Survival of the Fittest, by Dennis Wiedenhoeft

         Much goes unnoticed in the city. The citizenry is conditioned to block acknowledgement of litter in the gutters, and packed into the sewer grates; creating stagnant pools of water, shimmering prismatic colors from the oil-patina. They never look down the alleys at overflowing refuse cascading down the sides of large dumpsters. They don’t want to think about the byproduct of consumption, but this isn’t why they don’t look into these recesses. If they did look, they might see the life forms that have taken advantage of these places, or be forced to witness someone requiring help. He depends on this.

            During the hours of activity, the alleys provide him refuge. At these times, he sleeps or hides, waiting. He knows this is not his time; someone may see him, take notice, take action, and prevent him from pursuing his need. The need is all he has and all he wants to fulfill. He doesn’t know where it comes from, or why it’s there. He only knows the pain and distress of not slaking it. The need is life, all-consuming. In the past, he tried to go without answering its incessant call; it almost killed him.

            A part of him used to wonder why the need must be served, but it has been a long time since he has had these thoughts. This voice is mostly lost, along with the recollections of a carefree time that he spent with his brothers and sisters, when he understood a part of family and togetherness.

            While he waits, such thoughts almost eclipse his consciousness, but the need manifests in a pang, knotting his guts, focusing him on the future when it will be his time: The nighttime.

The night, with its long inky shadows, is his need’s accomplice. The city grows quiet; activity slows to a crawl. Only the rare cab or solitary vehicle travels the streets. The homeless become more active, and so does his prey. A few late workers, and bar hags and hounds can always be found out and about.

            He looks out from his hiding place with the daylight waning. He sees a corona of light from the setting sun above one of the rooftops, and knows it won’t be long before it begins. Another pang roils through his guts and demands tribute.

            After the sensation passes, but before the time is right, he wonders why the need must exist. Why is it so powerful? He often thinks this is all he is, all he is reduced to, the slave of need. Often, he loathes himself, and what he must do to suppress the need. There never seems to be an end to its desire. The only respite is the exaltation during the act and the brief period afterward. It always returns, demanding, wanting, craving.

            It is time, and before the need can resume its urging, he sets out. He moves along the sides of buildings in the darkest shadows. It feels good to move after the long day of waiting. He feels the grace in his motion. He is aware of the silence of his passage and the perfection of his stealth. He approaches the corners of the buildings, searching. No opportunity has presented itself, but he is not discouraged. The time will come.

            Then he sees her. He halts all motion and just observes. He has found that even without the aid of its hearing or sight, his prey can have an uncanny sense of his presence, and he does not want to lose this chance. She is by a corner of the building, just slightly in the alley looking out toward the street. She has not reacted to his presence in any way. To be safe, he waits a bit longer, and watches.

            In the most fundamental sense, he loves his victims; without them, he would be destroyed by the need. He admires the sheen of her brown hair. He inhales through his nose and believes he can ascertain the musky scent of her life-force passed on the breeze. He shivers in the rapture of anticipation. She is not the most comely of specimens, but there is a subtle beauty to her short limbs and up-turned nose. She will serve the purpose.

            He moves forward, and his stealth fails him with a rare mistake. He kicked a small pebble from the loose blacktop. After rolling a short distance, the pebble produces a couple of slight tinkles of sound; they sound to him as loud as drops of rain on a tin roof. He looks to her, gauging any reaction. Her head has risen and is inclined toward the alley. He imagines that she is trying to guess if she really heard anything. She resumes her vigil, observing the street. He cannot discern her purpose for being here and doesn’t try.

            The unaccustomed faux pas has awakened the need, which demands he take action. He charges forward. He comes up behind her, and before reaching her, withdraws the stilettos. He is very practiced with these instruments; they are extensions of his hands, and he fears no mistake. At the last second, she becomes aware of him and tries to move. It is too late; the first stiletto sinks into her lower back, not a perfect strike because of her attempt to flee, but enough to snag and stun her. The second one impales her neck and will surely kill her in time. He hopes that she doesn’t die too quickly for that can defuse some of the pleasure.

            With his weapons still in her flesh, he drags her deeper into the alley, where he can finish with less chance of being noticed. Now, more comfortable with the setting, he goes to work. Holding her with the one weapon in her back, he withdraws the other from her neck. Her heart sprays a pump of arterial blood out of the hole, and he knows he must be quick. He prefers to have the time to play with and humiliate his prey, but that won’t be an option here. He uses his freed weapon to rend a great gash down her belly. Before her insides can spill out, he shoves his face into the wound.

            He bites into the still living organs. There are many satisfying pops as his teeth pierce the cellular casings of the organs. The blood still pumps and soaks the spaces of the removed anatomy and marinates the remaining tissues. The need inundates the roar of the blood in his ears, but now it carries a message of bliss and contentment, not pain and discomfort. He consumes until there is nothing desirable left. He looks at the husk of the thing he devoured; it is hardly a vestige of what it once was.

            The receding bliss of fulfilling the need leaves him empty. The need is gone; the bliss is gone. All that remains is awareness that he is not proud; it’s not pity; it’s not regret, just a vague lack of understanding the necessity in this action. He returns to his skulking knowing that it won’t be long before it’s back, demanding its tribute, and whether he likes it, or not, he will answer its call.

            He goes on, and the city goes on. No one notices his actions or the carnage they leave behind. All are focused on their need and are too busy paying homage to it. The time passes, and he grows old and frail. One night on the hunt, he realizes that he is being hunted when a more able predator sinks its teeth into him. Even facing his death, he is ambivalent, because it will end his need. Still, the city and life move on without out him, never aware of the passage of this solitary alley cat.

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