>B04[purloined_cat]

Do you know what chaos is? It’s uniform. Like nothingness.

Rushes of lightning gauged my eyes. Molten metal ripped splintered holes in my torso. I didn’t lay down. Violent combustion rocked me to my core, sending limbs flying in a technicolor spasm of every sense. We were heroes. Kill them, fuck them, blow them all to hell. We couldn’t lose, we couldn’t stop, we couldn’t slow the rising crescendo’s blinding crash as it endlessly screamed on.

Stop it.

Take me out.

It’s all blaring static.

Darkness fell on me like a tonne of bricks.

My body sank to meet me in the floor, pulling me up into its dead inky mass. Sleep paralysis weighted me down while I regained my reality, eyes inching open.

As I sat up on the pad of my apartment floor, I struggled to breathe.

“…Jesus Christ.”

Nausea welled up as my heart pounded. I yanked the wires from my neck, stood up. It was mere steps to the back of my apartment. There, my bathroom, a tiled shower over an open toilet and mildewed curtain. I punched the stick-light over the mirror and leaned in, pressing my forehead to the surface, gripping the sink.

My breath fogged the glass as I looked under my brow into shadowed green eyes.

This fucker again.

No windows, wide and long, my apartment was a casket for pacing in, closing in around me.

Here it comes.

My abs contracted, my muscles tightened as bile welled up. I pushed down into the sink. I gripped its edges and emptied my stomach hard, coughing and choking out.

I turned the faucet, putting my cold steel hand under its stream, running it over my face. There was a moment of unwoken confusion as I stared at the mirror.

I had taken off my watch, I saw, turning over my wrist to check.

Don’t know what time it is.

But my mind was waking up.

There was an angered twist in my lips, in the harsh white light. I turned it off, plunging me back into the dark. Pitch black, save for cracks in my old damn door, not ten feet from my back.

My stomach lurched.

Wandering to the door of my apartment and swinging it open into the hall, stepping my bare feet onto its frigid surface, I looked left and right.

To my left there would be a vending machine around the corner, beaten and blinking. Yes, I was hungry.

That was all I was, recently.

Go, get something to burn my mouth. Wait to go again.

My sleep was erratic, meals punctuated my life.

Turning to look right, I saw an old man far down the hall, sitting in front of his door, head in his hands.

He wasn’t moving.

I locked my apartment behind me and started towards him. I paused.

For a moment I wanted to go back inside. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, let alone someone else who probably didn’t want to talk to anyone. We were strangers to each other and you learned in a city of a billion people what that meant.

See to yourself.

Don’t look.

I was standing now in the hall, motionless for too long.

Keep walking.

Coming close enough, “you alright?” I asked.

The old man’s pale face peered up, a distraught look. He was almost voiceless as he said, “have you seen my cat?”

We weren’t supposed to have animals.

“Cat?”

“A tabby… About this big,” he showed. “She’s around here somewhere. I just can’t find her. I don’t know… where… where it is she could have gone.”

The hall was empty, his apartment door open at his side.

I thought about it for a second before asking. “I can check?”

He nodded.

The apartment was the same as mine, disordered and cramped. Apart from the window, that is, incredibly narrow and high over the shower.

“Could it have gone out the door?”

“‘Haven’t opened it in… a few days.”

I looked all around. There were only three points of entrance in the room. A ceiling vent, a window, and the door. Plausibility, right?

I stepped up on the toilet and looked at the window.

No lock on the thing, but too small for even me. It popped open with a push and I had to step up on the sink to get my head out.

Cold air and steam rising from below, I looked out on the city, massive as it was. The side of this building would just be another grid of stars scattered on a black plane in the night. There was nothing for a foothold, just the weathered exterior.

Nothing could climb that.

Coming back in, I saw the old man standing in the door. “She must have gotten out in the hall, somehow,” he told me as if trying to remember.

He was relieved only a little, the stress on his face still showing.

What am I doing?

I didn’t even know if this cat was real. How could I? But I believed him.

Stepping into the hall, I had to inch past him. There was a door opening and closing somewhere down the way. I looked for it as I thought about what else I could say or do. Anxiety and adrenaline were still stirring in my chest.

It couldn’t have gone far, right? That cat could be anywhere. It was an undifferentiated, rising complexity in every direction. I barely knew which way was home. Sometimes I turned the wrong direction in the same building I’d lived and wandered for two years. And there I’d find meaningless things to me. Unknown. Maybe a cat knows what it’s doing better than me, though.

Yeah.

“When was the last you saw it?” I asked.

“Before my sleep.”

So that was easily ten hours. I rubbed at my eyes, bloodshot as they were. He was a sleeper; a welfare-taking, head-jacking nobody starving themselves to feed a cat. Something he loved. Someone to make the waking world familiar.

We could only sleep so much.

“I’ll look for your cat,” I said, before I knew what I was doing. His wrinkled face slackened for an instant.

“You don’t need to… do that,” his eyes were bleary. “If you could try… thank you, young man.” He extended a shaky hand and so did I. The touch sense was dim but clammy. I smiled tiredly.

The bus was in a few hours, no doubt.

Okay, yeah. Fuck me. I was gonna go look for that cat. That was something.

 

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