With my eyelids popping open like bats out of Hell, sweat dripping down my brow, hands shooting upwards forming a stance appropriate for a boxing match, my consciousness realizing that was merely a nightmare, I awake. I awake on my creaking mattress, rife with rips on the sheet and stains on the pillow supporting my throbbing head. I awake on a day bereft of work, but I feel no relief, only dread. I awake, with no woman by my side, no child insisting I play, no, none of that, but to a cat, a black cat, staring at me as he lie on the floor beside my bed.
Never uttering a word but always spewing purrs and leaving scratches on my belongings, this cat. This cat is the only thing with life that seems to care for me to be alive. This cat, the only other being in my apartment, gets my love, all of the love he needs. This cat, however, does not seem to extend that same to me, no, I do not receive from him the love that I need, but he tries, my cat does all that he can.
Why am I living the life that I am living?, I think. I think a lot but I don't do a lot, not at all. I think it's not my fault but I can't quite be certain, I really can't know. I think it's probably a combination, but does it really matter at this point?
I hate it, I despise it, I really can't stand it, my life. My life feels empty, at this point in time. My life to me feels like an emo kid's scribblings during class. My life, actually, is not something I tend to think about too much.
Wearing only my boxers I get out of bed, sluggishly. Sluggishly, I bring my hands to my eyes and wipe away the sand man's leavings. Sluggishly, I take both of my arms and throw them behind my back, stretching back my back until I hear a crack. Sluggishly, I scratch my stomach, feeling my ribs as I do.
Over to the shower, watching not to step on my cat, I lay down a towel and turn. Turn the nob so the water falls, adjusting it to be hotter than cold, and hop in once my boxers are removed. Turn myself around so the water can hit my back, and after I lather and I scrub and I do nothing else, I'm done cleansing myself. Turn the nob so the water stops, and I dry myself off with the towel I dropped.
I am cleaned, so, I walk. I walk over to my dresser, filled with drawers upon drawers of the same articles of clothing. I walk to the center of my room as I put on one of the pairs of plain blue jeans and one of the black shirts, both grabbed from my dressed. I walk, once I'm dressed, towards my kitchen not looking at my walls or anywhere else because the room is empty, I have no pictures or nicknacks or anything beyond my necessaries.
As I'm about to grab some food for my cat, I stop, and over at my cat, I look. I look at the black ball of fur and notice his abnormally loud purring. I look at him, look at the window, looking out at the world outside. I look, and I'm surprised, as he darts at the window and leaps out, shattering the glass as he does.
My cat, all that I have, the only person I love and the only thing giving me, albeit insufficient but noticeably existing affection, gone. Gone, out my window. Gone, to who knows where, fast as lightning. Gone, is my cat, and I must find him.
Throwing open my door, down the hall, I run. I run to the stairs, passing the elevator, as quickly as I can. I run, two stairs at a time, and finally reach the front door of the apartment building. I run in the general direction that I assumed the cat went, knowing where my window is positioned.
My cat, my black cat, perfectly healthy, apple of my eye, there. There, in the grass, my cat is running. There, towards the woods, my cat is advancing. There, my cat is going, at a speed faster than any cat should be able to go.
Strangely, it seems as though I also am able to sprint as my cat now can, with this power. With this power, I run faster than my unhealthy physique has ever ran. With this power I am able to see through my speed without blur. With this power, following my cat, I get to the woods ten times faster than running would usually take to this particular venue.
My cat slows down, now, walking at a slow pace into these woods, it's horrifying. It's horrifying how quickly we were able to get here. It's horrifying that this cat, this cat that can't even speak, is leading me somewhere. It's horrifying, that the bright summer Sunday day is now suddenly a dark summer Sunday night.
And then I hear something, this ingredient the most horrifying of all in this cake of a night, thump. Thump, I hear, making the trees and in turn the branches and in turn the leaves shake. Thump, it sounds like the footsteps of a monster. Thump, no, it sounds like the footsteps of a few monsters.
I see them. Three monsters. Staring at me, each their own color and each holding their own weapon. I want to scream but I'm too afraid.
I look the first, the green one holding a club, in the eyes, and as I do, everything goes to black and I'm left looking at something like a screen, and immediately, I cry. I cry because I realize what I'm watching, I'm watching a memory from my youth. I cry, just as I do in this memory, seeing my mother struggle and scream and search desperately for a defense as little-me sobs, holding his teddy bear. I cry and want nothing more of this memory.
I look the second, the red one holding a sword, in the eyes, and as I do, everything goes to black and I'm left looking at another screen, and immediately, again, I cry. I cry at the sight, the sight of my wife in her hospital bed. I cry at the next sound because it's a sound that I know all too well. I cry as the long, high-pitched BEEP plays over Karen's now dead body, and close my eyes and find myself looking back at the woods.
I look the third, the blue one holding a spear, in the eyes, and as I do, left with another screen surrounded by nothingness, I cry. I cry the hardest this time. I cry at the sight of the boy on this screen. I cry, seeing this boy, neck held to the ceiling by a rope,a boy that I once called my son.
Each monster is a monster that I've already encountered, but tried to forget. The first forty years ago, the second eighteen years ago, the third eight years ago.
This is the first time I've approached these monsters rather them me.
Weapons drawn, the monsters approach me, and I'm prepared to let them strike me down. But before they strike, my cat gives me a look, and I know what I must do.
I approach the first monster, remembering my mother, and I take its club. I approach the second monster, remembering my wife, and I take its sword. I approach the third monster, remembering my son, and I take its spear.
Unarmed, they sit down, and surrender.
Not everyone is haunted by such monsters, but when one encounters these monsters, they must be disarmed. I have disarmed them, and am ready to move on forward to wherever life takes me next.
And while I don't want to encounter anymore, I will be willing to take down more monsters, and I will recruit more help than merely my cat.