In The Dark
The blind was open and a murky orange light seeped in through the window across the cold wooden floor to meet the darkness at the edges of the room. The contours of her naked body were accentuated by the glow of the street lights. She stared at herself in the mirror. A new mole. pimples. blemishes on the skin. Her breasts- were they beginning to sag? Her pubic hair had grown fast and was starting to look unkempt. At least that could be swiftly rectified. She continued her inspection. Did she have muffin tops? What were muffin tops exactly? Not as cute as they sounded anyway. She remembered doing this as a teenager. Cringing at every imperfection- the unfathomable shame of pubescent angst still fresh in her mind. Nowadays though she was more pragmatic. Detached. Now it was as though the specimen in front of her was entirely alien to her, a slab of animated meat that she found herself gazing at. She looked at her teeth. A hint of yellow. She ran her tongue along them, they were rough with plaque- the build up from the day.
She sat on the bed and continued to face herself until viewing her complete self became altogether too much and she had to turn and look away. We spend so much time constructing an image of ourselves in our minds that when faced with the reality of the vessel in which we travel it can be overwhelmingly disconcerting. She was looking at a stranger, inspecting her body like she might inspect a vegetable at the supermarket. It dawned on her how little she really knew of this collection of bone and flesh. It felt lonely. Trapped in here. In this life. In this person.
The cold in the room made her skin tingle. It was pleasant- a cold, sharp relief after the eight hours of perspiration working in that bar. Drunk, ruddy faced men pawed at her and tipped to try and get her attention. Seasonal drinkers filled the place to it’s capacity creating a thick mist of condensation. A fog of human sweat.
People were pricks. Thinly haired apes telling themselves stories, masquerading as something superior to the primordial soup that spawned them.
She wished she could be something else. Something different. Free from being behind these eyes. Free from this social order, free from this species.
Step off the planet and take an outsiders view.
Even for a moment.
We were the problem. A cancerous infestation of tree dwellers that had developed ideas way above their station.
Now cats had answers.
Get the big daft monkey to provide you with food and shelter then take life at your leisure. No need to build walls, start wars, earn, consume, polute…
She wished she was a cat.
There would be no working in steamy bars full of lecherous old men. No getting up at 6am on dark December mornings to cycle across town, rain and cold making your face sting and your lips split. The salty, metallic taste of blood making your stomach squelch…
Admittedly feline cuisine looked like it left a little to be desired and would no doubt be a little stomach churning itself. The milk and the occasional treats of real fish looked ok but Whiskas and biting the heads off live mice just looked horrid.
She stood up from the bed and walked to the window, the sky had cleared and moonlight began to cut through the murky orange glow. She looked down at the empty streets below and imagined stalking them at night. Slinking along fences, climbing on roofs & spying in peoples windows. Inspecting humanity from the darkness.
Keen feline eyes calculating.
Maybe if she thought about it long enough, she could will her own metamorphosis?
She remembered as a child being convinced that if she wished and hoped enough her toys would come to life and play with her. But they never did. She used to close her eyes then open them suddenly to try and catch them moving. But they always sat there stubbornly staring back at her. Lifelessly.
She slowly slinked back towards the mirror looking at her body with new eyes. She turned her hips to look at her rear end, mourning the tail that evolution had deprived her of. Perhaps we should never have left the trees and the caves? Worrying about spearing a deer and evading sabre toothed tigers seemed preferable to a future of mortgages, MOTs and pension plans. Still it seemed like a lot of work. Making fires, making clothes, knowing what berries wouldn’t lead to a painful, agonizing death… Sabre tooth tigers. No. The domestic cat idea- that’s the ticket. More comfort, less chance of being gored by a wooly mammoth.
The moonlight shone in and gave her body a white glow, she looked in to the eyes of the vessel in front of her and concentrated hard. She pictured her pointy ears and her swishing tail.
Make me into a cat.
God, Allah, Ganesh, Gaia! Whatever you go as- get me out of this lump of under used flesh.
She slumped back disappointed. The energy of her determination had given way. She rubbed at tired eyes with resignation.
Something wasn’t right.
She could feel… something.
She looked at her eyes in the mirror. Blinking. She grasped at her eye, pulling it open and pulling at what she had seen at the side. It looked like a second set of eye lids? Surely the light and the late night were playing tricks on her.
She sat on the bed and tried to calm herself.
Stop being daft.
Time for bed.
Taking a moment to compose herself and avoiding the dark gaze of the mirror she looked at her right hand to inspect her nails. It looked an odd shape. Her thumb and little fingers appeared to be curling into her palms, her fingers shrank back horrifically into her hand as her nails grew round and sharp. Panicking she reached with her left hand to try and pull her right back into shape but to her horror the other was doing the same thing! She tried to stand but fell smashing to the floor having to hold herself up with her newly formed paws. Her spine tightened and arched. She looked in the mirror and saw her hideously half transformed body. Tufts of fur sprouting from her once smooth skin she opened her mouth to scream but instead came a loud caterwaul.
She closed her mouth in shock only for her to spike her retreating lips with newly sharp teeth. She felt her ears climb up her skull and pull the skin of her face back over the muzzle forming where her face once was…
Staring at herself in the mirror she admired her new coat. The moonlight bounced off silky black fur whilst bright green eyes stared back at her… she raised an inquisitive tail and hopped up on to the windowsill to look out and plan her late night prowl. Her new eyes saw with such clarity and precision. She could hear the mice scuttling three floors below her and the apes oafishily bashed about and grunting those odd sounds in their little glowing spaces all around her. Spread out in front of her she saw a vast glowing jungle. Unknown, exciting and expectant.
Alasdair is a former Post-Graduate Student of the Creative Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University where he studied under the likes of Michael Schmidt and Simon Armitage. After graduating he spent many years in Manchester before relocating to Edinburgh seven years ago where he has lived ever since. He is a keen chef, mountain climber & mischief maker.