I sat there face to face with a man staring right back at me, inches away from my carrier cage.
He seemed to be older, strands of grey hairs sprouting out by his temples and the thin lines of wrinkles embedded on his thin skin. His eyes were large and a deep, dark green colour.
A soft smile formed on his dry lips that sent a wave of comfort through my body.
After what seemed like forever, the vehicle stopped and I could feel my stomach churning with sickness from the long ride.
Opening the door, he pulled me out of the car, moving towards the humble home.
I peered out from between the metal bars, my eyes adjusting to the bright sunlight reflecting off the yellow-painted walls. Wilted roses in vases sat beside the wooden door, their once bright red petals now on the concrete.
He didn’t speak a single word as we entered the house, only placing my carrier down. Freeing me from my temporary prison, he allowed me to get accustomed to his living quarters. Curiosity forming in my chest, I gave in to the urge and ventured through the maze of his home.
I saw rifles framed on the walls, animal hides and bits and pieces of military memorabilia that clearly meant a lot to the man strewn about.
Hopping onto the table, my stomach grumbled for food but the old scraps which were there made the hairs on my back stand tall from the rank stench.
I noticed vintage photographs placed on dusty shelves and hanging on the dull walls. I couldn’t quite identify who the people were in these photos. They were mainly male, holding long rifles, wearing long boots and tough, rounded helmets on their heads. Sometimes they were in dirt trenches, sometimes they weren’t.
I recognised my new owner as one of these men. Though, he seemed so much younger and fresher than he did now, like the life had been sapped right out of his bones.
With each photo frame I glanced at, I would see the same smiling men holding up those guns, dirt and grime all over their youthful faces. Yet, one by one they would disappear from each photo until there were only two left, my owner and another man.
The second man by the end of it held a wooden cane clutched in his left hand, his eyes lifeless…resentful.
“Tsk tsk tsk,” a voice came from the bedroom, accompanied by the sound of food clattering against a metal bowl.
From instinct I hurried towards the noise, moving past mountains of empty bottles scattered about.
Seeing cat biscuits served to me, a disapproving mewl left my mouth.
“Sorry uh…s’all I got…” he paused, crouching down in front of me. He reached out a veiny hand which trembled slightly, lifting up my collar with my name tag. “Lucky.”
Feeling rather elated to hear my own name for the first time in a long while, I decided to make do with the food for now.
Over the next few days and even weeks, everything seemed to go by quickly as I enjoyed my stay with the man.
He often sat me down on his lap and would turn on the television, petting me leisurely and flinching every time there was a loud noise. Whenever he went to sleep, he would place me down beside him and his large arm would wrap around me. Sometimes he would jump awake in the middle of the night, waking me up as well. His sweaty fingers would gently caress my fur with great care, the tremble in his hands never ceasing.
I would do my best to ease his pain, licking his clammy palms and humming a repeated beat to him.
He would whisper, over and over again:
I was just happy he was okay.
We often sat down at the worn-out dinner table and he would allow me to jump on top to eat with him. Never had any of my previous owners allowed me this pleasure they would usually scare me away, but he didn’t. I would have my separate bowl and he would have his. Whenever he needed some salt or pepper I’d carefully push it over to him.
These were the good days…the days I would give anything to relive over…and over again.
Finally, the very first visitor arrived since I moved in.
His daughter, a woman with flowing dark locks and such luscious lashes that they would flutter like small butterflies whenever she blinked.
In comparison to the man, she didn’t seem as ecstatic to be seeing him– seeming to be there out of duty than care. Even so, they embraced each other as though they hadn’t seen one another in many, many years.
The woman looked around the house, her thin brows furrowed together and her nose scrunched up. Her hand batted away the musty air. Her foot pushed away full pill bottles, making a rattling noise echo through the crowded halls.
She clearly didn’t even want to be here and I simply couldn’t understand why. The dim light, the familiar smell, crowded rooms felt like home to me.
Sitting down, they talked for a while and I crept up closer, sitting against the man’s leg.
She looked down at me, her eyes widening in shock. Without wasting a moment, she pointed her dainty finger in my direction and spoke loudly to the man. My ears tensed and the hairs on my back stood up tall.
My owner was a very frail man, loud noises frightened him, she shouldn’t have been speaking to him like that. I tried to communicate this to her by meowing loudly, but she just disregarded me.
The man flinched at her loudness, his back hunched over as he shook his head.
She continued shouting, shaking her head in grave disapproval.
“I…don’t need h– help…with anything. I’m fine…I’m…okay…now…”
At that moment a man walked in. The younger man stood beside the woman, his arm around her shoulder as he calmed her down.
He scowled at the older man, and I scowled right back at him.
“Dan…Alice…p– please don’t worry. I can take care of him…myself…too…”
Alice said something else, pointing to his house and eyed him up and down before Dan cut the conversation short, dragging her out of the dusty abode.
‘Good riddance to them,’ I thought at the time.
“I don’t need the medication anymore. I don’t need help with anything. I’m fine…I’m…fine…”
They were already gone, but he continued…
I glanced up at him and he just smiled…though, this smile seemed different. I couldn’t place why though. His long brows were knitted together and the tips of his lips were slightly curved down.
My concern for the man grew with each word he mumbled. I purred softly and nuzzled my face against his leg.
“Don’t worry about Alice. She’s just…trying to look out for me, Lucky…”
His hands shook violently by his sides.
The next day the man was getting ready to go out somewhere for the first time in months.
“Gonna be late…forgot the memorial gathering today…” the man mumbled from inside his bedroom.
When he emerged he was dressed in an odd dark green uniform, the only object in his dwelling kept pristine. Many small colourful badges were stuck to the left side of his breast and to the right was a nametag. He looked the best he’d ever had, I felt rather proud.
I blinked up at him with intrigue.
“You like it? Y…yeah, s’been a while since I wore…” he stopped himself and picked me up in his arms. “Come on, let’s go.”
Sitting me down in the passenger seat of his car he promptly drove off.
We arrived at a large open area where there was a pool of water streaming down and a big building at the front along with many white headstones placed around. There were many people there, more than I’d ever seen.
Parking his car, I thought he would leave me there but instead brought me with him. His hands still shaking. I clung to his chest, glancing around at the men who were dressed similarly to him. The women who stood by their side grimaced when they saw him and urged them to move away from his presence.
His eye fell upon a certain man with a cane.
When the other old fellow saw him…his eyelids widened and his features scrunched up in an almost repulsed manner.
I recognised the man from the photos.
“Mark…” he spoke breathlessly, pulse racing rapidly. “I haven’t seen you since–”
The man by the name of Mark cut him off, shaking his head and refused to speak with him. Saying something harsh under his breath that clearly affected my owner as I could hear his heart pounding against his ribcage.
Turning on his heel, he slowly limped away.
“Mark, p– please! I already told you years ago I tried my best to help them…you…! But–” he stopped when he noticed everyone’s eyes on him with expressions of disapproval, shaking their heads at his loud ruckus. “I never meant to leave you there! I told them to go get you–”
I noticed some pointed at me and scoffed in disbelief. I stared back, wondering if it was such an odd thing to bring a cat along to such a place.
A few of the men shouted obscenities in his direction.
He refused to give up on Mark and continued.
“We f– finally get to see each other a– after all these years and you still blame me for that!?”
Crowds of people formed around Mark, ensnaring him and swallowing him whole.
Another man came up to him, placing a hand on his shoulder and whispered something which made him push them away before bolting through the crowd as fast as he could to his car. He shoved me into my carrier and sped off, swearing and shouting at the top of his lungs, his dirty nails digging into the steering wheel.
“After all this time…”
Soon, his shouting morphed into a shaky guttural noise and it was the first time I heard such a sound leave his throat.
“What was I supposed to do…”
I peered at him.
“Lucky…what do I do…am I really…such…a bad person?”
In that moment, my heart yearned for only one thing:
I wished I could speak…and tell him otherwise…to tell him how kind-hearted, soft, gentle and caring of a man he truly was.
Arriving back home, he didn’t bother changing back into his regular discoloured clothes. Instead, we sat down on the sofa and he turned on the television, as per our daily ritual.
“Let’s stay…here from now on. I prefer…staying…here w– with you, Lucky,” I remember him mumbling to himself as I slowly drifted off to sleep beside him. The comforting heat from his warm body being the last thing I recalled.
I woke up after a long nap to the telephone ringing…and ringing…and ringing. The noise irritated my ears and forced me to abandon any desire to go back to sleep.
Sitting up, I recognised the absence of the man.
I looked out the window seeing the night beginning to envelop the sky.
Assuming he’d gone off back to his bed to sleep, I followed suit.
The door was left open a crack and I pushed my nose against it, opening it.
I halted in my tracks.
A chair was placed in the middle of the room and beside it was the man, a thick rope was suspended from the ceiling which wrapped tightly around his jugular. His hands lay beside him, pale and blue, eyes open but droopy as he peered out from beneath his lashes.
The only sound that could be heard was the rope struggling to hold his weight as his body levitated from side to side.
And I just sat there, staring at the hypnotising sight…unable to move.
Sarah Hemat-Siraky is a young female writer with a deep love for both writing and cats, especially her feline friend, Steve. She began writing when she was twelve years old and has continued this passion since. She is a huge nerd and loves everything comic and tv-show related.