Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Cats’ Eyes (2012)

The very short story, commonly called a 'flash fiction', is one of the most enjoyable kinds to write. The challenge of creating a coherent narrative with an extremely limited number of words is amply rewarded by the opportunity to try out ideas, styles and approaches that may work better on a small scale than in a longer work. This tale just appeared in my head one day and I quickly wrote it down on a scrap of paper while sitting in a garden. It appears in More Than a Feline along with other cat-themed stories and poems.

We were on the right road. The presence of cats’ eyes told us that nothing had gone amiss, that no errors of navigation had been made. In the darkness of a remote rural region during a moonless night it was a comfort to know that this line of glass studs would reflect our headlights and be a most reliable guide to our ultimate destination.
     But something went wrong anyway. It was hard to explain why this should be so and I suspect I would decline the opportunity to know the reasons even if they were available. We must have taken an unintentional turning somewhere along our route. I said, “The cats’ eyes have gone,” and she nodded in the gloom and answered, “Dogs’ ears.”
     It was true. This new road clearly had different rules to the old. The reflective glass studs had been replaced by flexible triangles that echoed every sound our vehicle made, including the conversations we held inside it, and threw the audio signals back at us, horribly amplified. “Turn off at the next junction,” I advised and she did so.
     But this new road was even stranger and more disturbing and certainly of less practical use. Lips puckered at us and we tasted afresh the meals we had lately eaten. “Weasels’ mouths,” she said, her frown so deep that it changed the outline of her face in profile when I glanced at her. We found another road and became more than hopelessly lost.
     My nostrils were flooded with the bittersweet aromas of nostalgia, the pangs like vanilla, the regrets a new kind of smelling salts. “Aardvarks’ noses! Who builds these roads?” I muttered. Every muscle in my body was tense. She maintained a steady speed but we both knew that morning would never appear in time. We took another detour.
     This road was the most harrowing of all. Have you ever driven along a narrow country lane festooned with lemurs’ fingers? It is a tricky and ticklish challenge. We laugh in despair while the men who invent these things sit alone in uncarpeted mansions, a dead television in every room, counting and recounting their own senses.

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