Serena Jayne

The astringent stink rising from the litter boxes scattered around Trina’s studio apartment became harder and harder to ignore, but the silence was worse. She missed the comforting cacophony of hisses, howls, and hairballs from her eighteen cats.

Hours after the horrid people from Feline Fine Rescue had carted carrier after carrier away, she remained sitting on the hardwood floor of the living room, her shoulders shaking. Her
black cat, Void, crept from the shadows and curled up on her lap. While she stroked his soft, silky fur, her scooped-out heart filled with gratitude for his wily ways.

Void blessedly broke the stillness and her melancholy mood by toppling a pile of past due notices, smashing a creepy crawly critter, and standing on his hind legs to rub his furry face against her cheek. She envied his magical gift of making the bad stuff disappear with a swish of the tail or a whap of a paw.

Since the animal control catastrophe and getting dumped, Void was the only guy who mattered. Her last boyfriend Duke had consumed a stack of self-help books, which encouraged him to harness the power of positive affirmations. Each day, he stood in front of the bathroom mirror and said, “I am always awesome” or “I attract abundance.”

Soon, he’d moved out of his parents’ basement, scored a promotion to assistant to the assistant manager at Melvyn’s Multi-Mart, and gained a new girlfriend who wasn’t a “cataclysmic shitshow.” After reactivating his Tinder account, that dirty dog swiped right on the alluring Amber, and essentially swiped left on Trina.

If those mantras made Duke manifest his dreams, Trina hoped she could use one to reclaim her kitties, earn enough cash to keep them in kibble and catnip, and find a partner with a penchant for pussy cats. Only the perfect mantra would do.

She stumbled into her tiny bathroom. Void slunk behind her like a reluctant shadow.

“I’m the cat’s meow,” she said, repeating the affirmation over and over and over.
The mirror magnified her flaws, but she forced a Cheshire Cat grin. Only positive energy would pull her from her abyss.

After a while, her mouth went dry and her legs went wobbly. Still, she clutched the sink, stared at her reflection, and repeated and repeated and repeated her affirmation.

Every time she considered quitting, she recalled the pain of losing Fluffy, Sassafras, Leo, Ginger, Matilda, Taco Cat, Tiger, Felix, Milo, Barney, Sacha, Misty, Jasper, Cinder, Coco, Clover, and Floyd. Success meant being reunited with those seventeen sweet souls.

When her legs became too weak to stand, she slammed her fist into her reflection, and shattered the mirror. Void fled the bathroom in a frenzy of fur. She slipped to the floor, clutching a shiny shard and whispering her affirmations.

For what felt like days, she lay in a puddle of piss. Her fingers bleeding, she held the reflective sliver and mouthed her mantra.

Void sat on the toilet seat grooming his tail. Still, Trina continued chanting, her voice reduced to a hoarse hiss.

Her landlord burst into the bathroom, his eyes wide.

Trina’s mouth couldn’t be drier if it had been stuffed with cotton. She managed to croak “help,” but the noise that came out wasn’t human. Again, and again, she tried to cry out for assistance.

“You poor thing,” he said. “I’ll take care of you.”

Arms lifted her as though she weighed next to nothing.
The broken pieces of mirror on the bathroom floor reflected her landlord, cradling a black-furred creature.

“Help,” she repeated, her words transforming into Void’s caterwaul.

True to his word, her landlord treated Trina as a pampered pet, showering her with kind words and copious amounts of comfort foods. He bought her tons of toys and a sparkly pink collar, which made the perfect complement to her shiny, black hair. Every afternoon, she admired herself in his bathroom mirror and thanked the universe for granting her awesome

Serena Jayne has worked as a research scientist, a fish stick slinger, a chat wrangler, and a racehorse narc. When she isn’t trolling art museums for works that move her, she enjoys writing in multiple fiction genres. Born under the sun sign of Leo, she is naturally a cat person. Her short fiction has appeared in the Arcanist, Shotgun Honey, Space and Time Magazine, Unnerving Magazine, and other publications. serenajayne.com Twitter: @SJ_Writer