And the Teapot-Cat
by Deidre J Owen
He felt the breath gurgle in his throat as his
lungs slowly deflated for what he knew to be the final time. Unable to blink
any longer, he could only stare blankly up at the nicotine-tainted ceiling
tiles. The air began to burn his eyes, and the crisp edges of an ugly water
stain overhead started to blur. It looked a bit like a misshapen teapot.
A strange hand slipped deep into his pants
pockets—first one pocket, and then the other—brushing aside the flaccid member
beneath in search of any trinkets that may have slipped down into the seams. Two
hands then cupped his thigh and roughly patted each leg all the way to the
ankle, jiggling his entire body and causing his head to wobble slightly against
the cold, bare floor. His naked heel cracked painfully against the concrete
when his shoe was unceremoniously yanked off his foot, knocked around, and
discarded. The other shoe, yanked; the other heel, cracked. The hair at the
back of his head bent and crinkled uncomfortably against his collar with all
the jostling. He was due for a haircut.
The coolness of the concrete had seeped
his suit coat and was beginning to chill him through the shoulders. He was
keenly aware, however, of the warmth slowly spreading across his middle and
tickling his sides as thick rivulets began to worm their way around to the
small of his back. The teapot looked more like a cat now.
A stillness settled into his core when his
heart beat its last. He felt it, that final beat, along with the heavy void
that followed, that crushing emptiness of unmet expectation when what had been
something was followed by nothing. What had been pounding with dread had fallen
silent with doom.
The teapot-cat was suddenly eclipsed by a fat,
sour face twisted with concentration. He felt his body jiggle again, the
assailant diving into the interior coat pockets and withdrawing a wad of
papers. From the corner of his eye, he watched, helplessly inert, as the papers
were examined one by one with soiled, sticky fingers. A violated receipt
fluttered past his face, briefly tickling his eyelashes and eliciting a nearly
imperceptible spasm of the eyelid.
face puckered into a hideous smirk
while beady eyes traced the details of . . . what? What is that? He could no
longer roll his eyes to see, but he knew. His exanimate arms lay limp and
useless, flung hastily out of the way. They rejected his desperate commands to
move, to twitch, to feel. They were gone.
His arms were gone. His legs were gone. The
excruciating pain in his stomach turned to ice. His mouth, agape, was filled
with stagnating air, saliva pooling at the back. He wanted to gag. The broad
expanse of ceiling above him had shrunk to an out-of-focus window through which
the teapot-cat observed the grim scene in solemn silence, weeping the tears the
dead could not.
Without warning, the sour face filled that
shrinking, clouded window and leered down at him over its chins. A gravelly
voice, distant and distorted, warbled out of the gathering gloom.
"Nice doin' business with
Deidre J Owen is a versatile writer who takes
delight in exploring many different genres, including speculative fiction,
weird fiction, children's fiction, humor, horror, and sci-fi. She has published
several children's books as well as a number of short stories through Mannison
Press, and flash pieces on her website at www.deidrejowen.com.
Founder and designer at Mannison Press, Deidre is currently loving life in
Florida with her family as a writer, publisher, and work-from-home parent.
It's well known that an artist becomes more popular by dying,
so our pal Steve Cartwright is typing his
bio with one hand while pummeling his head with a frozen mackerel with the other. Stop,
Steve! Death by mackerel is no way to go! He (Steve, not the mackerel) has a collection
of spooky toons, Suddenly Halloween!, available at Amazon.com. He's done art for several magazines, newspapers,
websites, commercial and governmental clients, books, and scribbling - but mostly drooling
- on tavern napkins. He also creates art pro bono for several animal rescue groups. He
was awarded the 2004 James Award for his cover art for Champagne Shivers. He
recently illustrated the Cimarron Review, Stories for Children, and Still Crazy
magazine covers. Take a gander ( or a goose ) at his online gallery: www.angelfire.com/sc2/cartoonsbycartwright . And please hurry with your response - that mackerel's
killin' your pal, Steve Cartwright.