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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2246167-Hashing-It-Out
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2246167
A conversation leading to a decision. Winner of SCREAMS!!! March 09 2021.
Hashing It Out

“You could use the gun,” said the cat behind the curtain.

Artemis shook his head in disbelief. “I can’t believe you just said that. What the heck do you think I am? You’re supposed to know me better than myself and yet you could suggest such a thing? Since when have I been capable of killing anyone?”

The cat continued to gaze out of the window, as though unconcerned by the direction the conversation was taking. “I didn’t say kill. It would be enough to hurt her. Seriously, though. And that’s what is needed.”

“Oh, great. Now I’m an expert with firearms, able to hit precisely the spot required and never miss. Let’s get a bit of reality in here, please. I haven’t even shot the thing yet.”

“There you go again,” said the cat, “giving up before you’ve even started. Just for once you ought to commit yourself to action beyond your comfort zone. Let’s not forget who started this whole thing in the first place.”

Artemis’ jaw fell open in astonishment. “As I recall it, the whole thing was your idea. It’s not as if I don’t live in the real world, you know. And that’s more than you’ll ever do. I don’t know why I continue to listen to you after all the trouble you’ve got me into.”

“Hah, listen to Mr. Innocent,” sneered the cat. “If you examine it closely, I think you’ll find that you’re the one who started the ball rolling every time. Only yesterday, you had some crazy scheme about selling up and moving to the Outer Hebrides. Who persuaded you against that idiot’s dream, hey? And who’s living in reality now?”

Artemis threw up his hands in disgust. “Okay, okay, so sometimes I get desperate. But it’s you who’s egging me on all the time.”

“Not denying that one,” said the cat. “But this ain’t solving your present problem. And, if you won’t use the gun, what’re you gonna do?”

“Don’t know. I need to think about it some more.”

For the first time, the cat turned to look at him through the gauze curtains. “And for that, you need me. I’m telling you, the gun’s the answer. Quick, easy and final. You won’t find a better way.”

“Easy for you to say.” Artemis looked down at the floor, deep in thought. The cat waited patiently, knowing that this was the pivotal moment when decisions were made. There was nothing he could say to affect Artemis now that he was seriously considering the deed. It was always in silence that he made the most difficult decisions.

The seconds ticked on into minutes before Artemis looked up and said, “Alright, I guess it must be the gun. But you know it goes against the grain. I’m just not made for this, really.”

“You’ll get over it,” answered the cat.

“What about the body, though? That’s bound to be a problem.” For a moment it seemed that Artemis might go back on his resolve.

“You let me worry about that,” replied the cat. “Come the moment, I’ll let you know.”

In the next few hours, Artemis busied himself with preparations. He retrieved the gun from the hidden drawer in his desk, cleaned it meticulously, although he’d never fired it and it was spotless as a result. He set out the required number of shells and then carefully loaded the firearm, making sure that he followed the procedure learned from the internet.

The cat watched him, satisfied that his charge was not going to change his mind. He knew the man so well that the slightest indication of indecision would communicate itself to his devious feline mind.

When everything was ready and Artemis began to pace about the room, clearly nervous and dreading the moment when he must act, the cat left the window sill and moved to the big armchair. He settled down at the top of the headrest, legs tucked beneath his body and with only his head protruding from his perfectly rounded form. His eyes remained on Artemis as he walked back and forth.

“You’ll not improve matters by getting all keyed up,” said the cat. “Relax and let things happen as they will. All this tension is only going to interfere with your aim, after all. You need to be calm and complete things with just one shot. Keep it clean, man, keep it clean.”

Artemis stopped and returned the cat’s gaze. “It’s not that easy. You’re asking me to do something that’s against everything I’ve ever believed in. Never would have thought it could come to this.”

“Agreeing to it shows that you were always capable of it,” said the cat. “It’s purely a matter of situation, that’s all. When the circumstances warrant it, we’re all prepared to do what’s necessary. Might as well learn to live with it. This constant fretting is only going to make it worse for you. Keep calm and we’ll be through this in no time.”

“Yeah, yeah, heard it all before,” muttered Artemis. But he stopped pacing and sat behind the desk, putting the gun down and folding his arms across his chest. The minutes ticked by as they waited in silence.

With the afternoon darkening into evening, there came the sound Artemis had been dreading, the noise of a car drawing up into the drive and stopping. There was a brief pause and then the familiar sound of a car door being shut. Artemis sat up and grabbed the gun from the desk.

“Remember, keep calm,” said the cat. “Don’t get involved in any discussion, just take aim and fire. She won’t care about reasons once you’ve done that. It doesn’t matter now and that was always the whole point of this.”

Artemis said nothing in reply as the sound of the front door opening and closing echoed through the house. Her voice rang out as she called his name and, unable to remain quiet, Artemis called out, “In the study, dear.”

The cat shook its head as both waited for her inevitable entrance. Then there she was in the doorway, her glance taking in the scene immediately and mouth opening to make some sort of protest. Artemis closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.

The sound of the shot was immense in its volume and tearing of the atmosphere. It seemed to fill the world with its savage violence, lasting for minutes as the shock of it rocked Artemis back in his chair. And then the thump of her body hitting the floor brought an end to the horror and Artemis was able to open his eyes.

She lay, sprawling on the carpet, blood seeping from the terrible wound in the back of her head. As though in a dream, Artemis moved forward and bent to turn her over. A neat hole had appeared in her forehead and a trickle of blood ran down into her eye as he held her. He seemed frozen into place as though rendered immovable by the terrible thing he had done.

The cat’s voice inserted itself into the tableau like a vandal knifing a great work of art. “Don’t hang about all day. We have work to do.”

Artemis looked up at it, a sudden, sharp anger in his voice as he hissed, “Look at what you have made me do. This is what your damned logic has done for me, ended everything that was good in my life. I curse the day I listened to a bloody cat and its miserable words of vengeance. And to think I imagined you as a cat. Surely the unconscious is nothing less than a monster.”

Word Count: 1,277
For SCREAMS!!! March 09 2021
Prompt: The insidious logic of the unconscious.

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