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fiction, short stories

Today. Today is a Loop I Can’t Get Out Of.

I slept my lunch break away, snoozing on my desk. I haven’t been feeling well. When I woke up, I checked my work email only to find a spam mail telling me I will have rotten luck for ten years if I don’t forward it to ten people. Ten is a good number. A solid one. However, I do not believe in chain messages and the bad luck that would haunt you and pounce on you if not spread around. The first ever chain message I received was when I was in elementary school. I nearly trampled upon a crumpled piece of notebook paper in my haste to end my recess time and go back to the classroom. I don’t know why but I picked up the orphaned paper. I opened it, smoothed out the wrinkles and the chain message appeared to me in black ink. I threw it to the nearest wastebasket and went back to the classroom. I failed my Math quiz that same day. Not exactly what I’d blame on some chain message. Didn’t they  know? I always bomb Math. Always. That is no bad luck. That is fact.

Today I deleted that spam mail in my inbox. Zero tolerance for something like that. I hurriedly shut down my computer and rushed out of the office. I haven’t taken more than three steps away from our tall, silver-gray building when a black cat — plump and so full of hair it looked ridiculous and frightening at the same time — silently, quickly crossed my path. I had to stop myself from calling out to it, as I have always had a soft spot for cats. Whoever said black cats are signs of bad luck was being very judgmental and silly.

I headed for the parking lot across the building, where my red Honda Civic was parked underneath some tree (oak? mango? Jack in the Beanstalk type? — I honestly could not remember for the life of me) that was huge and bursting with brilliant green leaves. It was the perfect shade for the harsh mid-afternoon sun. When I got to my car, I saw a parking ticket waiting for me, stuck in the windshield wiper. With a disappointed sigh, I took it, climbed inside my car and chucked the ticket in the backseat. i will deal with that tomorrow. Somewhere in my mind whispered that the car would not start because I did not heed the chain mail, because that fluffy black cat crossed my path. Combined, I would have bad luck forever until the day I die. (And when would that be?)

I brushed off that trail of thought. Silly subconscious throwing histrionics. I chuckled to myself as my car started without trouble at all. I drove down the highway, into the neat and narrow streets that eventually led me to my one bedroom bungalow. I got down my car, walked up to my home and was surprised to find my door unlocked when I fitted my key. I slowly opened the door and I could hear its slow, noisy creak.

Something is wrong here. Something horribly wrong.

That was the thought that nudged my mind when I stepped inside. Silly me. I shut the door behind me but not before something streaked past the yawning door. I stood in stunned silent as something black rushed straight to the kitchen. Black and plump and fluffy.

Swallowing back the sudden fear growing inside me, I grabbed the umbrella by the doorway and settled my laptop bag on the scratched wooden floor. It was just a cat, I know, but… wasn’t that the black cat in my office?

My heels were making click-clack noises so I silently took them off. Now I had both hands on the umbrella. I made my way into the small but sunny kitchen, its walls a cheerful canary yellow. The cat was nowhere to be found. Maybe it went to the sala. I continued to walk, my body tight and tense. What, exactly, was I doing I have no idea.

My right foot stepped on something crunchy yet soft. I looked down and saw a familiar notebook paper, balled and wrinkled. My heart now thudding furiously against my chest, I bent down and picked it up with one hand (the other held on tightly on the umbrella). I smoothed the paper out and read the still familiar message penned out in black ink. I let the paper fall back to the floor. My breath was now coming out in gasps.

Rotten luck for ten years.

I tiptoed my way into the sala, where sunlight spilled into the room and everything was just as spotless and neat as before. No black cat. More importantly, no one. Nothing. (What thing, exactly?)

Rotten luck for ten years.

I moved to my bedroom, cautiously opening the door. Unaware of the perspiration forming on my upper lip and creeping down my neck, my eyes swept the small, tidy room.

Rotten luck for ten years.

Nothing. No movement. Not a thing out of place.

But there is still that wooden closet. I inched closer to it, my pale hand hovering over the cabinet door.

Rotten luck for ten years.

I pulled it open and what I saw made me scream.

The black cat sat on my pile of clothes, its large yellow eyes looking up at me, unblinking. But then it seemed to say…

Rotten luck for ten years.

I stumbled back and landed on the floor, confusion and surprise and fear rolling around inside me. Something solid hit my back and I realized I had my back to the bed. I barely registered the pain. My eyes were still on the black cat and it was returning the favor.

Rotten luck for ten years.

This did not make sense! My mind screamed. I grabbed the lip balm in my suit pocket and threw it at the cat. “Go away!” I shouted.

The cat jumped down, gracefully landing soundlessly on the floor. It sat an inch away from my feet, its eyes still disturbingly… human.

I scrambled my way up to the bed, the umbrella laid forgotten on the floor.

The cat licked its paws, but its eyes were still looking at me. Suddenly, it stopped its movement, cocked its head and then looked up at the open bedroom door. I looked at the same direction but could not hear a thing. I darted a nervous glance at the cat, who was still staring at the doorway. When I looked at the hallway, I could now make out a shadow on the floor. Someone was approaching the bedroom.

Rotten luck for ten years.

Stifling a sob, I climbed out of the bed and started to make my way to the window. I had one sane, if not panic-soaked, thought and that was to get out of here.

“Earth to Alice!” A voice boomed somewhere in the room.

I jerked out of my dream, my heart still hammering away like a maddened thing. I looked up from my desk and saw my co-worker, Anita, walking toward her desk which sat next to mine. I sat up and looked around. I was still in the office. Relief washed over me.

Alice plopped herself on her battered office chair. She handed me a white envelope. “Reception said someone left this for you.”

Still feeling dazed and weak from my nightmare, I stretched out my hand and took it. “Thanks,” I placed it on the table and decided to get back to work. My computer screen told me I have four new messages. I scanned my inbox and found three were from the Marketing department and there was one spam message. I felt like my insides were being twisted. I clicked on the spam folder and there it was: Rotten luck for ten years.

I didn’t have to open the message to know what it contained. As if on cue, my eyes fell on the innocent looking white envelope lying on my desk. With a shaking hand, I tore it open and the sight of a crumpled notebook paper greeted me.

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About Anna

A 30-something female awed/delighted/floored with anything horror. Known to kick-start her days with coffee. Indulges in chocolates, blogging, writing, and reading. Attracted to the offbeat and the quirky / the odd and the strange / the weird and the eerie.

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