Juan Pablo Noroña
Axxón 149, April 2005
(Translation: Daniel W. Koon)
His back to the cat, the owner butters a piece of toast. He is frightened to death but resists the urge to turn around because somehow he knows that he is safe as long as he hears the animal mewing. Furthermore, he does not know for certain whether it happens when the animal is out of his sight or only in the fleeting and confusing instant in which it flits across the corner of his eye; and so for now he can feel safe and turning around to avoid the feline eclipse could prove counterproductive. Because for a fraction of a second the cat would be in the zone that brings it from the corner of his eye to the center of his field of vision, and the owner would see it.
It would be foolish, though, to plan to spend the entire day in the kitchen, parked in front of the table with his gaze fixed on the washer. Also useless: at any instant the cat could enter his field of vision on its own paws. This latter possibility would perhaps be a relief, since while the animal is in sight it is only a black and white, long-haired kitty with a springy tail and woolly, chubby cheeks. Still, the transition would be frightening, hair-raising, and then of course would come the anxious ordeal of having it next to him, and fighting to stay awake, and deciding not to leave the house, and putting off the change for as long as possible. Resigned to the fact that there is no solution for this problem, the owner chews his toast with neither appetite nor pleasure. And then it happens.
A creature at once both horrible and spellbinding, a chimera of imprecise form and indistinct edges is perched atop the table. Its colors are dizzying, its symmetry unreal, simultaneously both possessing and lacking recognizable structures and organs; it moves over the tiles maintaining all the while a glacial calm about itself.
The owner blinks, and before his eyes his little black and white cat spars with him with its left paw while mewing plaintively.
“Nothing I can do about it,” the owner thinks, and he chews his toast. If the beast would just remain, he would know how to deal with it. Is it his own lunacy, hallucinations caused by physical and mental exhaustion, or is his cat really an impossible scoundrel which only reveals its true colors under hazy, ambiguous conditions, torturing him with uncertainty and fear? Whichever it is, he is all alone with this problem: if the chimera is real, nobody will believe him; if it is a delirium, he can’t afford the luxury of confessing his foolishness to anyone else, not in the present circumstances of his life. Not to mention, accusing such a sweet little kitty of being some kind of monster...
On the kitchen table, the cat sniffs at the perfumed crumbs of butter that have fallen between the tiles and on its own fur. The owner sighs, puts the toast in his mouth, charges after the animal with both hands and carries it with him to the living room. He has no other choice but what he is about to do.
The owner leaves the cat, now purring and trembling on the sofa, and places what is left of the toast next to its mouth. The cat mews its thanks and wrestles off a piece of bread with its front teeth, as if afraid of the butter smudging its snout. And when the animal closes its eyes, the man also closes his, tightly, and as the pet begins to nibble the bread, the owner begins to back out blindly in the direction of his bedroom and does so without tripping, knowing the route, until he reaches his own room and closes the door behind himself, stealthily, very carefully, without opening his eyes, and he supports himself on the moist wood, desperate and secure for the evening.
All the windows are hermetically sealed and there are no other doors. The owner pounces on the bed, takes several pills from the nightstand and swallows two as if they were a handful. Later, in the living room, the chimera cannot fit its anomalous shape onto the sofa, nor can its unnatural texture tolerate the surface of the couch. Luckily, it knows a perfect sleeping spot. The chimera gets off the sofa, walks in the direction of the owner’s room and arrives at the dividing wall, which does not stop it, and the creature crosses it as if it or the wall were illusory, gas, the smoky image of a fevered mind.
Inside is its master. The chimera climbs smoothly and cautiously onto the bed. The man is sound asleep, and it can climb over him, placing itself between his chest and his stomach, in the warm and firm hollow under his ribs, and it settles in. Its fantastic colors glitter excitedly in the same rhythm as its purring, while its yellow-green eyes stroke its owner’s face with a look of absolute and infinite adoration.
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