Aphelion Issue 246, Volume 23
December 2019 / January 2020
Long Fiction and Serials
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Flash Fiction
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By J. Cameron Kuban

  The cat curled onto Tim’s lap, purring and pushing its head into his hands with an unmistakable display of affection. Tim ran his hands through the thick fur of its coat and began to scratch its neck.

The cat—medium haired, gray and white, with brilliant green eyes and soft pink nose—lifted its head and surrendered to Tim’s touch. The move was an easy gesture. There was no trace of reserve in its body as it swam into relaxation and sprawled across his lap. The front paws stretched over his knee and flexed like they were gripping, letting go, gripping, letting go.

The cat had no interest in the television camera that angled and moved, zooming in and rotating away. The animal showed no signs of anxiety at the room full of people that sat, unseen, in a shroud of darkness. The cat had no interest in money or prominence or fame or financial security. The cat’s only interest was in the moment and the pleasure of touch that raced through its body.

Tim was giving it affection and attention and the cat was completely offering its trust to him despite the anxiety, fear, and guilt that throbbed from Tim in a crashing surf of energy.

The cat’s head rubbed against his hand and turned so he could scratch its ear. He cupped his palm to fit the cat’s head while he rubbed the ear between his thumb and forefinger. The cat’s eyes closed and its purring intensified.

Tim let his other hand rest on the bony protrusions of the cat’s back just below the head. He closed his eyes and his head dipped so that his chin touched his chest. A single tear drained from one of his eyes.

The camera zoomed in for a close-up.

All becomes still when the scales of Life balance between simplicity and trust; Life becomes incorruptible. For the cat, the scales were balanced. For Tim…

The cat pushed its head into his hand again.

Tim gripped the cat’s head with a motion so swift he did not feel like he was responsible for it and twisted violently until he heard the snap of bones in its neck. The purring stopped and the cat turned into a limp puddle of dead flesh.

Tim opened his eyes and saw the camera lens aimed directly at his face. He stared into it, letting the wasted body of the cat spill at his feet. The cat had died in peace and ecstasy, quickly and with no pain.

A hand fell on his shoulder and a voice boomed, “Tim Conner, you did it!”

Music blared suddenly while light exploded around Tim, revealing the cheering crowd that swarmed the studio.

“You got yourself a one week, all expense paid vacation to anywhere in the world! Where will it be Tim? Where are you and one other person going for one week?”

Tim looked up to the man whose hand was on his shoulder, game show host Mike Williams. He was dressed in a slick charcoal gray suit, his face plastered with makeup, his hair sculpted into media-friendly perfection. He held a microphone close to Tim’s mouth and waited.

“Venice, Italy,” Tim said.

“There you have it, folks,” Williams said into the microphone. “Tim Conner is going to Venice, Italy!”

Applause thundered from the audience. Tim lifted his head toward their whistles and cheers, allowing a smile to crack his mouth open. He had done it!

A stagehand snuck from the shadows and grabbed the dead cat from Tim’s feet, disappearing as quickly as he had come.

Tim stood up and waved at the dark around him where people still clapped and cheered.

“Tell me, Tim,” Williams said. “You’ve worked as a veterinary assistant for the past two years; you obviously have a great affection for animals. Was it difficult for you to kill that cat?”

He thrust the microphone up to Tim’s face and waited.

Tim was quick to wipe the last vestige of tears that remained on his face and answered, “Yeah, it was tough, Mike. It’s always tough to see an animal die, but you know I could tell it was an old cat, and I even felt some lumps on its body that were probably malignant. By my experience, the cat didn’t have long to live anyway and I figured it was better for him to die quickly by my hand than slowly by disease.”

The audience broke out with more applause. It was a boldfaced lie, of course, but that was the scripted line as it appeared on the teleprompter designed to make the audience feel better about getting their entertainment from seeing an innocent animal murdered.

“Well, great job, Tim,” Williams said, patting his shoulder. “You deserve this vacation. Let’s hear it for Tim Connor, everyone!”

The applause and whistles shook the studio again as Tim was lead backstage by a tall blonde woman in a tight miniskirt.

“Next up,” said Mike Williams, turning his face into the camera, “an Arizona man brought his wife on the show to win the $50,000 she needs to start her own hair salon. But is he ready for what we’re going to ask her to do?”

He raised his hand, brandishing a burdizzo to the audience’s wild eruption of cheers, screams, and laughter.

 “Find out after the commercial break!”

The End

2015 J. Cameron Kuban

E-mail: J. Cameron Kuban


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