by Wendy Ashlee Coleman
Bright hall lights illuminate the floors and walls of a dark room as the creaky apartment door swings open wildly causing the doorknob to ram into and dent the cheap sheet rock. A large man enters; then angrily slams the door shut, making the blackness return. He stumbles around the lightlessness with squeaky wet shoes and a thick coat, his breathing erratic and loud. The quiet clicking of a switch on a small but intense table lamp sounds loud in the quiet efficiency dwelling as the tall, gangly, white man plops down on a big leather couch and hunches over while grasping his hand. His wet hair rains water droplets on an old, poorly maintained hardwood floor as his face scrunches up in agony. Subtle yet clear moaning sounds escape his clenched jaw and pursed lips. He looks down at a blood drenched rag wrapped tightly around his hand, so saturated it has begun to form big crimson drops, detaching and spattering onto the floor with his every movement.
A large tuxedo colored cat comes over to comfort his owner, purring aggressively and rubbing on his leg while happily lapping up a small but growing pond of blood between his feet. The man gently pets the cat and stands slowly taking off his thick, green jacket and carefully pulling his injured hand out of the sleeve. The collar to his white t-shirt is stretched out enough to fit around his waist as he casually uses the bottom of it to blot at the nasty looking scratches on the left side of his face. He walks across the room with a limp and flips on the light in a small, white, tiled bathroom.
The man looks in the mirror, turns on the faucet and scoops water with his good hand, splashing it on his pale and pasty skin. He takes a deep breath and slowly starts to unravel the now completely red towel from his hand. He puts the bloody appendage in the sink and watches the water wash off the wound, revealing a severed index finger. He gasps loudly, staring at the grayish bone modestly peeking out the top of the meat stub, looking mangled and snapped at the end, like a broken pencil. He twitches and instinctively puts his good hand over his mouth, then quickly aims at the toilet with his eyes, drops to his knees and vomits profusely, until he has nothing left but drooled gags. He exhaustedly flips the toilet lid down and rests his bloody cheek on the side, catching his breath. Still on his knees, he reaches over and opens the under-sink cabinet and removes a large first aid kit. He sets it in front of him and flips open the tin lid with one hand. He stops and closes his eyes for a moment using the toilet seat as a pillow and then begins to pull out the contents of the kit.
The hot water fills the tub with dancing, bubbling liquid. The air thickens with steam as the man turns the knob off with his large, knurled hands just before it spills over the edge. He opens up a window allowing the air to clear out and carefully eases his whole body into the smoky water. His hand is bandaged with almost professional quality, as a couple of big globs of greasy antibiotic ointment remains smeared over his facial wounds. He relaxes for a moment and closes his eyes only to be quickly awakened by the tuxedo cat whining at him, proudly displaying a bloody, dead mouse lying on the tile. With little emotion, he just stares at the cat’s green, carnal eyes and a blood stained mouth. The cat’s cries act as a lullaby as he drifts off to sleep.
The sun rays invade a little window over the kitchen sink, shooting light into the cramped rundown apartment. The man stands in the kitchen and fills the cat’s food bowl with a big bag of off-brand, dry kitty food, overflowing it and making it spill over the sides and onto the floor. The cat eats what’s on the floor first. He then rolls up the empty bag and sets it on top of the fridge.
The resonating voice of a male morning news anchor drones on about the weather out of an old, box style television. The man continues buttoning a blue vest with a “Gino’s Auto” logo while occasionally watching the news. He opens up the cupboard, puts a bowl in his mouth and then crams a big box of cereal and milk in his good hand. He walks over to the kitchen bar, sits down on a tall, rotating stool and pours his cereal and milk, awkwardly scooping up the food with his non dominant hand.
The television flashes an annoying ‘breaking news’ graphic behind him as he eats. The sound of the male anchors loud, dark voice blares through the apartment.
“Channel 2 news is first to bring you this amazing tale of survival. It happened last night, around 2:00 AM, downtown on the corner of second and Delaware.”
The statement grabs the man’s attention as he suddenly straightens up in his stool and his posture stiffens.
“A young woman was attacked in her apartment by a man in an apparent rape attempt.”
The man slows his chewing and clinches his jaw muscles, but continues to look forward not turning to the television screen.
“According to police, the woman was somehow able to severely injure her attacker and escape by running to a nearby fire department where she was taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries. Local authorities currently have no leads but have linked this to several other sexual assault/robberies that have occurred in this area. If you have any information please call crime stoppers at….”
The man displays no emotion while now ignoring the television and going back to his cereal. The tuxedo cat bulls its way to try to get into his food. The man pushes him away. “Get!!”
The cat comes right back.
The cat stands away for a second but simply cannot resist the drops of milk the man loses trying to spoon his food with his left hand and comes back.
The man explodes, smacking the cat making it fly across the kitchen and onto the floor hard. The cat hisses at him, terrified.
“YOU FUCKING CAT!!” he says as he throws his cereal bowl at the tuxedo kitty covering the yellow kitchen walls with milk and raisin bran.
The cat dodges the cereal bowl, hops on the counter and hides behind the microwave still hissing. With a deranged facial expression, the man darts from behind the counter and reaches back behind the microwave grabbing at the cat, but the feline balls-up on his arm and sinks it’s teeth into his flesh. The man jerks back and clasps onto to his hand as the cat runs under a small kitchen table.
“FUCK!!” The man says, clenching onto his now bleeding forearm. He grabs a kitchen knife and corners the cat. He reaches around and scruffs the tuxedo kitty from behind the neck, picks him up and holds the knife painfully with his bad hand just centimeters from the kitty’s throat. The cat still hisses at him as he once again looks into his green eyes becoming almost hypnotized by them. The man’s face begins to relax as his flared nostrils start to shrink and his teeth hide back behind his lips. He calms down and releases the cat, throws the kitchen knife in the sink and leans on the counter, breathing deeply. He opens up the medicine cabinet, grabs a bottle of aspirin, pops the top and takes down four pills, crunching them without water. The cat stands just out of reach in the doorway of the kitchen watching him. The cat then slowly approaches him and rubs against his leg in forgiveness. He stops and looks down at the cat, rolls his neck and then puts on a thick green jacket draped over the chair, a scarf and a big winter hat. He then throws a gym bag over his shoulder, kicks off the lights, opens the door to a bright, windy day and shuts it behind him.
A cast of light creeps over the pitch black apartment floor as the door opens, engulfing the dark room slowly but illuminating it fully like an artificial sunset. The light then dissipates quickly as he shuts and locks it behind him. The man walks across the room, clicks on the the end table light and takes off his jacket. He plops down in the big leather couch and looks around for his cat that is usually there to greet him. He kisses and calls for the cat.
“Here Cat!” he says, making kissing sounds with his mouth but receiving no response. He gets up and walks around the house, checks the back rooms and finally the bathroom.
“Shit!” he says, realizing he has left the bathroom window cracked open.
He opens it up fully, sticks his head out in the cold, rainy weather and looks down three stories to an alley way. He sees nothing but the wet, shiny black streets. Panicked, he throws on his jacket and quickly exits the apartment.
He walks down the dark, quiet alley way hunched over and cold with his hands in his pockets desperately calling out for his cat, almost in tears. He looks across the street and under a bright alley light and to his disbelief, sees his tuxedo cat rummaging through a dumpster.
“OH!!” he says out loud, a sigh of relief overcoming the man as he runs all the way up to the street calling for his cat which looks up at him, starts meowing and moving forward to him. He walks to greet his kitty but without warning a old model town car blasts through the alley way. The cat hits the side, bounces off the bumper and falls to the street. The man is hit in the shoulder by the passenger side mirror and is thrown to the ground. The car screeches to a stop as red brake lights reflect the glassy streets. Without any concern for his own injury, the man slowly gets up and hobbles over to his cat. He shakes his battered pet but it barely moves, and musters up only enough strength to let out a small cry. A large, big bellied man walks up several feet behind him. “Jesus christ!! Are you alright? You know what time it is?! Huh?! You hear me you dumb shit?”
The man looks at his cat and starts crying and shaking, ignoring the driver.
“Hey man, . .I’ll call you an ambulance man but I, . . this ain’t my fault man! You, . . .you walked right in front of me,” The driver says pulling out a cell phone. “In fact, . .screw this. I’m calling my lawyer first.”
The man looks up, his nostrils open wide and his face distorted.
“Dumb asses like you need a license to walk!!!” The driver grunts.
The man stands up, reaches in his pocket and flips open a sinister looking, four inch, hook knife. He walks up to the man on the phone.
The driver puts his cell in his pocket and looks up at him expecting a heated exchange in words . “What?!” the driver says tightening his body, ready for a potential fist fight.
The man slashes him across the throat with lightning speed. The driver stands motionless for a moment looking back at him in shock. He takes a few steps back and coughs a little before his throat suddenly turns into a blood sprinkler, spewing and spitting it everywhere as the big bellied man falls forward.
The doors kick open violently in an emergency animal hospital.
“HELP!!!! I NEED SOME HELP!!!!!” the man screams, holding his half dead kitty in his jacket and bawling like a little boy.
Two staff members greet him and try to calm the hysterical and mentally unstable man down. “Sir! You need to calm down right now!” says a tall male doctor, literally grabbing him by the lapel as the other staff member scoops the cat up and runs down the hall.
“What?!” the man says not paying attention and looking over the doctor’s shoulder at his kitty.
“Sir, . .just take a deep breath. Sir? You need to relax! You’re scaring everyone. Just take a seat in the waiting room”
Out of breath and crying, the man looks around the room. The other patients stare back, gripping their pets tightly. He searches for an empty bench and quietly walks over, sits down and buries his face in his bandaged hands, still crying. The head staff member looks at the man, walks over and begins to comfort him.
The room lights up quickly as the door is nudged open by the mans foot, his hands are full of groceries and a large pet taxi. He shuffles across the room, clicks the light on and uncaringly drops the groceries to the floor, but carefully places the pet taxi on the edge of the sofa and opens it up. He looks in and smiles while exhaling loudly and leaning back allowing himself to sink deeply into the sofa.
The man sets a plate of food on the kitchen table and lights a pretty red Christmas candle. He runs over to the stove and retrieves two tuna fillets off a sizzling grill. He plops them on a plate and begins chopping them up, blowing on them to cool them down. He walks over to the other end of the table where his heavily bandaged, immobile cat lies in a little kitty bed he has set up. The man puts the plate of freshly cooked tuna by the cat who lifts his head up, takes a few sniffs and begins to eat it heartily.
“Careful, . it’s hot.” The man says with a big smile as he watches his cat chowing down. He picks up his fork and begins eating dinner as well, the bright candle and small oven light act like beacons, the only light in a dark house.
Wendy Ashlee Coleman is a published author of both fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. She resides in the midwestern United States.