Twisted Love: A Flash Fiction Challenge by Chuck Wendig

(see original post on the challenge here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/02/14/flash-fiction-challenge-twisted-love/ )

The Heart Wants What it Wants

Carl the Man came home, no more tired and bored than usual. His job cube-farming was dull, but didn’t suck.

He spent some time wondering if he should go out and connect with people face-to-face, like his coworkers are always nagging him to do. But there were few events where he could meet people with the same interests as he had. None of the bands he liked were local; they were small and never came to his town. The online world, however, was chock full of interesting people to talk to about all the things he loved. Why wasn’t that good enough? He’d even meet some of them, one day, when he could afford to travel.

Now in a good mood, Carl fixed his dinner & logged onto his laptop. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a cat poke her head in through his window. Carl hadn’t realized that the screen had a tear in it; maybe it hadn’t until just now. The hole was just large enough for her to slip sinuously through. Carl’s family had never owned cats, and he’d never thought to get one once he’d moved out. He watched her approach with fascination.

The stranger cat leapt lightly up onto the couch he was sitting on. She sniffed around a bit. He wasn’t sure if it would scare her off if he tried to pet her, so he just let her explore. His legs were propped up on the coffee table; the cat used them as a bridge to check out the table. She sniffed as if she were looking for food. The house still smelled like frying hamburgers, but he’d finished them all.

There was still some raw hamburger left, though. The cat didn’t look underfed in the slightest, but she didn’t have a collar, either. Maybe she was lost and just hadn’t eaten today. He got up, put a few bits of ground beef on a plate, and set it on the table, where the cat waited expectantly. So it seemed.

“I can’t keep thinking of you as The Cat,” he said to her. “While you’re here, I’m going to call you Blaze. Blaze the Cat.” She didn’t show any signs of objecting.

Carl went back to his laptop as Blaze finished her beef. When she was done, she climbed up his legs, over his laptop, hit a couple of keys that completely messed up what he was doing, climbed up his chest and curled up on his shoulder, purring softly in his ear. He beamed, and started secretly hoping that Blaze didn’t have anywhere else to be.

The next day at work, he regaled the office with the story of the stray who wandered in and spent the evening with him. Several of them mention that he looked happier than he had in months, and it looked good on him. He knew that they’d like to see him with a lady friend, and that was one of his goals, but he wasn’t going to rush it.

Over the weeks, Blaze came back every evening when he got home. He hadn’t installed a cat flap, but he hadn’t repaired the screen, either. He wanted her to know that she was welcome, but that she wasn’t trapped. He found all of her favorite places to be pet & scratched, and she’d cuddle with him while he typed, purring, licking his hand, and appearing, at times, to be paying attention to what he was doing. “Don’t be stupid, you’re just anthropomorphizing”, Carl would tell himself. It didn’t make it seem any less true, though.

Eventually, Blaze the Cat stopped leaving to wherever else she’d been going to. When he’d rub her nose with his and whisper “Good night”, she’d follow him to bed. Carl slept on his back, so there were plenty of places for her to curl up on him, kneading him with her paws. Sometimes it tickled, sometimes it didn’t, but he loved it all the same.

One night they were cuddled on the couch, watching a movie. He’d seen it a thousand times before, but Blaze hadn’t, so he kept telling her trivia about certain scenes. She never objected to him talking during the movie. She kept her eyes on the screen while he talked, so she didn’t miss anything. Between trivia bits, he’d kiss the top of her head and stroke her back and rear flank. A stray thought popped into his head; “She’s the best girlfriend that I’ve ever had.”

Suddenly, Carl froze. He got up, no longer hearing John Travolta yelling about not shooting at the nuclear weapons. He got a soda from the fridge, head pointed at a window but staring at nothing. Mind still blank, he gently picked Blaze up and set her outside the front door, closing the window with the torn screen.

The next day at work he was grumpy as hell, but would not talk to anyone about why. He refused to even think about it. It was stupid. He was not in love with a cat. He was not a freak. He was not going to end up on reality TV.

The workday passed without Carl remembering it. He picked up the greasiest, tastiest fast food possible on the way home, along with a six-pack of beer. He was going to binge-watch an entire series, and he was going to be JUST FINE.

When he got home, Blaze was there, rubbing herself against his legs, purring, looking excitedly at his soft tacos. He looked at the window – had he opened it this morning? He had to have, she couldn’t have opened it herself. He couldn’t deny how happy he was to see her. He decided to stop taking his random head-thoughts so seriously, and just enjoy having some companionship.

She seemed to know that he was hurting, though. After dinner he didn’t bother with his laptop, just turned on the TV and flipped through his streaming options. Blaze settled down on his chest, half-blocking his view. She licked his face a couple of times, then rolled on her side, reaching up to his cheek with a paw. She left it there for almost a minute, then curled up again. He started rubbing the back of her neck just where she loved it the most. She pushed harder against his hand, stretching languorously. He did love her. He really did.

Carl drank some beer, watched some TV, and kissed Blaze on the head whenever she licked him. He no longer cared. He was happy.

That night he settled into bed, wondering if she would join him, or if her feelings got hurt when he set her out the night before. He felt the light touch of her paws traveling up his body as she walked across him to the pillow, settling her weight next to his head. He sighed, turned his head to nuzzle her nose with his, then relaxed back into his normal prone sleeping position.

He felt the tickle of her whiskers on his ear before he felt her tongue. Rough, sandpapery, but gentle. So very gentle. A little lick, barely a flick of the tongue. Then another. Across the lobe and just barely up the outside of his ear. So soft, so rough. So … arousing.

Oh God. That’s … so wrong. So. Oh. Carl’s mind was screaming “no, make it stop”, but the Little Head was also controlling Carl’s hands, so he didn’t bring them up to shoo her away. Lick. He could feel his heartbeat in his penis. He … had to. Had to finish himself. It was love. It had to be ok.

As his hand moved toward his erection, Blaze slid her paw softly across his throat in a caress. He groaned. She knew. She loved him. Her tongue started licking a little higher on his ear. He started stroking, his breath growing ragged as he continued, trying not to disturb her.

She paused in her licking to stretch; her soft, velvety body sliding down the length of his non-masturbating arm. As her head fell back and her mouth opened wide, her claws extended, sinking deep into his jugular.

He came. He screamed. He shot up. He felt anger. Euphoria. Disgust. Love. Shame.

As his body jackknifed upward, he hit his head on a bookcase door in the headboard that he could swear he hadn’t opened in weeks. He nearly blacked out with the pain. He could feel blood trickling down his forehead. He could no longer feel Blaze beside him, and he didn’t care. He swung his legs violently to the side to get out of bed, not realizing that he was tangled in the sheet until he tried to take a step. In the dark, blinded by pain and confused by the torrent raging through his mind, he fell forward.

“SHE KNEW” he thought, as his temple hit the corner of his desk. “She killed me. The fucking bitch knew.”

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