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04/07/2016

Slaughter and the Cat

James Machell

When the miracle happened everyone saw it.

People were at their windows.

A thundering sound knocked them out of bed and a giant walked down the road. Purple and naked all over, the monster had blood on his hands and feet.

One of the witnesses, John Slaughter (Laughter with an S) went from his curtains as though nothing had happened. He splashed water against his face and cleaned it with soap. The morning was the best time as blurry eyes disguised impurity. Small features and acne emerged in the mirror before Slaughter realised the occurrence had been no dream.

 

In brown overalls Slaughter locked his bedsit and took the stairs instead of the lift. They both stank of piss but he’d rather take exercise than stand in a death trap.

At the bottom he saw an old friend who had little time for conversation and passed him hastily.

‘I’ll catch you later!’ called Slaughter and turned to watch him run upstairs, his camp voice reverberating in the dank atmosphere.

Slaughter used the door to pass from the block into the street. The days had been miserably cold but bright and he went to work with his hood up, buying a single can of beer to drink on his way there. Joey Garrotte, who often slept in an empty box, was nursing a bottle he’d started the night before. ‘How fares thy morning?’ asked Slaughter

‘Alright. Barb kicked me out again.’ There was no point in asking why because evictions were mostly linked to suspicions of infidelity and usually accurate. Madly in love with Joey she’d definitely take him back, so there were no signs of guilt in his face.

‘I saw a giant today.’

‘So did I,’ returned Joey as if it were the most normal thing ever. A moment passed before Slaughter declared that a vision occurred of theological origin and affected everyone. Ever the realist, Joey replied that they shared a mutual hallucination and proceeded to describe the encounter.
Both had seen it from a window and thought nothing of it until now.

 

A Muslim sect was gathered in a pasture and the debate continued whilst loading the van to visit them.

‘What will the cult think?’

‘Probably nothing,’ returned Joey. Speakers on wheels were pushed through a back gate which was locked after enough had been taken. The time was 6.16 and the other employees were yet to arrive.

On the way Slaughter made Joey listen to The White Album and complained of randy-ness. It had been a three month dry spell and being sexless made him think of Christina.

‘That sucks man,’ said Joey, turning the steering wheel and bumbling along a rocky road. There was a gap in conversation before Joey described how he’d made love to Ms Flay the previous night. Though Joey loved to lie, Slaughter believed it as his own space had once been invaded. It was round the boozer and Flay ran a hand into Slaughter’s lap whilst eating crackling with the other.

 

They parked beside a sea of white gazebos, and were greeted by Al Fayed who insisted that they have some breakfast. Whilst enjoying foreign cuisine on paper plates, no one mentioned religion until Joey began with the questions. Every 116 years a new prophet was born and the babe was due to be presented today, its sacred mother about to give birth in the centre tent.

‘How was your morning?’ interjected Slaughter.

‘As normal as it can be on a day like this.’

 

They rigged the apparatus, said a fond farewell, and were back with Bully and Bash who still weren’t speaking to them as a result of a disagreement. Mr Slayer had left a list of tasks and they ran back and forth underlining the one they’d undertaken and crossing it out when complete. Slaughter spent the morning listening to his iPod and painting hefty black speakers. By lunchtime he was boiling for conversation, and over shoplifted sandwiches and wine, complained about how he missed Christina.

‘Will you give that shit a rest?’ cried Bully and Bash, almost at the same time. ‘Don’t you know that stuff makes us angry?’

‘But I love her…’

‘Love is a form of hatred, and we won’t tolerate that in the workplace. If this happens again we’ll tell Slayer and he won’t be happy, not at all.’ They walked away and Slaughter moved his lips into an upside-down semi-circle.

‘Don’t listen to them,’ said Joey, who dared not speak openly against the status quo. It had been decided during the reign of our mistress 3014, that people were for friendship and sex only. Anything else merged individuality.

‘Did you see it?’ cried Slaughter, trying to find common ground.

‘See what?’ said Bully and Bash.

‘The giant?’

‘Will Mr Slaughter please come to my office?’ proclaimed raspy speakers, tuned too loud. Bully and Bash laughed as Slaughter plodded away. Joey didn’t seem to care.

 

Slayer was a great flob of a man who sat behind a desk chewing cigars.

Slaughter opened the door into a murky room which was hot and had no windows. ‘Come in! Sit down!’ yelped Slayer whose voice had been made high by a speech impediment. Slaughter obeyed and his boss continued. ‘What have I said about intoleration?’

‘Not to do it.’

‘And yet you continue to ignore the opinions of those around you.’

‘It won’t happen again, Sir.’

‘Hmpf,’ he grunted, forcing a brown nub into an overflowing ashtray that sizzled as it drowned. Ms Flay was filing papers and Slayer took no effort to conceal his wandering eye as she bent over.

‘Funny. Just heard you saw a giant,’ he continued after she’d stood up and left the room. ‘You know my grandpappy said a big man would come when the world’s at its worst?’

‘Do you think it is?’

‘I don’t. But he might!’ Slayer wobbled like a jellyfish when fretting the fate of the Earth. ‘An omen. An omen I tell you.’ Having always been afraid of Slayer, whose melting body betrayed vices, Slaughter asked to be excused. ‘Scared are we? Well, it’s no time for that. Forget your job and come by at tea-time with anyone else who saw the giant. Do that and I’ll forget your misdemeanours.’

He left with a quiet goodbye and went outside feeling ill. His boss radiated ugliness into his stomach and there was nothing to vomit except beer.

 

With a palm flat against the van Slaughter drooled like a leaky tap, but nothing significant came down. And so he resolved to bear with the sickness until it passed.

‘Is everything ok?’ asked Joey, coming to investigate.

‘Yes. Leave me alone!’

‘Whatever you say.’

 

Thinking of the giant reminded him of Christina because they both felt like dreams.

It has been three years since he’d texted her and his fingers tingled at the thought.

Delusion is bound to increase with pain and it reached a point where Slaughter was so sure of a bad outcome that he had nothing to lose. He sent the following:

        Hey Christina. Hope you’re well. I know it’s been a while but would you be up for meeting sometime?

Slaughter returned to the warehouse with a rainbow of hope and found that Mr Straitlace, co-owner, was boasting loudly.

‘So I was making love to this bird on a stage and an older lady stroked my back. Afterwards we were sat like school children whilst she touched me and everyone was cheering.’ Bully and Bash were competing to show who was the more interested whilst Joey cut tape between cables and disposed of bad ones. ‘At the end we left holding hands and skipped over canals and saw spinning lights. A couple of shadows asked if we wanted to swap in their car but the night had alleviated our spirits, and we dared not build sordid carnality upon innocent carnality.’

He liked Straitlace’s stories more than Joey’s because he never described penetration and left plenty to the imagination. ‘S,’ cried Straitlace, leaping down from the box he’d used as a podium.

‘Yes?’ answered Slaughter, assuming he was the one being spoken to.

‘I want you to run to the church and put this in the poor box.’ A £5 note was closed around Slaughter’s hand and satisfaction emerged in Straitlace’s face. It was a wise choice to appoint him as Bully and Bash hated religion and Joey would have kept it whatever.

‘Ok. I’ll be back soon,’ said Slaughter and went gladly for he could ask Parson Yorick about his take on the giant.

 

Clouds were the colour of dry ice and Slaughter focussed on the dense vacuum as he walked. For some reason it made him think of all the romances he’d rejected out of pride, out of the desire to love once and love perfectly.

Christina’s waves of blonde were like curtains about his waking dreams.

The church was square and made of grey bricks, with a small sacristy built into the main structure. He slipped the note through a hole in the shallow poor box and was disturbed to hear the sound of weeping. He crept to the side-door and heard Yorick say as though pleading ‘my poor, poor pencil. I don’t envy its powers which draw evil with so hard and deadly a colouring. The mind sits terrified at the objects she has magnified, and blackened.’ After a pause he added ‘is someone there?’ with embarrassment in his throat.

‘It’s only me.’

‘Slaughter!’ he cried, opening the door into a room lit with candles. His eyes were red from sobbing. A tall man with an enormous nose, Slaughter was made to look up into his nostrils. ‘I’m so glad to see you.’

‘Is everything ok?’

‘Yes. I was just keeping my diary.’ He went and sat down at his desk where a notepad lay open with messy handwriting. ‘I had a vision this morning and was heartbroken that no one saw the same thing. But you did, didn’t you? Sentimental people always see what others can’t.’

‘I did. But I don’t see what being sentimental has to do with…’

‘Well, that’s excellent. I’ve just completed a written account and have been contemplating it, with many digressions. As you can see the process has moved me.’ Yorick’s eyes were moist, but upon every meeting he’d made the boast that the size of his nose was an indicator of his phallus. It was hard to think of someone so proud of physical extremities being emotional.

Conversation turned to Slayer, and his request that anyone who’d seen the giant should report to him.

‘That old monster. I guess the giant would appear to anyone then.’

Yorick locked up the church despite Slaughter’s protest that someone might need him.
‘Don’t be silly. You’re the first person who’s been in since Sunday.’

‘But this is a special day for most people.’

‘When people see a miracle nowadays they need convincing of it. It’s better I come with you and explain.’ Though they were headed toward Slaughter’s workplace Yorick was sure to walk ahead. He loved to be in charge and when Slaughter quickened his pace so did he. ‘If I’m right, and we’re in the midst of the second coming, then we are not long for this world.’ Yorick’s smug way of speaking disturbed Slaughter because his knowledge of scripture dictated that everyone was death-bound, and many to die eternally.

‘You shouldn’t consider yourself amongst the saved.’

‘I never said I was.’

‘But I can tell and it upsets me.’

‘Don’t be concerned with the failings of others. Be concerned with your own.’ It was unclear from his way of speaking if Yorick ever considered whether he was the hero of his life.

 

Slayer was arguing with Straitlace, which was stopped out of courtesy to Yorick.

‘How are you?’ asked Slayer, waddling with his arms open. Slaughter found the sight of them hugging to be most peculiar as Yorick being tall and thin, and Slayer being the opposite, beside each other looked a perfect 10.

‘I’m fine,’ said Yorick, who furrowed his brow in discomfort as his neck brushed a damp forehead. His clergyman’s outfit was incongruous with the backdrop of speakers and wiring.

Straitlace, who felt left out of the conversation rushed forward and declared ‘there was no miracle, and perhaps you’ll listen to a man of the cloth.’ Yorick placed a thumb and finger beneath his chin and thought.

‘If there was a miracle you shouldn’t trust me over other people.’

‘If?’

Bully and Bash crept out before he spoke again.

As the debate ensued Slaughter checked his phone to see if there had been a response from Christina, and when he realised there wasn’t going to be any, his skin fell away like peel.

It came off in one go, and since his clothes split down the middle, everything landed in a heap. The only person who noticed was Joey who ran to Slaughter’s aid.

‘I’ll have none of this!’ cried Straitlace, his back turned on the bizarre spectacle. ‘We don’t live in a world of giants and unicorns. We live in one of dishonesty, and I won’t be tricked by madmen or liars.’

‘Who’s to say any of us are mad?’ quipped Yorick. ‘We’ve each experienced a different reality and want to make sense of it.’

‘He’s not calling you mad. He’s calling you a liar,’ said Slayer.

Joey prodded the heap, and about to conclude that Slaughter had been made from air, felt something stir. A beautiful cat emerged from the dank womb and left with a flick of its wintry tale.

‘Slaughter?’ Joey gasped, and in recognition the cat licked his shaky fingers. Terror gripped the man who considered God’s punishment, and more sinful than Slaughter, expected the worst. ‘Will you look?’ he bellowed, which seemed to catch the other’s attention because they went quiet again.

Despair mounted when Joey realised they’d all been turned to stone, and his cat was nowhere to be seen.

 

The new Slaughter had slipped out of the warehouse and sauntered beside it.

A swarm of bees came out of nowhere, rattled the sky, and funnelled through the kitchen window where Bully and Bash were hiding. Because the change had affected his mind there was no disgust felt toward the cloud of bugs or compassion for its savage victims.

He thought of his friend for a moment, and then forgot who Joey was.

 

Houses then looked the same and Slaughter’s feet were tugged by a sense of purpose.

He travelled stealthily, keeping from the road where cars travelled fast and made a big sound. Everything became sharper also, as though he’d been looking at a vast painting and had upgraded to a photographic universe.

An easterly direction tickled his heart in a way that was almost sexual. He tried other ways but they all felt like a departure from intimacy without climax.

At one point a mother let her little girl attempt to stroke him, but Slaughter was hungry to reach the end and broke into a sprint. It was confusing how anyone could peruse the street so nonchalantly when Slaughter sensed danger all around.

 

The tingling sensation subsided into euphoria when Slaughter reached a pleasant street with nice houses.

His movement slowed now and the world was in a haze of pink. Another car passed and left a trail of transparent versions of itself which shortly disappeared.

Music infiltrated his mind, and he heard quiet sounds unlike anything he’d imagined previously. So this is what it means to be an animal, thought Slaughter, confused that he could still form sentences whilst ignorant of his previous life.

The car came again, this time in Slaughter’s memory, and he reflected on how un-menacing the road had become. Instinct insisted that the world post-mortem was not unlike the present. Besides, the giant appeared on the road and the violent track connects this world to the other.

Slaughter would gladly have abandoned his body if not for a feeling of being incomplete, and the dancing urge for orgasm brought him to one door in particular. It was like the others except painted red and lines in the woodwork were shaking.

A semi-detached house with flowers inside the window, Slaughter approached with little caution because the place exuded nicety. So many other porches had messy stones or plastic bags, dispensed by the wind.

Having opened the gate with his paw, and stepped onto flagstones, Slaughter palpitated with weird pleasure. He looked back at the clouds for a moment and saw them close-up, or rather his vision flew away and grabbed some noise. Cat ears, he found, were deafened by the rumbling cosmos.

The door was opened and a girl stepped out to find a cat on her porch, lying on its back and wriggling.

‘Aw,’ she said and proceeded to scratch its tummy.

Slaughter was yanked into the present by this wonderful sensation, and jiggled to the amusement of the girl who was playing with him.

She had bent down, with her face close to her knees, and when she stood up the fun was over. Disheartened, Slaughter purred and rubbed himself against her shins. The girl wore light jeans, ballet shoes, and he sensed that the interior of her mind had nice furniture.

Suddenly a pair of long hands came about his waist and raised him like a sacrifice. There he saw a face he admired so much that he died, his feline heart broken by a love that never was nor ever could be.

 

A few years ago Slaughter toyed with the idea of asking Christina to marry him. If ample courage and opportunity presented itself Slaughter might have been with us until the end of time.

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