Martin opened the window leaning about half his body outside. He twisted and turned his back, neck and head until he could see a jagged sliver of sky. No rain yet but the sky was washed in dark grey hues. He worked his way back inside, sat at the primitive table he’d built long ago and stared at the clock on the wall. The actual time was of no matter to him or to anyone really, except the scientists or the militia. Martin wasn’t a member of either group but he enjoyed watching the second hand move its way from one number to the next. He counted seconds to keep his mind active. With a good deal of concentration he could make it to one thousand most days. Today though, he couldn’t get past three hundred or so and gave up after several tries. Earlier in the day when the walking siren wailed, he was designated Path D when he went outside. During the walk, he caught a glimpse of a cat squeezing its way under a gate into a colorless alley. Since then he couldn’t take his mind off the animal. He thought it was brownish or gray but it moved with determination and was out of sight before he had a good look. He wondered if it was young or old, sick or healthy, happy or sad. One thing he was sure of was that like him, like most everyone, it was alone. So as he sat at the table and got to around 200 while counting the seconds, the cat appeared in his mind and he imagined details about the cat that he didn’t know. When he’d finally lost count he was immersed in a world where the cat lived in his room with him. All the details were filled in, the most important being that the cat was friendly, and in his mind for the rest of the day, he lived a life where he had a friend.

Fred Vee