Chapter 1:

The Black Cat of Death

I Lacked Compassion in My First Life So I was Reincarnated as My Ex-Girlfriend's Emotional Support Animal

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“Get out!”Bookmark here

Familiar words in a familiar scene: my girlfriend’s apartment. Well, to be more precise, my ex-girlfriend’s apartment at this point.Bookmark here

“I’m going! And honestly, Katerina, you should really see someone about your anger issues.” I grabbed my jacket from her couch and headed toward the door. From the corner of my eye, I could see her pick up a thick book from her coffee table.Bookmark here

“I’m going to see my anger issues concussed on my floor if they don’t get out right now!”
I booked it as fast as I could. Out her door, down her staircase, and back into the light of day.
“And delete my number from your phone!” I looked up in time to see my now former girlfriend slam her window shut. A few passers-by were less like passers and more like onlookers. Not that I knew them or anything. We hadn’t been dating long enough for me to get to know the neighborhood that well.Bookmark here

My watch read 11:48 AM. You’re such a dope, Mike. Should’ve kept your mouth shut until you’d gotten to eat lunch. Low on cash, I decided that a cheap sandwich would have to do. I started off down the street to a sandwich shop a few blocks over.Bookmark here

What even set her off? It could have been anything, really. Women always found a reason to blow up at me. Not my fault they couldn’t manage their emotions. At least, not the women I ended up dating. At some point or another, I’d find myself on the other end of an explosion of insults, sometimes accompanied by flying objects. I was thankful to Katerina for not bashing me with that book. That said, it wouldn’t have been the worst thing. I could handle a few blows, and it wouldn’t have left much of a mark if she’d gotten my arm or something. Not like Stella’s mug.Bookmark here

Stella was three girlfriends before I met Katerina. Though she worked as a receptionist at my dentist’s practice, her real passion in life was ceramics. Her apartment was crammed with past projects: vases, bowls, lumps that she told me were supposed to be human figures. And, of course, mugs. So many mugs. To be frank, too many mugs. She didn’t even drink coffee, and I couldn’t recall her having more than maybe two cups of tea. Her apartment was no where near large enough to hold all her projects. You couldn’t take two steps before your toes plowed into one of them. I talked to her about getting rid of some (not even all) of them, and she was utterly aghast at my suggestion. So, I started taking one or two home with me whenever I went over. None of the vases, obviously, but the smaller items. Never any of her relatively decent creations, either, since those weren’t eyesores. I only took the failures: that is, first tries of projects she eventually made better versions of. Who wants to keep five cruddy drafts of the same bowl? It was clearly a win-win situation: she’d have more room in her apartment, and my feet could finally walk without fear.Bookmark here

Stella didn’t agree.Bookmark here

“You can’t just take my things!”Bookmark here

“You weren’t even using them.”Bookmark here

“That doesn’t mean they aren’t important to me.”Bookmark here

“Even the ones that can’t function as the thing you designed them for?” I picked up one of the bowls that I’d mentally marked earlier for that night’s plunder. “There’s a huge dip in the side of this one, along with a few holes on the bottom. It’s useless as a bowl.”Bookmark here

“You can put keys or wrapped candy in that.” I knew she was just making excuses, but she ignored the dubious look I gave her and carried on. “They’re all important to me! You know that.”Bookmark here

“No. I don’t get why the wonky ones are as important as the ones that are at least functional.”
She gave me a stare that sucked out all of the air from the room. “They remind me of my great-aunt. I told you that on our first date.”Bookmark here

“How was I supposed to remember that? We talked about a lot of things on our first date.”
Wrong move, Mike. Tears welled up in Stella’s eyes, and I thought she was going to erupt into sobs. “Do you remember the part when I told you she’d died earlier that week?”Bookmark here

That was when I knew I’d screwed up. I tried pulling her into a hug, but her arm shot out and pushed me away.Bookmark here

“Stella, I’m—”Bookmark here

“No, you’re not.”Bookmark here

“Of course I am. It’s always a shame when someone dies.”Bookmark here

The tears evaporated from her face. “That’s what you’re sorry about?”Bookmark here

“Well, yeah.”Bookmark here

“What about my bowls and mugs that you took?”Bookmark here

“I mean, I still think you should get rid of some…”Bookmark here

“You really don’t listen, do you?” She walked over to my bag, yanked it off the floor, and held up one of my keychains. “What if I said you don’t need this and I took it from you?”Bookmark here

“I’d say that I kind of do.”Bookmark here

“And why’s that?”Bookmark here

“The zipper broke off that bag. I use the key chain to open and close it.”Bookmark here

Her eyes widened. She scanned the bag, confirming that what I’d said was true. “I thought you said someone won this for you?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, my cousin. It’s not that big a deal, though. Any key chain would work, honestly.”Bookmark here

That’s when she slammed my bag down, breaking the mug I’d already stashed inside. She picked up a large shard and threw it at my face. I blocked it with my hand, but it cut deep enough that I needed a few stitches. I lost both a girlfriend and a great dentist that day.Bookmark here

Sandwich acquired, I went over to the park across the street and parked myself in a free bench. I hadn’t gotten as much clarity from my fight with Katerina as I had with Stella, and I still wanted to know what I’d done wrong. I pulled out my phone and typed out a text, chewing on my words as I chewed on my food.Bookmark here

ME: Before I delete your number, can you tell me what I did wrong?
KATERINA: If you need me to tell you what you did wrong, than you’re even more of a scumbag than I thought.
KATERINA: Now stop texting me and delete my number.
ME: Just a hint? Everything happened so fast.Bookmark here

I took another bite of my sandwich as I waited for her to reply. Every now and then an ellipsis would appear, only to disappear for several minutes. I put my phone to the side, figuring it’d go off when she finally figured out what she wanted to say.Bookmark here

A breeze swept through the park, sending a chill over my arms. I went to wipe bread crumbs from my jacket, when I noticed white fur all over it. Probably from her cat. That fat, nasty thing. At least I don’t have to hear it hissing at me anymore. I’d never had much luck with animals, but cats, in particular seemed to hate me without rhyme or reason.Bookmark here

As if my thoughts had summoned it, a black cat slunk out from a nearby bush. Tufts of fur were missing from its body, and you could see its bones through the skin. I couldn’t help but feel creeped out looking at it. I shifted my body away from it, but the animal sauntered right over to me and sat down in my line of sight.Bookmark here

“Shoo.” I shook my foot at it. The cat whacked it with its paw, and I jerked my foot away in response. Our eyes locked. We both remained motionless, waiting for the other to make their move. Growing tired of waiting for me, the cat leapt onto the bench, causing me to fall off it. With one quick motion, the cat latched its teeth onto my sandwich bag and dashed off.Bookmark here

My body thought for itself and sprinted after the animal. Some part of me couldn’t allow this raggedy cat to win. For such a scrawny thing, it moved more like a panther than a cat. Still, I was gaining ground. Most of my sandwich was in that bag, and the weight must have been too much for the creature. It ran out of the park and onto the sidewalk, turning its head left to right as if calculating the best escape route.
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I was one step away from it when the cat moved into the street. My fingers grazed the scruff of its neck when I heard a car horn blaring at me. Lights flooded my retinas, and my body flew into the air.Bookmark here

That’s how I ended up at a crossroads in purgatory.Bookmark here

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Real Aire
Golden Boy
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