"Fix your face, Leeko," Janet puffed. I reached for my face wondering what was wrong with it.
"No, your other face," she sighed, reaching for my costume, pulling at the attached headpiece. I was a T-rex for Halloween this year--full-body costume that left my face sticking out from the neck. Waiting now on Benji's front porch, I suddenly felt very uncomfortable in my costume choice. And very much like a child. Maybe this was a little too bold. A little too funny for me to pull off. I wondered about different ways to change into something else before anyone could open the door. Before I could start making an excuse to head back to our apartment, Janet cut me off by obnoxiously jabbing her finger over the doorbell.
"Hello! Open up, it's freezing out here!" It wasn't.
The door unlocked and suddenly my face felt like it was too round peering out from the costume. I folded my finger into my palm to feel how my heart rate had increased over something so trivial. But was it really trivial? If my face had looked fat in the costume would Janet have really told me the truth?
"Hey, guys!" Benji exclaimed, swinging the door open to the old house. "Come on in! We're still waiting on Daniel," he informed before whispering, "his tail keeps falling off."
"Well tell him to duct tape it to his ass or something because we're late," Janet sighed as she walked over the fridge for a can of cheap beer. I stood at the doorway feeling uncomfortable, not knowing Benji or Daniel all that well.
“That’s an awesome costume,” Benji said.
I snapped my head in his direction, only to notice he was talking to Janet. Hoping no one noticed me desperately perk up at the compliment I looked away and kept turning my head to play it cool. I’m not looking for validation.
I wanted to die.
Janet, on the other hand, was in the middle of a mating ritual with Benji. They purred at each other in the kitchen, the beer already kicking in for both of them.
“Have you always been this beautiful?” Benji asked. I watched as Janet feigned shyness and smacked his arm playfully. Oh, Janet.
I sighed and plopped down on the sagging brown couch. The inflatable dino-jumpsuit moaned in protest against the leather material. I sighed in embarrassing loneliness as I played with the worn leather marks with my large dinosaur hand. Or did dinosaurs have paws?
Ten years went by and there was no sign of Daniel. Benji and Janet had slipped away down the hallway to bump uglies, no doubt. I stared out the window, feeling dejected. What a lame Halloween. I mourned over my lack of ability to have fun.
A dark creature crept up to the glass, balancing itself on top of something tall enough to let it make direct eye contact with me.
It watched me very quietly.
The cat, I realized, had a very piercing gaze. For some sad, unfortunate reason I felt scrutinized and even more self-conscious about my dinosaur costume than I did with actual people. An irrational part of my brain tried to make a coincidence out of the fact that I was seeing a black cat for the tenth time--leading up to Halloween. Especially one with beady, judgemental eyes.
“What? Is it really too funny for me to pull off?” I demanded aloud, narrowing my eyes. “Asshole.”
It tapped the glass twice with its small black paw. I creased my eyebrows at the cat. It tilted its head and tapped three more times. I remembered Ama saying black cats symbolize prosperity. Extra prosperity sounded nice. I felt more compassionate towards the feline.
“Do you want to come in?” I asked, feeling bad for swearing at the animal. After all, this cat was not the reason why my life had no fun. “This better be your house I’m letting you in to,” I warned.
I pushed the window open and the cat stepped forward and sat on the sill, it’s black tail swaying seductively left and right.
And just like that, it jumped off the window and slipped into the shadows. “Seriously,” I breathed.
“Is it too hot in here?” a voice asked. I turned towards who I assumed was Daniel. He was dressed as Sonic.
“Sonic has a tail?” I asked, bewildered.
Daniel watched me in confusion before answering my question. “Yes, uh, Sonic does have a tail. Sorry, it took me so long. Who’re you again?”
Now it was my turn to be shy but unlike Janet, I wasn’t pretending.
“Oh, uh, yeah, hi. I’m Leeko.” I felt my face warm up. Dumb stranger girl in a dumb costume dumbly introducing herself. “I’m Janet’s roommate slash friend, hi.” I already said hi. “Again.” I killed myself mentally. How can one still look attractive dressed as Sonic the Hedgehog?
Daniel cracked a small smile. Approval? “Right, Leeko. Nice to meet you. Are we still going to the party?”
“I’m not sure-” I said, briefly losing track of my sentence when I caught a glimpse of the same cat inside the house. It curled its body around Daniel’s leg with affection. “I think so?”
“I’ll go grab Benji,” he said, flashing his teeth in a smile. Does he not get pimples?
“Cool costume,” he commented as he walked away. I watched Daniel’s back retreat down the hall. Wow.
The doorbell interrupted my sexualization of Daniel. I opened the door for a group of people. A slender girl dressed as a sexy cat smiled at me in the doorway. “We brought the party here since someone called the cops on the sorority house,” she screeched. Everyone else behind her hooted in celebration and shoved past me to shuffle in before I could even say a word. A Mario and Luigi carried in giant speakers. Music was blasting through the house and cases of beer emptied within minutes. I pushed through the throng of people hoping to find Janet. At one point my tail got caught in the crowd.
“This is an awesome costume! Does it come with a pee hole?”
“What?” I exclaimed, “let go of my tail!”
The guy laughed as he released my tail, his eyes brimmed red. “How are you supposed to pee though?” he shouted over the music. “How are we supposed to fuck?” His friend shook his head as he laughed, pulling him away.
Finding the closest exit out of the stuffy house, I made my way out the back door to the backyard. Surprisingly it was dark and quiet. The night had cooled and felt peaceful against my flaming face. I crisscrossed my giant legs on the grass and steamed over the guy who had grabbed my tail. I imagined being bolder, thinking of made-up scenarios where I ended up punching the guy in the face and everyone would be scared. And oh so surprised. And Daniel would be there to witness the whole thing. And maybe after I dramatically left the party, he’d follow me out and say I was super cool, maybe even hot. And of course, I was never dressed as a dinosaur. I was a sexy cat the whole time. And Daniel was Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. And then my hair would fall out of the loose bun it was in and Daniel would move a strand aside and lean into t-
“Want to try something?” a husky voice asked from behind me. I turned in an instant, squishing my tail under my weight in search of the man that startled me. My heart raced in fear when I saw no one. I listened quietly, staring into the woods that sat behind the house. Their shadows suddenly seeming to have eyes they didn’t have minutes before.
“Hello?” I called. My voice betrayed my fear. “Who’s there?”
“You know me,” the deep voice piped, “asshole.”
I watched a black cat saunter out of the shadows of the trees. “You’ve seen me around,” the cat spoke.
“What the fuck!” I stumbled over the lawn chair. “Oh my god.” I’m losing my mind, I thought. The way it happens in those cheesy movies. Cats are talking to me. Am I hallucinating? Is that too rational of a thought to have when one hallucinates? I tried to remember if I ate or drank anything that could have been drugged.
“So do you want to try something or not?” it asked.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The cat was still there when I opened them. I thought of all of the scenarios from every talking-animal movie I had ever seen. They were always convinced it wasn’t real. But what if this is real?
I weighed my options. Could it be possible that animals could talk? Maybe this one was special and it had magic powers? I wondered if I truly believed in magic.
“Why do you talk?” I finally asked.
“Because you want me to,” he replied.
“But how?” I prodded, hoping I wasn’t insane.
“I can’t give an answer that would satisfy you. Mainly because I don’t have one. But,” he paused, “trying this may give you the answer you’re looking for.”
The cat swiped at a small vile dangling from his collar. The clear vile clinked against the ground.
“What is that?” I asked.
I cocked an eyebrow. “I… don’t think I believe you.”
“My name’s Nigel by the way,” he said as he pressed his paw over the vile and biting off the top.
“You need to try this,” Nigel said, licking at the dried leaves.
“I’m not going to do that. Are we not going to address the fact that you’re a talking cat? And you’re offering me suspicious herbs from your drug collar?” I asked incredulously.
“But don’t you want to do something different?” Nigel asked, his voice lost its sweetness. “Don’t you want to be fun?”
A door clicked open behind us, disrupting the peaceful night with loud music. Nigel ran into the woods before I could answer his question. A group of giggling partygoers stumbled towards the dark trees. I watched them all leave to do something stupid without any fear. I saw Nigel’s eyes shine from the dark. I knelt onto the ground to inspect the spilled herbs. Glancing up again I watched the shadow of Nigel’s small head nod at me reassuringly. I remembered reading somewhere that catnip had no effect on humans. The article that I had very little memory of comforted me. I thought of Janet getting laid with Benji within minutes. I thought of all the times I missed out on thrilling experiences. I know how to have fun. I leaned into the concrete feeling very determined and bold. I licked off the residue the way Nigel did. The first lick was nauseating, I immediately gagged. Change of plans, fun is not for me.
I looked for Nigel but he was gone.
I sat on the ground and laughed at myself. What was I doing? Licking catnip off the ground like a crazy person. Even if the cat could really talk, who in the world just licks unidentified shit of the ground? I stopped laughing at myself, feeling embarrassed and very much like a loser. I wasn’t Janet. And I needed to stop trying to be her. Though I still could not explain having a conversation with a cat, I felt much more confident about myself and even the costume. After fumbling with the inflatable suit, I managed to get to my feet. Only to watch the air turn purple.
I panicked and lost my balance. My vision started to warp. I looked around myself as the night swarmed itself with a haze. I screamed as the plastic of my costume morphed into the texture of real scales. The scales glued tightly onto my skin until they fit as if they were my own. Small beads of diamonds pushed up from my flesh, encrusting the entirety of my new body. I screamed for help. I yelled for Janet as I scratched at my scaly face.
No one came to help me.
“Nigel,” I cried. “What the fuck is happening to me!”
Swarms of purple wind engulfed me as tears rolled down my face and carried me away above the house. I heard Nigel’s voice speak soothingly in the distance.
“This is you, Leeko. You’re born anew.”
“Make it stop! Make it stop! Take me back, give me my body back, please,” I begged. I swirled in the sky held in the arms of the purple wind. The sound of an explosion made me cover my ears. The wind died down and I fell down to the ground. A loud crack echoed through the trees. I held my stomach to stop myself from vomiting.
“You’re going to meet the mother now, Leeko.” It was Nigel. He was holding my hand as a human now. His skin shimmered in colors I had never seen before.
“What’s happening?” I asked. What’s happening what’s happening what’s hap--
“You’re going home,” he said.
He held my hand and helped me up. Our forms stretched towards the sky until we were on top of a mountain, no longer in the night. The house with Janet and the boys was gone. I was already forgetting where I last was. The clouds were white and the air smelled so crisp. So real. It was beautiful. I felt enveloped in peace.
“How is this real, Nigel?”
He smiled without saying anything. His skin was brown now. His black tail swayed left and right behind him. Nigel was a beautiful man. What’s happening what’s happening what’s hap--
He held my hand tightly. I stood next to him with no thought of fear or rationality. Logic had defied itself, who was I to question it? We both looked longingly up at the sky. I did not ask who we were waiting for. I knew I was finally going to belong. Soon enough a white dot appeared above us. The dot grew into a spacecraft, rumbling loudly as it landed on the mountain in front of us. I watched in amazement as the door opened, clinging onto Nigel’s hand. I could not remember who I was last. Was I ever a human?
“What am I?” I asked him. What’s happening
“Not alone,” he answered. We walked towards the ship as if we were going home. Purple smoke poured out and pulled us inside. I am meant to be here. One by one other dinosaur people circled around me, shimmering and shining in their scaly skin. I felt a surge of euphoria for reasons unexplained. I was one of them. They all adored me. Each one of them embraced me as if we had been kin since the beginning. My heart felt warm.
Through the windows of the ship, I watched the mountain tops disappear. The blue sky faded into darkness until we were cloaked into star specked blackness. I rejoiced with the dinosaur people. We held hands and danced to a song only we could hear. Nigel stood back and laughed in glee.
“This place is amazing!” I shouted.
“You’re here to stay,” he reassured.
“Where is here?” I asked.
Nigel tilted his head to the side and sighed with a small smile.
“In your mind, Leeko. Where else could we be?”
“Leeko, what the hell happened to you?”
“Janet?” I asked. At the sound of her voice, my family began to turn into dust.
“No!” I wailed. The spacecraft dissipated and all I could see was the night sky.
“Guys, call an ambulance!”
“Where is my family?” I cried.
“Don’t move,” someone instructed.
“--Yeah, I just found her laying outside. She’s bleeding from what looks like her head. The address is--”
I closed my eyes as everything turned into darkness.
I watched as they carried Leeko away on a stretcher. Nigel sauntered over and rubbed himself against my leg. I picked him up and held him in my arms. I leaned into his ear. “I told you to stop messing around with people,” I hissed.
“Meow,” he responded slyly. I shook my head and sighed.
“I really liked that one.”
“I did too Daniel,” Nigel laughed. “She was hardly interesting though. Too bad I invested so much time following her around.”
I chuckled at his aloofness. “Let’s go inside. Hopefully, this one will live.”