Tuesday, May 25, 2010

First Installment of Breakfast Serial

Okay, here's the first section. Second section comes at the usual time on Saturday morning. Hope you enjoy it.

1

It was taking me a long time to fall asleep. I felt rotten. Really guilty and a little bit angry. I hadn’t wanted to break up with Bonnie. But what had started out as a fun, light-hearted romp had changed. She wanted more. Commitment—with a capital “C”. I couldn’t. Because while I liked her, enjoyed her company, she wasn’t the one.

It wasn’t that there was anything obviously wrong with her. She was intelligent, good-looking, from a good family. If I could’ve made myself love her I would’ve. But I couldn’t; and didn’t.
I lay on my back, staring at a crack in the ceiling, a soft autumn breeze blowing through the open bedroom window remembering the ugly expression on her face and the bitterness in her voice when she said:

You’ll pay for this. You don’t know what love is. Pure, unselfish love. All you care about is yourself. Well, you’ll pay until you learn. And if you don’t . . . well, then you’ll just pay.

Okay, that was creepy. Seriously, scary. Because she hadn’t looked even a little bit sane when she’d said it.

At times like this I wished I wasn’t such a movie buff. Visions of Glenn Close and cooked rabbit came unwillingly to mind.

To think it all started because I didn’t want to visit her folks on my vacation.

My hard-earned vacation. Two weeks, taken to recover from fifty weeks of overtime, stress, and office hell. The past two months had been particularly bad. I’d almost forgotten what my house and my bed looked like. I was seriously sleep deprived and in no mood to spend my time off doing anything I didn’t want. And I didn’t want to meet her relatives in person for the first time. That spoke of commitment. A commitment I wasn’t ready to make to Bonnie.

All I wanted was to do nothing, and do it vigorously. I’d warned my co-workers not to even try to reach me. I wouldn’t be checking e-mails; I was turning off the cell. Maybe I’d go to the beach. Maybe I’d just be a couch potato, lying prone and watching classic movies and only getting up to eat and go to the toilet.

If that’s selfish then, yeah. I guess I am. So sue me.

I rolled over, punched the pillow a couple of times and tried to settle in deeper into the mattress. I needed sleep damn it.

Rolling over was a mistake. Lying at this angle I could watch as the red lighted display on the digital clock ticked off the minutes to midnight with excruciating slowness.
Shit.

I rolled onto my back again. I was exhausted, but sleep apparently wasn’t an option. So, fine, I’d watch a movie—maybe play a couple of computer games or read a good book. Whatever.
Throwing back the covers I sat up and swung my legs off of the side of the bed.
Two things happened simultaneously. The grandfather clock in the hall started striking midnight; and the mother of all muscle cramps hit me.

I screamed. I couldn’t help it. Because it wasn’t just one muscle. It was all of them. My entire body pulled in on itself, contorting in the kind of pain that made a charlie horse pale in comparison.

I fell forward onto the floor, unable to move—barely able to catch enough breath to keep screaming, the thick plush of the carpet rough against the skin of my face.

I needed help.

It took every ounce of strength I had to drag myself across the floor and reach for the phone on the bed stand. My arm was stretched painfully toward the receiver when the next spasm hit. I curled into a fetal position, my body twitching and spasming uncontrollably, sweat and tears pouring down my face to drip onto the carpet.

Each spasm seemed to last an eternity, but the chiming of the clock told me only seconds were passing. The phone was inches away. It may as well have been miles. I gathered my strength for another push and froze, staring in horrified fascination at my hand and arm.
It was curling in on itself, the thumb and fingers shortening, pulling back. Hooked claws sprang from the blunted ends of what had once been my fingers. At the same time long, thick fur poured out of the individual pores like water flowing over the bare skin.

Terror chased away awareness of the pain. “What’s happening to me?” I tried to shout the words, and only managed an animal yowl. The kind you hear when a pair of tom cats are fighting in an alley.

The pain was fading, but I feared my sanity was fading with it.

The room loomed large, my perceptions changing along with my shape. I swung a paw at the cord connecting the phone to the wall. Hooking a claw around the thin wire, I dragged the heavy plastic instrument to the floor. The receiver bounced loose, the dial tone painfully loud to my sensitive ears. With exquisite care I fought to control my arm and its unfamiliar extension punching 9-1 and 1.

When the voice came on the line I wanted to weep with relief.

“9-1-1. What is the nature of your emergency?”

I tried to talk, to explain what had happened, knowing I would sound insane, and not caring a bit. Let them think me crazy. They’d send an ambulance. I needed an ambulance. I opened my mouth to speak, and all that came out was a piteous mewling.

She kept asking if there was anyone there, but try as I might, I couldn’t speak.

“A cat. It’s a goddamned cat.”

“Probably just knocked the phone off the hook. We’ll have to send somebody to the address to check it out anyway.”

“Whatever.”

She hung up the phone with a bang.

2

I stared at the receiver for a long time. Long enough for it to start buzzing, and then for it to stop. Long enough that the police arrived at my door in response to the 9-1-1.

I dashed downstairs just as the cop flashed his flashlight through the window beside the front door. The light pinned me like a spotlight. I could hear him clearly through the door. “Dispatch you’re right. It’s just a cat. We’ll check around the house, but so far it looks clear.”

NOOOOOOO! I yowled.

I followed them from window to window, trying to get their attention, to make them understand. Of course it was no use.

I was a cat.

A very male, long-haired, black cat.

In time, they left.

Disbelief was followed by despair. It was impossible. Incredible. But, impossible or not, my body was not my body any more.

They say cats have natural grace. I didn’t. I staggered and stumbled, trying to figure out how to make this foreign shape that housed my mind move.

I needed to fix this. . . . Whatever this was.

Bonnie’s words echoed through my mind, the malice in them almost palpable. Could she have done this to me? If it had been possible she would’ve. Hell hath no fury, and all that. Of course it wasn’t possible. Except, here I was.

I managed to make it up the stairs, but it wasn’t pretty. Then I jumped on the bed. If I didn’t think about it too hard, if I just let my body do the mechanics, I actually did better.

I needed to see Bonnie, try to figure out if this was her doing and, if it was, get her to undo it. Goal firmly in mind, I padded across the bed, leapt to the dresser, and climbed out the open bedroom window.

# # #

Bonnie’s apartment complex was only a mile or two from my house. An easy jog. For a human. Two miles is a long damned ways for an animal the size of a house cat. Oh, they can do it. But it takes time. By the time I got there I was tired, thirsty, and sore. Sore, because I still apparently wasn’t good enough at this cat thing to be climbing trees. Contrary to popular myth, cats do not always land on their feet. At least this one hadn’t. Ow.

I limped my way down the sidewalk, dogs barking furiously as I passed. The neighbor’s rottweiller charged the fence, growling and snapping. A board began working its way loose as he slammed himself against the wood, trying desperately to get at me.

I hurried on. That dog had frightened me as a full grown man. What he would do to a twelve pound cat if he caught it didn’t bear thinking about.

About a block from her building I saw the lights, the flashing red and white of the ambulance, along with the strobing blue and red police lights. No sirens, thank God. I wasn’t sure I could bear it. Everything was so loud. Bright, too. I could see into the deepest shadows, hear the small sounds of mice and insects scurrying into hiding at my passage. Smells I’d never even knew existed wafted to me on the night air, each perfectly distinct.

I froze in place, staring in horror as a pair of uniformed EMT’s wheeled a gurney out of Bonnie’s door. They moved with brisk efficiency, but didn’t hurry. There was apparently no need. She wasn’t going anywhere, couldn’t hurt them, even though she was shrieking and thrashing, fighting the restraints that held her fast—right up until she caught sight of me. In that instant she stilled. A slow, pleased smile crossed her face. She smiled, and as the ambulance doors were swinging closed I heard her croon in a weird, high-pitch voice, “here, kitty kitty.”

2 comments:

Dolly said...

Oh yeah. Loved it!! Sometimes I wish I could do that...lol. Thanks, Cie. Good to have you back.

Tammy said...

Glad to have you back Cie.

WOW, what a start (and with a sore finger - it's amazing).

Uh if he needs a place to stay he's welcome to stay with me. My three cats MIGHT leave him alone. ::grin::