It was Saturday morning. I had slept in after a busy week and a late Friday hang with friends around the house.
I went down to have breakfast and realised my flatmates Jen and Laurey weren’t home. Unusual for a weekend when you live with two homebodies, but a chance to have that long wank during which you don’t have to silence your noises. My mind didn’t go past that thought, and I didn’t worry about their absence. I just saw an opportunity for a few minutes of untamed self-pleasure. I wonder if things would be different if I had acted sooner.
I tried calling my friend Maddy. We had talked about catching a movie in the cinema on Saturday, but she didn’t pick up. I didn’t think twice about it. She probably just got busy with something else. I can make other plans.
I had a shower. I thought the bathtub was too dry. There’re always some water droplets left over from other people’s showers. Maybe neither Jen nor Laurey had showered. Who am I to police my flatmates’ personal hygiene? I didn’t think twice about it.
I put on some warm clothes. Several layers. Enough to go out for a walk on a crisp autumn morning.
I’d head to Abney Park cemetery. One of the Magnificent Seven, the seven large private cemeteries established in the 19th century to alleviate the overcrowding in existing burial grounds in London.
It’s a nice walk for a Saturday. Close to home. A nature reserve more than a cemetery nowadays, with only the gravestones and statues of angels to remind you of its once sad purpose as people’s last address.
The streets felt quiet on my way there. I took back roads and thought maybe I had just chosen brunch o’clock for my walk and that’s why the squirrels were taking full advantage of the empty, trafficless roads to play freely with each other. I didn’t even find it strange at the time.
The cemetery was its usual silent environment. Ideal to sit amidst the overgrown flora and broken gravestones while reading a book.
I had just started a new book I had found at a charity shop. I Dream of Madonna, a collection of women’s dreams about the goddess of pop. Yes, that Madonna, not the mother of Christ. Maybe a little heretic to be reading what is in essence an erotic book about a woman who pushed some boundaries in the way religion and sex were portrayed in the media at a cemetery, with all its religious imagery surrounding me. Not even something I thought about. I was an atheist. I don’t know what I am anymore.
Thinking back, I sometimes wonder if that triggered what happened, but find solace in the stillness I had felt around me from the moment I woke up that morning and the likelihood that it had all happened by then.
As I sat there reading, a couple of cats came to meet me. A big, black, shiny furred cat, and a small, tender ginger cat. They were friendly cats asking to be petted. Purring. They set on me while I read. I thought nothing of it. I love cats and can’t have them in my rented flat. I always took advantage of the rare friendly ones I found on my walks.
When I finished reading the recounting of an 18-year old’s dream of going on a date with Madonna and gifting her a swimming sheep, I thought I had had enough of other people’s imaginations, and it was time to go home. I miss other people’s imaginations now.
I didn’t manage to lose the cats. They kept following me throughout the still deserted streets of London, until I got home. I had to leave them at the door, although I hated not being able to give them a home, but I was not allowed pets in my flat. I thought I’d check back later and if they were still there I could get them some tuna from the corner shop. How I loved that corner shop.
Jen and Laurey were still not home and Maddy wouldn’t pick up her phone. Went onto social media and everyone had seemed to take the day off from posting. Tried calling my parents and they wouldn’t pick up...suddenly a sinking feeling came over me.
I went back out. Past the cats still waiting at my doorstep. Past the desolate park, usually filled with humans walking their dogs and little kids shouting, and that day only inhabited by crows.
At the corner shop...there was no one. A few cats loitering inside, looking strangely lost while at the same time carrying a sense of belonging to the place. It was the first time I truly thought something was seriously wrong.
Kept walking around and everywhere seemed to have cats…where humans should be. Could my thoughts be right?
Could everyone have turned into a cat?
As the days passed, the bigger the realisation of what had happened dawned on me. The two cats from the cemetery now lived with me. I think they always did. I call them Jen and Laurey.
I think I’m the only human left.
I live among cats now.
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