Fleming Unit #14: Feline Foolery
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Posted by Spooky Tanuki on: 02:10 PM, 12/ 8/17
It had been a few months since I'd been there. It was that sort of thing where life just gets away from you and before you know it it's been ten months since you last had a haircut and your bangs are perpetually hanging in front of your eyes. In the end it was probably going to require some external force to drive me into doing it anyway, so I guess it was just serendipity that the letter came and I only had four days to clear everything out of my storage unit. The steel door felt heavier this time than any time before.

There wasn't much inside and I was surprised by the general lack of dust. I guessed that the police searching the unit had caused some sort of disturbance and anything that had settled over the past few months had likely been shifted under their careless search party. There were half made handprints on nearly everything in the unit that hadn't been wiped clean.

Walking into the container was like walking into a different dimension. Time seemed to warp around me and I felt like just a few minutes in the outside world would feel like hours in the balmy unit. The date was October 11th. I had stalled a day in coming in because I knew the task wouldn't be that difficult. Mostly, it was just trying to figure out where to put everything.

The metallic chairs I knew I could just throw out. At the time of the church getting new seats for the congregation I thought it would be reasonable to hold on to them, "just in case." We've all been there.

Tossing them in the trash was easy - Sorry, Jesus.

All the x-rays from the sheds on my parent's farmland could go also. It's weird what kids will hold on to or in what they'll find value. As a child, looking through the old stacks of radiographs felt like I was connecting to something bigger than me. That there was something to find in the images. Isn't that the point of x-rays anyway? But looking at them, ten, hell, maybe even fifteen years later, I couldn't help but feel like I was spying on something I shouldn't be. like reading someone's diary or being a voyeur to your parents. It felt wrong. Those certainly went as well.

The empty jars of peanut butter from a company long defunct went along with the sixteen usb keyboards, the display shelves from some retail shop I couldn't even remember the name of anymore, and the sled that leaned against the wall that I had been avoiding looking at all morning.

I kept the collar that had been purposefully placed on top of a stack of boxes right in front of the unit, it's blue faded to nearly grey and the edges frayed to the point that they feathered all around the outside. I also held on to the two-hundred or so soda can bottoms that I had cut out for a project some time before and had just never put to use. Some things are just too difficult to part with. I took the slipper home with me, too, it's partner lost somewhere in the mess of it all. It felt wrong to let it be lonely.

I probably wouldn't have even noticed her if she hadn't literally jumped at my face as I opened a box labeled "maybe holiday stuff, maybe sexy-time stuff - are you willing to risk it?" God I was such a punk. She flew out claws-first straight for my eyes. She could of just slunk out but no, of course she had to make a flamboyant exit. Cats will be cats after all. For a moment I sat in the dirt and wondered how the heck she had even gotten in there but then a pang struck my stomach when I realized she'd probably made her way in during the cops' search and had been stuck for more than 24 hours due to my own apathy. I went to search for her outside but I only caught a glimpse of her graceful form sliding around the corner of the building.

The rest of the organization went smoothly and by the end of it I was only walking away with a few bags full of items, everything else destined for the trash heap. It felt silly to me that I had been spending money on keeping items I didn't even know I had anymore but that's just the way life goes sometimes. There was still some more to sort through but I was beginning to get hungry and I was still feeling a little weirded out by the whole experience in general.

I never liked grocery shopping. It was especially bad on an empty stomach. I think going to the grocery store hungry is like going to Disney World on acid. You're definitely going to have a different experience than if you had just gone under normal circumstances and you're probably going to spend a lot more than you meant to. I had never been much of a cook anyway so most of the items on the shelves just taunted me. It was like walking through a shaming circle with the noodles laughing because I could never seem to get al dente and they always felt a little slimy in my mouth, and the fruits chuckling because I didn't even own a blender and there was no way in hell I knew the process of making a smoothie, and the tofu just raised its eyebrow at me because, let's be honest here, who even knows how that shit works. All in all it ended up being a successful trip in which I walked away with three different types of frozen pizza, a box of mozzarella sticks, and a gallon of milk to make myself feel better. I even saved a dollar fifty on the cheese sticks so that seemed like a pretty big win to me.

Heading outside the wind was strong and the air smelled like diesel. The parking lot was relatively empty being about 2pm on a weekday and I was able to take my favorite spot on the side of the building which got you closer to the door but that were usually filled with employees and assholes who were overflow from the shopping center across the median.

Walking around the corner of the building a strange sound caught my attention. At first I only heard it momentarily and I figured my nostalgia wracked, food-deprived brain was just hallucinating, but then I heard it again. I stopped in my tracks at the startling outcry. If I didn't know better, and I didn't, I could have sworn it was the sound of a baby crying. Now, I had not been around many babies, but I certainly knew a thing or two about the ones that cried. The ones that cried in the movie theater, the ones that cried while at a friend's house and made you begin to question why you were even friends anymore, and the ones that cried in the grocery store - which I had actually just experienced not five minutes ago and my adrenaline died down a bit as I turned around to confirm my suspicion that the one from the store had just followed me outside. Okay, no, not that an infant literally followed my out of the store but that its mother was finished with her shopping as well.

Much to my chagrin, however, there was no screaming child in the parking lot and even more to my chagrin the wailing started up again and this time it was definitely behind me. My mouth felt dry as I swallowed and turned toward the source of the sound. Down near the very end of the of the building was a green dumpster I had never noticed up until that point. I bit my lip and felt the weight of my groceries still trying to pull me down to the ground. I didn't make any movement until the sound came up again and then my feet found their momentum. I headed straight for my car, obviously, but as I sat in the driver seat, key in the crank, groceries haphazardly shoved in the otherwise empty seat next to me, I couldn't help but look again at the dumpster.

Sighing, and hating my life more than usual, I inches towards the green monster. The smell of rot filled my nose the closer I approached and everything about the situation made me question ever thinking it was a good idea to park on this side of the building. I guessed the other side was probably much better and decided I should try it out next time, and probably every time after that, as well. The cry rang loud in my ears once again and I turned around to head back to my car, my hands balled into fists. I noticed I was holding my breath. I stopped midway between my sedan and the receptacle behind me. I was walking the tightrope of fate.

Taking a deep breath I turned around again and made a beeline for the trash can. I lifted the lid in one swift movement and out popped a malnutritioned black cat. I must have yelped at the sight because the creature immediately ran off like it was being chased. I slowly closed the lid and watched the animal disappear into the brush behind the building. I spent the whole trip back to my car rationalizing how there was no way it was the same cat and that this day was just one to chalk up in the books as one of my weirdest ever, but even driving away I still wasn't sure.

At home I cranked my oven to a toasty 425 degrees and threw in a pie. The couch welcomed me with open arms but I feared settling in too much as I might drift off for more than the designated 22 minutes for the pizza currently baking. I flipped through some channels and, of course, found nothing which just lead me to a spiral of thoughts about how I waste so much money on things I don't need and how a house this big wasn't appropriate for someone living alone and how BANG! I'm not used to loud noises in my house though I do have some pretty intense neighbors who can stir up some interesting circumstances from time to time. I braced myself as I stood to search for the cause of my inner monologue’s interruption.

I doubted it was the old man across the street. He had been in some kind of back brace for years now and I was pretty sure that he wasn't able to walk at this point. Still didn't stop me from checking out the front window and drawing the blinds closed after finding the coast to be clear. I was pretty sure that school wasn't on some kind of fall break at this point but I checked the backyard just to be certain since the kids across the lawns sometimes landed a too-far flung football in my barbecue. Nothing there either, though. I hesitated to search the rest of the house since there should be no logical reason something that loud had crashed.

The kitchen ahead of me was empty albeit a bit too warm for my comfort with the stove pouring heat from its definitely not energy-certified interior. My eyes strained to see into the dark living room beyond the threshold of the kitchen. I walked hesitantly to the small, dingily furnished room. There was nothing. I turned to my left, down the hall pitch black and, I was sure, beckoning only the most evil spirits. My body was on high alert. I clutched a pizza cutter in my hand and clung for life.

I ran to the light switch, my breath heaving in and out of my chest. No ghosts or goblins came searching for my soul. My room was all that was left. And the door was locked. There was no way, no way in hell, anyone was in there. But still… I reached for the handle half expecting it to give way under my turning hand, but it held fast. Breathing a sigh of relief I pulled out my key and turned it in the lock. The room was exactly how I'd left it. Lit with multicolored LED lights I'd stolen off the stage at a rave a few months back and the red glow of my iguana's heat lamp. My bed was unmade just as I'd left it this morning and the sink was still dripping every few seconds continuously begging me to call maintenance and have it fixed. No disturbances. No hooded murders. No stupid cockroaches, either.  As I moved to throw some flowers in Hurley's tank the alarm on the pizza startled me enough to drop the foliage on my floor. I had to laugh at that point. A mix of petals and leaves strewn about in haphazard shapes on the carpet and a silly iguana watching longingly from behind plexiglass. It was enough to stave off any remaining jitters I may have had.

The rest of the night was uneventful. The pizza was shitty, the cable shows were shitty and the only thing that didn't suck were new uploads from some of my favorite creators on YouTube to which I ended up falling asleep.

Work the next day was just stellar as usual. My boss had decided that she would tell us all about how our handling skills "made her nervous" and how we "couldn't seem to grasp basic concepts." Ahh yes, it was one of those days. Which, if I'm being honest, wasn't atypical so that wasn't what made it stand out. No, it was what happened later in the day. I, like most people, I hope, truly appreciate the fact that I can be paid to shit when I am at work. And I milk that for all it's worth. If I can manage two per day, you better believe they're both happening on the clock. Just got back from lunch? Clock in and shit. About to leave for lunch? "Forget to clock out" and shit. Least favorite client is walking through the door (read as: 98% of them)? Whoops, gotta shit.

So, I'm daily number two of the day (which, score, by the way) and I'm alone in the bathroom. Now, my boss is a fucking narcissistic millionaire and so she thinks it's more "environmentally friendly" to have automatic lights in the bathroom. I know she just does it because she loves when the clients completement her on it. So anyway, I'm taking my second number two of the day and the lights go off. I sighed and began waving my arms around in the stall. I knew this tactic wouldn't work because I've been to this rodeo a time or two. It seems to be some law of the universe that the lights don't register when someone is in the stall. So I debated my options. The door of the stall is just out of reach so I couldn't feasibly open the door to trigger the switch. The chance of another soul walking in to the bathroom is about pi over zero. I had absolutely no idea how they all managed to hold it all day. I guess they didn't eat or drink enough. Not like the boss let us eat or drink on the clock anyway. Or I could have just finished up without bothering to be able to see what was what - which is ultimately on what I had decided. But then, on turned the lights.

My face curled into a confused expression and I wondered how strange it would be to call out, "hello" to whomever had just entered the room. Strangely enough, there were no footsteps. No sounds of someone moving to a stall. No sink turning on for someone needing a quick rinse. Just, nothing. I chalked it up to divine intervention and moved on with my movement. That's when a cat came under the stall door.

To say that I jumped would be an understatement. I'm still wiping ceiling dust out of my hair to this day. It was a black cat with white whiskers and it came and rubbed my completely exposed legs. It was purring and seemed nonplussed by the entirely awkward situation. I leaned down and patted the cat. It was friendly and seemed happy to have found a friend. When I stood to flush the cat bolted out under the stall. I shrugged and figured it would be out there when I opened the door. But it wasn't. The bathroom was empty. I checked every stall just to be sure (there were only two). I even checked the supply closet. No feline to be found. In the end I washed my hands and left figuring it must have been a fluke. When I asked who had gotten out after returning from my bathroom trip my coworkers gave me baffled glances. Apparently, no black cats were on the schedule for that day.

The ride home I kept checking my surroundings think that I would definitely see the little guy again, but I didn't for the rest of the trip.

When I got home I noticed that one of my windows was open. My girlfriend at the time was convinced that any kind of central heating and cooling was the devil. All I can say in hindsight is that the sex was phenomenal. I found her in the living room eating an order out pizza and joined her waiting for a commercial break from whatever she was watching to tell her about my bathroom cat. But then, I actually look at the woman and there it is, the same black with white whiskers cat, eating her pizza crust like it's no concern. I must have gone rigid because my girlfriend turned her attention away from her show and looked at me. She had those, "this is happening and you're going to deal with it" eyes and I couldn't argue with that. We had fought the night before and I still wasn't sure who had won, though I did end up sleeping on the couch while she got my king-sized bed.

"I know this cat." I said to her.

She looked at my like I was crazy.

"I saw it at work today. In the bathroom." I said, my tone as anticlimactic as I could muster even though I was beading sweat.

"It came through the window," was all she said and went back to her show. The cat continued to watch me, though.

I left to check in on Hurley to make sure the temperature gauges weren't totally funked with the open windows and humidity pouring in. By the time I returned to the living room the cat was gone again. My girlfriend said it went back out the window and it brought some crust with it.

That night I dreamed of falling into darkness but then the darkness had eyes and millions of black cats with white whiskers were surrounding me, watching me fall.

I was groggy the next morning. This day my plan was to finish cleaning out that damn storage unit as I had the day off again. There were some other people milling about while I was there. I felt a little silly to be doing so but I checked around the corners of the buildings to see if that cat was around. The door to my unit felt foreboding.
I opened the door in front of me and like a whirl the cat came shooting in and under before it was even halfway open. My eyes took some time to adjust to the light but as they came around I finally realized why it had been following me all this time.

In one of the boxes I had yet to pack up laid a litter of six kittens who seemed thoroughly hungry and delighted to see their mother again for the first time in way too many hours. My heart sank and then sped up and couldn't seem to decide what to do. I grabbed the box and brought it to my car, mama cat in tow as well. I started the engine and got the ac rolling just so they wouldn't get too hot, it wasn't a hot day anyway but still. I went back to my unit and decided the rest of the items stacked inside could just get thrown out in the investigation. I hadn't needed them for this long, anyway.

As I stood and stared at the closed door for just a moment I could have sworn I felt something rubbing across my leg, but I was alone in the dusty aisle of the Fleming Storage Unit facility.