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Cat's Eye

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Cat’s Eye

by Jeani Rector
The cat just showed up one day.
Like most strays, it was thin and ragged.  Its dark gray fur was mottled and tufts had been torn out as if the animal had been in numerous fights.  The ears were frayed; tattered from battles over females or territory. 
But the ugliest thing about the cat was that one of its eyes was missing.
Instead of a glowing orb, there was an empty socket; a black, hideous hole.  It made me want to turn away in disgust, yet at the same time it was morbidly mesmerizing to see. 
I knew I could stare at the cat’s deformity.  It was not as though I were looking at a person who would feel offended at my obvious fascination with the handicap.  The cat would have no comprehension when I stared.  He wouldn’t care. 
The cat certainly did stand out.  His face was dissimiliar with others of his species; he had an unusual, albeit ugly, irregularity that set him apart.  One could not confuse this cat with any other.
The bizarre deformity was compelling, yet at the same time, revolting.  I found myself wondering what the cat would think if he could know that he was different.  I felt a morbid fascination for the cat with the hole in its face.
The cat was friendly enough.  It appeared on my back porch, sitting, waiting.  For what?   For me?  I didn’t know.  Perhaps it was waiting for anyone who would take pity upon the battered creature and feed it, or even befriend it.
And so I placed food out for it, not even sure why I was doing as such.  I simply could not stop my attraction with the macabre appearance of the violated eye socket.  As expected, the cat returned to my back porch the very next morning.  And the next.
I continued to stare at the cavernous, empty eye socket.  I began to take in the details, how the skin surrounding the hole was gradually becoming sunken, shriveling inwards; compounding the emptiness within, falling into itself.
The cat attempted to reward me for giving it the food.  It tried to approach me, to rub against my pant leg with affection.  But I was horrified at the idea of that hideous face touching me.  I could not accept any part of its solicitations.  Yet I was unable to turn my back on it, either.  I wanted to keep staring at the cat with the hole in its face.  I couldn’t turn away.
What was happening to me?  Before the cat showed up on my porch, I never paid attention to anything in my surroundings.  I was a timid, cautious man; an accountant by trade.  I went through my life always deep within a rut of my own making, my days so similar to one another that years could go by without anything noteworthy occurring.  I knew I had a milquetoast personality, a way of blending in with the crowd, of not doing anything interesting to bring attention to myself.  So why was I so perversely attracted to a creature that stood out so grossly from its peers?
Every time it visited me, the cat would finish its meal.  Then it would leave, marching slowly away to places unknown with its broken tail held high like a tattered flag.  And I would stare after it, wondering where it went, and wondering why it came to me in the first place.
Every time the cat left, I would go back into my home, alone, and my mind would start to go places that I didn’t understand.  I kept thinking of the empty eye socket in that battered face.  Would other people react towards the cat as I did?  Would other people be fascinated, horrified, repulsed, mesmerized?  Would other people be unable to look away?
I began to wonder how it would feel to be so deformed.  What if it were me and not a cat that had a physical defect?  What would it be like to no longer be part of the pack, to stand out, to have people glance at you yet turn away in embarrassment once they realized that you had caught them staring?  Could it be possible for someone to be so ugly that people would be unable to turn away, to be so repulsive that people would forget their embarrassment at staring, because they were overcome with enormous fascination?
I started thinking about these things as I went through my days.  I wondered what it would be like to have people notice me.  To actually be noticed!  I even started staring at other people as I commuted to my accounting job on the crowded subway, to see if anyone would acknowledge me, or at least to look back at me.  They didn’t.  I blended into the crowd all too well.  I was a nobody.  Worse, I was a non-entity. 
If no one knew I existed, did that mean that I didn’t really exist?
And so I continued to be preoccupied about something that began with a cat that was missing an eye.  If I had something disgustingly wrong with me, I would be noticed.  And if I were noticed, maybe then I would begin to exist.  I would no longer be a non-entity.
The idea of wanting to become abnormal, even horrible, was ballooning into an obsession that consumed my every thought.  There were times when I wondered if I were going mad, and there were other times when I was sure of it.
But going mad wouldn’t be good enough.  Insanity is concealed on the inside.  I needed something more obvious, something deplorable on the outside.  I desired something that could hold shock value, something to make the whole world take notice of me.  At this point of wanting to be different, I would not be satisfied with mere insanity!
And what of the cat? I began to wonder if I should reward that cat for the new ideas it gave me, the opening of my eyes so to speak, to the limitedness of my previous life.  I knew I could no longer endure the boundaries that my incredible insignificance had forced upon me. 
Why, that cat had changed my life!
Could I allow myself to pet the cat?  Could I possibly touch that hideous monster?  That freak?
And while considering this, it seemed to open up even more ideas in my mind.  What if, even beyond being noticed by the masses, people suddenly felt the need to touch me?  How could I make them drawn to me, to want to seek me out, to become such an important being that people would actually want to become part of my world?
Or, more exactly, how could I bring people into my world?
Yes, that was it; that was it exactly.  I wanted people to be concerned for my welfare, to take care of me, just as I had taken care of the one-eyed cat by feeding him.
How much more could I be noticed if people had to take the time out of their busy schedules to ensure my well-being?
Oh, the gratitude I began to feel towards the cat!  The wonderful secrets its presence in my life had revealed!  Because now I had an idea as to how to make everything change.  Now I knew what to do.  Now I had a plan.
One day, I left my job at the accounting firm.  I rode home on the subway, seeing that nothing had changed, that the masses of people continued to ignore me.  I squirmed with anticipation, because I knew, I knew, something these snubbing people did not know.  I knew how be noticed; I would be taken care of.  I would be important.  None of these subway riders were aware that this would be the day the cat would change my life.  This is the day I picked to carry out my plan.
When I got home, I went to the back porch with a bowl of food.  The hideous, one-eyed cat was there, waiting for me.  He had been the first one to ever notice me, but I vowed he wouldn’t be the last.
Again I looked at the empty socket; a black, hideous hole in the face of the cat.  Inching my way towards him, I suddenly lunged and grabbed the fur behind the cat’s neck and lifted him into the air.
Surprised, the cat tried to get free.  His mottled fur puffed and bristling, he lashed out with his claws and tried to twist out of my grasp.  He yowled and screamed, instinctively knowing that being captured by a madman was not a good thing.  But I held him at arm’s length, so that his claws could not make contact.  My grip upon the scruff of his neck was secure.
Me, the betrayer of the cat’s trust.
At least, I imagined that is what the cat must have thought.  But I knew that I was actually going to do the cat a favor.  I was going to reward the ugly creature for instilling in me a new outlook, a new vision. 
As I pulled the cat inside my house, he continued to struggle.  I was getting nervous that he might somehow wrestle free of my grip.  So I had to put a stop to his struggles.  I certainly could not have a wildcat running around loose in my house.
In the kitchen I knew I had all the tools to accomplish what I had set my mind to do.  I grabbed a hammer and struck the cat on the head, not enough to kill him, just enough to subdue him.  I was not sure if he was unconscious or merely dazed, but I was gratified when the cat went limp in my hand.
And that let me do what I intended to do.  In one stroke, I could make myself stand out from my crowd, while allowing this animal to blend in with his crowd.  I tied the animal securely to my kitchen table, the side of his face that was missing the eye fully exposed.  The kitchen table was about to become the cat’s operating table.
But first, I had to have the goods.  I had to have an eye to replace the one the cat had lost.
I reached into my kitchen drawer to find the sharpest knife available.  Then, using a wall mirror, I aimed the knife towards my face.
* * * * * * * * * *
Today I have everything I wanted.  As I write this story into my journal, I reflect upon my life, both before and after I had met the cat.
I am different today, both physically and mentally.  I refuse to wear the eye patch that the staff offers to me.  Instead, I expose the gaping, hideous hole in my face to anyone who cares to look, and look they do.  It is my badge of courage, the proof that I could be different from the crowd.  And I am different; I stand out.  This is a source of pride for me
And as for being taken care of, being touched…..I don’t have to commute to my accounting job any more.   Today I don’t have to go anywhere. I have doctors and orderlies who come to me.  If I am hungry, they feed me, just as I once fed the cat.  I have my own bed on the ward.
Today I am somebody.  If I ever feel ignored, I just start screaming about the cat and then someone attends to me immediately.  I have never generated that kind of interest in my entire life before now.  It makes me feel special.
And about that cat….he gave me a gift, so I gave him one in return.  Now he will be like all the other cats.  Because everyone wants what one cannot have.  I am sure cats are like that, too.  Because he was different, I knew that cat probably didn’t want to be different.  I figure giving him my eye was a win/win situation.  I am different and now he is not.
My only complaint is that sometimes the staff here lies to me.  When I ask how the cat is doing, they tell me he didn’t survive the operation.  But I know they are lying to me, because any cat that could survive all those battles that tore him up so much, could certainly survive a little bump on the head.
Copyright Jeani Rector 2006

Jeani Rector has two stories (THE GOLEM and GHOUL) which are currently under consideration for the International Horror Guild Awards. she also has a book published, titled AFTER DARK, A Collection of Horror.

More information about her can be found at www.afterdarknovel.com

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