This is a serialized writing prompt, explained here: 7 Steps for the Lonely Writer.
Today's prompt is: A FRIDAY NIGHT GONE BAD.
Step Three. A Drunken Detour.
The cat was fast, already far ahead, a ball of gray hovering in the gloom, bouncing between the fallen giants. He was panting under his breath—Two thousand, seven hundred, one. Two thousand, seven hundred, two.—and it was all he could do not to trip on the slick tufts of grass, which were becoming unruly. Back where they met the wall they stood short and manicured; now they were long and tangled, with dead patches every so often.
And it had become dark.
Not long after the sun went down—at his back, mercifully—the grass had become slick with dew and the cat had become almost impossible to spot. If it weren’t for the occasional Mew! in the distance, he would have been lost two hundred steps previous.
But just then—that wasn’t a Mew. That was a new sound coming from ahead. What was that? It sounded like...
Two thousand, seven hundred, thirty-three. Two thousand, seven hundred...
It sounded like voices, like... cheering.
Hoping he wasn’t veering too far off the cat’s apparently predetermined path, he threw caution to the wind—for there was a wind tonight, and it began to make him shiver—and followed the new noise. Cheering. Jeering? The crackle of a fire—and there was the tell-tale glow, dancing on the backside of the fallen giant he now circled. Shouts. Catcalls.
The noise broke over him like a wave, explosive in the silence of the surrounding hills, and he found himself in the middle of a party.
“Hey, motherfucker! You bring the hookers an’ blow?”
He didn’t reply, couldn’t, he was so stunned that someone was addressing him in such a way. The speaker was a robust man, almost a giant himself, in a jersey that hung over his large frame like a circus tent. The man leaned into his personal space before he could react and suddenly he was smelling strong spirits, still glistening in sloppy strands of the man’s ginger beard.
“Ahhhhhhhh, I’m jus’ fuckin’ with ya.” The man slung one arm around his shoulders and yelled to the crowd, “Get this fucker a beer an’ a blowjob, in that order! Haaaaaa!”
The rest of the crowd cheered and laughed with the man, calling out similarly profane streams of nonsense.
He had walked right into a party, and the cat was nowhere to be seen. Where had these people come from? They were all equally inebriated, knocking into each other like bowling pins around what appeared to be a bonfire. Its flames licked the night twelve feet high, cracking and snapping and popping in derision at its drunken revelers.
A pop! and a carbonated hisss! announced another partygoer opening a beer can. On their way to him they spilled most of the beer on the grass, but he didn’t mind. He had no intention of drinking.
Have you seen a cat? he asked his beer-giver. Just now?
“A cat?” said the partygoer, this one a petite female with cropped blue hair shining in the firelight like chrome.
Yes, I was just looking for my cat, he said, not sure why he referred to the cat as his.
The female leered at him in a knowing way, as if they were sharing some privileged information, and said, “A cat?”
Yes, he said again.
The blue-haired female lunged around and slung her arm around his shoulders, a feat much more difficult for her than for her gigantic ginger-bearded companion, and called out to the party, “This guy’s lookin’ for some pussy!”
After he had disentangled from the female and ducked away from the partiers’ raucous calls of “Fuck yeah, motherfucker!” and “Titties!” he heard it very distinctly in the distance: Mew.
There it was, just outside the ebbing waves of fiery light, sitting on its haunches and licking its paw. What took you so long?
Sorry, he said. I couldn’t get away from... He glanced pointedly back at the fire, his voice trailing away in embarrassment.
We can stay if you’d like, the cat said, still not glancing up from its grooming.
No, please, he said. Let’s continue.
The cat raised its head to look at him with its almond eyes, glinting in the firelight, and he was surprised to feel vibrations in the grass at his feet. It was purring, as if it approved of his answer.
Yes, well, that’s probably for the best. I’ve seen where they’re headed, and they’ll regret tonight for years. I don’t envy them their morning.
Having fulfilled its enigmatic duty, it turned, flicked its tail, and picked up the trail once more.
Shaking his head, not daring to look back at the partiers he and the cat were leaving in their wake, he followed. And he counted.
To be continued...
THE COMPLETE STORY:
Step 1. Ten Thousand Steps.
Step 2. A Companion.
Step 3. A Drunken Detour.
Step 4. The Hills Have Eyes.
Step 5. Her Graven Image.
Step 6. The Earth, Flattened.
Step 7. Back to the Beginning.
Step 10,000. Colla Voce.