“Ok guys, we deserve to have a proper lunch today. Get your coats. We’re heading to the ramen shop down the street, it’s on me today,” Tim said, kicking himself back from his desk, while spinning around in his chair.
Marina was relieved, she had been coding her ass off all morning, without being able to show much for it. As she pried her eyes away from her laptop screen she searched the eyes of her team members. Some looked irritated, others simply looked defeated. Some even looked like they’d been crying.
“What do you think?” she mouthed to Tim, standing up and picking her jacket from the back of her chair.
“I think it’s necessary,” he said back, grinning at Marina’s lack of composure.
Tim would usually allow his team to have proper breaks during a normal work day, but as the deadline drew closer, he started making some odd decisions. Such as banning his team from other food outlets apart from the ones that were in walking distance of their office.
Tim was convinced that he was being generous in giving them enough time to travel to and returned from the food outlets, yet he’d also completely forgotten that his associates were not robots, but human beings. It was probably just better to go with it than to argue with Tim. Besides, he was the boss, so their lives were at his discretion.
Marina slung her handbag over her shoulder and followed the rest of her team out of the office building. She stopped for a moment to absorb the brilliant blue sky that stretched out above her. As she turned for just a second to view the clouds racing overhead she heard a startled scream behind her.
She turned to see a woman, who looked to be in her early twenties, with dark hair, standing with her hand over her mouth. She was staring at Marina with a look of terror in her eyes. It only took Marina a moment to realize that the woman wasn’t looking at her, but rather at something behind her.
Marina swiveled her head to see a giant, furry, orange and white cat, with its teeth bared, leaping towards her. She barely had time to process what was happening before she felt the sharp pain as the cat’s teeth sank into her arm.
She screamed and kicked at the cat, trying to get it to release her arm. The cat only clamped down harder, its teeth sinking deeper into her flesh. Marina could feel the warm sticky liquid of her own blood flowing down her arm and coating the cat’s fur.
The woman who had been standing behind her had now started to scream as well, and Marina could see that the rest of her team had come running over. Tim was in the lead, and as he got closer he started shouting at the cat.
“Get off of her! Get off of her!” he yelled, as he ran up and tried to pry the cat’s jaws open.
The cat only tightened its grip, and Marina felt herself starting to faint from the pain. She could hear Tim still yelling, and she could see the woman who had been behind her now standing next to Tim, trying to help him.
Suddenly, the cat released its grip and Marina collapsed to the ground. She lay there for a moment, trying to catch her breath, and when she looked up she saw that the cat had run off.
“Are you alright?” Tim asked, as he knelt down next to her.
“I think so,” Marina managed to gasp out.
“Let me see,” Tim said, as he carefully rolled up the sleeve of her jacket.
Marina winced as Tim exposed the bloody mess that was her arm. The cat had taken a chunk out of her flesh, and she could see the white of her bone in one spot.
“We need to get you to a hospital,” Tim said, as he stood up and helped Marina to her feet.
“No, no hospital,” Marina said, as she started to walk back towards the office building.
“You’re going to need stitches,” Tim said, as he followed behind her.
“No, I’m fine,” Marina said, as she quickened her pace. “Let’s go to that ramen shop now.”
“Marina, you’re not fine,” Tim said, as he grabbed her arm to stop her. “You need to get medical attention.”
“No, I’m fine,” Marina said again, as she pulled her arm away from Tim and started walking towards the ramen shop.
“Suit yourself,” Tim said, as he followed Marina.
The rest of the team followed as well, and soon they were all seated in the ramen shop, waiting for their food. Marina’s arm was still bleeding, and she had wrapped a napkin around it to try and stop the flow.
Marina watched out of the window they were sitting next to. Her wound was beating as if it had its own heart. Suddenly, a quick glimpse of orange and white shot past the window. Marina’s heart quickened as well as she turned to look at the cat, which was now perched atop a nearby building, staring down at her.
Marina quickly averted her gaze, not wanting to give the cat the satisfaction of knowing that it had scared her. But she could feel its eyes still on her, burning into her soul.
“Marina, are you alright?” Tim asked, as he placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Marina said, as she took a deep breath to steady herself.
“Are you sure?” Tim asked, as he looked at her with concern.
“Yes, I’m positive,” Marina said, as she put on a brave smile.
But inside she was quaking with fear. She knew that the cat was still out there somewhere, watching and waiting for its next opportunity to strike.
“I need a bathroom break.”
Marina stood up, feeling a little light-headed as she walked towards the toilets. Before entering the stalls she glanced in the mirror. Blood was drawn from her face, making it a pale white. It seemed as if everything got collected into the napkin around her arm. She quickly turned away and opened one of the bathroom stalls.
There it sat, on a closed toilet lid.
The cat’s fur now matted and red, its eyes aglow with a eerie green. Marina backed away slowly, knowing that the cat would soon attack. It leaped forward with great speed. Marina tried to scream but it was too late, the cat had already dug its claws deep into her neck…
Marina woke up with a start, her heart pounding in her chest. It took her a few moments to realize that it was just a dream. She was relieved, but also disappointed. The dream had been so real, and she had been so close to finding out what would have happened next.
She got out of bed and walked over to the window, needing to see the outside world to ground herself in reality. As she looked out, she could have sworn she saw a quick flash of orange and white race by. But when she looked closer, there was nothing there.
She shook her head, trying to clear it of the remnants of the dream, and then she went to take a shower. As the hot water cascaded over her body she could still feel the phantom sensation of the cat’s claws digging into her neck.