'Mooncat', by Patrick Lenton

Photograph by Tom Gill. Reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Licence.

OK, so when it’s the full moon I turn into this goddamn ginger cat, alright? And I’m the smuggest asshole house cat you’ve ever seen. I’ve got one of those squashed faces like someone kicked me in it when I was a kitten and it didn’t kill me, it just made me more pleased with myself. I’ve got these flat, emotionless eyes and I don’t think I blink. I don’t even know if cats do blink, come to think of it. All I know is that when I look at you, you want me to blink. I’m not overly fat or anything, but my tail is huge, and it bristles with all my emotions. When you sit on the lounge next to me, you can see it expand and slowly sweep back and forth like I’m trying to clean it. But I’m not, I’m just angry with you.

Cat-me has got this attitude. When I strut into a room, everyone is already looking at me. I don’t even need to meow. When I do meow, it sounds like someone is stabbing me and I’m fucking appalled about it. But I still meow. I meow when I want food. I meow when I want to go outside. A second later, I meow to come inside because I’m distinctly unimpressed with outside. I’m just an asshole cat.

I don’t mind turning into a cat at full moon. It’s happened all my life, and humans can adapt to even the stupidest things, I’ve found. Just look at sport, that’s pretty damn ridiculous, yet people think you’re weird if you don’t watch it. It’s like the epitome of pointless activity, like a Sisyphean punishment with a scoreboard. If no sport were played, nothing would change in the world, except there’d be fewer soccer riots. I mean – OK, I’m not going to rant about this. It was a spurious tangent anyway. All I’m saying is I find moonlighting as a cat less weird than hockey.

I don’t know why I change. I wasn’t bitten by a were-tabby. I wasn’t cursed by a gypsy. I didn’t hop in a Jeff Goldblum box with a cat. It just happens.

Sometimes I’m jealous of the jerk cat I turn into because as a cat I’ve got this powerful ability to not only get what I want, but to unequivocally know that I want it. Food. The majority of your bed. Your phone as a chew toy. If the cat wants it then the cat will somehow get it. When I’m human I don’t really know what I want, and if I did I probably wouldn’t know how to get it. On the other hand, at least I don’t get locked in the laundry, so that’s a small comfort.

My mother is convinced that I can earn money from my cat-morphing escapades. She’s never been happy with my lack of ambition or quiet desk job. But because I have absolutely no control of the cat I turn into, the possibilities are fairly limited. Once I agreed to go on Big Brother. The producers thought it would be this awesome surprise for the housemates when I suddenly turned into a cat midway through the season. Even though the house was pretty shocked, the bombshell was completely overshadowed when the bogan with the neck tattoo touched the boob of the girl with the lazy eye when they were in the spa. My big moment of fame was ultimately reduced to a couple of nights’ worth of footage of my asshole cat face staring at all the other asshole contestants as they slept.

In my late twenties, I was approached by a group of superheroes who were interested in recruiting new members. I can’t talk too much about them, because they have a strict code of secrecy, but they were pretty much what you’d expect. One could fly, another could lift a car with one hand – the usual stuff.

When they found out how useless and entitled my lunar cat transformation was, they put me in a sort of ‘reserve’ team called ‘The Reserve Team’. Nice bunch of people, but exactly the kind of folk you’d expect to find hanging around in the sidekicks reject clubhouse. All of them were equally as useless as me when it came to fighting crime.

Our leader, Captain Charisma, had the power to exert a mesmerising charm that was impossible to resist. Unfortunately, he could only utilise this when drunk, so unless the mission involved getting free kebabs, he couldn’t be relied on. At least he had a quantifiable power – this one girl in the group just had a withered arm, which she couldn’t move. Her argument was that the other arm was stronger because of it, but I never saw much evidence of this.

We did do some superhero stuff – once we infiltrated a mafia boss’s casino. Some of us took the place of staff; others were customers on the roulette table. My job was to get rid of his cat, and then when the full moon came around, take its place and get access to his previously unreachable bedroom. When I turned back, I would steal all the information and get out.

Surprisingly, it almost went to plan.

Surprisingly, it almost went to plan. I was admitted in cat form into the secret lair. But of course, dickhead me walked straight into the boss’s walk in wardrobe and shat in his shoes. I was immediately ejected. And while that was unfortunate, our real mistake was implementing the backup plan whereby Captain Charisma would try to seduce the bodyguards. He was captured and there was a good deal of torture. The whole debacle ended when The Reserve Team got shot up a treat. I was fine, because I was still this pissed off ginger cat scratching on the door to get back in.

It’s not like my life has been all horrifying cat-related mishaps. I managed to meet this really nice girl who I fell in love with. Strangely enough, she preferred dogs over cats. That became really important for me. While I could trust her to look after me when I became a stupid ginger jerk, she never liked the cat. And the cat especially hated her. It would knead her legs with its claws extended, scratching at her thighs while staring into her eyes. It would drool the whole time, in a kind of sullen rage. Some nights, it would constantly hiss at her. .This cat was a dick – she was the one who gave it food and changed its litter.

On her part, she thought it was strange that I turned into a cat and not some kind of big dumb Labrador – loyal and pitifully eager to please, just like I was. When I found out that she was in love with someone else, I stayed with her regardless, like one of those Labradors that hangs around their dead owners’ gravesite. But you know, I felt I owed her that because she’d put up with the cat for so many years.

I had this friend who was convinced that the cat was a manifestation of my unconscious mind. If he came over when I was mooncat, he’d become overly sensitive to perceived slights I committed. And since the cat is an asshole and enjoyed biting him on the face, there were plenty of cases of this.

He was a playwright, and once brought his new script over for me to read. I thought it was pretty good, but didn’t have a huge amount to say except that I thought one of his characters, a wise old bush poet, was a little unbelievable. That night, when I turned into a cat, the first thing I did was jump onto the table and vomit a huge reeking furball onto the script. My friend was unable to believe this wasn’t an expression of my subconscious hatred of the play.

Perhaps because of his love of narrative, he was constantly trying to figure out my origin story. He couldn’t believe that my mum wasn’t seduced by Zeus in the form of a cat, or that I didn’t eat a cat, or that I wasn’t a cat cursed to live life as an underwhelming human. Worse, he couldn’t understand my lack of desire to know. The way I felt about it, I could spend my entire life trying to find an explanation and never be any the wiser. That’s why I accepted it and moved on. He felt this was lazy and boring and we stopped talking.

If his theory about the cat being a manifestation of my subconscious is correct, then it would mean I have a grim desire to lick my butt for hours on end and that I hold a repressed grudge against the dangling tassels on the cushions upstairs. Dickwipe cat was also inordinately fond of leaving mangled birds and headless mice in piles on the front step. I didn’t want to think about the ramifications of that.

I was disappointed to discover that… it was actually pretty similar to the way Christians imagined it.

I wasn’t able to find anything out about my full moon feline transformations until I died at the age of seventy-two after being run over by a truck. I was disappointed to discover that not only was there an afterlife, but that it was actually pretty similar to the way Christians imagined it. As a lifelong atheist, I was devastated at how smug all the religious types would be when they discovered they’d been correct all along. It was probably their reward for faith on Earth, because Heaven isn’t exclusive about who they let in.

When I got there, I was greeted by St Peter, who was a kind of calm, laconically friendly type of guy. As he was explaining the whole Heaven situation – never ending contentment, reunification with your loved ones, etc – I realised he looked exactly like my year 8 maths teacher from high school.

‘I always take the form of someone from your life who had no impact whatsoever on you,’ he told me curtly.

Apparently newcomers got to meet God and ask him one question. We went to God’s castle and just outside the door to the throne room St Peter took me by the shoulders and looked earnestly into my eyes.

'Now while you’re encouraged to ask anything you like, for fuck’s sake, do not ask him the meaning of life. It makes him really, really sad. He thinks it should be self-evident. Now go on, meet your maker.’

I’m wasn’t surprised to discover that God is this whopping big Siamese cat, lounging around on a divan of red velvet. It gave me one of those uniquely satisfied cat smiles, and while it did I had this crashing epiphany about the nature of the world. I’d been gearing myself up for a confrontation where I asked God how it could stand by and let people starve or how it could have allowed Firefly to be cancelled. You know, typical atheist bullshit. But you just don’t ask that of a cat. Finally the universe makes sense.

So, for my one question, I ask God why I turn into a cat every full moon.

Stretching for an obscenely long time, my creator answers quite matter-of-factly. ‘Oh, just a coincidence. Don’t read too much into it.’

'Mooncat’ was first published in The Lifted Brow: Digital in 2014. It also appears in A Man Made Entirely of Bats, a collection by Patrick Lenton published in March 2015 with Spineless Wonders.

Patrick Lenton is a playwright, fiction writer and blogger at The Spontaneity Review. He was a Finalist in the 2013 SOYA Awards and shortlisted for the Scribe Nonfiction Prize 2015. He writes The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge for Going Down Swinging. He edited The Sturgeon General. He works as a Digital Marketer for Momentum Books. He has a collection called A Man Made Entirely of Bats coming out March 2015.