Text ©2010 Billymorph; illustration ©2010 The Artist
There was a cat on my sofa.
It was a lynx, by some definitions. I knew because Id wikied it some eight hours ago when Id dropped him there. Of course, there were a few subtle signs that it wasnt a real lynx; too large for one thing, but the thumbs and clothes were a dead give away.
He was also my flatmate.
Id been getting funny looks about that for the last half year. Long before the fangs and whiskers, those were quite a bit more recent. People just cant get through their heads that a guy and girl living together in university can have a completely platonic relationship with out some stupid sitcom crushes coming along and ruining it. We were just friends, nothing more was needed.
Besides, Id known David since we were six. It would have been like trying to date my brother.
The cat growled softly as the sun peeked through the living room windows and I sank into the comfy chair opposite, nursing a cup of coffee. David didnt look uncomfortable in this form, bonelessly slumped across the length of the settee. I was amazed that he hadnt fallen off. That would have been entertaining, if not good for my safety, those teeth and claws looked sharp, but still funny.
I wondered how long this had been going on. He hadnt looked so surprised when he changed. Admittedly he had been blind drunk at the time, he wouldnt have been surprised by the Queen wandering into the bar and dancing the cancan on one of the tables. Still, I had to wonder. Was this new, or was it going to be much as much as a surprise to him as it was to me?
David always had been the spacey kid, and me the archetypal tomboy. He once admitted that he hadnt suspected I was even a girl until we were eleven, and even then had to ask. He also claimed he had the scar from the Indian burn Id given him afterwards, but I just told him, pics or it didnt happen.
Now there was a thought. Maybe it was just a hallucination. Maybe David wasnt actually a cat and taking a photograph of the real him asleep on the sofa could break the spell. I was halfway to my phone before I paused. If however, I wasnt crazy and David was in fact a cat, Id be carrying around proof of the existence of a non-human life form. I had no idea if your roommate transmogrifying was a common occurrence, but on the off chance it wasnt I decided it would be best to keep it under wraps.
Instead I took the tiger by the tail, so to speak. That felt real at least, though hed felt more than real enough when Id dragged his drunken arse back home last night. Still, assuming it was real, what could cause sudden polymorphism? Maybe there was something in the beer? I hadnt had that much, but thered been a lot of people that had had more than David, so unless hed been part of some crazy drug trial that you shouldnt mix with alcohol it wasnt that. More likely someone had slipped something into my drink and I was hallucinating.
I was idly stroking Davids tail as I thought, and he murmured something along the lines of, eels nice
I pulled my hand away as if it had been burnt. Hallucination couldnt be ruled out, but it felt way too real. And If I were going nuts there should have been leprechauns climbing the walls, not lynxes in denim asleep on my sofa.
True, they both sounded pretty ridiculous, but unless something else came along to convince me I was going crazy I would just operate as if I were sane and the world was broken. Besides, Id seen him change.
The bar crawl has never been high on our agendas; wed both gotten so smashed that we couldnt walk on the first week, but thats tradition. Still, we needed to break away from the student grind, and our Friday night out was penned in for the rest of the year. We did quite well watching each others backs, as the one time David went out with just the guys on the first week had left him near Kings Cross with a headache that could fell a rhinoceros. But last night Id been distracted by the guy with the motorbike and the really tight jeans, and by the time I thought to check up on David hed passed the line of had too much and was quaffing his way to a night under the table. The bitch in red wasnt doing much to stop him either.
Id been half way through dragging him out by the ear when I realised that I wasnt holding onto a lobe, more a furry flap of skin that felt far too much like the ears of my old cat Chester for comfort.
Things just got worse from then on.
Davids eyes went yellow in a flash, then flickered back to their usual blue. For a moment a mane framed his head, but then was gone.
Sara? he asked, staring with bleary, slitted, pupils. You look really pretty tonight.
And you look pretty wasted, I snapped, taking his forearm in a death grip and ignoring the hell out of the fact I felt a pelt underneath the shirt. Lets get you out of here.
But Im having fu
David stumbled and slumped against me, babbling something about mirrors. Somehow I managed to get him into a taxi before he started looking too much like the Werewolf of London. He didnt get better, the yo-yoing between human and inhuman features just got more and more frequent and by the end of the two minute drive I was sharing the cab with a lot of very sharp teeth.
I dont think the driver saw anything, and with the tip I gave him he damn well better not have, but that still left me with a drunken big cat on my sofa.
A cat that was waking up.
The yellow eyes flicked open and slitted against the dawning sun. David sprang into a sitting position, the trappings of humanity coalescing around him like drops of water, only to get a pillow in the face.
Quit it, whiskers, I growled, not rising from my chair. Ive been watching your fuzzy butt snoring all night. You arent pulling the wool over my eyes now.
The cat hung his head and wrung his hands. Typical David, if it hadnt been for him flattening his ears at the same time.
Umm err he began nervously. The voice was wrong; too much growl.
Start with your name, I advised, fingers creeping towards the cricket bat propped against the chair arm.
Its David, he began, trembling. Sara, you know its David. Im still in my clothes.
I see a large, well armed feline in my living room, I stated. Something that not only shouldnt be there, but shouldnt even exist. It is also talking and knows my name. I dont know anything right now.
Its complicated, he replied, baring razor sharp teeth in a facsimile of a smile.
Simplify, I snapped, hefting the bat. Who are you?
David, he exclaimed. Hell Sara, how long have we known each other?
You tell me. I glanced towards the window, which Id left ajar. David was getting agitated, and if he made a move or went to block the door that was my bolt hole. I just wished we were on the ground floor.
Thirteen years, he snarled, and I waved the bat warningly. We lived opposite each other most of that time. School was boring. You argued with kids twice your size. Water was wet and the sky was blue. What more do you want?
Your dad took us on a fishing trip once, I began slowly; Id been preparing that question. Did we catch a bass or a trout?
We didnt catch a thing, he growled. And I know where that quote is from.
I let out a deep breath. Okay, thats enough, I admitted. Youre either David or a body snatcher who did his homework, and I havent had the sleep to tell those two apart.
Thank you, David sighed, relaxing a little in his seat. A moment later he had to try and disentangle his claws from the fabric.
Im still waiting for an explanation, I pressed, not setting down the bat. Have you always looked like this?
Give me some credit, he muttered. It happened in November. He glanced down at his hands, unsheathing the claws at his fingertips. I thought I was keeping on top of it.
Why has it happened then?
That was the million dollar question.
I dont know, he moaned. Theres no reason. My parents didnt pick up on any of my hints. I dont think Ive been part of some crazy experiment or alien abduction and Ive never even been bitten by a house cat let alone a lynx. There doesnt seem to be any rhyme or reason behind it.
Well do you think I began, faltering. Do you think its catching?
I dont know, he repeated, looking at me in horror. I shuddered. I did not want to end up looking like that. I dont know why this is happening. It might as well be magic.
Thats not really a very good explanation, I pointed out, eyeing up the exits again.
I know, but nothing about this makes sense, David exclaimed, wrapping his arms around himself and I recoiled from the sudden movement. Ive got bloody whiskers. And Ive been a half human cat thing for four months and not even you noticed.
For a moment the human David sat in the cats place, same pose, same frantic look in his eyes. But then my friend was gone. Replaced by the feline.
But even when Im hiding like that Im still not me, David continued in a rush. Its like someone slapped some kids watercolour over the Mona Lisa.
He was getting more animated, waving around those sharp claws which I could not look away from. David I began in a small voice, but he continued his tirade.
No matter what I do, I can still see that theres a freaking muzzle on my face but everyone just treats the illusion me as if its the real thing.
David please, I tried again. But nothing seemed to stop his rant.
And the worst thing is I have to keep focusing on it. Every moment, every day, keeping myself human. Do you have any idea what thats
David! I screamed, leaping to my feet and leveling the trembling bat at him. Please, stop.
Im sorry, he said after a moment, looking with inhuman eyes down the length of wood. There wasnt even a trace of David behind them. Its just, this is quite weird.
Quite weird, I chortled, hysteria creeping into my voice. Quite weird.
Yeah, I he began, smiling wide with a set of carnivores teeth. There were a dozen things that had me on edge, but it was the inhuman maw gave me the final push.
You have no idea what you could have done! I roared, and he pressed himself back into the cushions as his ears flattened, just like a startled cat.
Sara, please. He tried to stand and I smacked the bat against his nose. It wasnt hard but he jumped and, with nothing more than a twitch, sent the bat hurtling across the room where it made a fist sized dent in the wall.
You have no idea what you could have done, I echoed as he stared at his hands. Images of him tearing me apart in some animalistic rage flashed through my head. That and worse, he could have turned me into another monster.
Id never hurt you, he assured me, pleaded with me.
No. David wouldnt, I corrected and his face fell.
The silence stretched and I broke it first.
I cant do this.
Id grabbed my keys, retrieved the bat and was through the door before the thing could splutter a frantic Wait!
But it was too late. The door slammed into its frame and I slumped against the rough wood, sinking to the ground and gripping onto the bat for dear life. It couldnt be real. Every logical atom in my body was screaming that I was in a straightjacket somewhere drooling or at least deserved to be.
When I open my eyes, I murmured, pressing my forehead against the comfortingly real grain of the cricket bat. I will be waking up, with a mother of all hangovers, and none of this will have happened.
Are you okay, dearie? Mrs Emerset asked, cutting through my frantic wishing.
I opened my eyes. I was still on the floor outside my flat, there was still fur clinging to the sleeves of my jacket and four parallel notches in the wood. Well, so much for that plan. And it had been such a nice plan.
Mrs Emerset was unchanged, though. She was one of the blocks long term residents and, as far I knew, predated the university and its ubiquitous drunken students by a good few decades. That was the only explanation we could think of for why the old lady remained. She was here first, and it would take hell and high water to shift her, or even convince her to wear something other than carpet slippers.
Did you and your nice young man have a bit of a tiff? she inquired, a look of concern crossing her wrinkled face.
Were not a couple, I snapped back, with my stock response. Were just friends.
I sighed. Friends were supposed to stick together. I wasnt sure that quite covered when they turned into a werelynx, but still. I took a few more deep shuddering breaths to try and calm down and rested my head against the door. Inside I could hear sobbing and I sighed.
Friends were supposed to stick together because you wanted them to stick with you. For better or for worse.
Excuse me, I told Mrs Emerset, heaving myself to my feet. I have to set something right.
Go ahead, she replied, with a knowing smile. I wondered if she appreciated just how wrong she was, but then realised I was delaying the inevitable. With a creak from the ancient door I let myself back into the flat.
Why dont you just go? David wailed, the instant the door clicked shut behind me. Hiccuping as he always did when he got upset. Unless you want to get freak on you.
I slumped into the seat next to him, ignoring the mass of claws and teeth scant centimeters away. The whole terrifying, inhuman monstrosity bit was rather ruined by the tear stains in the fur around his eyes.
Weve always been the freaks, I replied, wrestling with the words in my mind and put an arm round his shoulder. That would have been far less disconcerting if he still had shoulders in the traditional sense but that was just one more thing to smile at and ignore. And we never let it get us down. Ill admit this is pretty weird. The goose bumps carpeting my arm agreed wholeheartedly with that. But we can get through this. Somehow.
A shudder ran through David as he collapsed onto me, taking me in a wide armed hug and squeezing me close.
Thank you, he murmured, fresh tears blooming in his eyes and he began to purr.
Hey, what else are friends for?