The cat was black. Black and silky with fur that gleamed in the dark of the night like diamonds. So of course Jackson was intrigued. Of course he had to follow it. The cat crept through the night and Jackson crept after it, silent as a thief in the night. Through the night he followed it. Through alleyways, across streets, over and under fences. Something about this cat was just… he just had to follow it.
And so he did, until it came to a stop. Jackson observed his surroundings. He was in a dark alleyway beside a dumpster. An alleyway he had never seen before, yet it felt oddly familiar. He looked in front of himself, only to see the cat scittering away. Gone.
And he was left alone in the alleyway, standing beside the dumpster that he now noticed had a terrible odor coming from it. He had never smelt anything like this before. He didn’t know whether to approach it or to back away, but his curiosity was greater than his disgust. He walked closer until he was standing right in front of it.
Jackson peered into the dumpster. Nothing to see there. He looked behind it and saw trash bags. Nothing too suspicious. But that seemed to be where the smell was coming from. He began to shift the trash bags around, trying to get a clear view and see if anything was behind them. That’s when he saw it.
It was the body of a young female, maybe in her 20s. He could tell she had once been beautiful, that is, before she was left to rot. He wanted to throw up. Her face was pale and sunken in, cheekbones looking as if they were going to poke out. Her whole body was stained with the deep red of blood, especially her stomach, presumably where the wound was.
Jackson stared and stared, emotionless, aside from disgust.
He heard sirens. The sound was enough to snap him back into reality. Then panic hit.
What to do, what to do?!
Run? Hide? Stay and explain?
The sound of the sirens grew louder and Jackson stood there, frozen in place. He could see the flashing lights of police cars. The cars came to a halt.
Right in front of the alleyway.
Three officers got out of the cars, two males and a female.
¨Hey sir. We just got an anonymous tip, just wanted to check it out and see if everything was alright.”
Jackson didn’t respond.
The officers walked around the alley and Jackson just stood there, praying they wouldn’t check behind the trashbags. The female officer approached the dumpster. Jackson knew.
He knew she was going to find it.
And yet he still stood there, unable to move nor speak a word.
The officer peered behind the dumpster. She moved the trashbags.
By the look on her face Jackson knew she found it.
She looked like she was going to…
She began vomiting aggressively, hurling while tears left her eyes. Jackson had never seen anyone in so much distress.
Seeing this, the other officers ran towards them.
Jackson finally had control of his body again.
“Stay still!” he heard an officer yell behind him. “Stay still and put your hands in the air!”
Jackson didn’t listen. He ran like his life depended on it. The chaos and shouting behind him didn’t matter.
He glanced behind him for a second, only to see one of the officers drawing a gun.
Too late to go back.
He didn’t feel the pain. He just collapsed, his right leg giving out. On the ground, he looked at his leg.
The same deep red as the body.
The officers were running towards him. It was over.
Jackson awoke with a start. He was sweating profusely, same as the night before.
You’re safe. In your own home, in your own bed. Safe.
He tried to console himself. It was the same dream as the night before. He had willed it away, prayed it wouldn’t come back. But here it was. Like a stray cat that followed him wherever he went, wanted or unwanted.
It was definitely unwanted.
Jackson sighed and rose from his bed, knowing he wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep.
As he entered the kitchen to get a glass of water, he noticed his cat had left him a gift in the corner. Months were wasted away trying to litter train that cat. And yet it still couldn’t be bothered to use the litter box.
Annoyed, he left to find the cat.
He found her sleeping in the corner of his room. She had gone unnoticed before.
Jackson stood and watched her sleep. So peaceful.
That peace could be disrupted very easily.
He pictured himself wrapping his hands around its fat neck. Squeezing tightly. That would teach her to use the litter box. Only then it would be too late for that.
He snapped out of his thoughts.
Silly me. I need to stop getting worked up so easily.
He left the cat to her peaceful slumber and returned to the kitchen to retrieve his water. He drank his water and returned to bed, trying to get at least a bit more sleep.
Tomorrow was an important day.
He jumped up to the sound of his alarm clock beeping.
He had succeeded in getting a bit more sleep, not that he remembered ever closing his eyes nor getting sleepy.
He began his morning routine as usual. Shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, comb his hair.
He hopped in his car and began driving, whistling all the way. As he drove, he noticed something on the side of the road.
A raccoon, it appeared. All mutilated and bloodied up from being repeatedly crushed by car tires.
Bones crushed, limbs askew.
The road around it was stained the deep red of blood.
Jackson kept driving as an ever-so-slight grin appeared across his face.
Another animal sent to a better place.
He continued whistling.
He whistled his cheery tune until he arrived at the courthouse.
Adjusting his jacket, he entered the courtroom silently, trying to look as decent as possible. They were still setting up for day two of the trial. In the audience sat some of the victim’s family and friends.
Jackson sat in his assigned spot, same as the day before. The accused was sitting in a wheelchair, fidgeting with his zipper. He already appeared to be on the verge of a breakdown.
About thirty minutes later, the trial began.
“All rise for the honorable Judge Mathew.”
Jackson rose along with everyone else. They went through the Pledge of Allegiance and everyone was sworn in.
“Case of Tom Michaels. We will continue where we left off last time.”
A lawyer approached the defendant.
“Mr. Micheals, would you mind retelling your story of how you supposedly found the body?”
Tom was already shaking.
“S-sure,” he stuttered out.
Of course he was nervous. Anyone would be.
“I was coming back home from my g-girlfriend’s house and I saw a c-cat. I followed the cat into an alleyway. Then I-I smelled this terrible stench so I looked around a little bit and s-saw the body behind the dumpster. The police came and I panicked and tried to r-run.”
“Mr. Micheals, can you be more specific about where you found the body? Where exactly did you find it?”
“U-um. I think it was underneath the dumpster.”
Jackson could tell he was nervous.
“Earlier you said it was behind the dumpster. And yesterday you said it was behind some trash bags. Your story isn’t adding up Mr. Micheals. Your honor, I see this as proof that our defendant knows more than he says.”
“W-wait,” Tom stuttered once again. “I’m telling the truth, I-I promise.”
“Tell it to the judge, kid,” the lawyer said.
This really was just a kid. He looked no older than eighteen or nineteen.
It just now occurred to Jackson to think about how the kid felt. Traumatized, his life ruined.
Jackson wondered what the kid’s reaction was when he saw the body.
Did he throw up?
It would’ve been a horrendous sight. The stench. Blood.
The sunken in cheeks.
The face Jackson knew all too well.
He thought about his sister. All the good memories, all the good times they had together. The games they used to play as young children. He remembered her smile, so contagious that every time he saw it he had to smile along with her.
So many good times. So many bad.
As they grew older, they grew apart, as siblings do. His sister got engaged. Jackson remembered meeting her fiancé for the first time. Andrew, his name was.
He hated him.
With a passion.
That pompous, stuck up, sorry excuse of a man.
“So, what do you do?” Andrew had asked, trying to make small talk.
The three of them were playing cards together. Jackson’s sister had forced him to come in order to get better acquainted with his soon-to-be brother in law.
“I’m out of a job right now, but I’ll be back on my feet any day now,” Jackson had responded as he played his queen of spades.
Andrew proceeded to go on and on about his profession and finances, bragging about being a surgeon and making 400k a year.
Jackson hated it.
He hated him.
Andrew didn’t deserve his sister.
“Do you want something to eat?” Jackson interrupted.
“A sandwich will do. Ham and cheese on whole wheat bread, hold the mayo.”
Jackson went into the kitchen to make the sandwich.
He returned to the living room with a single sandwich on a glass plate.
“Took you long enough,” said Andrew.
Jackson responded with a simple, “enjoy,” a wide grin plastered on his face.
Andrew bit into the sandwich. His eyes went wide.
Red liquid dripped from his mouth.
He pulled the sandwich out of his mouth in shock, eyes still wide.
There was glass inside the sandwich.
Andrew was bleeding badly. Blood was dripping from his mouth onto the plate, the carpet, the couch.
“What the hell!” his sister had screamed. “Call an ambulance!”
Jackson just sat there, grin growing wider as more blood dripped onto the carpet.
His sister pulled her phone out to call for an ambulance.
Jackson didn’t remember what had happened after that. Most likely the ambulance showed up and took Andrew away. The next thing Jackson remembered was being alone with his sister.
“What the hell is wrong with you?! Are you insane?! You need mental treatment, you’re psychotic!”
“He didn’t deserve you,” Jackson mumbled under his breath.
“I said, he didn’t deserve you!”
This time he was louder, yelling even.
“Who are you to judge? I didn’t ask for your approval, I just asked for you to treat him decently! You’ve gone too far, I’m admitting you to a hospital. You’re getting treatment whether you accept it or not!”
That’s when Jackson blacked out. He didn’t remember doing anything. Saying anything. Feeling anything.
Except he did do something.
His sister was dead. Body on the carpet. Knife wound in her stomach.
So much red.
Jackson was numb. No regret, no sorry, no anger. Just numbness. And emptiness.
He disposed of the body without thinking twice.
Behind a dumpster in a dark alleyway that he was sure no one had visited in months.
Jackson snapped back to reality.
“Mr. Micheals,” the judge was saying. “I find you guilty of first degree murder. I sentence you to-”
“Wait!” Jackson shouted, jumping out of his seat and startling the whole courtroom.
All eyes were on him. The judge. The lawyers. The audience. Everyone was staring at him.
He could feel his eye begin to twitch and knew he looked insane.
He knew he was.
It all hit him now. The numbness was gone and instead he was left with all the emotions he should’ve felt.
All the regret.
It was unbearable.
Jackson realized the courtroom was still staring at him.
So many eyes.
“I… nevermind, it's nothing.”
He didn’t even want to hear the boy’s sentence.
And so he slinked away, like a stray cat slinking through the shadows of an alleyway.