“A View From the Alley” – A Short Story


My life was once a simple thing, all I worried about was food and whether I would have a warm place to sleep. Avoiding getting kicked while in pursuit of either was my greatest challenge. I was free.

I left home rather young you see; I missed out on the easy food, the wacky summer haircuts and maybe some of the love, but I like to think that while I might be a little scruffy around the ears, I’ve made up for it by achieving a worldly form of wisdom.

Oh sure, there were the pretty young ladies that tried to tame me; sure they could drive out my wild side with sweet hugs and baked salmon, but I’d always found I just wasn’t quite ready for that kind of life. At first glance it seems so sweet, but after a while, if you’ve watched like I have, you start to notice things.

A lot of them, they’re not quite right.They start out happy and ready to take on the world, but soon they’re going about their lives all twitchy and agitated, like they just walked out of a room filled with nothing but wall to wall rocking chairs. It didn’t make sense at first, but lately I’ve been getting closer to the true heart of the matter.

In my travels I’ve come across a few spectacular locations to simply watch the world go by; a few choice walls, a perfect sturdy tree branch…. from my vantage points I can see into a thousand individual worlds. Each one different and yet so many plagued by the same tragic disease.

I was running, the day I found my way into one of those perfect ‘just looking’ spots. There had been a slight misunderstanding between myself and a fish vendor, not even really worth mentioning if it hadn’t led to one particularly memorable moment. There I was, perched in the crook of a sturdy tree branch, trying to be as still as I possibly could, when it happened. I looked out, straight ahead of me, to this incredible yellow glow.

It was a portal into a realm I’d never imagined, they say that my kind has a connection with the spirit world, with magic; perhaps that’s what it was. Or maybe it was just my fate.

They performed these rituals, these dances that I didn’t understand, being a lonely wandering tom. But after a time, perched in my tree, I realized that it was something magical called family. There was laughter, and a feeling I knew without a doubt had to be love. It was a heady combination, leaving me reeling like the time I accidentally drank that water that wasn’t water. The two larger ones, I could see they were connected; gentle touches, sweet glances. The smaller, they were cared for, taught – and by their bright smiles I knew that they felt the nearly tangible love that I could see. I left in a daze after the glow went out and the scene faded away, but I now had this longing in my chest I’d never felt before. My wandering life suddenly seeming like a burden and not a spot of luck.

In that moment I was utterly confused by this new view of their world. I couldn’t see how those twitchy, rocking chair people that I was used to, could even be the same species as those within the glow.

I have died a thousand deaths since then. The next night I tried to return to that spot, to that magic, but I was in a such a state when I left that I didn’t pay attention to where my wandering was taking me. I couldn’t find my way back. The streets blurred together, the trees all looked the same; and I knew that leaving that place was the greatest mistake of my life. I should have kept hold of the magic, I should have tried to find out if there was a place for me within that perfect glow. I can’t imagine why I didn’t. I’d give up my freedom for that. Not that I would be any less free, I’d just be choosing something that has the potential to make me happy.

I watch, every chance I can get, looking through the portals that I’ve found, but so far they have all been different. They’re lit by a flickering glow, a dangerous light that comes and goes and changes colors. The walls are filled with movement that isn’t natural and the laughter isn’t the same. There is love, to be sure, but it isn’t all-consuming. It’s tempered by flashes of anger and most often; something I can only describe as detachment. They remind me of myself in that way, never truly embracing each other because no matter how much they might care, their own self is blatantly the most important.

They don’t tell stories either, to bring laughter, they are seduced by the flickering light and let it instead entertain them. Individually, with no interaction. I cannot understand their fascination. I had assumed that nine deaths was my limit, but each time I climb a wall or tree and fail to find what I’ve been searching for, I swear that my heart stops beating, just for a moment.

Curiosity hasn’t been the death of me yet, it has just brought me an awareness I’m not sure I would have asked for if I’d known the longing it would bring. Sometimes I think that ignorance would have been bliss, but I’ve seen the light now – I’ve seen it. There is no going back.

I came across another likely looking tree today, perhaps this is the one.

I know what I’m looking for, I know what I want now. Do you?

Oh come on. You can tell me, it’s not like I can share your secret.


…Cat got your tongue?

Authors Note: This story is an amalgamation of two ideas presented by a friend of mine. I’m pretty sure she never imagined that this was the route I was going to go after I picked her brain – but then again… I was a little surprised myself!

I’d like to continue writing short stories, I would like the practice and if they ensure that I write every day… even better! If you have some random idea you would like to see expanded upon, leave me a comment. You never know, I might just run with it! ;)

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