It wasn’t just the murder, he decided. Everything else seemed to have conspired to ruin his day as well. Even the cat. “Shoooh!” he cried, but the cat simply ignored his threat and continued to stare at the bloodied mess on the floor, then looked at him and purred as if to ask, “What do you propose to do now?”
“Well, you have any ideas?” he asked the cat, who didn’t seem to have any good ideas either and, instead, chose to turn away, walking thoughtfully to a corner and take a place next to a shattered vase.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” he thought, “Not on my off day, I get only one day in a week for God’s sake.” The cat seemed to agree and made that stupid noise that cat’s make when they have nothing better to do, which irritated him more.
He cursed the cat again but this time it didn’t completely ignore him, just stretched its neck and cocked its head a bit, as if to say “Come again?” And when he didn’t, the majestic feline decided to go back to ignoring him once again. A decidedly wisely look came over its furry face, as if it was chewing over the predicament slumped in disarray on the floor.
The mess, any mess, can be cleaned up, provided you wanted it cleaned up. He remembered reading something to that effect somewhere back in the days when he used to read to take his mind off pressing matters instead of smoking up.
Meanwhile, the blood-soaked problem on the floor was silently crying out for his attention and increasingly he was finding it difficult to ignore it anymore.
Even the cat was restless now and it got up to take a closer look at the crisis at hand and slowly lowered itself next to it, its whiskers quivering with what seemed to be anticipation.
The bright noon sun peeping through the curtains, almost blinding him, shook him our of his reverie. He really needed to do something. With no idea as to what, he just went looking for a beer in the fridge.
Suddenly, his mind cleared. Maybe the long swig on an empty stomach jolted him, and he decided to act, finally. But he was still holding the beer bottle and had to finish that first. Besides, he needed to think some more. “I can’t think, drink beer and clean up this mess at the same time,” he thought in his defence and stared at the floor half expecting to see only the empty beer bottles, newspapers and cigarette butts lying about as usual.
“All I wanted was to win the game. And this is the price I pay for wanting to win a piddly game of chess? He could have just let me win, stupid bugger,” he muttered angrily to no one in particular, but the cat nodded all the same.
He felt sad though. They were friends for a long time and he was a constant companion where ever he went. Even in office. In fact, he was his only friend. “And now he is dead. You could have just let me win you fool just this once?,” he thought again regretting his friend’s stupidity.
At the back of his mind he always knew that his friend was better than him in everything and secretly hated him for it. “He always got the girl even when I spoke to her first. I did all the hard work didn’t I?. Even in office the few times the editor praised my copies he pushed me aside to claim the credit. And when something went wrong the boss never believed he fiddled with my copy and introduced the errors. Good riddance. I don’t even want to talk about the other times when he made me look stupid.”
The man felt dumb whining about his friend’s meanness to the cat, who seemed to be giving a sympathetic hearing by occasionally twitching his whiskers in agreement.
Suddenly, it occurred to him that this cat, which is not even his cat, could be the reason behind the day going so bad for him and shot a menacing look at the animal. This time the feline didn’t ignore the threat and moved just as the empty beer bottle crashed at the place he was perched till a moment ago. The cat was giving him a wary look now, ready to leap again, just in case.
“Damn! More mess. I should just burn this place down,” he thought. “Yeah!” The idea appealed to him and his eyes lit up.
The man woke up to a stench of burnt flesh, feeling very thirsty. He tried to look around and felt a stab of pain all over his body as he tried to move. “Where am I?” he thought as his eyes took in the sight of what looked like a hospital ward.
The attending nurse came rushing seeing the John Doe move for the first time in two days. “Can’t you hear? Give me some water,” he cried at the top of his voice. But the nurse seemed not to hear and kept leaning closer.
It was then that horror struck. Through the corner of his eyes he saw his friend standing and smiling mysteriously petting a cat. “He should be dead, why’s he here, and that cat, that cat…” A weary calm descended on him as the room grew darker. He closed his eyes and wondered if he was dying.
PS: The opening line courtesy Neil Gaiman.