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Fiction Contemporary

Anna wiped her brow, calves burning as she rushed down the crowded Toronto street. She was late to a get-together, as she quite often was. Although it was the end of October, the weather remained persistently hot, and the tall skyscrapers blocked Lake Ontario’s breeze, insulating the heat. Thanks to the weird weather, Anna had spent far too much time struggling to pick out an appropriate outfit.

Excuses aside, the fact remained that Anna was late. Again. Today was their friend Ahsan’s birthday, too. She walked a bit faster, urging her short legs to go. She swore as she dodged someone with their eyes glued to their phone. Anna picked up the pace, weaving between the crowd, until a line of burly, slow-moving brodudes blocked her path.

Anna sighed and stopped, sweat trickling down her back. Why was she stressing so hard about this? Ahsan wouldn’t care if she was late—he’d just be happy to see her.

She caught her breath, taking in her busy surroundings. The sidewalks were packed, and the wide streets were filled with cars, driving erratically and honking aggressively, as they quite often did.

Anna glanced at the sidewalk, the clear sky, then into an alley next to her. It was lined with dumpsters and covered in graffiti. Despite being dimly lit, Anna spotted a set of bright teal eyes belonging to a scruffy black cat. It was bigger than most cats, with short fur and a long tail.

Anna felt an anxious pang in her chest. It wasn’t that she believed black cats were bad luck. She just couldn’t help but wonder if superstitions existed for a reason. When she was a kid, her mother broke a mirror, and sure enough, the next seven years had been hell. Her mother got divorced, lost her job, even got cancer. It was like the universe was against her for a while.

Everything was fine now, though. Her mother was in remission, had a great career, and had even remarried. And yet, the image of the shattered mirror hung in Anna’s mind, reminding her to always be cognizant of superstitions, even if they seemed ridiculous.

She shook her head. It was just a black cat with gorgeous neon eyes, quite like the surrounding graffiti. It meowed, watching her. Anna took an unconscious step towards it, hand outreached.

“Watch out!” someone shouted. Anna turned and saw a car spinning out of control, tires burning and breaks squealing as it ricocheted towards her. She shielded her face, letting out a scream of her own.

The car slammed perpendicular against the two buildings that formed the alley. Anna slowly dropped her hands, heart racing. It had stopped not even inch from her. Its driver was inside, blood pouring down his forehead, the front end of the vehicle totalled. 

“Are you alright?” a bystander asked, their voice muted by the ringing in Anna’s ears.

Anna turned around to see the black cat. It hadn’t moved, nor did it seem phased by the chaos. It narrowed its brilliant teal eyes, then bounced away.

Emergency services showed up, and Anna was let go by the paramedics. Miraculously, she had no injuries. Rather than take the subway, she walked home numbly, barely aware of her surroundings as day transitioned to night. Eventually, she reached her apartment building and pulled out her keys, hands shaking.

She felt a creep run up her spine and looked over her shoulder to see yet another large, black cat with glowing teal eyes watching her. It couldn’t be the same one, could it? Anna swallowed the lump in her throat.

“Go away,” she said hoarsely. The cat remained in place. “I said go!” She shouted this time, stomping her foot. The cat didn’t budge.

Anna charged towards it, shoulders heaving. She froze at the sound of a nearby crash. She spotted a smashed flowerpot behind her. Red flowers, dirt, and broken pieces covered the sidewalk like blood and guts.

“What was that?” Anna heard a sliding glass door open. “Did you hear that, Ed? It sounded like—oh, shit! My pansies!” A blonde woman Anna recognized as her neighbour hung over the railing of the balcony. “Are you ok? Did it hit you?”

Anna looked back towards where the cat had been, but it was gone.

“Hey, are you’re alright?”

“I’m good!” Anna called out, shaking worse than she had been previously. She stepped over the broken flowerpot, opening the entrance to her building.

Thankfully her apartment was on the first floor. She darted up the stairs and ran down the hallway, then jammed her key into her front door, opened it, and slammed it behind her, locking it.

The superstitions were real, just like the damn mirror. Anna didn’t care what anyone thought. That black cat was evil, and it was trying to kill her.

“Anna?” She heard her roommate, Jasleen, get up and bound towards the entrance, her black hair in a messy bun. “Ahsan messaged me. He said you never showed up. Are you alright? You look pale.”

Anna stared at the dirty linoleum. The cat had unusual eyes. Was it a ghost? Or…or a demon?

“Anna?”

“Sorry.” Anna blinked several times. “I almost got hit by a car—"

What?”

“I’m alright!” Anna said through a nervous laugh. “Fine, just fine. I need to lay down, though.” She pushed past Jasleen and opened the door to her cramped, messy room. She threw down her purse. looked up at her bedroom window, and gasped.

“What is it?” Jasleen called.

The cat. The black cat. It was sitting on her windowsill.

“Go away!” Anna screamed, hurtling towards the window in an attempt to scare it off. She tripped on the cord of her hairdryer, flew forward, and landed on the clothes-ridden floor. Groaning, she opened her eyes, and spotted an empty glass next to the tip of her nose.

“Oh my god!” Jasleen shouted. “Anna—you could have died! I told you not to leave glasses on the floor like that!” She swept beside her and picked it up, shoulders tense.

“It’s trying to kill me!” Anna blurted. She pushed herself against her dresser, and it wobbled, dropping a pile of books down beside her. “See?!” Anna pointed at the scattered books.

Jasleen looked around the room, confused. “What?”

“The cat!” Anna sprung up and looked to the window, only to see that the cat was gone.

Jasleen looked at the window, then back at Anna, then back at the window. “Are you sure you’re ok?”

Anna stared at the empty glass in Jasleen’s hands. If she’d landed on, it would have smashed straight into her face. Probably taken out an eye.

But the idea that a cat was somehow doing this? She needed to lay down, rest, and try to forget about everything.

“I-I think I need to lay down,” Anna said.

“Did you hit your head?”

“No, I’m alright. The paramedics said so. Just…I’m a bit shook up, is all.”

Jasleen stared at her long and hard, then nodded. Ever the good friend, she picked up Anna’s books, then headed towards the door. She nearly tripped on the hairdryer cord on her way out. “Clean your room. Seriously. You’re going to get yourself killed.”

“I will,” Anna mumbled.

Jasleen gave her a sympathetic smile. “Rest up, and I can help you take care of this tomorrow. Night, Anna.” She gently shut the door.

Although it was early in the evening, Anna fell asleep almost instantly. She dreamt of screeching tires, sliding cars, and teal eyes. She woke with a start, the sun spilling in through her curtains.

It’s just a damn cat and a whole lot of weird coincidences, Anna tried to reassure herself, but she still felt anxious. In an effort to fight it, she got out of bed and showered.

Drenched, she stared at herself in the foggy bathroom mirror. She noticed a small crack on it and immediately thought of her Mom’s bad luck streak.

Just a cat. She went into her room and blow-dried her hair, putting the dryer away afterwards.

After Jasleen woke up and showered, they cleaned Anna’s room until it was spotless. Anna took Jasleen out for sushi and picked up the bill as thanks. They left the restaurant and wandered their noisy downtown neighbourhood, drinking ice coffees under the hot sun.

“I don’t give a shit what anyone says,” Jasleen said after a sip, “climate change is here. This weather is weird as fuck.”

“I know,” Anna said. “Like, it shouldn’t be ice coffee weather this time of year!”

“Right?!” Jasleen shouted, and they ranted about it at some length, then switched to talking about their latest Tinder exploits.

Anna felt her shoulders relax as Jasleen went on about a horrible date she’d had. Just a cat, she reminded herself, smiling as she sipped the last of her ice coffee.

They turned a corner near their apartment building, and Anna froze. The black cat. It was outside the building, teal eyes glowing despite the bright sun.

“See it?!” Anna shouted, pointing.

“What, the cat?” Jasleen asked, taking a loud sip from the dredges of her ice coffee.

“Yeah!” Anna’s heart raced. The cat twitched its tail, teal eyes mocking her. 

Fuck this. Anna lifted her arm to huck the empty plastic cup at it, hoping to scare it away for good, but Jasleen grabbed her bicep and lowered her arm.

“Girl, what the fuck?!” Jasleen said, letting go of her arm as Anna backed away, panting. “You seriously about to hurt a cat?”

“It’s trying to kill me, Jasleen, I swear—"

Before Anna could explain, she was cut off by a loud shriek. A woman on an electric scooter whipped between her and Jasleen. Anna bristled, ready to accost her for using the sidewalk instead of the bike lane, but the girl crashed into a garbage can. She flew over the handlebars and landed on the pavement of the busy road. A car swerved and crashed into another, its windshield exploding.

The girl from the scooter sat on the pavement, covered in bloody road rash, her arm bent at an awkward angle. She let out a piercing cry, eyes wide in horror at the sight of her mangled arm.

Jasleen dropped her plastic cup, the ice rattling as it hit the ground.

“See?!” Anna blurted. “It’s the cat, Jasleen! I saw it last night, before I almost fell on the glass in my bedroom, and yesterday, I saw it before the car almost hit me! And—and a pot of pansies almost fell on my fucking head, too!”

Jasleen wasn’t listening, though. Her brown eyes were wide and glued to the scene of the accident, the colour had drained from her face.

Anna looked back to see the cat still watching her. Its eyes narrowed again, reminding her of a smirking demon. Clearly, it thought this was funny. Anger, fresh and hot, scourged through Anna.

Sirens wailed nearby. Anna marched towards the cat, plastic cup brandished.

“Hey!” Jasleen grabbed her arm. “What are you doing? Just wait—there’s glass everywhere.”

“The cat, Jasleen!” Anna hissed. “It did this! I’m telling you!”

Jasleen calmly looked over Anna’s shoulder towards the cat. “It’s just a cat, Anna. Poor thing looks half-starved.”

“It’s bad luck!” Anna dropped her cup and took Jasleen’s shoulders. “It’s probably Satan, or something worse!”

“Satan?!” Jasleen was looking at Anna like she was insane. “Oh god, girl. Black cats aren’t evil. You know how messed up it is that people are afraid of them?” Jasleen shook her head, eyes filling with pity. “Shelters put them down all the time. It’s so sad.”

Jasleen sighed. “Listen, you’ve had a lot of bad luck the last couple days, but it’s just that. Bad luck. A black cat didn’t cause it. Random chance did. Just be thankful you’re not the one on the ground right now.”

Random chance? Hell no. It was real, just like the broken mirror. Anna had proof, she just had to make Jasleen understand.

Jasleen, ever the perceptive one, seemed to read Anna’s mind. “You said the cat was there when you almost got hit yesterday?”

Anna nodded, her hoop earrings flapping up and down.

“And again, when you fell in your room?”

Anna nodded once more, earlobes hurting.

“And something about pansies?” Jasleen raised an eyebrow.

“A flowerpot almost fell on my head last night!”

“And you saw the cat…right before?”

Hope bloomed inside Anna. She wasn’t crazy. Jasleen could see it, too.

“What if it’s—I mean, you stepped out of the way just in time, otherwise that girl on the scooter would have slammed straight into you…” Jasleen glanced back at the black cat. “What if it’s looking out for you?”

“Huh?”

“The cat. What if it’s trying to protect you? Think about it. You actually got lucky, not the other way around.”

Anna looked at the cat. It narrowed its eyes at her again. “Jasleen, it’s glaring at me!”

“No, girl, that’s how cats show love. They squint at you.”

“What?”

“Cats squint at people they love. That cat looks like it loves you.”

“But what about the colour of its eyes?! They’re practically glowing!”

“They’re so pretty.” Jasleen smiled sadly. “Used to have a cat that looked like that, but it was grey. Same eyes though. It would sleep with me when I was sick and snuggle me when I was sad. Got me through some rough times, you know, when my parents were getting divorced.”

Anna studied the cat over the chaos. An ambulance rolled up to the scene, along with a firetruck. The girl from the scooter was sobbing in agony, clutching her arm. An older woman was knelt beside her, trying to calm her down.

Through it all, the cat remained firmly rooted in place.

“Squint back.” Jasleen narrowed her eyes at the cat. “They love that shit.”

The injured girl let out another wail. What if Anna had collided with her? She’d be the one howling in pain.

Thinking back on the first accident—hadn’t Anna stepped towards the cat initially? When she’d first seen it? Yes, she had. And the car stopped inches from her. Moving towards the cat had saved her.

And the flowerpot? That time, Anna had been running towards the cat. If she’d remained stationary, those pansies would have landed on her head.

But what about the empty glass in her room? The cat had drawn her in, causing her to trip. But that had prompted Jasleen to help her clean. Now her room was hazard free.

“Come on.” Jasleen squeezed her hand. “Humour me.”

Anna met the cat’s neon eyes. It flicked its tail. Sighing, Anna squinted at it. The cat returned the gesture, then slowly sauntered off.

“There. Now you’re good,” Jasleen said. “Cops are coming. Let’s give our statements so we can go home.”

Shaken, Anna and Jasleen returned to their apartment, but after a couple hours Jasleen cracked a joke and Anna found herself laughing. The sun set, and the heat that had plagued them earlier died off. They cooked dinner together, and Anna cleaned up, thanking Jasleen again for helping with her room.

Anna thought about the cat. What if Jasleen was right, and it wasn’t out to get her, but rather was protecting her?

Jasleen laughed loudly in their living room while watching a stand-up comedy special. Anna bit her nails. She opened a kitchen cupboard and pulled out a can of tuna.

“Can I have this?” Anna asked. “I’ll pay you back.”

“Go for it,” Jasleen said without taking her eyes off the television.

Anna opened the can, sighed, and went into her bedroom. She flicked on the light, expecting to see the cat waiting for her on the windowsill, but it wasn’t there. She moved to the window and opened it. Sirens echoed somewhere far off, and a horn honked, reminding her of the unfortunate accidents that had almost taken her life.

Anna stuck her head outside, held out the opened cat of tuna, and tapped it with a fork. “Here, kitty, kitty,” she said weakly.

She placed the can of tuna on the windowsill. Whatever the cat’s motives, Anna could use the tuna to thank it, or try to make a peace offering if it was, indeed, nefarious.

“Kitty, kitty…” Anna said under her breath. She grimaced, feeling stupid, and shut the window.

Tired, Anna flopped on her bed and pulled out her laptop, opened the lid, and put her headphones in. She watched YouTube videos on black cats and learnt that some cultures viewed them as bringers of good luck. Interesting. She’d always been led to believe they were bad news.

After a long YouTube blackhole, she pulled out her headphones and heard a scraping noise outside. Anna sat up slowly and looked out the window to see the same big, black cat eating the tuna, the can sliding against the windowsill as it mowed down.

It froze, its bright teal eyes on Anna.

Nervous, Anna slid the window open. “You want in?” she asked meekly.

The cat jumped on her bed, purring loudly. It brushed against Anna, tail up in the air.

Anna smiled. “I suppose I owe you one. Well, more than one.” She scratched behind its big ears. It was actually really cute, and soft, and seemed like it had a sweet personality. How could she have thought it was evil?

Anna felt calm wash over her as she stroked its black fur. “You can stay if you want. Jasleen said she likes cats, so why not?”

It pushed the top of its head against Anna’s arm, purring loudly. Anna reached over and closed her window. Exhausted, she fell asleep shortly after, the black cat curled up against her legs. 

October 27, 2022 18:39

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3 comments

Mavis Webster
01:26 Nov 01, 2022

I loved this story. I have a black cat myself, and it is heartbreaking to learn that some shelters won't adopt them out in October because of superstitious people who kill them (they kill strays, too). As you mentioned in your story, in many cultures, they are viewed as good luck! I was worried this story would be another one feeding into the superstition, but I enjoyed the ending--and cat facts! Not many seem to know about the squinting thing. Also, her friend telling her to squint at them and saying, "They love that shit," made me audibly...

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Ava Black
18:34 Nov 01, 2022

Thanks so much for all the positive feedback! I'm glad you enjoyed the story and the message resonated with you. I agree that there needs to be more positivity around black cats! They're just kitties and deserve love like all the other ones. I tried to keep that in mind when writing this. Hopefully more people read it and the message spreads haha. No cat at the moment unfortunately but hopefully one day soon. Hope your cat kept you nice and cozy 😁

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Helen A Smith
15:44 Nov 06, 2022

Enjoyable read. It was great to see the main character alter her perception about black cats. It seems a shame they are viewed negatively by some. I haven’t been a massive cat lover till more recently, but when one presents itself regularly in your garden carrying three beautiful kittens, it’s pretty hard to resist 😊 🐈‍⬛

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