by Phil Davies
She is waiting for me under the clock at Piccadilly station as usual, her face lined with age and fury. Her blouse doesn't quite reach down to the waistband of her skirt, and a roll of pallid, mottled flesh oozes over the tight elastic.
As I get closer to her I can see claw marks in her leather coat. She is covered in cat hair, and the smell of stale urine on her nearly makes me vomit. Her hair looks a deep ginger from a distance, but close up I can see its grey roots and wiry texture. She has little tags of brown skin around her neck like my grandmother has. Later, she'll want sex, and even the thought of it alone violates me.
"You're late," she says. She forces a yawning French kiss on me. Her tongue probes deep inside my mouth. "Show me some affection will you?" she demands when she is finished. "We haven't seen each other for a week. And bring some flowers next time."
She stalks off across the concourse and I trot along behind her obediently. Whenever I look at her I feel disgust, anger, dread, but not love. Never love. Yet week after week I come to see her, not able to understand why. I need to end this. If I do not I'm going to have to kill her, or myself. That kiss has made this thought press upon me with even more urgency, but with Monica it is not as simple as just saying, "It's over".
Her car is ancient. On the way back to her house it blows plumes of black smoke out of its exhaust. We stop at some traffic lights and she slides a hand onto my leg.
"I love you," she says, and she smiles at me expectantly.
The things I need to say to her so desperately form in my mind, but my words blur into a cocktail of nonsense before I can speak them. Instead I hear myself say with perfect clarity, "I love you too."
Monica owns fifteen cats. They are all waiting when we get back: a furry throng, all jostling with each other, hungry and eager for attention. Monica converses with them as she feeds them, and they look at her with a cold intelligence that makes me think if they chose to, they could reply. I go to leave the room, but she stops me.
"Litter trays," she says, and hands me a trowel and a plastic bag.
There are seven trays around the kitchen, shoved in corners and behind doors, but even that is not enough. Every hour the cats fill them up, stinking the place out. As I scrape the clumps of shit and piss-soaked litter into the bag the smell makes me feel sick, but it doesn't bother Monica when she does it. She inhales deeply while she scoops the faeces out, savouring the odour.
When we're done it is late enough for me to feign tiredness and avoid sex. I lie in bed curled up as far away from her as I can, but in the middle of the night she spoons me, pressing her clammy body against me.
"You're my soul mate," she says to me the following morning over breakfast. "We are made of atoms that were cosmically linked when the universe was created. We are one person in two different bodies."
I nod politely as she bites into a fried egg sandwich. A drip of egg yolk runs down her chin. When she has finished she reaches across the table and grasps my face with sticky fingers. Once again she forces her tongue into my mouth, along with bits of egg white and breadcrumbs.
After breakfast it's off to Hardwick's cafe to meet her friends. It is a long drive and every time we stop at traffic lights she slides her hand up my leg, brushing my penis.
"It's going to be such a night, my love," she whispers to me when we are stopped at a pedestrian crossing. She grins lasciviously at me, and a fresh wave of dread crashes over me.
When we arrive a dozen people greet her. She goes to talk to her friend Angela, and I am left with Andrew. Andrew is serene. Andrew is ethereal. Andrew is a Buddhist. He sits down opposite me with exaggerated gentleness.
"Congratulations," he says.
"Congratulations for what?" I ask.
"On the engagement."
Last week Monica informed me of the fact that we were going to get married soon. Now it seems it is public knowledge.
"You're a very lucky man Paul," he says. "She is so beautiful."
Andrew is not the first man to express this opinion to me. All her male friends seem to envy me with a passion I cannot understand. I am living in an inside out, back to front world that worships Monica.
"Well, you marry her then!" I say.
"Believe me I would if she would have me." He leans forward like a schoolboy with a rude joke to tell. "I've been trying to screw her for years."
I'm not really listening now though. I'm imagining my life when I'm married to Monica. It is a joyless life of dirty litter trays and clumps of cat hair in every dinner, It feels like I'm screaming an endless scream that no one can hear. Dissent rises up in me. I stand up ready to end this sham. I won't live like this a moment longer! I can't! Monica looks up from her conversation as if she senses the rebellion swelling in me, and stares at me with predatory eyes. I've seen that look before and it fills me with a cold, empty desperation. My defiance melts away and I slip back down into my chair defeated. The moment is gone again. Lost. And the world continues, unchanged, while Monica tells everyone about our plans for our honeymoon. Apparently I'm taking her to Peru.
That night I become desperate to avoid the passion she has planned for me. After a stew of cheap meat and cat hair, I pretend to be ill. Upstairs in the spare room, I lock the door. But doors are not meant to keep people like Monica out. I wake in the night and see her standing naked in the middle of the room.
"It's time," she says. Her tone is that of a teacher scolding a disobedient pupil. She walks over and she tries to snatch back the sheets, but I grip them desperately.
"No!" I say. "Leave me alone."
The authority in my voice surprises both of us. She pauses and looks confused, perhaps even bemused by this new quality to me, but then she composes herself and continues.
"So sweet," she says, pulling at the sheets again. "Always so worried you won't please me."
I grip them harder, but with powerful fingers she wrenches them from my grip. I look down and see that I am aroused. This always happens and I despise my body for betraying me. She straddles me and pins my arms back above my head. I can feel her sticky wetness against me, and smell her pungent scent. She begins to writhe, thrusting against me in an unhurried, clumsy rhythm. Mercifully the crushing weight of her drives the blood out of me and I become flaccid again.
"Oh dear," says Monica. "Not to worry."
She clambers off me and moves her hands down to my groin. Her hands are coarse. So revolting is the sensation that for a moment I do not realise that my hands are now free. When I do that feeling of defiance I felt earlier that day rushes back, and I grasp hold of it eagerly.
"No! I don't want this!" I shout, and I push her off me.
She falls backwards catching her face on the corner of the dresser as she falls. I scramble from the bed and punch the light switch. Monica is flailing around on the floor. There is a gash on her face oozing thick blood.
"Bastard!" she screams. "Bastard! How dare you!"
I dress and gather my belongings. She alternates between screaming curses at me and begging me to stay, but I'm not going to stop now. She grabs my leg as I step over her, but I manage to shake her off.
At the door a cat brushes past my leg. Then another, and another. Soon all the cats have slipped past me. They climb onto Monica, nuzzling her, licking her nipples. One moves down to between her legs. Soon, the centre of the room is a writhing mass of flesh and fur.
"Oh my boys," she says. “My beautiful boys! What a horrible man he is! What an impossible man! How happy we could all have been together!"
"You disgust me," I say, before turning away from her. "But then, you always did."
As I leave the room one of the cats springs at me from the furry mass. It cuts a deep gouge in my right thigh with its claws. It hurts, but I don't care. I'm free. I take the stairs two at a time on my way out.
The phone calls start early the next morning. I'm in my flat back in London, lying in my bed, drowsy and blissfully alone. I answer it without thinking. She speaks to me as though nothing had happened, as if we are still lovers.
"Don't you remember last night?" I ask.
"It's all right," she says with sympathy. "I forgive you. Now what time train are you getting on Friday?"
"Train? Train to where?"
"To here, silly. What time shall I meet you? I'll wait under the clock as usual.”
I feel that familiar sensation of fumbling with my words, and the first hint of my resolve softening around the edges, but I will not let that happen again.
"You are insane," I say, and I put the phone down.
Five minutes later it rings again. I pause before I answer it, but I have no choice. It could be work, or my family. It is not, of course. It's Monica again and she is in a fury. How dare I treat her like this after all she has done for me? Has she not opened her life to me? Offered herself on a plate to me? I ought to show some gratitude! I swear at her and tell her to leave me alone or I'll call the police.
"You're going to miss me," she says. "Turn me away and you'll miss me more than you've ever missed anyone."
"I'll miss you about as much as I'd miss a rotten tooth," I say. "Or maybe a malignant tumour."
I put down the phone, enjoying a triumphant thrill, and then start to get ready for work. It is in the shower I first notice them: several strange, grey marks around the wound on my leg where Monica's cat scratched me.
Five days later I am with my doctor. He can't explain the fur-like growth protruding from the gash on my leg, or the similar patches on my arms and chest. They are soft, luxuriant, and terrifying. He promises me that he will arrange an urgent appointment with a consultant dermatologist. I won't have to wait long. Three weeks perhaps, or maybe a month. But I've seen how fast it is spreading. In an hour I will check my body again and find a new crop burrowing its way up through my flesh. Three weeks will be too long to wait.
A week later I awake in the night, possessed by an urge to go north. I cannot resist it, and I leave without further thought.
The Journey is long and dangerous. The world is so big around me as I pad through the streets of London, and then strange, unfamiliar places beyond. On my journey I am both hunter and hunted, feasting on birds and rats and worse, and chased by foxes, dogs, and birds of prey. Two weeks it takes me, two weeks of walking, feeding, hiding.
When at last I arrive, the other cats watch me suspiciously as I slip in through the cat flap in the kitchen door. I pause for a moment to relieve my self in the litter tray before trotting into the front room. Monica is there watching television, and I hop effortlessly onto her lap.
"There you are," she says. She strokes me with fingers sticky with something sweet she had been eating. It mats my fur but I don't care. "I told you that you would miss me. Welcome home, my lover. Now I can look after you properly."
I purr with contentment and feel my penis becoming hard as she strokes the back of my neck.
"Oh, don't worry about that," she says. "We'll have a little outing tomorrow to the vet. He'll take care of that silly thing."
© 2012 Phil Davies
Bio: Phil Davies was originally trained as a sculptor and photographer, but over the last few years has been turning his attention to writing fiction while carrying on with his day job as a Software Development Manager. Some of his non-fiction work (reviews and interviews) has appeared online at the Adventure Classic Gaming website. The 2010 book Lancashire’s Sacred Landscape, edited by Linda Sever and published by the The History Press, featured some of his photography.
E-mail: Phil Davies
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