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The Cataract

by Lou Morrison 3 months ago in Short Story / Horror
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A short horror story. (Written for a challenge - 3000 words, mentioning a bead.)

Painting by Dora Hathazi Mendes (Google)

To reckon the bleak December fog on a heaty night is of particular curiosity. Edgar Jalyin crossed from his bed to the window, a starkly depressing sight of itself, which dragged the wall in an unsightly manner, and gazed into the dark. The outdoors was an ethereal nightscape: streetlights separated in distances of ten car-spans, where the only object of interest illuminated at all was a proper-looking bar called the Wild Love. Next to it, a row of parcel facilities, distinctly gothic in nature, stuck out in the decidedly Italian town. The street, an airless juncture, crisscrossed many swaths of trees and tangles of garbage on the corners. Edgar squinted through the rose-tinted window, hoping to catch the trees in a sway, but gave up after a few minutes. He wondered who could be out at this time.

He glanced over his right shoulder to see the alarm clock sitting on the bedside; it was just past one. He could not help but feel tinctured with fear, for he held a supernal disliking of the dark; though, he felt unable to sleep tonight. Gathering his intelligence, he recalled allusions to darkness, and how such nights breed indescribable terrors from some place in one's fantasies. Professing such oddities somehow comforted the young man, and he grew safely complacent with the outside. Mr. Jalyin seemed, at first glance, a man of perhaps forty, though he was actually thirty two, with a linear face and a precision uncommon in most features. He often looked vexed; but there was a sincerity implicit in his soft eyes and high-arch cheekbones. The first word from his lips reassured all of his gentleness, and prolonged conversation confirmed his wisdom. His dress was of severe modesty and usually subject to derision, but Edgar was not a vain man and actually took the comments toward him in stride.

For his business, Edgar was, for today, required to catch an hour on the sun, and travel by public transport across the suburbs of the west toward the north, then detour off the city's border to the east. An arduous journey for most, but Edgar felt a strange attachment to it, for he could catch up on writing and reading, and there was an affectionate bond between himself and the staff of the train station. In truth, the staff once feared him, as after a certain accident involving his wife, he became highly irritable and would happily subject any who crossed his path to intemperance; (both in the literal and the figurative) only the stray cat, which made the underside of track #7 his abode, caused sufficient effect on his mood to quell his anger. This was quickly taken notice of, and, eventually, the staff took great pity on him, and resolved to cure his malady through his love of animals. One night, when the tracks were deserted, a few managed to snatch the cat and treat it to health; this was no small task, and required much secrecy and patience, but the job was soon done. A few weeks later, after much noise was made about his disappearance, Edgar was gifted the cat, to which he responded overwhelmingly, rushing each of the twenty or so employees and seizing their heads in his hands, thanking them profusely, and vowing to forever treat them with respect and dignity. This feline was of striking beauty, a glossy grey coat everywhere but his feet, which were a perfect white. His nose, flat and hairless, was scarred on one side into black. There was also this particularizing movement from him; with a nimble grace and meaty stock, capable of soft affection for one, and absolute resentment for another. To some concern, Edgar derived much satisfaction when Simon (for he was so lovingly named) manifested intense bouts of anger at strangers, even family, with harsh scratches and screeches.

Edgar Jalyin's consequential journey with Simon is of little importance, though of notable interest is the deterioration of health visible in one would, invariably, appear in the other. There were numerous occasions, whence his studies failed him, and his compeers, visiting to check his status, would find both him and his cat bed-ridden, and of a deathly pallor. There was a general rationale, of a superstitious nature, that Edgar and Simon shared thoughts, and had a telepathic tendency for deep emotion; whence one becomes lonely, so did the other. For this reason, both found solitude insufferable, and his colleagues thought this innocent enough at first, but soon became suspicious of his obsession. He would be questioned - forced into a corner, in a word, - though would quickly prevaricate, and if pressed, was decisively caustic, and would retreat in a huff. There was a period of terrible torpor from Edgar, and his superiors amerced him properly; and though he began showing up to work on time, consistently, his fascination with Simon persisted. His abstruse ramblings fell on deaf ears, and in time many looked at him in an opprobrious manner; he soon became an outcast. Yet, his munificence still welcomed joviality, (even if there was an underlying hostility) and there were rare occasions he'd arrive at work, convalescent, and engage with an uncanny acumen on subjects of philosophy and science.

None of his colleagues knew, but Simon died the night prior. Edgar awoke at the hour of two o'clock to incredible howling, of a certain pitch it sounded alien. It shook him so that he lay in bed for many hours, vacillating on whether to investigate. Then, suddenly, he experienced a piercing pain in his jaw, running the length of it and down his neck, and settling to the bottom of his stomach. Shaking off the inanition, Edgar bolted out the bedroom (for this was at his house, not a hotel) and flung himself headlong out the front door. In his panic he'd forgotten to turn the light on, and stood rooted to the spot at his patio. In his imagination he saw his point of egress, and the light-switch beside the door frame, but featured neither the courage nor will to move. At once, the noise ceased, and he summoned the ability to peer, fastidiously, at his surroundings. It looked, at first, like there was nothing in the front yard. It was incomprehensibly dark, though he felt his eyes had properly adjusted. Then, it appeared so vividly to him, so much so that he wondered how he had not noticed it immediately. Simon was, it seemed, dangling from the edge of the patio's roof. At least, he thought it was Simon, but he figured it could be nothing else.

Limp, the body of Simon was depended by his tail from the gutter, his arms stretched in front of him, his face contorted in horror. Edgar moved closer, too shocked to permit a cry; there was a horrid incision, as if done by a razor, or a very sharp claw, down from his jaw to his midriff, spilling blood to the floor. So much this turned out to be for Edgar that his curiosity turned suddenly morbid. He dared, with an uncommon athleticism, to clamber up the trellis and wrench Simon from the roof; he then saw, with an alarm, that his tail had been nailed there. Edgar was so scared of splitting his tail in two that he actually left him to hang, until morning, when he gathered his senses. It was in the morning brightness that Edgar perceived one final surgery performed on Simon, and he thought it so evil he trembled in resolute sickness and revulsion: he saw Simon's eyes had been removed with a perverse precision. Without so much as a groan, Edgar collapsed on the floor and wept, silently, for many hours.

This memory arrested his attention on the December night, whilst looking out the window, experiencing an indescribable schism of guilt and terror. Yet, despite his self-professed idolatry for his feline friend, there altered within Edgar the unbearable and holistic relief of freedom. How to prove this relief he could not fathom, but it felt almost as if a great weight had lifted from his shoulders. For one on the street, to peer into his window at this moment, would find Edgar wracked and indecent; pacing and muttering with an excitable curiosity. Considering his predilection for catalepsy in face of the night, Edgar praised himself for daring a venture in the dark the night prior, seeming less torpid than usual, and even the closest scrutiny revealed no distinction between himself and a regular prowler. Concluding these thoughts unequivocally accurate - his doubts assuaged - there was a dawning drowsiness and his eyelids drew heavy.

'Perhaps,' he thought, 'I can now sleep.'

No sooner to rest these thoughts quelled, than a rapping came at his door, loud and booming, as if in great haste. The instinctive terror arose in Edgar once again, for no decisive reason other than the fact that his countenance was now disturbed. A thought flashed that he should merely ignore the noise, as no one could want him at this hour, and his departure was not till the dawn (he had asked the man at reception to send someone to wake him at five-thirty, if he weren't up already.) As if in answer of his remark, the knocking came louder and patterned; pounding in sets of three every five or so seconds. Unnerved to the point of a quiet paroxysm, Edgar called out, meekly:

'Who is it?'

'Excuse me, Sir,' the voice began. It too was weak, and sounded of a child, 'if your name is Edgar, then I have something for you.'

'If so, leave it at the door. I am unwell and do not wish to get you sick.'

'Oh but Sir,' the voice continued, 'please forgive me, I'm simply excited. You see, my name is Yusif, and I fell on quite peculiar circumstances. I am only a few doors down from you, number seventeen, and I, much like yourself, I'm sure, was awoken some twenty minutes ago by a calamitous clattering in the hall. You probably heard it too? It was of such a unusual duration and persistence I thought it inhuman. And funnily enough, when I finally opened the door to investigate, I found it was not human at all, but a cat!'

There was a pause, for the man at the door was awaiting some response. Edgar responded at length, once a gloomy demeanor had finally shrouded his thoughts, and his words came raspy and mournful.

'I own no cat. It is not mine. Leave me be.'

Outside there bellowed a terrible cough. 'Are you sure, Sir? Allow me to elaborate. Upon investigating the hallway, I saw the cat - and quite a beautiful one it is, for sure - running maniacally from wall to wall. There is a door open out here, one of the service people was in there. Their cart is out here in the hall though, and this cat was crashing into it with terrific ardor. I have rarely seen such fury or confusion in all my life, nevertheless from an animal, and I resolved to calm it. An admission: this was such a contrived thought I barely reasoned on how to accomplish such a thing, for truly, the fury of this beast was quite sporadic. I will also mention when I got closer, there was a faint air of decay, and I was initially deterred from further action. Then, the worker from the open room came to end this grief, and I was reinvigorated again. We chased it for some minutes, and all our efforts seemed destined for aggression. Every hand we laid upon the creature would seem insufferable to the poor thing, and would attack with such ferocity I thought impossible. I, indeed, only persisted to curb the noise so I may finally sleep, otherwise I'd have given up long ago. Eventually, a tranquility settled over him, and his flight turned to feeble struggling; I saw he'd stuck himself rigidly to an uncomfortable position between the cart and the doorway. Still, the two of us approached the cat carefully, and it was such a pitiful sight. At first, I thought the gradation of repose was a recognition of its odds against itself, but now I see it for myself up close, I know that there was no way for it to assert that itself. You see, Edgar, I ventured to remove the cat from its trappings, and taking hold of his feet so he could not attack, I examined him all over. He seems physically healthy, though he whined in great agony from some mental anguish. There was such a spectacle, I'm surprised you did not hear it! Anyway, the reason I said before that he cannot assert his surroundings, is because, Edgar, when I looked him over, I saw the pale, directionless gaze of his eyes, and realized he is blind!'

'Blind...' Edgar repeated, tentatively.

'Yes, Sir, that's right, blind. So I figured to myself that this menace should be returned to whomever it belonged, (keep in mind, the stench still assaulted my senses, and I will be glad to part with it) and luckily enough, it still had its collar on. No name, which I thought suspicious, and my speculations took influence of my reason for a moment, and I suspected him a long distant stray. The worker then, who had been preoccupied tending to the bleeds on his hands, pointed to a gold-tint on the cat's bell, hidden by a tuft of hair, which read: "Edgar Jalyin". I thought it innocuous enough, and was still convinced of its displacement, but the worker chimed in; stating assertively that this was the name of a man he was ordered to wake before the dawn, and was situated in room number fourteen.'

Surprising himself at how excessively agitated he was, Edgar trembled from the spot, as like a tree ridding itself of its roots, and lurched at the door. Opening it, he finally got a look at the visitor. Turns out, the fellow before him was not a child, but featured frailty and a soft-mindedness much like one; his scarlet complexion and dampness of his eyes betrayed a deep consumption. He seemed awfully filthy, but when he stood in the light, and Edgar thought himself deceived, there appeared a silky texture on his roquelaure; so despite his silliness, the stranger was one of considerable intrigue. Edgar guessed he could not be older than twenty-five. All this he would recall later, in far greater clarity, whence his mind had settled and there was time for reflection. Otherwise, all his attention was wrought upon the beast.

'Antony Blazko' stuttered the man.

Edgar hardly payed mind - this was indeed Simon. Very suddenly, Edgar perceived, albeit distantly, the tumultuous pounding of his heart, and a colossal tug on his soul, like it was wrenched from his eyes. Both Antony and Simon looked at him prostrate, and suffered to do so for many moments, for which Edgar found it impossible to recover. There came some small relief when, after Edgar had fully scrutinized the animal before him, and with dread insurmountable established to himself that Simon was truly before him, he noticed the specifics of his collar were false. A couple days prior, it was plain and looked of wood; now, ensheathed were spherical beads of odd complexity, as from one angle they looked as ordinary a color and lustre, and at another seemed to glitter, and encased within them seemed indelible depth.

Indeed, Edgar had, in the matter of an instant, convinced himself that the entire affair was one of severe strangeness, and yet, one also of extraordinary coincidence. Not prone for superstitiousness, Edgar combined the collar with the excellent preservation of the flesh - regardless of the hideous odor - to assert that this matter was an exacerbation of a fever; perhaps, even, a delirious episode catalyzed by a heightened sensibility for the dark, and the horror of the night previous. Yet, there was an abstract premonition of something nefarious, like a thunderstorm.

'You know,' Antony began, looking toward Edgar with a glassy look, and stammering with a childish impressionability, 'you know, I was so possessed with torment in ending this nuisance, and only upon seeing a resolution to this derision of nature, that I had forgotten to mention my own circumstances.'

Antony interrupted his talk with a churning shiver and nearly loosed the cat in his grip. Apparently sensing the weakness, Simon cast himself on the carpet floor, and bound into Edgar's room. Despite his intention to grab the cat the moment of its escape, Edgar instead visioned a blur, or a shadow, for his vision fell ill.

'Ah, that's better,' Antony resumed. 'I felt myself so dizzy right then, and thought I might pass out. So faintly my eyes cast in the past few minutes I thought the light was failing.' Suddenly, he swept his cloak in a stern motion to his side, and strutted down the hall, whistling. Edgar heard his door shut.

Akin in much the night's passing, Edgar could not reason all his senses, for he was assaulted in a singular manner. In the first, it was the stench of, what the uninitiated may call, carrion; and in the second, the perception of the light fading in the room.

Describing, later, - to an audience of immediate curiosity and inscrutability - the qualia in being of sound reason whilst losing one's faculties, he continuously made demands in a frenzy. Chief among them was an unrequited believability. It was in this instance, where Edgar's allusions of a shared disposition for blindness between himself and Simon grew horribly apparent, that those close to him displayed alarm. And as Edgar grew desperate, and cried and pleaded for help from a very concerned (and obviously outclassed) doorman, he found the cat's screaming downright hellish.

Short StoryHorror

About the author

Lou Morrison

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