Freedom for All – Entry #3

Dark Ava is back. Man, that didn’t take long.

The theme this week is “Best Laid Plans,” and I chose to write on the prompt “write about a plan that goes wrong, but for the better.” I’m posting my story rather than immediately jumping into the details surrounding its creation. I’ll post my thoughts on how/why I wrote it at the bottom.

Before I start, I will say it’s inspired by one of my favourite songs, “River Below” by Billy Talent. If you haven’t heard of them, go listen! They’re a great Canadian punk-rock band and I don’t care if you say it’s emo, I love them. Always have.

Anyways, here it is.

TRIGGER WARNING: mental health, suicide, and terrorism.


The twisted bundle of wires is a brain and the hot soldering iron is my scalpel. Stolen books on bombmaking are opened and scattered around my operating table. It’s meticulous and messy work, but like any operation, it will save lives. The world, in fact.

It’s been almost two decades since the Elites developed their mind control program. At the start, they packaged it as a social website, tricking people into using it with shiny bells and whistles. Then, when smartphones became popular, the Elites transformed their program into an addictive app.

It didn’t take long for the world to eat it up. It spread, propagating like a virus. Now, everyone is infected. They’re part of the hive mind, enslaved and doomed to follow the Elites’ orders for all of eternity.

In any population, there will always be outliers. Ones that can’t be controlled. I’m one of them. It’s my purpose to stop the Elites and save the world.

I’m not alone. There are more outliers across the world, but only a few. We call ourselves the Crimson Warriors. We operate on the dark web, but even that’s not fully safe these days.

The Elites think one day they’ll control everyone, including us outliers, but they’re wrong. I’m the chosen outlier. I’m destined to break the chains and shackles. It’s a big task, but I don’t have a choice. I need to do this for everyone.

My friends and family rejected me when they found out I wanted to rebel against the Elites. My wife left me and took custody of my kid. My parents cut me out. I haven’t seen them in years. They’re under the Elites’ control, and until I act, they’ll remain lost to me.

Even though I’ve been abandoned, I will sacrifice myself for my family. For everyone. I’ll be a hero once this is over; famous for liberating the planet. I’ll be dead, but I’ll be everywhere. They’ll erect statues of me. Moreover, my family will be free. Everyone will be free.

The Crimson Warriors and I bought experimental black-market tech called Neurolinks that allow us to communicate through our thoughts. If I turn my eyecam on, they can see what I see, and we can hear each other in our heads. It’s the only safe way left to communicate. The Elites watch everything—phones, emails, texts, apps, internet. But they can’t hack the Neurolinks. Not yet, at least.

I pull more wires out of my toolkit. Explosives are part of this contraption, but it’s safe. I made sure when I researched and double-checked with the Crimson Warriors.

Cross those wires, Big Echo whispers in my head. If you get caught, they’ll try to dismantle it. But if you cross the wires, they won’t know which ones to cut. It could buy you some time.

I listen and cross the wires, soldering them into place. The scent is comforting.

Big Echo is a war vet. He was on a bomb squad and knows a thing or two about making them. Before the Neurolink, I had to do my own research. Now that I have Big Echo to help, things are going much better.

Mine’s ready, Rivers, Honor’s Bastard says. I’ll take out their New York Office. Big Echo, you got Miami. And you, Rivers—you’re the main show. Corporate Tower, downtown San Francisco.

“Roger,” I say out loud.

You got this, boss, Honor’s Bastard says. Man, you’re going to be a legend after this. You’ll be front-page news. Rivers, the savior of society! They’ll call you the Liberator! Has the ring of a superhero, doesn’t it?

You are a hero, boss, Big Echo says.

“Well, we are a team, boys.” I finish up the last of the work on the explosive.

Thanks to you. You’re the mastermind, Rivers. We all know it. No need to be humble.

A few other voices cheer in agreement, and I smile for the first time in months.

Freedom, someone says. Freedom for all.

“Freedom for all,” I repeat, still grinning.


D-day. My backpack is heavy with explosives as I approach the Elites’ headquarters. It’s raining and cold. Downtown San Francisco is busy and littered with human feces like the corporate cesspool it is.

The sidewalks and roads are congested, like always. Ever since the Elites mandated electric cars a year ago, traffic has gotten quieter. I don’t mind electric cars, but I miss having a choice. I miss being free.

The normal morning rush lets me blend in. I wear my old suit and tie from when I was a corporate slave myself. It’s a cloak I must wear so I can unleash my dagger. I’m not a wolf in sheep’s clothing—I’m a savior in the skin of the enslaved.

I pull out my phone. It’s offline because its only purpose is to act as a detonator. The app I designed is cliché—it’s a giant red button on the screen that, when touched, will activate the bomb in my backpack.

Cliché or not, all I need to do is get in the building and press it. No one will care about my creativity once I liberate them. They’ll just see me as the hero I am.

Despite running a company that controls the world, the Elites have little security. I have been scoping out their headquarters for weeks and haven’t seen anything that poses a threat. Individuals from all walks of life can stroll in unimpeded. I suppose you don’t need protection when you have everyone under your thumb.

Their arrogance will be their undoing. There are still outliers. There’s still me—no, us, the Crimson Warriors.

Neurolinks online, Big Echo says. What do you say, boss? Ready for liberation?

“Freedom for all,” I mutter under my breath. “Freedom for all.”

Freedom for all! A chorus of voices echoes in my head.  

“Freedom for all,” I repeat louder this time, unable to help myself. A nearby woman gives me a strange look, her eyes dead and empty like all those enslaved.

I ignore her. It’s not like she can hear me. The app probably filtered out my words, just like any non-conformity.

Careful boss, Big Echo warns. That woman seemed a bit surprised by you.

“She’s been programmed,” I say under my breath. “Her eyes were empty. That’s how you tell. Dead eyes, Big Echo. Remember that.”

Roger, Big Echo says.

I’m onsite, Honour’s Bastard says. Ready to detonate.

The Elite’s headquarters is only a few blocks away. I walk as fast as I can. My burden is hefty, but my resolve carries me forward with ease.

I think about my life as I weave through the crowds—it’s not much I’m losing. Not really. My ex-wife was taken by the Elites years ago. My parents, too. My kid is already programmed and online, a corporate slave to be.

If my sacrifice frees them, it will be worth it. Either way, I’m never seeing them again.

You’re close, boss, Honor’s Bastard says. Once you’re onsite, we’ll commence our plan and detonate in unison.

I approach the entrance of the massive skyscraper. It reflects the grey sky and cuts into the clouds, well above all the other corporate towers. Marble steps lead to the entrance like a dais, and I can smell the chlorine from their indoor fountain despite the stench outside.

The enslaved bump past me, all pulling out ID badges and chatting to each other about work. At times, I’ve found myself envying them. They don’t have the same responsibility that I do.

“Hey,” someone nearby says, “you lost?”

I turn around to see a large man in a black suit and dark sunglasses looking down at me. Security. How have I not seen them before? He sports an earpiece and I recognize his shades as TechGlasses. They don’t have x-ray vision, but rather have facial recognition and direct access to corporate databases. They can pull up someone’s profile instantly.

Those glasses can identify you, boss. Get out of there!  

“I’m late for a meeting,” I say, looking at his black, polished shoes.

“With whom?” I hear his glasses beeping. “I ran recognition on you, and it seems like you’ve been unemployed for some time now, Mr. Rivers.”

Shit, Big Echo says. Say you’re an entrepreneur.

“I’m an entrepreneur.” I square my shoulders, feigning haughty arrogance. “I have new tech I want to show to your marketing team. An algorithm, actually. We booked this meeting weeks ago. Listen, if they’re not interested anymore, I can take it to your competitors out in Silicon Valley.”

“Let me confirm with their team,” the man says.

This is bad, boss. I can’t hack their system fast enough to create a fake meeting.

What do I do? I ask in my head.

Run inside. If you go fast enough, you can still detonate.

I wrap my sweaty hand around the detonator in my pocket.

“Yeah, I got a guy here. Says he’s an entrepreneur with a new algorithm for marketing?”’ Security asks, speaking into their earpiece. “Uh-huh. Yep. Got it.”

Freedom for all, Big Echo says.

They took your wife and kid, Rivers, Honor’s Bastard says. Your whole life. They took your whole LIFE.

He’s right. My family was my whole life. My heartbeat picks up and my sweaty grasp tightens around my phone.

It’s the only way to free them, Big Echo says. You know it’s the only way, boss. Some people might die, but they’re all enslaved, anyways. And no war is won without sacrifice. No one obtains freedom without blood.

My heart races. The security guard frowns, his shoulders tensing. I notice two more coming down the stairs towards me, each as large and intimidating as the next. They’re also wearing TechGlasses, keeping their dead eyes hidden.   

They’re onto you, Big Echo says. It’s now or never, boss.

I think of my kid. My wife. Their faces. I want one last moment with them before I detonate. I remember the day my son was born. I smile. What a beautiful day.

You have to go now! Big Echo shouts. FREEDOM FOR ALL!

FREEDOM FOR ALL, the chorus screams.

“FREEDOM FOR ALL!” I bellow as I run.

I dash up the stairs as I hear someone shout stop him. I shove myself through the glass doors. I pull out my phone and unlock it with my fingerprint. The app pops up. The red button flashes.

Now or never, boss!

Shaking, I lower my finger to detonate.

Then I seize and convulse. My fingers cramp and my hand turns into an involuntary claw. Pain ripples through me, searing and electric, and I hear the crowd gasp as I collapse. My phone slides away.

A taser. Fuck! It will throw off my Neurolink—maybe even fry it!

A body slams on top of me and their weight crushes my ribs. I can’t breathe. I’m still convulsing. The scorching, crushing pain is distant, like it belongs to someone else.

I still have my goal! I have to liberate them! It’s up to me! I’m the only one who can do it!

I stare at my phone on the shiny tiles. The red button flashes. I roar as I try to reach for it, but the security guard grabs my wrist and yanks my arm behind my back.

“It’s a bomb!” A bystander cries, and screams erupt everywhere. Feet stomp past me as the crowd rushes out the door. Nearby, glass smashes. Sirens wail.

It’s over.

  The crushing weight is too much. I try, one last time, to breathe, but it’s futile. I black out.


I come to with an oxygen mask on my face. Blue and red lights flash all around me. My mouth is dry. I taste iron. My vision is blurry. I try to move, but my arms are restrained. The smell of chlorine is gone, replaced by that of sterility.

I look down and see I’m strapped to a bed in the back of an ambulance. There are IVs hooked up to me, pumping poison into my veins. Probably full of nanobots. They’re already starting the programming. I’m woozy, sluggish, and stuck in place. I can’t fight it.

“Lucky we got him in time,” someone says. “His bag was full of explosives, which were connected to a device that let him detonate with his phone. He could have taken out the whole floor with what he was packing, killing hundreds, if not thousands.”

“Who is he?” I spot a grizzled man in a suit talking to the security guard from earlier. The newcomer has a gun and badge strapped to his waist. A cop. He’s drenched from the rain, his balding head shiny and damp. He has sharp brown eyes, though; unlike everyone else, he doesn’t look enslaved.

“Facial recognition says he’s Tom Rivers. He’s thirty-one and unemployed. We ran him through our security system. He’s been hanging around here for weeks.”

“What do you know about him?” the cop asks.

“He used to be a software engineer at a big tech company but was fired two years ago after he started spouting off about mind control conspiracies. His wife divorced him and he lost custody of his kid shortly after. Doesn’t look like he has had contact with his parents since then, either. And despite his history of mental health problems, he hasn’t filled a prescription in a long time.”

I try to speak, but my tongue is too thick to make words. I need to tell them that I don’t have mental health problems. The Elite made that all up once they found out I was onto them. They even tried to hide nanobots in the pills!

If I’m right, and this cop is an outlier, maybe I can pass the message to him. I try communicating through Neurolink, but I’m met with silence.

You there, boss? Big Echo responds, his voice slow and fuzzy. We got busted, too. The Elites knew. There must have been a rat. Rivers? You there?

“I won’t ask how you got his private medical information.” The cop shifts on his feet, looking uncomfortable. “Anything else?”

“He has a website called the ‘Crimson Warriors.’ It’s a conspiracy theory website. Says that social media is a form of mind control that’s enslaved the population, and all the tech companies are in on it. Calls CEOs ‘the Elites.’”

“Anyone else using the site?”

“There’s some traffic, but not a lot of engagement. Based on our analysis it would appear he’s a one-man show.”

The cop shakes his head. “No such thing as privacy anymore.”

“If it wasn’t for us,” A nearby man in a suit—a dead-eyed Elite!—chimes in, “you’d be chasing your tails for weeks trying to figure out this psycho.”

The cop sighs. “Anything else, then?”

“Recently,” the security guard continues, “he posted about new tech called ‘Neurolinks,’ saying it lets him communicate with his network globally, but based on what we know, there’s no such thing as a fully functional Neurolink.”

Shit! They know, boss! No! The Neurolinks were all we had left!

“Any chance there could be?” The cop asks.

“No, that tech is still years off.” The Elite rolls his dead eyes, lying like the devil he is. “We’ve done a lot of testing, but it never goes well. The subjects usually die.”

“Right. I remember reading about those poor test monkeys in the news,” the cop says. “My guess is this asshole has untreated schizophrenia.”

“He does,” Security adds, quieter this time. “But you didn’t hear it from us.”

“They’re lying,” I croak. All heads swivel to me. “They’re all lying. They’re lying!” I thrash against the restraints. They have to know! I can still get through to them! “You’re all slaves! Slaves to the Elites! I was trying to help you! I just want you to be free! I want freedom for all! Freedom for all!”

“Give him a sedative.” The cop sounds bored, not enlightened like he should be! “And whatever other drugs he needs.”

Boss, they’re going to cut your Neurolink! You have to fight them! You’ll be as lost as all the other enslaved else if you don’t do something!

I struggle against the restraints as I watch fluid flow into my arm. I flex all my muscles, hoping I can squeeze it out. I grind my teeth. I howl like a wolf calling to the moon.

Fight it, boss!

The restraints cut into my wrists, but I won’t stop fighting. I don’t want to be enslaved! I don’t want to end up like these dead-eyed sheep!

I watch helplessly as the paramedic injects something into my IV—nanobots! I feel them crawl into my veins, cold and invasive.

No! I have to stay free! It’s the only way my wife and kid stand a chance!

My vision darkens. The voices fade. My head rolls to the side, my eyes half-open.

It’s over, I tell my team. I failed. We lost. I’m sorry. You have to go on without me. Detonate if you can. We can still…save…them…

For the first time in years, I’m met with silence. Tears roll down my cheeks. The Elite…the…oh god. It wasn’t real, was it?

Wasn’t it?

Author’s Notes

Soooo…I’ll start by saying I recognize this is a pretty dark topic, but I really, really love doing unreliable narrator stories. When I saw the prompts this week I felt uninspired at first, but then I started thinking – what about exploring the idea of someone who believes they’re doing the right thing, but in reality, what they’re actually doing is really destructive? And when they’re caught, it seems like they’ve lost, but as the reader, you find out that their plans being thwarted is actually a good thing.

And thus, “Freedom for All” was born.

There’s been quite a bit of discourse recently around colonization of the mind on part of social media and tech companies. Someone recently commented that capitalism started as colonizing the planet, but now that the land has all been colonized (gross), the next place is the mind. Obviously, space comes after, but until that’s feasible, minds it is!

GROSS, but I kind of agree. Social media takes your time and sells it to advertisers. The goal is to get you to spend as much time on your phone/computer as they can. The more time you spend on social media, the more they can gather data on you and build an advertising profile, which they then sell for $$$.

If you want, you can see the profile Google has built on you. I checked mine out, and it was eerily accurate.

I do not, however, think that anyone is mind controlling us through social media (anymore than the next person, at least). But Tom Rivers, an untreated schizophrenic, sees things a different way. The story is set in the near future, maybe like 2025-2030ish? In his reality, everyone is brainwashed, and it’s up to him to sacrifice himself to save them. But in everyone else’s reality, they’re just addicted to their phone, and tech companies are using it to profit. No mind control – just regular old manipulation.

If you read the lyrics from River Below, you’ll see the inspiration I took from it. God, I love Billy Talent. Absolute kings.


Terrorism is bad and everyone that needs medication should take it. As someone with Jewish heritage, I absolutely hate the notion of conspiracies and lizard people and chem trails and MK ultra programming and whatever else there is out there. So again, if it’s not clear, THESE ARE NOT MY VIEWS.

Thanks ❤

Billy Talent Spotify:

Kitty, Kitty – Entry #2

Back again with another Reedsy entry. It hasn’t been approved and put on their website yet, but I’ll update the post with the link once it is.

The theme this week was Halloween or in their words, “I’ve Got Goosebumps.” I chose to write on the prompt “Start your story with someone encountering a black cat.”

Honestly, I love cats. This is undoubtedly my future:

Eleanor Abernathy, you queen. Source:

I also hate that every Halloween I have to keep my cat inside because people are fucked up. Especially if my cat happens to be black. I also don’t like the horror trope that black cats are “bad luck” or “evil.”

As I’m writing this, I’m having flashbacks to big daddy King’s Pet Sematary. Great book, but look at this cover:

My heart bleeds for the poor baby kitties that happened to be born with the wrong coat of fur. So when writing this story, I decided to take a different approach with a lil twist. It’s probably a cliché twist, but I don’t care. I did it for the cats!

I’ve also been feeling abnormally positive lately. Normally, when I write, my books have sad endings. I used to find happy endings annoying, if I’m honest. Recently, however, I’ve found myself writing more positive stories. I don’t really know why-maybe it’s the sunny Ontario weather.

Kitty, Kitty

Anna wiped her brow, calves burning as she rushed down the crowded Toronto street. She was late to a get-together, as she quite often was. Although it was the end of October, the weather remained persistently hot, and the tall skyscrapers blocked Lake Ontario’s breeze, insulating the heat. Thanks to the weird weather, Anna had spent far too much time struggling to pick out an appropriate outfit.

Excuses aside, the fact remained that Anna was late. Again. Today was their friend Ahsan’s birthday, too. She walked a bit faster, urging her short legs to go. She swore as she dodged someone with their eyes glued to their phone. Anna picked up the pace, weaving between the crowd, until a line of burly, slow-moving brodudes blocked her path.

Anna sighed and stopped, sweat trickling down her back. Why was she stressing so hard about this? Ahsan wouldn’t care if she was late—he’d just be happy to see her.

She caught her breath, taking in her busy surroundings. The sidewalks were packed, and the wide streets were filled with cars, driving erratically and honking aggressively, as they quite often did.

Anna glanced at the sidewalk, the clear sky, then into an alley next to her. It was lined with dumpsters and covered in graffiti. Despite being dimly lit, Anna spotted a set of bright teal eyes belonging to a scruffy black cat. It was bigger than most cats, with short fur and a long tail.

Anna felt an anxious pang in her chest. It wasn’t that she believed black cats were bad luck. She just couldn’t help but wonder if superstitions existed for a reason. When she was a kid, her mother broke a mirror, and sure enough, the next seven years had been hell. Her mother got divorced, lost her job, even got cancer. It was like the universe was against her for a while.

Everything was fine now, though. Her mother was in remission, had a great career, and had even remarried. And yet, the image of the shattered mirror hung in Anna’s mind, reminding her to always be cognizant of superstitions, even if they seemed ridiculous.

She shook her head. It was just a black cat with gorgeous neon eyes, quite like the surrounding graffiti. It meowed, watching her. Anna took an unconscious step towards it, hand outreached.

“Watch out!” someone shouted. Anna turned and saw a car spinning out of control, tires burning and breaks squealing as it ricocheted towards her. She shielded her face, letting out a scream of her own.

The car slammed perpendicular against the two buildings that formed the alley. Anna slowly dropped her hands, heart racing. It had stopped not even inch from her. Its driver was inside, blood pouring down his forehead, the front end of the vehicle totalled. 

“Are you alright?” a bystander asked, their voice muted by the ringing in Anna’s ears.

Anna turned around to see the black cat. It hadn’t moved, nor did it seem phased by the chaos. It narrowed its brilliant teal eyes, then bounced away.

Emergency services showed up, and Anna was let go by the paramedics. Miraculously, she had no injuries. Rather than take the subway, she walked home numbly, barely aware of her surroundings as day transitioned to night. Eventually, she reached her apartment building and pulled out her keys, hands shaking.

She felt a creep run up her spine and looked over her shoulder to see yet another large, black cat with glowing teal eyes watching her. It couldn’t be the same one, could it? Anna swallowed the lump in her throat.

“Go away,” she said hoarsely. The cat remained in place. “I said go!” She shouted this time, stomping her foot. The cat didn’t budge.

Anna charged towards it, shoulders heaving. She froze at the sound of a nearby crash. She spotted a smashed flowerpot behind her. Red flowers, dirt, and broken pieces covered the sidewalk like blood and guts.

“What was that?” Anna heard a sliding glass door open. “Did you hear that, Ed? It sounded like—oh, shit! My pansies!” A blonde woman Anna recognized as her neighbour hung over the railing of the balcony. “Are you ok? Did it hit you?”

Anna looked back towards where the cat had been, but it was gone.

“Hey, are you’re alright?”

“I’m good!” Anna called out, shaking worse than she had been previously. She stepped over the broken flowerpot, opening the entrance to her building.

Thankfully her apartment was on the first floor. She darted up the stairs and ran down the hallway, then jammed her key into her front door, opened it, and slammed it behind her, locking it.

The superstitions were real, just like the damn mirror. Anna didn’t care what anyone thought. That black cat was evil, and it was trying to kill her.

“Anna?” She heard her roommate, Jasleen, get up and bound towards the entrance, her black hair in a messy bun. “Ahsan messaged me. He said you never showed up. Are you alright? You look pale.”

Anna stared at the dirty linoleum. The cat had unusual eyes. Was it a ghost? Or…or a demon?


“Sorry.” Anna blinked several times. “I almost got hit by a car—”


“I’m alright!” Anna said through a nervous laugh. “Fine, just fine. I need to lay down, though.” She pushed past Jasleen and opened the door to her cramped, messy room. She threw down her purse. looked up at her bedroom window, and gasped.

“What is it?” Jasleen called.

The cat. The black cat. It was sitting on her windowsill.

“Go away!” Anna screamed, hurtling towards the window in an attempt to scare it off. She tripped on the cord of her hairdryer, flew forward, and landed on the clothes-ridden floor. Groaning, she opened her eyes, and spotted an empty glass next to the tip of her nose.

“Oh my god!” Jasleen shouted. “Anna—you could have died! I told you not to leave glasses on the floor like that!” She swept beside her and picked it up, shoulders tense.

“It’s trying to kill me!” Anna blurted. She pushed herself against her dresser, and it wobbled, dropping a pile of books down beside her. “See?!” Anna pointed at the scattered books.

Jasleen looked around the room, confused. “What?”

“The cat!” Anna sprung up and looked to the window, only to see that the cat was gone.

Jasleen looked at the window, then back at Anna, then back at the window. “Are you sure you’re ok?”

Anna stared at the empty glass in Jasleen’s hands. If she’d landed on, it would have smashed straight into her face. Probably taken out an eye.

But the idea that a cat was somehow doing this? She needed to lay down, rest, and try to forget about everything.

“I-I think I need to lay down,” Anna said.

“Did you hit your head?”

“No, I’m alright. The paramedics said so. Just…I’m a bit shook up, is all.”

Jasleen stared at her long and hard, then nodded. Ever the good friend, she picked up Anna’s books, then headed towards the door. She nearly tripped on the hairdryer cord on her way out. “Clean your room. Seriously. You’re going to get yourself killed.”

“I will,” Anna mumbled.

Jasleen gave her a sympathetic smile. “Rest up, and I can help you take care of this tomorrow. Night, Anna.” She gently shut the door.

Although it was early in the evening, Anna fell asleep almost instantly. She dreamt of screeching tires, sliding cars, and teal eyes. She woke with a start, the sun spilling in through her curtains.

It’s just a damn cat and a whole lot of weird coincidences, Anna tried to reassure herself, but she still felt anxious. In an effort to fight it, she got out of bed and showered.

Drenched, she stared at herself in the foggy bathroom mirror. She noticed a small crack on it and immediately thought of her Mom’s bad luck streak.

Just a cat. She went into her room and blow-dried her hair, putting the dryer away afterwards.

After Jasleen woke up and showered, they cleaned Anna’s room until it was spotless. Anna took Jasleen out for sushi and picked up the bill as thanks. They left the restaurant and wandered their noisy downtown neighbourhood, drinking ice coffees under the hot sun.

“I don’t give a shit what anyone says,” Jasleen said after a sip, “climate change is here. This weather is weird as fuck.”

“I know,” Anna said. “Like, it shouldn’t be ice coffee weather this time of year!”

“Right?!” Jasleen shouted, and they ranted about it at some length, then switched to talking about their latest Tinder exploits.

Anna felt her shoulders relax as Jasleen went on about a horrible date she’d had. Just a cat, she reminded herself, smiling as she sipped the last of her ice coffee.

They turned a corner near their apartment building, and Anna froze. The black cat. It was outside the building, teal eyes glowing despite the bright sun.

“See it?!” Anna shouted, pointing.

“What, the cat?” Jasleen asked, taking a loud sip from the dredges of her ice coffee.

“Yeah!” Anna’s heart raced. The cat twitched its tail, teal eyes mocking her. 

Fuck this. Anna lifted her arm to huck the empty plastic cup at it, hoping to scare it away for good, but Jasleen grabbed her bicep and lowered her arm.

“Girl, what the fuck?!” Jasleen said, letting go of her arm as Anna backed away, panting. “You seriously about to hurt a cat?”

“It’s trying to kill me, Jasleen, I swear—”

Before Anna could explain, she was cut off by a loud shriek. A woman on an electric scooter whipped between her and Jasleen. Anna bristled, ready to accost her for using the sidewalk instead of the bike lane, but the girl crashed into a garbage can. She flew over the handlebars and landed on the pavement of the busy road. A car swerved and crashed into another, its windshield exploding.

The girl from the scooter sat on the pavement, covered in bloody road rash, her arm bent at an awkward angle. She let out a piercing cry, eyes wide in horror at the sight of her mangled arm.

Jasleen dropped her plastic cup, the ice rattling as it hit the ground.

“See?!” Anna blurted. “It’s the cat, Jasleen! I saw it last night, before I almost fell on the glass in my bedroom, and yesterday, I saw it before the car almost hit me! And—and a pot of pansies almost fell on my fucking head, too!”

Jasleen wasn’t listening, though. Her brown eyes were wide and glued to the scene of the accident, the colour had drained from her face.

Anna looked back to see the cat still watching her. Its eyes narrowed again, reminding her of a smirking demon. Clearly, it thought this was funny. Anger, fresh and hot, scourged through Anna.

Sirens wailed nearby. Anna marched towards the cat, plastic cup brandished.

“Hey!” Jasleen grabbed her arm. “What are you doing? Just wait—there’s glass everywhere.”

“The cat, Jasleen!” Anna hissed. “It did this! I’m telling you!”

Jasleen calmly looked over Anna’s shoulder towards the cat. “It’s just a cat, Anna. Poor thing looks half-starved.”

“It’s bad luck!” Anna dropped her cup and took Jasleen’s shoulders. “It’s probably Satan, or something worse!”

“Satan?!” Jasleen was looking at Anna like she was insane. “Oh god, girl. Black cats aren’t evil. You know how messed up it is that people are afraid of them?” Jasleen shook her head, eyes filling with pity. “Shelters put them down all the time. It’s so sad.”

Jasleen sighed. “Listen, you’ve had a lot of bad luck the last couple days, but it’s just that. Bad luck. A black cat didn’t cause it. Random chance did. Just be thankful you’re not the one on the ground right now.”

Random chance? Hell no. It was real, just like the broken mirror. Anna had proof, she just had to make Jasleen understand.

Jasleen, ever the perceptive one, seemed to read Anna’s mind. “You said the cat was there when you almost got hit yesterday?”

Anna nodded, her hoop earrings flapping up and down.

“And again, when you fell in your room?”

Anna nodded once more, earlobes hurting.

“And something about pansies?” Jasleen raised an eyebrow.

“A flowerpot almost fell on my head last night!”

“And you saw the cat…right before?”

Hope bloomed inside Anna. She wasn’t crazy. Jasleen could see it, too.

“What if it’s—I mean, you stepped out of the way just in time, otherwise that girl on the scooter would have slammed straight into you…” Jasleen glanced back at the black cat. “What if it’s looking out for you?”


“The cat. What if it’s trying to protect you? Think about it. You actually got lucky, not the other way around.”

Anna looked at the cat. It narrowed its eyes at her again. “Jasleen, it’s glaring at me!”

“No, girl, that’s how cats show love. They squint at you.”


“Cats squint at people they love. That cat looks like it loves you.”

“But what about the colour of its eyes?! They’re practically glowing!”

“They’re so pretty.” Jasleen smiled sadly. “Used to have a cat that looked like that, but it was grey. Same eyes though. It would sleep with me when I was sick and snuggle me when I was sad. Got me through some rough times, you know, when my parents were getting divorced.”

Anna studied the cat over the chaos. An ambulance rolled up to the scene, along with a firetruck. The girl from the scooter was sobbing in agony, clutching her arm. An older woman was knelt beside her, trying to calm her down.

Through it all, the cat remained firmly rooted in place.

“Squint back.” Jasleen narrowed her eyes at the cat. “They love that shit.”

The injured girl let out another wail. What if Anna had collided with her? She’d be the one howling in pain.

Thinking back on the first accident—hadn’t Anna stepped towards the cat initially? When she’d first seen it? Yes, she had. And the car stopped inches from her. Moving towards the cat had saved her.

And the flowerpot? That time, Anna had been running towards the cat. If she’d remained stationary, those pansies would have landed on her head.

But what about the empty glass in her room? The cat had drawn her in, causing her to trip. But that had prompted Jasleen to help her clean. Now her room was hazard free.

“Come on.” Jasleen squeezed her hand. “Humour me.”

Anna met the cat’s neon eyes. It flicked its tail. Sighing, Anna squinted at it. The cat returned the gesture, then slowly sauntered off.

“There. Now you’re good,” Jasleen said. “Cops are coming. Let’s give our statements so we can go home.”

Shaken, Anna and Jasleen returned to their apartment, but after a couple hours Jasleen cracked a joke and Anna found herself laughing. The sun set, and the heat that had plagued them earlier died off. They cooked dinner together, and Anna cleaned up, thanking Jasleen again for helping with her room.

Anna thought about the cat. What if Jasleen was right, and it wasn’t out to get her, but rather was protecting her?

Jasleen laughed loudly in their living room while watching a stand-up comedy special. Anna bit her nails. She opened a kitchen cupboard and pulled out a can of tuna.

“Can I have this?” Anna asked. “I’ll pay you back.”

“Go for it,” Jasleen said without taking her eyes off the television.

Anna opened the can, sighed, and went into her bedroom. She flicked on the light, expecting to see the cat waiting for her on the windowsill, but it wasn’t there. She moved to the window and opened it. Sirens echoed somewhere far off, and a horn honked, reminding her of the unfortunate accidents that had almost taken her life.

Anna stuck her head outside, held out the opened cat of tuna, and tapped it with a fork. “Here, kitty, kitty,” she said weakly.

She placed the can of tuna on the windowsill. Whatever the cat’s motives, Anna could use the tuna to thank it, or try to make a peace offering if it was, indeed, nefarious.

“Kitty, kitty…” Anna said under her breath. She grimaced, feeling stupid, and shut the window.

Tired, Anna flopped on her bed and pulled out her laptop, opened the lid, and put her headphones in. She watched YouTube videos on black cats and learnt that some cultures viewed them as bringers of good luck. Interesting. She’d always been led to believe they were bad news.

After a long YouTube blackhole, she pulled out her headphones and heard a scraping noise outside. Anna sat up slowly and looked out the window to see the same big, black cat eating the tuna, the can sliding against the windowsill as it mowed down.

It froze, its bright teal eyes on Anna.

Nervous, Anna slid the window open. “You want in?” she asked meekly.

The cat jumped on her bed, purring loudly. It brushed against Anna, tail up in the air.

Anna smiled. “I suppose I owe you one. Well, more than one.” She scratched behind its big ears. It was actually really cute, and soft, and seemed like it had a sweet personality. How could she have thought it was evil?

Anna felt calm wash over her as she stroked its black fur. “You can stay if you want. Jasleen said she likes cats, so why not?”

It pushed the top of its head against Anna’s arm, purring loudly. Anna reached over and closed her window. Exhausted, she fell asleep shortly after, the black cat curled up against her legs.