When Michael awoke, he was aware that something had changed during the night, although it was a moment or two before he was sufficiently awake to process the information that his senses presented him with. The first thing he noticed was that instead of lying under the quilt, Felicity was curled up on top of it. The second thing he noticed was that she was not snoring but purring. It was only when he sat up in bed and put on his glasses that he finally realised that she had mutated into a cat.
“Felicity?” he said.
“You all right?”
“Yeah. Why shouldn’t I be? An’ leave me alone. Wanna sleep.”
“Felicity, um … you’re … you’ve … I mean … oh, never mind.” Michael struggled to find the words. He knew that he was ducking his responsibilities by failing to break the news to her, but it was so … awkward. And besides, she had fallen asleep again and he had to go out to work.
When he returned, she was still asleep on the bed.
“Um, Felicity … um – ”
“Yeah?” She yawned, displaying a fierce set of teeth. There was an odd glint in her eyes. Wow. She looked impressive. What breed had she become? Maine Coon? Norwegian Forest Cat?
“Oh, never mind. It’s just – ”
“Have you done anything about supper?”
“No.” Felicity yawned again, stretched, and leapt off the bed. He followed behind her as she trotted off to the back door. She pawed at it for a while and started up a strange yowling sound, until he gave in and let her out.
Michael searched the fridge to see if there was anything in there to eat. There was some cheese and a few eggs, so he decided to make himself an omelette. Whilst he was cooking, he reflected on what had happened. The most annoying thing in some ways was that he hadn’t actually seen it happen. Was it a gradual process or did it just happen – poof! – like that? He would have been really interested to know.
Midnight came and Felicity still hadn’t come back, so Michael went to bed, leaving the back door open. During the night he was vaguely aware that there was something next to him in the bed, and he found her the next morning in the same place as she’d been the night before.
He left her sleeping, went downstairs and made a phone call. There were practical issues to consider. He fetched a trunk from the attic and set it up in the hall. Then he opened a can of tuna. Within a couple of minutes, he heard her padding down the stairs. Before she knew what was happening, he had grabbed her and put her in the trunk. Then he lugged her into the car and drove her off to the vet to the sound of muffled wailing.
It took several of the nurses to hold Felicity down, but the vet eventually managed to administer the feline leukaemia shot.
“You know you really should have her spayed,” he said, once they’d forced her back into the trunk.
“Are you sure? We were going to have – ” Michael’s voice tailed off, as he saw the look on the vet’s face. “We were going to have kids,” he said quietly.
“I don’t think so,” said the vet, with a sad shake of the head. “And she could be up to all sorts out there now.”
“Really?” Michael hadn’t thought about this. “All sorts?”
Michael thought long and hard. “All right, then. How much?”
The vet told him. “There’s a discount on microchipping if you do that at the same time,” he said.
Michael nodded. “Good idea. I’d hate to think of her getting lost.”
“OK, I’ll book her in. Have you got her insured, by the way? If she gets injured in a scrap, the bills can really mount up.”
Michael said he’d think about it. Although he wasn’t sure if he’d find room in his head given all the other things he had to think about.
When they got home again, Michael dragged the trunk in again and opened up the lid. Felicity just looked up at him and hissed. Then she slowly climbed out and headed off upstairs.
He found her lying down in her usual position.
“We need to talk,” he said.
She said nothing. Then she licked her paws and began to wash her ears.
“Can you still talk, even?”
Felicity continued to ignore him. He sat down on the bed next to her, and tentatively began to stroke her. She responded by rolling over on her back. He scratched her around the neck and slowly began to move his hand down her stomach …
Michael stood up suddenly. This was wrong. Horribly wrong. He stalked out of the room and made his way back downstairs. He spent the rest of the day doing odd jobs around the house, feeling very unsettled. He drank several cans of beer that evening to try and calm himself down. When night came, she was still there, lying on their bed. He climbed in and settled down to sleep without saying a word to her.
Around three in the morning he needed to pee. When he had finished, he caught sight of his reflection in the bathroom mirror by the light of the full moon. His face had become pointed, with snuffly little whiskers. Ripping off his pyjamas, he realised with horrified fascination that his skin had changed to brown fur, and he had grown a long tail. He had also developed a craving for cheese. As he stepped out onto the landing before making his way downstairs, he saw two bright yellow eyes watching him from the bedroom doorway.