Not often, but sometimes Jeremy would exhibit signs of being a cat. Oftentimes, this illness exhibited itself in the form of stealthily knocking full glasses of water off the coffee table and staring his mother in the eye as she waited for him to take responsibility for his actions.
At other times, he would poop in a box he kept in the corner of his bathroom full of kitty litter. This was his mother’s least favorite.
Sometimes he enjoyed batting a small piece of plastic around the linoleum of the kitchen floor, especially while his mother was trying to cook dinner.
Rarely, he would lie on the kitchen counter, roll casually to one side, and expose his belly for an indeterminate amount of belly rubs before he would widen his eyes, bare his teeth, and go for blood.
Doctors eventually gave up on conventional medications and recommended a flea collar.
Alice bundled her coat into a ball as she took her seat on the train. She turned to her seatmate to introduce herself, but the man was reading a paper. Quite determinedly reading a paper, she noted. He rattled the pages fiercely as he turned them, shaking out imaginary wrinkles and possibly mixing up the words, Alice presumed. She shrugged and faced forward to wait for her journey to begin.
The remaining passengers bustled by, occasionally knocking her elbow, but mostly focused on themselves in that polite way that people assume in mass transit situations. Alice settled back and thought about her grandmother’s house. where she’d be in just a few short hours.
She was named Alice too, and ever since Alice the younger was a little girl, she’d been entertained with the most outlandish stories of dreams and mirrors and decks of cards. Alice the grandmother even had a nifty little bottle labeled Drink Me that served as a prop for one of those stories. Summers with her grandmother were the best times of young Alice’s life.
The train began to move, and she nodded off, to dream of a rushing rabbit in a waistcoat who was terribly late.
Dogsbody blinked slowly in the elevator as the doors closed again in front of him. His collar lay limply against his shoulder, his hand not even reaching for its comfort and safety. Perhaps Mr. Walker could change things for him, after all.
The receptionist smiled at him as he strode from the elevator bank to the revolving glass door, but Dogsbody didn’t even notice her. This was quite unusual; Dogsbody had a sixth sense for knowing when anyone was looking at him, and he would automatically cover his face in shame and embarrassment. This only caused the receptionist to broaden her smile with pride that she worked for an employer who could enact such drastic personality changes so quickly.
Dogsbody froze before he reached the exit and spun to study the painting just to the left of the receptionist’s desk. The man depicted stared so boldly back at him that Dogsbody’s hand began fumbling at his lapel before his brain could register that it was simply a painting, and not a judgmental fellow human being. He kept his hand up just in case, and backed through the door behind him. Fortunately no one was in his path.
He took a sharp right and tried not to think about the sixty-one block walk ahead of him. The weather had abruptly changed for the chillier, and he could see his breath puff into wisps ahead of his face as he walked. Dogsbody tugged his collar securely in front of his scars and carried on.
The minutes dragged by, piling on top of each other, but soon enough, Dogsbody was in front of the post office. He climbed the seven steps to the front door and pulled the door that said pull. He let his collar slip down a bit as he clumsily dug through his front pocket for the small key Mr. Walker had given him. The key slipped easily into its hole on post office box 716. Dogsbody turned it, and opened the door to a medium-sized bundle of letters. He pulled the stack of letters out and closed the door, re-locking it before returning the key to his pocket.
Dogsbody flipped quickly through the mail and threw the two obvious pieces of junk mail-from phone companies-into the nearby trashcan before stuffing the remainder into an inside pocket of his trench coat. Hands free once again, he pulled his collar to its preferred place in front of his mouth and turned to leave the post office.
AS he headed for the door, a large woman who seemed to be in a hurry shoved the door open and ran straight into him. The two of them went sprawling on the floor, and Dogsbody frantically tried to gather up the mail that had fallen from his pocket before she could touch any of it. She kept apologizing, and managed to grab one small letter that Dogsbody snatched out of her hands before running from the post office in a panic.
The woman never knew the reason for the nightmares that plagued her for the rest of her life, but it was that single glimpse of Dogsbody’s ravaged face.
It was nearly two hours before Dogsbody was able to calm himself enough to return home to the alley off Fourteenth Street where he had been sleeping for the past month. The sewage lines had burst here too many times, and none of the other homeless people of the city enjoyed waking up to the smell of dirty water in their hair and clothing, but Dogsbody didn’t care; he’d lost his sense of smell, and had yet to become sick from the waste that often overflowed the alleyway. He valued the privacy that was his only luxury.
After wrapping Mr. Walker’s letters carefully in plastic, Dogsbody lay down to sleep, heedless of the sharp drill bit poking into his upper thigh. Nothing could hurt him more than he already hurt, and that was a fact, Jack.
This planet was not at all what Gorba expected. The inhabitants were absolutely huge. And nearly all of them so dangerously oblivious to their surroundings.
The slobbery one that picked him up in its wet, cavernous facial opening was covered in some sort of fine tentacles, but they didn’t seem to operate like tentacles at all. Useless appendages? Millions of them? So strange. Maybe they were taste buds. But no, probably not; it hadn’t touched Gorba with the tentacled parts of its body, only the plain, empty ones.
So much noise.
So much light.
So many inhabitants, in so many shapes and so many sizes.
Gorba considered hibernation until the time of his inevitable rescue…Yes. That was probably his best option. He couldn’t make sense of this place at all. He let his tentacles go rubbery and his eyes go googly, and he commenced to wait.