The Dead

Delta Winds cover 2006Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


The Dead

Ashley Litz

"I dare you. . . to jump in the snake pit!"


The snake pit was actually nothing more than a big hole in the ground, filled with tall tufts of grass, thistles, and overgrown weeds. A rubber tire decorated the center, as well as a couple of old toys and Barbie dolls who "deserved punishment." I positioned myself on top of the steep slope, and hopped in. It actually took me three big bunny hops, from one rock to the next, to reach the bottom. Once there, I looked up at my sisters.

"Do you see any snakes yet?" Rebekka, my oldest sister, called down. I looked around.

"No. . . ," I answered back. Suddenly, Kacy, my second oldest sister, started to shriek.

"There! There! I see one! I see one!" she shouted, pointing to the left.

"Ohh! I see it, too!" Rebekka chimed in, smiling and pointing to the right. They both hopped up and down in their excitement.

"Ashley, get out of there!" Rebekka cried.

"Hurry, hurry!" Kacy shouted.

I scrambled up the dirty, rocky slope, holding onto the clumps of grass and weeds to keep from sliding back into the pit. Finally, I reached the top and, giggling, brushed myself off. I had proven my bravery in "Truth or Dare."

"Gosh, Ashley," Rebekka looked at me with fascination, "that snake almost got you!"

"Really?" I looked back over my shoulder, but couldn't see anything dangerous. Rebekka giggled and nudged Kacy.

"Yeah," she said, "you really are brave! Maybe. . . you should. . . be. . . IT!" and with that, Rebekka tagged me so hard I almost stumbled back into the snake pit.

"Hey!" I cried out, but she and Kacy had already grabbed hands and were racing across the backyard, laughing and screaming. I caught onto the game immediately, and chased after them, forgetting all about my almost fatal fall. We ran across the grass, my short, stubby little legs unable to keep up with their longer, leaner, stronger ones.

"Let's go hide in the tall grass- - she'll never find us there!" Rebekka yelled to Kacy.

"Okay!" came the reply, and they headed for the woods. In front of the woods was a stretch of grass that had never been mowed. The patch was like an ocean of green, an ocean that one could swim in. Most of the blades were taller than me; my sisters could hide anywhere in that field and I would never find them.

I closed my eyes and willed my legs to pump faster. On I ran, breathing heavily. When I opened them again, I saw I was magically closer to my sisters! Closer and closer I came, until finally I barreled into them. I realized my sisters had stopped.

Stepping back quickly, I hit Rebekka on the arm.

"Tag! You're it!" I panted.

"Quiet, Ashley," snapped Rebekka. "We're not playing that anymore." She wasn't even looking at me. I was confused.

"What do you think is wrong with it?" Kacy whispered quietly. I followed her gaze to the ground in front of us; a black cat lay there on its side. It wasn't moving, and the air around it seemed strange--quiet and smelly. I suddenly noticed that everything around me seemed to have grown very quiet.

"Kitty- -wake up!" I said, wanting to break the silence. I reached forward to nudge it a little, but Rebekka slapped my hand.

"Don't, Ashley!" she ordered. "It's dead."

"Dead?" I echoed, looking up at her grim face. She crouched down closer to it.

"It looks like one of the dogs got to it. See? Its head is bleeding." She pointed to the gooey mess beneath its matted, furry ears.

"Stupid dogs," I heard Kacy mutter.

"What's 'dead'?" I asked. My sisters did not look at me. Instead, Rebekka reached down with her skinny hands and pulled on the cat's tail. She began to pick it up. Suddenly, the tail snapped off and the body thudded back onto the ground.

"Eww!!" Kacy shrieked. My eyes widened. Rebekka held the tail in her hand. I could see the bone sticking out from the blackened tufts of fur. That terrible stench hit me again, stronger this time. It smelled like something sweet, but rotting. A bitter taste came into my mouth. Rebekka looked sickened as she dropped the tail back onto the ground.

"Dead means it won't move any more," she said, then turned away and walked back to the house. Kacy had her hands up to her face, and she was shuddering as she followed after our big sister. I watched them go inside. The screen door slammed.

Suddenly, a warm summer wind blew, and it rustled through the sea of grass. I turned and listened to the swishing noise it made, gazing at the tips of the swaying grasses dancing in the sunlight, then followed the blades down with my eyes, back down to the dead cat.

What was. . . "dead"?

I looked around, picked up a nearby stick, and slowly took a deep breath of fresh air. I crouched down by the still and stiffened black form, and poked it.

Nothing happened. I poked it again.

Still nothing. I leaned my head back for another gulp of fresh air, and then, holding it, I pushed the branch beneath the fur and flipped the body over.

Maggots and beetles exploded from the dampened, bloody ground. The cat's black fur was torn out in patches, and I could see its bones, poking through a gash torn in its side. A small white worm wriggled from an empty eye socket, followed by another, and another. Black bugs scattered in all directions, frightened by the sunlight. Centipedes and fat green flies suddenly littered the earth where the cat had been, tasting the blood and decay. A terrible buzzing noise filled my ears. But most horrible of all was the smell.

This was "dead." I dropped the stick immediately, and ran back to the house, screaming.