The sun was a bloated thing in the early twilight, a stuck pig that bled red and orange into the heavily polluted horizon. The night was kicking and screaming, dragging its heels like a spoiled child. Stars refused to twinkle into existence, and the bums were not yet prowling the shady side of town, in their never ending quest for fuel, alcohol or otherwise. It was as if there was some intelligent being, some tangible almost super natural force was somehow in control of the world surrounding Miles. Maybe there was a god showing him some miniscule amount of pity. But he doubted it. Like all things, night would come down like a jackhammer, and with it the temperature would drop a full twenty degrees. Things would be miserable long before he reached his tiny studio apartment, he knew that for absolute certain.

He was a thoroughly below average joe, Miles. Short, with not a speck of attractive definition on his pale, freckled body. That heavily thinning copper hair swept itself over in a pathetic comb over, not quite creating the illusion he so desired. His gut was a little too bloated, and he walked with a little limp from a recently sprained ankle. Cheap no name sneakers dragged a little as he made his way down the wide, quite urban side walk, their heels worn and filthy from over use.

A bright purple windbreaker was zipped up most of the way, to guard against the oncoming chill as the concrete jungle allowed it's heat to be sucked away. It was a little too small, but he had to take what he could get. Money was constantly a problem for Miles, and a cheap windbreaker was all he could afford for the time being. His wishful logic informed him it would be enough until it started to get really cold. So maybe he'd have some time to save up a little money.

What a joke that was. In his future, immediate at least, lay Ramen Noodles and instant cheesy macaroni. Well into the brutal winter he knew that was fast approaching now in mid autumn. Soon he'd be stuck trudging home in a blitz of snow and ice, in those ancient sneakers and surely by then tattered second (or third) hand windbreaker.

The traffic on the street was light, and he enjoyed what silence he could scavenge from his long trek home. Occasionally, he sipped on a tepid coffee from the gas station by his office building. It was old, stale, and the creamer an unpleasant cinnamon non-dairy powder. It stung his taste buds and left a disgusting aftertaste in his mouth. A thin film of it clung to his teeth, and as his tongue patrolled those small square off white chompers, they felt slimy and unnatural. But this was a treat, granted, it was horrible coffee, but he enjoyed the flavor of the creamer, and the caffeine would help with the chores that awaited him at home.

Maybe he could even stay up long enough to slip quietly into one of his many, many hobbies. But perhaps the word hobby is an overstatement. A hobby requires financial support, and quite obviously he lacked such a luxury. What he had were interests. An over used library card, piles of newspaper clippings (the free, ad ridden variety) and stacks of worn (and quite ancient) notebooks. Scribblings, really. Chicken scratch that held perhaps a glimmer of talent. But ultimately only that, a simple glimmer of what might have been.

In his youth (some couple decades prior) he had been told he had an amount of promise. That perhaps he could even sell his works for profit. But he lacked focus. His ideas, initially creative and totally unique, gradually slumped into unfinished works. Being the pack rat he was, he never got rid of a single work. Perhaps, just perhaps dear Miles was under the illusion that it was possible to spring back to work one day.

This is not to say Miles was miserable. Quite the contrary, he had one passion in his probably dead end life. And perhaps his only real hobby, it was Janet. He adored her, his companion for an eternity it seemed. Janet, unlike most of his friends and family, was always a constant. She was there in the early morning before he began his trek to work and at night to listen to how his day went, and was always glad to see him. She was gorgeous, her hair a deep black originally had now been tinged grey and begun to thin like his own, but he imagined it added character. Those big, watchful eyes shimmering with intelligence as she snuggled up to him in the drafty one bedroom they shared.

He lavished money upon her, and during the past couple of years, increasingly more of his paycheck went toward his one and only love. She was old, and although he'd rather say she was so and so years young, who was he fooling? They both knew that her health was failing, but he liked his elaborate little illusions. But he was a good man, Miles. He loved her like he always had, the only way he knew how. So, he paid for the endless parade of drugs, medical visits, operations and equipment out of his own pocket (no assistance had ever been offered to him, that was an impossibility) and he allowed himself to suffer accordingly. It seemed to be reaching its climax now, she gobbled up every cent. Overtime was all he had left in the world besides her, and he was thankful after all those years that he had such a demanding boss.

The engorged globe of hot plasma exploded as it dipped across the expanse of the Earth. The sun was falling quicker now, spilling out its guts all over the western sky like some celestial slaughterhouse. The pollution only increased the beauty of it, and squinting through his coke bottle glasses, he wondered who really cared anymore. Certainly he thought it was pretty, but he saw a lack of interest from the occasional passer by. Sad, he thought. That such beauty would go so unnoticed by so many. He wasn't smug about the fact, but it was a little depressing.

He didn't know that Janet lay by her tiny windowsill, on her favorite blanket watching the same scenario. She settled softly, her bulk relaxing, weary muscles moving into a position that was comfortable. Those watchful, intelligent eyes closing as she slipped into a sleep warmed by the dying red innards of the sun.

By the time Miles reached his fifth story studio streetlights buzzed around him like so many hazy fireflies. The sun had disappeared an hour prior, and with it came the cold. Not nearly as bad as he had feared, but still windy enough to drive the warmth from the tip of his nose. His key sunk home in its lock, and then five additional as it had been for several years. Ever since his neighbor's apartment was ransacked, and the poor old woman mortally wounded. He had cursed himself for a long time afterward for leaving Janet alone. It could have been her, and it nearly cost him a full week's pay to get over his paranoia.

The door creaked open, and he shut it quickly behind himself. Two dead bolts found their place, with each individual heavy duty key lock.

"Sweetpea, I know you don't like it when I'm late.. but Mister Sorrentos kept me for forever."

He didn't need to explain why, he knew she wouldn't understand the complexities of his job. And he wasn't really in the mood to put her through a soap box moment. The wind breaker was discarded, as were his bargain bin sneakers. As Miles turned, he began to tread through the maze that he shared with the love of his life. Antiquated cat runs, catnip balls, a little furry scrap of clothing sewn into the shape of a mouse (he made most himself from discarded work shirts) were spread out evenly. He took great care in placing them back neatly into their designated areas.

He may have been poor, but by god, he'd never be messy.

He wandered around, cleaning the mess that had built itself up in his absence, occasionally commenting on his day out loud. The silence in the house was a little disturbing. She didn't come as she usually did, nor the racket that accompanied her (Janet had grown a little clumsy in her old age), and she remained perfectly quiet where ever she was.

He found her as he often did, fast asleep in her windowsill. She had covered herself with her favorite blanket. He felt a little guilty for making so much noise, but he pushed it aside as he began to disrobe. What he needed right now was a nice hot shower, and then a hearty meal, because tonight was Friday. Dessert night for the both of them. He could taste that fruit cup now.

He sat next to her, admiring her beauty. Even now she retained a quiet grace about her, she would continue to age as of course he would, but to him, she'd always be his little ballet queen. As he sat there, watching her intently a gnawing feeling began to work itself up in his oversized gut.

Oh my god.. she isn't br-

Stubby fingers ran themselves through her long, thinning hair and felt no movement. There was no deep breath that accompanied sleep. There was no sign she was aware of him, and there certainly was not a heartbeat.

She had died alone.

Hot wells erupted in his eyes and miniature rivers cascaded down his face. Picking her up roughly, he clutched her tiny frame desperately, as if trying to will her back to life. Quiet tears eventually gave way to violent sobbing as he gripped tighter and tighter to her hair, burying his face in her cold flesh.

But she was gone, that was for certain. He had always known her illness, feline leukemia, would eventually steal her from him. And his tears were bitter, bitter sweet, fur sticking to his wet lips and glasses pathetically.

So this, he wondered, was what it felt like to have nothing.


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