The Black Cat II by Xavier Palmer
The reason that I wrote this story was originally for one of my classes. It was supposed to be a futuristic retelling of an Edgar Allan Poe story, which I was able to choose; however, it became much more than a quick retelling of one of these stories for a good grade. I found myself enjoying my time using my creativity to attempt to recreate language and a story that Poe would tell himself. The reason that I chose to imitate “The Black Cat” over all of his other short stories was because this had a twisted plot that I thought would be very fun to recreate, and it fit into a story that I was able to make futuristic. As a reader, I love stories that are twisted and unexpected, so I chose to write one that was twisted because I knew that I would get into it myself!
As I come to, I rub my eyes in bewilderment. It feels as though I have been asleep for days upon weeks upon months. As I pry my eyes open slowly, I see the outline of a figure drifting in front of me. The figure is engulfed by a dim light, floating about like the bubbles that I blew when I was a child. As my eyes adjust to the light, I feel a stiffness in my back; I try to readjust my position in my soft seat, but as I struggle to move, I realize that I am bound by an all-body seatbelt as though I was riding in a roller coaster. Through my sleepy haze, I have no recollection of where I am or what I am doing. When my eyes finally finish adjusting to the light of the room, I can make out the facial features of the figure. Not knowing what else to do, I ask “Where am I?”
Without hesitation, the figure, which I can now tell is a man, responds, “Sir, you are one and a half lightyears away from planet Earth. It is September 17, 2150.”
“Twenty-one fifty?” I question. “I thought it was 2147.”
Once again, in an instant, the man replies, “You have been asleep for nearly three years. We are finally within 100 miles of our destination, so you have all awakened.” I look around, and I see that there are hundreds of other people who are strapped into a seat, just as I am. We are on a long, narrow spacecraft with no windows, just seats lining the walls all around. Suddenly, it all comes back to me.
I was sitting at the final meeting for the journey to Silicon, not even an hour before takeoff. Jason Musk, the great-great-great grandson of Elon Musk, was the head of this project. This newly found planet had the capability – both atmosphere and resources – to sustain human life. Due to a recent revolutionary discovery in Silicon Valley, we were able to pick up parts of the area at a time and send this to the new planet, hence the name Silicon. Since our house was part of Silicon Valley, it got shipped off to Silicon, so we were allowed a seat on the spacecraft. As the meeting drew to a close, Jason recapped some important information. “Remember, this journey is a long one. Silicon is nearly one and a half lightyears away, so, with our new spacecraft that can travel approximately half the speed of light, you all should arrive in about three years. Worry not, though, for you do not have to wait that long. Once you take the pill that we give you when you board the spacecraft, you will be in a deep sleep within a matter of minutes; Once you are within 100 miles of Silicon, you will awake. You should not worry about nutrition, as the caregivers on board will give you your daily nutrients through injections every day, and you will be as healthy as ever when you arrive. Any questions?”
A woman sitting two rows in front of me raised her hand. “Will our servants still be there when we arrive?” She asked.
“Indeed they will, and they should be working as well as ever,” Jason replied. “Any further questions?” The room was a library; not a whisper was heard.
Succeeding the meeting, we all left the convention center and headed to the spacecraft. I climbed the mountain of stairs up into the spacecraft trailing just behind my wife, Veta. Once aboard, I found my seat, clicked all of the seatbelts into place that they instructed me to, and waited patiently. Within a matter of minutes, a caregiver approached my wife and me, and she gave us each a pill. I looked my wife directly in the eyes, unsure of what would be ahead of us. I said, “I love you.”
She looked me back in the eyes and said, “I love you too.” Without hesitation, I tilted my head back and threw the pill into my mouth in one swift motion. I swallowed hard, and it went down my throat begrudgingly. Seconds after, my eyelids grew extremely heavy, and I was overtaken by darkness.
A loud voice over the speakers snaps me back to reality. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have successfully landed in Silicon. You may now unbuckle your seatbelts.” I unclip the buckles, fiddling with each individual one before I can finally get it right. My body feels out of tune like I am once again an infant. When I finally get the last seatbelt unbuckled, I brace my arms on the armrests. I leverage myself to my feet, only to realize quickly that my body had not experienced gravity for three years. I fall to the ground on my hands and knees. I look around the spacecraft, and I realize that others are having the exact same problem. I do not even make a second attempt at getting up; rather, I just crawl out. Upon reaching the door, I crawl out onto the top of the steps leading to the ground. Before I start my descent, I stop momentarily to take this new planet in.
As my eyes spread across the vast landscape, I am first struck with a feeling of familiarity. Silicon Valley, from back home on Earth, looks identical to the way it once had. There is Mulberry Street that meets with Turner Street, just like it had back home. However, as I continue to scan the horizon, I soon realize that it is not all familiar. When I look to the right, I see a blank canvas. A blank canvas of beauty. A blank canvas waiting to be painted on by humanity. But a blank canvas that I would prefer to be left blank because, in its flowing river, green trees, and chirping birds, it is more beautiful and pure than anything man could paint himself.
With this area being so familiar to me, I start my descent down the steps. I am like a puppy: uncoordinated, crawling on my hands and knees, struggling to get down the steps to the new land. Veta follows right behind me. When I reach the ground, my knees are already noticeably sore. It dawns on me that I am going to have to crawl on my hands and knees for three-quarters of a mile before I arrive at my house. However, sitting here is doing me nothing, so I start on my grueling journey.
After 45 minutes of crawling, which felt like several days, I am finally staring at my house from my front lawn. Oh, how it feels good to be home, I think to myself. As I make my way toward the front door, it swings open. Looking out at me is our robot servant, Clyde. Nearly all households nowadays have one of these. They do almost everything that a maid used to do.
As Clyde stares out at me with his bright red eyes, he calls out to me. “Hello, master. It’s good to see you again,” he states in his monotone voice. I am not a huge fan of these servants. They have always creeped me out a little bit. The thought of them being able to communicate with us in a conversation puts me off, and their eyes are even worse. Their bright red glow freaks me out, especially at night; they glare across the rooms in the dark, feeling as though they are piercing me, body and soul.
“Hello, Clyde,” I respond in an increasingly disappointed tone.
“Hi, Clyde! I missed you so much!” Veta exclaims from behind me. My wife absolutely loves having a robot servant in the house. In fact, if it were not for her constant nagging about getting one, I never would have made the purchase eight years ago. My wife calls out to Clyde again, “Can you come help me out here, Clyde?” Clyde wheels himself over the driveway to my wife, and he picks her up in his arms. Meanwhile, I continue my crawl toward the door. Once I reach the porch that precedes the front door, not even ten feet from it, Clyde and Veta wheel in the door. Once inside, Clyde turns around and shuts the door behind him, nearly hitting my face.
In frustration, I shout, “Ughhhh… Clyde!” Oftentimes, I would get very worked up with him back on Earth, and now, after more than three years of not seeing him, here I am becoming frustrated in less than a minute’s time seeing him.
I reach up and I pull down the door handle. I push the door open and crawl my way into the house. I crawl all the way to my bed, inching along the whole time. My knees are so sore, and my pants are stained with blood from my knees dragging on the ground when I was crawling all day. As I hoist myself up onto my bed, I see that Veta is already rolled over and sleeping on the other side. I crawl over to her side, give her a kiss lightly on her forehead, and tuck her in. With the gentlest whisper I can produce, I say, “I love you,” into her ear.
She rolls over in bed, yet she is still fast asleep. In her drowsy tone, she responds back, “I love you too, Clyde.” Clyde! She cannot be serious. I swear she spends too much time with this stupid servant; he is even in her dreams now. I start to get really worked up, and I decide that I just need some rest. I throw the blanket over myself and turn over in bed. I close my eyes. Then I close them tighter. Then, yet again, I close them even tighter. I do not move for at least half an hour, yet I catch not the slightest glimpse of any rest in my near future. I just need to breathe. I roll over in bed, and I readjust my position until I am comfortable. I count to myself in. one. two. three. four. out. one. two. three. four. I continue to cycle through my breathing, and finally, my eyelids become heavy. I continue counting my breathing until the garments of slumber fully dress me, and I lay as still as the water on a calm night.
Over the course of the next six days, I do the same thing every day. I wake up, crawl to the kitchen, eat breakfast, and get ready for the day. The rest of my day consists of learning how to walk again. I sit on the edge of my bed, push myself up to my feet, and fall to my hands and knees while trying to balance. On day six, I take my first step in more than three years! Every day, just when everything seems to be going smoothly, I hear my wife from the other room cackle with laughter. There is one thing and one thing only that she could be laughing at: Clyde. With every passing hour, my hatred for him grows. He continues to draw my wife away from me, and I am sick of it. Sometimes I feel as though she does not even remember me.
Aside from these hiccups and small annoyances, though, everything is going smoothly. That is until the sixth night. I get ready for bed, and my wife is already fast asleep. Once I finish brushing my teeth, I crawl back to my bedroom. I flick off the light; I crawl to my bed, hoist myself up, and throw the covers over my body. After I kiss my wife on the forehead and tell her goodnight, I turn over to start to go to sleep. Immediately, I am jolted wide awake; two beady red eyes are illuminating through the darkness of the light, focused on the bed. I dive under the covers, as though I am a child that has just seen the Boogey Monster in his closet. I curl up in a ball, and I squeeze my eyelids so tightly together that they could crack walnuts. I lie in that position motionless until I drift into my sleep.
When I wake in the morning, I decide to grab a flashlight and put it on my nightstand. I get ready for the day as normal, and I start my effort at walking again. As the day goes on, I get better and better with my balance, taking steps, and moving around the room. By 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I am pacing around the room! It’s a miracle! I can walk again! I walk out the door and down the hall to the origin of the giggling that I hear. As I round the corner and walk into the living room, I see my wife sitting and talking with Clyde.
“Hi, honey!” I exclaim to her with excitement.
She gives me a side-eye look, and snaps, “Hi.”
“Do you notice anything different?” I ask her.
“Uhhhhh… did you cut your hair?”
“No! I am walking again!”
“ARE YOU SERIOUS!” I yell back at her. “YOU DON’T EVEN CARE TO PAY ENOUGH ATTENTION TO ME TO NOTICE THAT I AM WALKING AGAIN?” I am livid as I speak, with my blood boiling through my veins. “ALL YOU CARE ABOUT ANYMORE IS STUPID CLYDE. HE’S A FREAKING ROBOT! WAKE UP, VETA!” I yell at her, and I walk out of the room.
I am sick of Clyde. I think of a plan. I will wait for Veta to go to the bathroom, then I will go question Clyde about last night. Thirty-seven minutes later, I hear Clyde wheel toward the bathroom. The door closes, and I hear Clyde wheel back to the living room. I stand up from my bed and walk to the kitchen; here, I grab a laser-bladed knife, one that can slice just about anything with ease. I slide the knife into my pocket, and I walk to the living room.
When I arrive, I question Clyde. “What were you doing staring into my bedroom last night?”
“Nothing,” he replies.
“YOU LIAR!” I yell back at him. “Now tell me the truth,” I say as I pull the knife from my pocket, clicking the button to expose the blade, “What were you doing looking in my bedroom last night?”
“I was watching your wife sleep.” His monotone voice makes me sick.
“Now tell me, Clyde, why would you be doing that?”
“Because I love her,” he says in a robotic, slow, low-tone voice.
“NO, YOU DON’T, YOU SICK, USELESS PIECE OF JUNK,” I shout as I thrust the knife directly to the side of his right, demonic eye. I cut around it; the blade glides through his mechanical parts as if it were cutting through butter. Once I make a full circle around his eye, I grab it out with my hands. I spike it on the ground and stomp it into smithereens. I march back to my room and slam the door behind me. I have never, in my entire life, been more fuming than I am now.
I hear the toilet flush. I hear the sink turn on. I hear the door creak open. I hear my wife crawling to the living room. I hear my wife scream in terror, then in anger, then at me. But I don’t care. I throw the blanket over my body. Within a matter of minutes, I start to drift into the darkness. As I fall asleep, I am not concerned about the retaliation that could be coming.
But maybe I should be.
Suddenly, my eyes open again. I look at the clock on my nightstand, and it reads “3:33 a.m.” As my eyes scan across the room, I still see a sleepy haze over everything I look at, but even through this, I see a glaring red, beady eye. My head snaps up and the rest of my body follows. I rub my eyes, and the sleepy haze is gone. It was not a mistake. There, across the room and the darkness, is a red dot beaming straight at me; I can feel it staring straight into my soul. I scramble to grab my flashlight, but in the process, I knock it on the ground. As I continue to scramble to pick it up off the ground, I hear wheels start to move, and the red dot appears to be getting closer. I finally get a hold of the flashlight, and I flick it on. Instantaneously, I am more petrified than an ice cube sitting at the gate of Hell.
At the end of the beam of light, I see the most blood-curdling, skin-crawling, spine-chilling sight I have ever seen. Not even the scariest horror movie can depict this. There in the flashlight is a one-eyed demonic robot with a smile straight from Hell. A smile that makes a child cry. A smile of pure evil. I get up from the bed feeling the laser-bladed knife, which I luckily still had in my pocket, brush up against my leg. I look Clyde in the eye, and I say to him, “Clyde, what do you think you are doing?”
What I hear come out of his mouth I would never wish upon anyone in my life. His lifeless voice from his mouth spills out onto the floor, his words are as heavy as bricks. “An eye for an eye,” he says slowly, holding up a laser-bladed knife from the kitchen. Chills run down my spine and I feel sick.
Out of pure instinct, I grab my own knife from my pocket and expose the blade with the click of a button. Before I can make a move, Clyde swings his hand in a clunky, robotic motion and catches my shoulder. It stings, but only momentarily. This only fuels my fire. I take my blade and slide it up his abdominal and chest region. Then down it. Then up again. Then down again. Then up again, and once more down. As I continue to slash away in fury, I see his eye lose its light. This does not stop me though. I continue to slash away until my heart is content. I have not the slightest bit of remorse in my body. In fact, I am feeling quite good about it; I am feeling so good that I want to put this work on display.
I think of the perfect plan to do just that. I side-step past Clyde’s remains, and I walk down the hall to our storage closet. In the storage closet, I find 50 feet of rope. Perfect, I think to myself. After I walk back to my room, I grab Clyde and drag him to the kitchen. Here, I create a noose and slip Clyde’s head into the end of it. I pull it as tight as I can before my strength gives out. Then, I throw the other end of the rope over the post that runs across our kitchen. Using all my weight and strength to my advantage, I pull the rope until Clyde is completely hanging in the air, and then I loop the rope around the post a few more times so that it would hold him there.
Following this, I walk back to my bed in peace. I jump into bed and throw the blanket over myself in sweet relief. Within a matter of seconds, I find myself dozing off in the comfort of not being watched. Before I know it, I am fast asleep.
Bright light through the curtains and chirping birds are the next things that I know. I had not even realized that I had been sleeping, but I feel well-rested now. I glance at the clock. It reads “12:20 p.m.” Boy did I sleep well. It was so peaceful without Clyde around. Just as I am finishing this thought, I hear a noise coming from the kitchen. I walk to the bedroom door and open it. The sobs flow in through the doorway. I can hear my wife wailing from the kitchen. I walk out to go check on her, and she is kneeling on the ground under Clyde’s feet with her face planted on the floor. I walk over and put my hand on her back to comfort her.
Immediately, she screams “GET YOUR HAND OFF OF ME. I DON’T EVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN. LEAVE THIS HOUSE AND NEVER COME BACK!” Those words cut deeper than the knife that had sliced through my shoulder last night, and they sure sting a lot worse too. I do not want to make her any more mad, though, so I follow her request and leave the house.
When I walk out the front door, I decide that I will go for a walk to explore this new and undiscovered land. I take the quickest route that I know out of Silicon Valley. When I arrive at the unsettled part of the land, I am once again in awe at the beautiful scenery. There is flowing water, green grass, beautiful trees, gorgeous flowers, and even a waterfall in the distance. When I see this, I start my walk toward the waterfall. As I continue to walk through what seems to be enchanted land, I lose track of time. The only reason that I stop to head back to my house is because it starts to get dark. This is exactly what I needed, I tell myself, a day to let my mind be free and relax.
However, when I get back home, there seems to be a gloom hanging over the house; I cannot figure out what makes it feel this way, but I am hesitant to go in. Finally, I muster up the courage to swing the door open. When I take a step inside, it is worse than I could have imagined; the first thing that I see at the door is a servant.
In his attempt at excitement, yet still in a monotone voice, he says to me, “Greetings, I am Bernard! What is your name?”
This cannot be happening. She did not bring home another servant after what happened to the last one. I tell myself over and over again that I am dreaming, but no matter how many times I pinch myself, Bernard persists in standing there. I try to shake it off. Maybe this one will be different, I tell myself.
I walk right past Bernard to the bathroom. I brush my teeth, take out my contacts, and go straight to my bedroom. In frustration, I throw the sheets in the air and climb under them. I slam my head into the pillow and close my eyes even harder. I don’t move until I fall into the quiet rest of the night.
The next morning, I wake up and I decide that I need to go for a walk once again to clear my mind. I was so frustrated last night that I think that I just need to let off a little steam again, so I head out the door. Once outside, I start for the waterfall again. I walk. And I walk some more. And I walk some more. I continue to walk, but my mind never stops running. It runs about yesterday. It runs about Clyde. It runs about Veta. It runs about every single thing since we arrived, yet I continue to walk. I begin to grow frustrated that I cannot clear my mind, so I turn and head back home. I look at my watch; it has been nearly four hours since I left.
I reach home within a matter of thirty minutes. I am not very ecstatic about entering the house if I am being honest with myself, but I continue onward anyway. When I swing open the door, my jaw drops. I see my wife in the living room being carried around by Bernard. He is spinning in circles to the music that is playing, and my wife is smiling and laughing. This infuriates me. I walk over to the speaker that is playing the music, and I turn it off.
I turn to Veta and I say, “Veta, I cannot take this anymore.”
“Oh, stop being silly,” she responds as Bernard is setting her down.
“No, I am serious,” I say. “I don’t even feel like you care about me anymore. Your life is totally centered on these stupid robots.” I talk with increasing anger. “I am your husband. You are supposed to love me. We are supposed to be together forever. YOU DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT ME ANYMORE BECAUSE THESE SERVANTS ARE TAKING OVER YOUR LIFE!” I reach into my pocket, grab the laser-bladed knife, pull it out, and press the button. Bringing it overhead, I thrust it down onto Bernard. However, my arm stops. My wife has grabbed my arm and prevented me from stabbing Bernard. This enrages me even more, and without thinking, I pull my arm away from the grip of my wife. In one swift motion, I swing my arm toward her.
Something hits the ground. I look down; in horror, I see my wife’s eyes looking back at mine. Those cold, lifeless eyes stare into my soul. Blood pours out from the neck. It flows like a river, both from her detached head and from her body.
In shock, I try to figure out what I am to do. I cannot take the body outside elsewhere. Surely someone will see me. I cannot put it in a trash can because it will later be found. I continue to think hard until an idea strikes me. It is perfect, I tell myself.
I go to my storage closet, where I luckily have the tools to drywall. I grab them out of the closet, and I rush back to the living room. I knock the drywall out all the way down to the floor. I then take my wife’s limp body and put it inside the wall in two different pieces. My hands are stained in blood, and I do not want that in the drywall, so I rush to the kitchen to wash my hands. After all the blood has come clean off my hands, I head back to the living room to start the rebuild of the wall.
I labor for hours and hours, and finally, the drywall is finished and painted. Just so it is seamless, I place a layer of paint over the rest of the wall as well. My work is not yet finished, though. I still have to take care of all of the blood, so I get out a mop and start mopping it up. After half an hour, my work is finished. All of this work has made me tired, so I get ready for bed. Once I get to my bedroom, as soon as my head hits the pillow, I am out like a light.
As I continue on with my life over the next few days, I live in absolute peace. So much to the point where I start to get a little bit skeptical. By the fourth day of living this new life, I realize something. I had never gotten rid of Bernard, but he is nowhere to be found. This starts to freak me out. I start to panic. I think back on what could have possibly happened. Maybe he ran away after I murdered my wife. Surely it couldn’t be, I would have heard the door open. My thoughts continue to flood my brain.
Then it hits me like a ton of bricks. No, it couldn’t be, I tell myself over and over. But it is. I have read this story before. When I was a young boy, I read a story that was written by Edgar Allan Poe called “The Black Cat.” History was repeating itself: the eye, the hanging, the attempt at killing the second one, but instead the wife, and, to put the cherry on top, the walling up of the wife. What comes next? What comes next? I ask myself over and over again, trying to be prepared for whatever may come my way.
There is a rap at the door. Oh no, the police! I know that I have to answer it. As I look through the peep hole, I see the officers in their hats standing outside of my house. I turn the handle to the door, and I pull it open. “Good afternoon, officers,” I say with a plastered on smile, “What can I do for ya?”
“We just stopped by to check in,” the shorter one starts, “We haven’t seen Veta or your new servant around town at all lately, so we thought we’d pay a visit.”
“Come on in!” I say with as much cheer as I can muster up.
“Very well then,” the taller one says. I let them into my house. They search each and every corner of it. Veta is nowhere to be found. Knowing how the story goes, I rush them out of the house as quickly as possible. However, I can not be fast enough. As I am walking them through the front door, I hear a knock. Certainly, they did not hear it, I tell myself. Then it comes again. This time louder. The officers stop in their tracks.
“What was that?” they ask me.
“Why, I’m not sure,” I say back, even though I know exactly what it was. The officers once again enter the house, and just as they are doing so, the knock comes again. This time it is only one, and it is louder than before. Then again. And again. Finally, it comes again, but this time with a splatter of drywall. Then again, and a fist came through the wall. Then again, and the whole wall came down. To the officers’ horrors, there lie my wife’s decayed body behind Bernard, the evil demon who made me murder her. As Poe said it best, “I had walled the monster up within the tomb!”