This is a very short story I wrote almost twenty years ago. For several years now I’ve been toying with the idea of it becoming a much longer piece. Feel free to let me know what you think of it.
Lack of sleep. It means different things to different people. To me, it’s an opportunity to see the world as it really is. This world isn’t the three dimensional, sunshine and roses place most people think it is, so let’s take a closer look.
When I lay to read in bed each night, from the corner of my eye I almost see something move. A large black spider is creeping slowly across my pillow, toward my ear, closer. I quickly turn my head before it crawls inside, but it vanishes before reaching me. It always does. Sometimes I think I might fall asleep, before it vanishes, and wake it the morning to hear it scrathin around in my head.
When I’m walking past a doorway, I can almost see someone standing there. I keep looking toward them before they speak, but they vanish too. One day, they will reach out and touch me before I turn.
Cats are like these examples, these things that you only see when you’re half asleep. They seem to just appear in front of you from nowhere. At other times, they seem so ephemeral that you expect them to fade away before your eyes.
When I was a kid, every family I knew had a cat, and while growing up, not much had changed there. If anything, cats had become even more popular. I think that’s how they always wanted it to be. Years later, in the street where I lived, there were only a few cats to begin with. Just a few, here and there. Then something happened. They found a new food source, and they changed, and kept changing. At first, just minor changes, the owners putting it down to a few ‘personality problems’ with their spoilt pets, nothing to worry about. Gradually, the changes became more noticeable. Once friendly, devoted pets began biting, others grew smarter, more active, others were to simply wander off, never to return. Of themselves, each of these presented only mild concerns; again, nothing to worry about.
I don’t own a cat. I never have, I can’t stand the things. All that to say, I didn’t notice that much was changing, until the behaviour of the local cats made the nightly news. Veterinarians were swamped with calls about ‘collapsing’ cats, each owner describing the same condition. “It’s as if all of his bones have turned to rubber.”
One thing that I had noticed, but hadn’t made the connection until now, was that the neighbourhood dogs were rapily vanishing. I don’t mean that they were quiet, or that a few had gone missing. Many people simply put it down to a lack of attention, due to all the hype about the cats. Others just said that for whatever reason, their dogs were just lost and would find their way home.
That’s a lot of lost dogs. There always seems to be poster here or thee, or a photocopied plea in the letterbox about yet another lost dog. By now, it wasn’t just a case of the occasional stray, but dozens of dogs, sometimes dozens from the same street. I found it hard to believe that so many could simply be lost, epecially when the ‘new’ cats began gaining weight.
Then, I began to see cats, and I mean see them for what they really were, what they had started to become. They appeared in places that they physically could not be, like very narrow spaces. I saw a large tomcat chasing a mouse. Yes I know that isn’t so strange. The mouse ran into the nearest small place it found, an empty cigarette packet. The cat followed it.
All the way into the packet.
A moment later, the cat walked out of the packet, seeming to grow and stretch to normal size, the mouse securely lamped in it’s jaws.
When I could move, I ran. I didn’t stop until I was safe at home, in my bed.
I began to notice just how many cats there were now, not just where I lived, but everywhere. They seemed to be eating much better these days, and were getting bigger. If a cat could chase a mouse into a cigarette packet, there wouldn’t be any space too small for them, nowhere to hide if they suddenly got really hungry.
Have you ever had a good look at the shower drain? It’s different to the other drains in the house. The holes are just that bit bigger, more room for things to climb through.