Fearful Symmetry

Original work of short fiction by M. Garcés

The light from the window shone on Stuart’s face like a flashlight against a dark canvas. He groaned, rolling over and burying himself in his pillow. He had no idea how the blinds somehow always happened to be open. He hated the light. He didn’t know if it was because since the age of fifteen, his life had been one big hangover, or if it was as his latest review labeled him, “a man of one canvas- a depressing one at that.” He heaved a sigh as he heard the cat playing with an empty vodka bottle on the floor.

“DAMMIT! Fine… I’m up, you fat bastard,” he shouted, pushing himself off the bed. He banged his fist against the wall, causing the blinds to flick shut from the impact. Then, leaning his back against the blinds, he wished the window was non-existent behind him. He gazed ahead of him blankly, scratching his hair. The studio apartment was grand in size, yet lacking in furniture or decoration. The only fully furnished area was the bar. It was usually generously stocked and polished, with a variety of ashtrays strewn across the bar top. Stuart didn’t consider himself a man of extravagance, his wealth was exclusively spent on alcohol and bedding supermodels.

“Why did I ever get you?” he said, looking at the plump grey cat who was now purring next to his legs.

The door sprung open. “I’m surprised to see you up so early,” Peter grinned, instinctively stopping at the bar to pour them both a drink.

“There is something wrong with this cat,” Stuart told him, his voice at its usual low pitch. Peter looked at the cat, his bleached hair blinding Stuart. He shielded his eyes, irritated that everyone he knew somehow had access to his apartment.

“Seems fine to me… Stuart, did you feed it?” Peter asked, raising his eyebrow as he handed him a small glass of straight vodka.

“No. I’m starving it, so I can gain an intellectual view of death,” Stuart replied, kicking the cat off of his foot.

Peter laughed. “That’s a great idea.”


Stuart shrugged. “I’m full of them.”


“So have you had any thought of what your next piece will be?”

“No.”

Stuart was more aware of his surroundings than others thought. He knew that he pissed everyone off. He knew that he was egotistical and inconsiderate. But he also knew that he was invincible, or at least he had thought so before the review. It was written three months ago, and ever since he had been experiencing artist’s block.

“I don’t understand why it is so pertinent to your daily life if I take a break from art for a while. Everything around me is so dull… Can you blame me for having no inspiration? I’ve had to wake up to you banging on the door every day, this cat not dying, people coming in all of the time, and now my liquor is running out… I mean, how hard is it to keep the cabinet full?”

“I’m sorry Stuart. I’ll go to the store now.”

“No. Then you’ll have to come back and I’ve had enough of you today. If you show up at the party on 18th tonight you’re fired. Although I can’t say why I hired you in the first place… or why I’ve kept you so long. Perhaps it’s because I killed your fish, but then again… I rather enjoyed it,” Stuart grinned as he lit a cigarette, “This is the part where you leave and buy my liquor anyway because you feel guilty.”

The door closed as Peter retreated to do as commanded. “What an idiot,” Stuart said to himself, scratching his hair as he stared at the cat. It sat on top of the stove, tempting Stuart to turn the burner on. Looking at the dials longingly, Stuart wondered how much longer the thing would live. It had been almost a month and he was starting to believe his luck was worsening. Not only could he not paint life, his talent for killing domestic animals had also vanished. He frowned, walking over to his closet. All of his clothes were either brown, dark grey or black. Glancing over at the clock, he realized it was 5:30 in the afternoon. He yawned as he selected a grey shirt and black slacks.

Once he exited his building Stuart put on his dark sunglasses. He was out of cigarettes and liquor. Peter never did anything right. He smoked his last cigarette on his way to the liquor store two blocks from his apartment. The streets were busy as usual. He enjoyed making eye contact with people as he crossed the street, trying to imagine what their stories were, who had broken their hearts, who did they hate, when they would die, or if they owned any pets that he could kill. As he entered Joe’s Liquor, his eyes met a mildly attractive thirty-year-old woman paying for a bottle of Bacardi. He wondered… probably had an affair with her boss, going to get hit by a bus, is allergic to most animals. What a bore. He grabbed a basket as he walked towards the first aisle. Three gins, four rums, six vodkas, a bottle of single malt scotch, and some white wine.

“You should really start selling cigarettes,” Stuart sighed, handing the cashier his basket.

“That stuff will kill you.”

“Yeah like I care, and this won’t hurt my liver.”

Outside of the liquor store, there was the usual setting. An array of yellow taxis aligned bumper to bumper, men and women marching with deliberate facades of fierceness on their faces. Stuart walked much slower than everyone else. It had become a hobby to watch people getting pissed off at him. Sometimes people would cut past him, other times it would just be a muffled, agitated comment. Confrontation never happened; he had an exterior that commanded respect. His eyes had a natural bitterness built into them that reflected their stormy Pacific color. The bone structure of his face was so defined that he looked like a sculpture of an ancient warrior. These sharp features were labeled by all the women of his past and present as mysterious and bewitching. His appearance combined with his lifestyle, attitude, and recognition had made him one of the most infamous living artists in Manhattan.

After walking several blocks he reached the imported tobacco shop on 23rd Street. The owner smiled nervously at Stuart as he walked in. Stuart had been a regular customer for the past 8 years and there was still little warmth between the two.

“The du Maurier’s,” Stuart told the man, scratching his 5 o’clock shadow. He pulled a fifty dollar bill from his pocket, tossing it on the counter.

“Mr. Leeland came few minutes ago… I’m sorry there was trouble with delivery. I will sort it, Mr. Brandon,” the owner said, handing Stuart a pack of du Maurier’s.

Stuart shrugged, tearing open the pack of cigarettes as he left the store. He crossed the street, lighting a new cigarette while juggling the box of alcohol. He passed Chelsea Park, ignoring a group of homeless men asking for money. After leaving the liquor in his apartment, Stuart went to an Irish pub nearby. The bar was dimly lit with few occupants. He preferred to dine alone. Dinner was meant for enjoyment, something he could only achieve in solitude.

“Get me a pint of Guinness… and a salad. Whatever kind, it doesn’t matter,” Stuart told the bartender haphazardly.

“We have the house salad, cobb salad, blue—”

“I said it doesn’t matter. Whatever is the easiest to make,” Stuart interrupted, thinking of a million sarcastic comments all having to do with shamrocks and retards. He had begun smoking a new cigarette by the time the bartender gave him the pint. The bar had a fog of smoke throughout, with a stench that would make any non-smoker vomit. The pub was not a part of Stuart’s daily routine, in fact, he hated the place. St. Patrick’s Day was the worst day of the year for him. He hated the noise, stupidity, and greenness of it. The color green became the greatest displeasure to him during the month of March.

“Excuse me, you aren’t the painter Stuart Brandon by any chance?” a woman in her mid-fifties asked him from the opposite end of the bar.

“Yes,” He croaked, hoping she wouldn’t join him for dinner. She did.

“I love your work. That painting, Tragedies in Suburbia, it changed my life. I teach art at St. Luke’s and you simply inspired me to reawaken the darker side of my palette,” she gushed, setting her club soda on the wooden counter.

Stuart grimaced, realizing his solitary dinner was now sabotaged. He looked down at his beer; he had already drunk a good portion of it. The woman began to spill the story of her life as he signaled for another. Stuart played with his salad, ignoring the woman even though she kept leaning over and confiding in him. “This past year has just been hell for me, with the divorce and the kids choosing to live with their father… I mean, he lives in Newark, so it could be worse… but it’s just so hard. You know, I’ve been a fan for five years now… and what strikes me about your art is the emotion behind it. You must be a very deep man full of sensitivity. I just love how you embrace it.”

“That I do,” Stuart chuckled sarcastically, chugging his second glass.

“Your last show, at the Deitch… it saved me. I just realized that THIS is life. Never ending despair made beautiful,” she told him, trying to make eye contact. Stuart motioned the bartender for another pint. “I wish my husband went with me that night… maybe then he would’ve realized that life is shitty either way.” She sighed deeply.

“O God,” Stuart muttered, putting his hands over his ears.

“No need to be humble! You truly are an amazing man, Mr. Brandon,” she enthused, looking at him like he was a deity. F

“Uh, that I am definitely NOT. I’m just wondering when the hell you’re going to shut up. Look, I’m here for dinner. Just dinner. A QUIET dinner. If you want to be a groupie, do it from the other end of the bar. Maybe if we were in a club and you were twenty years younger, maybe, just maybe would I put up with this conversation. I don’t give a shit about your divorce, kids or your husband. My art, it isn’t supposed to make you happy. It’s purely intended to make you want to jump off a cliff and die. Or try and live the rest of your life miserably, because you failed at it. If you’re really such a devoted fan you could do that for me or at least leave me the fuck alone,” Stuart ranted. “I just want my beer and salad. Is that too much to ask? Beer? Salad? On my own? I’d appreciate it… thanks.” He looked at her briefly with no remorse, swiveling his chair to turn his back to her. The third beer was almost finished and his salad remained hardly eaten as he stood up to leave. The woman remained silent, although her eyes began to look watery. As if oblivious of the harsh words spoken, Stuart paid his bill and told the woman goodbye.

The sky was dark when Stuart stepped out of the pub. Never the type of person to carry excess items, he threw his sunglasses in a nearby dumpster. The party was a long walk, but he avoided using any other mode of transportation. Cab drivers could be chatty, subways too crowded, and he’d be damned if he ever hired a chauffeur. After over thirty minutes of walking, he arrived at his destination. There was a line out the door, with several people being rejected by security. Stuart shook his head, knowing all those without invitation would be refused entry. He cut line, several people giving him knowing nods. The bouncer blocked the rest of the people as Stuart squeezed past him.

The enormous room was a dimly lit white maze, the only decent light shed solely on the artwork hanging on the walls. It was a carnival of people, ranging from artsy wannabes, celebrities, a sprinkle of his artistic rivals to Upper Eastside snobs. The scene was very familiar to Stuart; he was accustomed to men in tailored suits chatting away to bizarre boys with wigs and fishnet tights. The long bar hosted several malnourished models and artists. A flash of a camera bulb sounded behind him.

“This is the best art this gallery has seen all year,” Isaac said to Stuart, handing him a shot of ice-cold vodka.

“It’s lost its pedigree over the year,” Stuart nodded, clinking glasses with his friend. Isaac was the only photographer ever permitted into this particular gallery. There were always illicit activities that no one wanted to put a face to; it was easier kept between friends.

“Peter is hiding from you in the back,” Isaac chuckled, scanning the room. “I’m getting so sick of these club kids. If I see one more twenty-year-old boy running around in an angel costume I think I’m going to vomit.”

“They just want their pictures taken,” Stuart informed his friend. “Peter takes me too seriously. You would think that after seven years of working together he would understand that I’m a moody asshole.”

“Still not painting or killing the cat?”

Stuart shook his head, lighting a cigarette. The two walked over to the bar. Issac’s eyes brightened as he refilled their glasses. He was much shorter than Stuart and grungy in style. The two had been friends for twelve years; their sarcasm and alcohol savvy unifying them. When someone wanted to meet Stuart, Isaac was usually used as a mediator. He was more sociable and approachable than Stuart.

“At Gagosian’s the other night Mia would not shut up about you… that chick wants you man,” Isaac told Stuart, winking at an up and coming actress.

“That’s done,” Stuart rolled his eyes, flicking his cigarette and nodding at a model he had dated years past. He was bored already. Not only were all the faces familiar, but they all looked the same. The women were sickly thin in revealing black or nude dresses, the men either in drag, costume or fancy suits. No matter the effort to look unique and peculiar, he only saw the same design.

“That new neo-realist is here…,” Isaac commented, surveying the crowd.

Stuart didn’t pay attention. He downed his drink and got another. As he raised the glass to his lips he saw a mirage. A simple yet beautiful girl looking at a painting plastered on a fence. He studied her for a minute, finding it hard to believe that he was drunk enough to be inventing people in his mind. She stood with an innocent grace, a glass of white wine in hand. Her vintage red dress stood out against the designer apparel of the other women. After watching her for a few minutes, he decided that she was real.

“Shall I translate?” Stuart smirked, leaning against the wall to get a good look at her. Her face was youthful, with a golden glow and girlish freckles. She was of medium height and had a healthy figure.

She glanced over at him. “Is it that obvious that I’m not used to this?”

He nodded. “Besides the fact that you’ve been standing in front of this painting for I’m guessing, since you’ve been here… I’ve never seen you before and it’s always the same faces at these parties.”

“I don’t know about that,” she giggled, looking over at a boy dressed in body paint. He followed her stare, suddenly finding the party amusing.

“I’m Stuart Brandon,” he grinned cockily, expecting her immediate praise and affection.

“Sienna Reid,” she smiled as she shook his hand. “Lover of art, even though I think the majority of it is bullshit.”

Stuart was taken aback by her lack of recognition and bluntness. “What makes you say that?” he asked her, genuinely intrigued. Perhaps she had the answer to solving his bad review.

She shrugged. “I don’t find that much depth or creativity in most. Maybe I’m ignorant, but when I see a picket fence painted in tie-dye, I don’t think about the evolution or progress of man.”

“Maybe it’s supposed to show the retrogression.”
“Well who wants to see that?” she scoffed, taking a sip of wine.

“How DID you acquire an invitation?!” Stuart shook his head in disbelief.

Sienna laughed heartily, leaning against the wall next to him. “This guy I went to prom with is one of the people running around with cabbage patch doll heads glued to his hair,” she admitted with a giggle.

“You still hang out with your friends from high school? Are you Amish?”

“Okay, Mr. Sarcasm! There are some people that you can’t help but hold on to, they are just so great,” she defended, looking over at him. He met her green eyes and managed to forget that he wasn’t supposed to like them this month. “So… why do you come to these things?” she asked Stuart.

“My friend is the only photographer they let in,” Stuart lied coolly, finding his occupation embarrassing for the first time in his life. He reached into his pocket for his cigarettes and asked her if she would like one. Her eyes squinted in slight disapproval as she shook her head. “Not a New Yorker are you?” he smiled, lighting a cigarette.

“Are you kidding? I’m from a fishing village in Maine,” she laughed, folding her arms over her chest. Stuart put his face in his hands to hold back his laughter. “I couldn’t fish, so they kicked me out… I had no other option but to move to Harlem with my gay prom date,” she joked, finishing her drink and giving it to a nearby waiter. Stuart shook his head in amusement, unconsciously smiling his first genuine smile in months. “Is this too much information? I’m really bad about that, I’m sorry. I have a tendency to be a little out of control when it comes to conversation…” she said semi-seriously with a slight giggle.

“I enjoy it,” he smiled, leaning closer to Sienna so he could kiss her.

“Stuart darling, we were just talking about you!” A female voice called from afar. Sienna scooted away from him a little, her arms crossed as if she were uneasy. “When is your next exhibition? Peter was just telling us how brilliant your new projects are,” a skeletal model cooed, as she locked arms with him. Next to her was an equally thin girl with sallow skin.

“Project?” Sienna said aloud, raising an eyebrow at Stuart.

“Oh, so that’s how you like your women… dense and stupid,” the girl scoffed, glancing over at Sienna with a judgmental face.

“It’s getting late. It was nice talking to you. Good luck with your project,” Sienna told Stuart, holding out her hand. He took it, steering her away from the model.

Walking away, Stuart glanced over his shoulder at the model. “Your acting sucks by the way.”

Sienna winced at his words, looking at him in disbelief. “I didn’t ask you to do that.”

“I know. It’s just what I do,” Stuart replied, tossing his cigarette butt in someone’s drink when they weren’t looking. Sienna held back a guilty giggle, getting her jacket from under the bar. “You know they have people to take that.” He shook his head, pulling out another cigarette. She shrugged; pulling on a black leather jacket that looked like it came from a 1986 garage sale. The two walked out of the gallery, Stuart instinctively following her. After a few blocks of walking, they came across a cardboard box of puppies on the side of an alleyway.

“Aww!! I used to have a dog just like this when I was little!” Sienna squealed with delight, squatting down to get a better look. There were three tiny Doxens– as muddy and cuddly as they could be. Sienna giggled as one of them knocked over the box to lick her hand. “I can’t believe someone didn’t want them,” she sighed, petting the animal. Stuart scoffed, audibly enough to make Sienna look at him with disapproval. “You know you’re not coming home with me right? I thought you would pick up on that when I told you I was from the smallest town in America,” she said without looking at him.

Stuart remained silent, taken aback by her lack of interest. “I have a cat,” he blurted, immediately feeling as if its hairs were on his tongue. The idea of owning the thing was enough to make him want to keel over.

“Really? What’s its name?”

“…Matisse.”


“Ha! I love it! Boy or girl?”

“I don’t know. It weirds me out to check. I’ve had it for a month now.”

Without thinking the two headed towards Stuart’s apartment, all in the context of Sienna meeting Matisse. He punched in the code to the ten-story apartment building, a 6 digit number, to reveal a rickety elevator. It was a dusty building that smelled like an antique bookstore. Yet there was an immediate sense of modern deity that dwelled within the tenants. Perhaps it was the constant techno music blaring from the third floor, or perhaps it was the chandelier that precariously shook in the elevator. Sienna looked up at it throughout the ride, with an amused look on her face, as if the whole scene was ridiculous. Stuart lived on the tenth floor, of course, something he had selected in hopes of being stashed away from society… a myth in his own mind. With his index finger, Stuart opened his apartment door, having no need for a key.

“Aren’t you afraid someone will rob you?” Sienna asked in shock.

“Eh. I don’t really have anything anyone would want to steal. I keep my work in gallery basements or storage,” Stuart replied as he walked towards the bar. Saint Peter had left a few bottles of wine and whiskey. He opened a bottle of Jameson whiskey with ease, filling a glass. After taking a sip, he retrieved another glass, this time filling only a third of it.

“So where is Matisse?” Sienna smiled as he handed her a pathetic by comparison glass of whiskey. Stuart shrugged, taking a sip. Sienna looked at him for several minutes, as if she were analyzing and judging him. “It would be pretty pathetic of you to try and lure me here under the pretenses of a non- existent cat,” she noted, then nearly gagged after taking a sip of her glass.

Stuart laughed a hollow laugh, taking the glass from her. Right on cue, the cat popped out of nowhere, jumping on a bar stool. Sienna’s eyes brightened as she grabbed the cat. Stuart shivered, getting a creepy flashback to an Elmira cartoon. It would be disappointing to have a partner in crime.

“What a fat cat… oh, you little fat cat…” Sienna laughed, talking to it as if it were a child. “Matisse is a boy by the way,” she told Stuart as she cuddled with the cat.

“Fabulous.”

“Why do you have a cat if you don’t like him?” Sienna asked Stuart, shaking her head.

“I never said I didn’t like him.”

“Well it’s obvious,” she replied, putting the cat into Stuart’s arms.

He gasped, dropping the cat on the floor. Sienna giggled, as she sat down on a bar stool. She looked at Stuart with a bragging satisfaction.

“Ok. I hate animals,” Stuart sighed, shrugging his shoulders as he looked at her.

“Honesty isn’t one of your virtues,” she told him matter of factly.

He nodded, unsure of why he still wanted her to stay, especially as it was now clear he wasn’t going to get laid. Stuart sat down next to her with a slight smile. He lit a new cigarette, immune to its taste after years of binge smoking.

“I’ll be friends with you anyway. Do you have any friends?” she earnestly asked him, like a child without limits.

“Thousands. I haven’t the faintest idea why,” he chuckled, flicking his cigarette.

“Well, it’s probably because you are horribly amusing, even though you’re awful,” she replied. “I think you’re my new guilty pleasure.”

“Glad to hear it.”

The two chatted for a few hours, Sienna drilling him with questions and Stuart replying as best he could. It was an unusual friendship; he didn’t know what it was about Sienna that reminded him of his sister. It was probably her idealism. It was because of his sister that he had developed a knack for killing animals. They hadn’t spoken ever since he accidentally ran over her dog. That was seventeen years ago. Eventually Sienna left, agreeing to meet Stuart at the Bethesda Fountain the next day.

Stuart awoke to the sound of his apartment door slamming. The cat jumped onto his bed, purring and kneading Stuart’s right leg. With one eye open, he checked the time. 10:30 AM. That meant it was Isaac or a gallery owner.

“I was up all night developing these pictures,” Isaac’s voice sounded near the bar. Stuart heard him open a bottle and pour something into a glass.

“When DO you sleep? Why do you have to intrude on mine?” Stuart moaned bitterly as he stretched in bed to get the cat off of him. He sat up, scratching his stubble as he glared at his friend.

“So who is the hottie? You would manage to leave the party with a twelve-year-old,” Isaac scoffed, lifting up a photo of Sienna and Stuart at the party.

Stuart snatched the photograph from Isaac’s hand. “Adding stalking to your list of professions?” Stuart looked at the photo: it showed her laughing. Stuart was leaning against a wall, with a bemused look on his face. “She’s twenty-three,” he added, throwing the photo back at Isaac.

“Yeah, whatever… the Times wants some evidence of the party… this is one of three reader-appropriate photographs. Does the girl have a name?” Isaac asked as he pulled out a book of matches and a pen.

“Sienna Reid,” Stuart replied, annoyed when he looked down at the cat. It looked up at him with big full moon eyes, eyes that seemed to be penetrating his mind. He grabbed it by the tail and walked over to the bathroom. Ignoring Isaac’s sarcastic comments, Stuart threw the cat into the shower. He turned it to an icy cold and locked the door, tuning out its cries for help. “I have an appointment to make,” Stuart announced to Isaac, pulling on a dark sweater, slacks, and overcoat. He left his apartment guarding the bathroom key in his pocket, with no goodbyes, and in a dark mood.

It was especially cold that day. The skies were cloudy and a mist was in the air, teasing any pedestrian to think that it might rain. A violent breeze swept across the street. Stuart complained under his breath, lighting a cigarette as he crossed the street. He walked into Joe’s looking for a bottle of champagne. It was a day of sadistic celebration. The cat would either drown or get pneumonia, and his luck would change. The good stuff was hidden on the top shelves, something which Stuart could reach with ease. He smoked freely in the shop, knowing no one would dare hassle him. After grabbing a bottle of Taittinger, Stuart tossed his Amex on the counter.

Bethesda Fountain was a long walk from the liquor store. Despite the poor weather, it was a nice walk. Stuart couldn’t stop grinning; he felt as if this gloomy part of his life was over. He thought of the review, deciding it was written about character and not talent. He could care less if some yuppie fresh out of Columbia with a journalism degree questioned his ethics.

The cat brought his perspective back, he was invincible once more. Sienna could be his muse; she was to be his first painting after his resurrection. He tried to envision her dead, something that didn’t come as easily as usual. She was a hard person to kill. Eventually Stuart decided the only way Sienna could die was a mugging gone wrong. The painting would be of her sprawled in an abandoned alley, blood dripping from her gunshot wound in the chest, and her purse next to her body — turned inside out by the bandits.

He was late. As he approached the fountain, he took note of how few people were in the park that day. He glanced at the fountain statue, never a fan of the ‘angel of the waters’. It always seemed to look at him with pity. Stuart shook his head, lighting a cigarette and sitting down on the side of the fountain. The sky thundered and rain began to fall. Sienna appeared, wearing a bright yellow raincoat and jeans.

“It took me forever to decide whether or not I should come,” she confessed, sitting down next to him.

“Well, your faithfulness deserves a prize,” Stuart grinned, picking up the bottle of Taittinger.

She laughed, kicking her rainboots in the air. “At last, something that doesn’t burn my throat!” Stuart popped open the bottle, letting the fizz drip into the fountain. The two chatted for several minutes, taking turns drinking the champagne. “So how is our little Matisse?” Sienna asked, looking at Stuart fondly.

“Drowning in my shower, thank god,” Stuart sighed, taking a swig of the bottle before handing it to her. He tossed his cigarette into the fountain.

She paused for a moment and then said, “Very funny.”

Their eyes met, hers beginning to water as she read the sincerity in his eyes. Her lips quivered more violently the longer she gazed at him. Stuart felt no remorse, confounded by her sensitivity.

“Oh God,” she choked, looking up at the sky as she handed back the champagne. “You are such a sick person.” Her eyes turned to face him, shining in their sorrow. Stuart glanced at her with astonishment, as if she were insane to be so upset. Her skin turned pale. Raindrops landed on her face, mingling with her tears before dripping off her chin. It was a look of farewell. “Damn you… you sick… bastard.” Sienna ran off and disappeared from sight.

Stuart sat on the edge of the fountain. He shrugged, taking another chug from the bottle. Maybe her death won’t be so difficult, he told himself. He stood up and began to walk aimlessly. The bottle was becoming lighter with each wet step he took, his binge drinking finally having an effect on him. As he came upon the Mother Goose statue he saw two stray kittens. He chuckled. There was no one around; he gave chase, wanting them to share the fate of every animal he touched. He grabbed one by the tail and tucked it under his arm. With his other hand he lit a cigarette. After taking his first drag, he put it out on the cat’s belly. He stepped back, hearing noisy rustles from behind a thicket of bushes. There was a loud, epic hiss in another direction. He felt his heart racing. His vision became blurred, as he stumbled across the wet grass. Thunder and lightning sounded deafeningly. The hissing became louder as a river of colors raced around him. Black. White. Yellow. Brown. Orange. Grey. It was a kaleidoscope of angry felines. They pounced on him with golden eyes full of revenge.

He fell, the champagne bottle breaking. A shard of glass landed on his left hand. They scratched his face viciously, blood oozing out of his skin like a freshly cut tomato. Never in his life had he seen so many cats. He quit counting after thirty. They gnawed on his shoes and legs. Stuart howled in pain, their constant thrashing of teeth like a school of piranhas. He closed his eyes, defenseless against the gang.

It was several minutes before Stuart could rise. He winced as he pulled himself up. The walk home was a miserable one; Stuart pulled pieces of green glass out of his hand. He kicked open his apartment door, running to the kitchen sink. After quickly washing his hands, he looked over at his bed. There sat Matisse, his hair fluffy from having been wet.