An Alliance of Flies and Spiders This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 10, 2012
As it did every day, the remarkably narrow cat squeezed through a chink in the vermillion brick walls of the apartment building. Inside was that archaic, spindly man with the thinning hair and the gaudy features sitting at the front desk, scribbling pristinely in the apartment building records. He was so proudly concerned with this task that he would not have dared condescend to look past the desk which empowered him with such a façade feeling of nobility and observe the cat. As such, the animal went unnoticed.

The cat had long silky fur of ebony, and innocent eyes that burned with the color of sulphur. Although it had a youthful and lively spring in its step, its fur had long lost its gleam, and was veru unkempt. Its muzzle was speckled with drops of greying fur that looked suspiciously similar to snowflakes. If anyone had seen it during its ascent up the main staircase of the building, they would conclude that the cat was in fact very old, even if it didn’t act that way.

The blue and white striped wallpaper was peeling and stained. The oriental carpeting on the stairwell was horribly faded, and the wood banister was chipped and broken in many places. It seemed that only a cat with its lithe step could climb the staircase without causing it to collapse. When the cat reached the ninth floor its step became slower, more cautious. It abandoned the staircase and floated down through one of the long dimly lit hallways. An old tarnished door appeared on its right, with a head sized chunk seemingly chopped out of the bottom. The cat ducked its head into the hole and sifted the rest of its body through, stirring up tiny crackles and pops of static along its fur.

The apartment was worn out, like a rag doll that had been consistenly dragged along the unforgiving ground. The cat walked first through a suffocating, foyer with a decrepid hall table that bore an oblong mirror with several cracks in it. Beyond that was a kitchen with a humble counter and cupboard that seemed a century old, and a feeble refrigerator that cowered in the corner. The cat pricked its ears towards the sound of mournful music, and turned into a long pentagonal parlor. There was a Victorian style alcove at the far end of the room with many windows facing out towards the city. A golden and burgundy Turkish rug cloaked the floor, and the furnushings were all in Rococo style with a pale red color scheme. Hanging from the wall were several Chinese lamps in festive colors secreting a spectral glow across the room through tiny holes carved in the form of oriental characters. Theirs was the only source of brightness in the melancholly room. On a tall, gothic dresser sat a brass phonograph, with many black oil stains along the inner oyster-like rim. “Stormy Weather” by Frank Sinatra was humming from the tube, and seemed to cast a gloom over the rest of the room. “Life is bare, gloom and mis’ry everywhere. Stormy Weather. Can’t get my poor old self together…”

And sitting in the biggest of the red Rococo chairs was a very old man. His sunken face was defined by deep wrinkles, and tomato colored patches of skin. He wore a tattered fedora and an even more tattered suit. The cat paced hesitantly towards the man, plopped in front of him, stared up, and through weary eyes the old man stared back.

“Ugh,” he groaned in a hoarse, hacking voice, “What’re you doing here? Didn’t I throw you outta here yesterday?” The cat noticed a few whiskey bottles clustered at the foot of the chair. “Come to think of it, didn’t I throw you out the day before that too?” the man rambled on. The cat didn’t respond, but swished its tail back and forth anxiously. The man had indeed thrown the cat out the day before; and the day before that; and the day before that; and the week before that; and every day for five years…

The cat stared up at the man with pleading saucer eyes. “You’re not mine,” the man argued at the cat, “You’re hers,” he looked down sadly, “You were always hers…always…” His eyes drifted over to an old photograph on the side table. It depicted a very fair and very beautiful young woman in it. Dysphoria dragged down on the features of his face, as he ran a lanky, trembling finger down along the photograph, leaving a trail of clarity in the sea of gathered dust. The cat watched with a sad gleam in its eyes, and mewed sadly.

The man glanced down at the cat, and sleepily straightened up to his feet. “All right, you exasperating animal,” grumbled the man. The cat tilted its head. “Come on to the kitchen. You’re probably hungry.” The man dragged his feet one after the other like a tortoise, slowly working his way towards the refrigerator while the cat trotted along side him. He snatched a carton of milk from one of the rusty fridge shelves, then steadily poured it into a wide dish. A sigh escaped his lungs as he crouched down and set the dish next to the cat with a clink. The cat eagerly lapped at the milk while the man scratched gingerly at the cat’s head, a thin smile spread across his lips.

“You’re a good cat. A good cat,” his early contempt faded away as if it had never been there, “Well, most of the time you are. It would be much easier to feed you if you didn’t run away so often. Why do you disappear for so long, cat?” The cat did not answer, for it knew the man no longer remember being responsible for the cat’s “disappearances”. A sad look spread across the man’s face again, “Is it because of me? Do you not like me, cat? Do you hate the person you belong to?” he became befuddled, “No, no. You belong to her. You’re not mine. You’re hers. I remember now…” his head hung like an empty noose, and a quiet sniffle broke the silence. The cat looked up from the dish of milk. It crept around the bowl and rubbed its head sympathetically against the man’s cheek. The man looked up and stopped sniffling. He scratched the cat’s head once again then stood up and shuffled back to his seat. The cat followed. When the man became situated and comfortable, he drumed his palm against his lap beckoningly, and the cat leapt silently up into the chair, and curled into a tight knot of fur nestled in his waste. The cat let its eyes droop as the man ran a hand caressingly through the cat’s fur, sifting his fingers through the strands of silky pelt. The cat purred loudly and affectionately, as the man tilted his head back and smiled.

“I’m glad you’re here cat. It gets lonely here, especially when she’s gone. It’s a good thing your always here. Maybe she meant for you to be here. To keep me company while she’s away.” The trumpet solo of “Stormy Weather” was drifting through the room and stroking the cat’s ears with musical solace. The man laughed, seemingly soothed by the music as well. “You scare me sometimes cat. It’s your eyes. They’re like fire sometimes. Yes, your eyes. Ha! You know, I always told her, that I thought you looked like that poster from Le Chat Noir. You looked as if you were the cat on that poster, and you just jumped into existnce. I remember, because it was on Bastille Day. And there was something important about that day. Something else I had said… something…what was it…” Those words slowly and sadly dragged the cat out of it’s dozing state. It remembered what the old man could not. The important thing was a promise the man had once made to her, years ago. Though for the cat, the words rang clear as day.

“Love, the day I forget a perfect woman like you is the day flies and spiders get along together”The cat wondered just how well the old man remembered his wife. Was his memory of her still clear, still picturesque, even if he had trouble articulating it? Or had her existence slipped to the razors edge of his mind, threatening to disappear? Was it there, but just barely out of reach, like the memory of his promise? The animal painfully picked at his notion, while the old man murmured on repetatively.

“I told her, when I first saw you, you looked like the cat from the poster… Yes, I told her that…I told…” He paused, and looked down at the cat, then up at the wall. Confusion and bewilderment cascaded over his features. He mumbled nonsense for a few seconds. The man seemed to be putting a great deal of effort into finding something inside his own mind. His entire being was focused on trying to recall the tiniest whisp of something immensly important, before it floated into the dark, bottomless lake of oblivion…

He sprung from the chair. The startled cat leapt off his lap and skidded along the rug. The man turned and slammed his weight into the chair, throwing it over on its side with a bang. He snatched up one of the whiskey bottles, snapped his arm like a whip and slung the bottle at the gothic dresser. It shattered against the record player like a grenade going off, throwing shards and shrapnel of glass in every whichway. A shrill, banshee-like sound split through the room. The record began skipping, repeatedly playing the last blip of lyrics, “Raining all the time…raining all the time…raining all the time…”

The man was panting with rage, staring at the phonograph. Then his gaze slowly shifted towards the cat. His eyes burned of hatred and homicidal rage, like the crosshair of a sniper, aimed at the poor, fearful animal, that cowered just within point blank range.

“What are you still doing here!?” he shouted, “You bloody beast! I don’t want you here! I never do and yet you’re always here!” The cat’s fear reached a climax. It arched its back and uttered a loud threatening hiss. The man snatched up another bottle. “Piss off!” he roared, and threw the bottle down at the cat with the force of a sledge hammer. The cat leapt and skidded off to the left end of the carpet. The bottle smashed against the hardwood floor. A spray of icy arrows spit past the cat. The animal turned and scampered underneath another chair in the room. The man gritted his teeth, picked up the third bottle, and ambled slowly, menacingly towards the cat’s sanctuary. “You’re here all day every day, never giving me a moment’s peace! I don’t want you, I’ve never wanted you…never,” a lump formed in his throat, and he struggled to work the words past it, “Why? Why must you bring her memory back into this place! I could’ve been happy, if you weren’t always here, you bloody vermin!” His leg shot up, and his powerful foot hooked onto the chair and catapulted it across the room. The cat streaked through the doorway, like a hasteful phantom, and disappeared from view. A glass grenade vainly followed its escape.

“Did she send you here! Do you mean to torment me with the ghost of her memory! What does she want?! Does she mean to cause me eternal grief? Did I not try hard enough? Could she have been saved? Could…” The old man was panting. His face was scarlet, and his knuckles were white. For a moment, he stood there, staring at the place where his last friend in the world had fled. His eyes of fire softened, and in the shards of broken glass on the Turkish carpet, he saw reflected his deeds. He stumbled forwards, towards the doorway into the kitchen. “Wait… come back! Please! I’m so sorry…I’m sor…I didn’t mean… Please come back cat! I need you here! I need…you…” He leaned heavily on the frame of the doorway, pressing his face into the wood, as his words were strangled by his sobbing, and glistening tears spilled from his eyes. “Do you think me mad, cat? Do you think me a fool for needing her? I’ve always needed her. Always… I can remember everything about her. Her eyes, grey like the sea, and her hair like nightfall, that smell of lilac, and her smile, her gorgeous smile,” a soft smirk pulled at the corner of his mouth, then let it drop again. “But her name. Her name is forever lost to me. Why…why can’t I remember her name…Mon Dieu why can’t I remember…? Is this part of my punishment, cat? Do you all despise me so…?” He stood there, and did not moving, bleeding his tears into the rotting wood, and into his world that was rotting around him.

The cat hid behind the doorway of the front corridor. It’s sulphur eyes grew dim, and remorseful, like its masters. Here before it, the cat saw what a decade of solitude had done to his man. Here, the cat saw all the effort he had put into giving the old man even the smallest amount of solace, wasted. Everything was wasted…

“Raining all the time…raining all the time…” That record was starting to get on the cat’s nerves. It half considered walking back there just to shut the bloody thing off. But its words…how true those words were. The ceiling of the apartment was the dullest shade of grey, a permanent overcast, which followed the old man everywhere… In his world, it was always raining. He would always be one half of a whole, and as long as he was apart from his lover, he would remain eternally crippled. He would always be shackled in the cold dungeons of the past. There was no more that the cat, or anyone, could do for him. With its equivalent of a sigh, the cat looked one more time at the pathetic creature, that had once been his master. No, this man was never it’s master. It’s master had died ten years ago, with his lover.

The cat turned and, feeling like it was another life older, it dragged itself mournfully through the crack in the front door.

And standing on the dresser, in the wake of the forever impeaded record, a fly and a spider stood side by side in companionship…

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