, and water drips from its teeth. Its fur is cold against my fingers, cold like frost on windowpanes, like ice on the river, like the water that I rescued it from. It’s so cold it feels wet. I curl my fingers, scratch it gently behind the ear, beneath the chin. It turns its head with a rising purr, nudges at my empty hand and then looks at me. Its eyes are so pale they are almost colourless. It mews quietly. The sound comes out warped, gurgled, distorted. Awful. It is hungry yet again. It is always hungry, patiently hungry. It wants more than I can give.

I hold out my empty hand.

I feed the kitten again.


The kitten becomes a cat, a sleek and beautiful thing, but in my heart it is still my kitten. It sits above my heart sometimes, its waterlogged weight resting on my chest and chilling me all the way down to my marrow. Sometimes I think I can feel the water trickling off it, soaking through my clothes and into my skin until I feel as though I am the one who drowned and not it. It purrs when it sits atop me. It sounds like water lapping at the edge of a barrel, soothing and melodic. I adore my kitten’s purrs. They make me shiver, make goosebumps raise on my arms, make me feel as though I am being pulled into deep water, and all my screams are replaced with muffled silence; a haunted and delicate quiet.

When it has eaten my hand down to the bone - always so neat, always so delicate, always with water trickling from its mouth to make my flesh clean and good - I offer it my arm. I leave my bones behind where they fall. I don’t see them again. Sometimes, in the morning, I find small puddles where once they laid, the water soaking into the carpet and turning it silver. I drink from these, and feel less like I am drowning.

When I raise my head, the kitten is watching me. It steps in close, purring like a storm, and presses its head to mine. Its tongue touches my cheek, sandpaper-rough. It loves. It bites.

It eats.


My kitten sits atop me, and I cannot move. There is not enough of me left to move. I am hollowed out, emptied, refilled with water and love. I pet my kitten as best I can, but I have long since consumed the last water of my finger bones. I can feel it within me, cold and wonderful. My kitten doesn’t seem to care. It purrs when I pet it, pushing its head against my own until its whiskers touch my teeth. My kitten loves me, and I love it. I love it blindly, consumingly, devouringly. It has taken so much from me, and I adore it still. It is the most beautiful creature I have ever beheld. The water dribbling from its mouth gathers around its paws, slips across my exposed ribs to make a home for itself within my lungs. I choke on it.

The kitten’s purrs grow louder still. It is looking directly at me now, eye contact unbroken as I slowly choke and drown. I can hear its claws on my ribs when it moves, the click-click-click as they scrape across bone. I do not regret what I have done. I love my kitten.

With what mouth I have left, I kiss my kitten’s forehead and inhale a mouthful of water. It’s cold and sweet, slipping down my throat to join the growing puddles in my lungs. I can hear nothing but purrs, can feel nothing but weight and water. My sodden lungs ache, string, shriek and scream for air and breath and freedom, but it’s distant. I can forgot my lungs, can ignore them and their desperate pleas, so long as my kitten loves me. My kitten rasps a tongue against my skin, purring all the while. Its fur is so soft. It is so beautiful. With another scraping of claw against bone it shifts back, repositioning itself on my chest. It does not look away from me, and I do not look away from it.

Quietly, sweetly, the kitten bows its head, opens its mouth, and bites. My lungs are soft, and easy to tear. They twitch and spasm as the water gathers but the first touch of my kitten’s teeth calms them into perfect stillness, and I am grateful. They do not hurt so much when they are not moving. With every bite, water flows from them. To my eyes, it is silver with starlight, with the thrashing of dead and dying cats. I cannot breathe. My throat is full of water, my lungs full of starlight, my very heart slow and sluggish beneath the weight of my kitten. Is this how it felt, when I pressed my finger to its chest and thought of killing it? Did it too feel like a powerless, hollow, drowned and dying thing? Did it feel loved?

The kitten bites once more, neat and exact. With what little energy I have I raise my arm, nudge it against its chest. I can feel its heart beating against my skin. It is so slow, so patient. I can barely feel it at all. Its heart beats like the tide.

My kitten ignores me, and continues to feast.

And I - beloved, loving, adoring - I drown.

Thekla Kenneison is a web developer who tripped and fell into writing horror. Previously published in The Magnus Archives podcast feed for The Budding, a winning Rusty Fears submission, Thekla likes to write pieces that unsettle, unnerve, and gently thrill. He’s also known to occasionally post to his Twitter, @thekla_ken.