It occurred to me this morning that I wasn’t really real. Yes, I breathed; I remembered the taste of the biscuit I munched on, and the dryness that left me itching for a glass of water, which I was also too lazy to stand and reach for. My brain wasn’t really mine when thoughts shimmied through, and my body was functioning on its own, without instructions from the consciousness.
As I looked into the mirror that was hung on the wall, then, I wondered if I looked like this, only when I was the one looking at the reflection. What if people viewed me as something else that I could never fathom? If that were the case, what would become of the “me” that I perceive?
I told my younger sister about this. She was holding her iced americano in a plastic cup, sitting with legs straightened out on the bed, her face was blank. “Uh, I thought you have work?”
In other words, do you have nothing else to do that you start asking questions like these?
I pulled the muscles on my cheek to show an expression resembling a smile, “I left a week ago. Hello?”
“Oh, okay,” she answered before pulling her dead eyes from my face and back to her phone on her lap, then adjusted into a more comfortable position.
I turned to leave.
On the way out of the front door, I saw my mother, who just made herself some eggs and pancake, coming out of the kitchen with a fork. “June? Where are you going?”
“Just getting some coffee,” I said, “Oh, and I have another interview. Tomorrow morning.”
“Hmm, all right,” she sat back down on the dining table without then sparing me another look. The phone was playing some soap opera filmed in Chinese dialects from the late nineties. It was one of those with a thousand and more episodes updating daily on the TV.
On the way to the coffee shop, I listened to the voice message my artist friend had spammed me, “Kat is such a masochist … Do you know what she does with assignments? She redid them for two times, in full! … crazy … I don’t understand that kind of human being…”
I replied in text, “I understand her though, probably a perfectionist like me.”
Before she could send in another message, I switched off my phone. At that moment, something fled past from the peripheral of my eyes, and before I knew it, the tip of my right feet caught onto something.
No, rather, it felt like something had caught onto my feet.
It felt soft——warm, breathing, furry. As if something had run itself and knocked itself out cold before completely wrapping around my feet.
I looked down.
There was an orange scarf of fur that had attached itself to my foot, engulfing my shoe and everything below my ankle.
The first thing I did was not really to fling it away, or even move my leg. The sight was too incorporeal. A chimera. Instead, I turned around to look at the passers-by, worried that they might see this. Of course, no one paid attention to my impetuous halt, nor to the dopamine-bright thing on my foot.
They were all looking at their screens.
For the next fifteen minutes, then, I tried to detach it from my being. Feeling its texture, I believed it was a living thing, with movements and warmth that I might consider somewhat similar to that of a cat’s.
But it did not seem to have any eyes, mouth, or ears. That placed a question on what exactly the movement was for——breathing, heartbeat, purring, or just snuggling.
“This is a little creepy, don’t you think?” I muttered softly under my breath. My phone vibrated for the sixteenth time but I ignored them all.
Until someone started to call me.
Nettled, I picked it up, still plucking on the fur, “Yes? I’m sort of in a difficult situation right now, could you——”
“Miss Salwood, I assume?”
Within seconds, I pulled the phone away from my ear and stared at the caller. It was Ameera, the HR manager whom I was supposed to meet tomorrow, for the interview.
I faintly heard a “hello” from the phone, before putting it back against my ear, “Oh, hello, I’m sorry I did not realise it was you, Ma’am, but how can I help you?”
“It would help if you are slightly more aware of the time, Miss Salwood. Are you coming for the interview?”
The second time I pulled the phone away from my ear, my gaze lingered on the date displayed on the screen for slightly longer than I should.
It wasn’t the interview tomorrow, but the interview twenty minutes ago.
In the end, the interview went fine. I had rushed there, letting the creature live on my leg as I ran.
No one really paid attention to it, and soon, even I had forgotten its existence. It was all normal until I reached home.
My younger sister heard me first. She was in the living room, and when she saw me at the door, she quirked a brow.
“Ma——” she shouted towards the kitchen, where I heard the sound of soap operas. “Sis’s back!”
My mother came out of the kitchen then, looked at me weird for a moment, “Finally back after three days? Where have you been?”
By then, the thoughts have materialised in my head. So, I wasn’t mistaken about the dates——when I left home in the morning, the interview was indeed the next day, but somehow the time had skipped right to the day of the interview.
It was all after the orange blob.
I let out a discombobulated “huh?”
My mother stared at me for a while. Without saying anything, as if she did not hear me at all, she proceeded to return to the kitchen. I called her; she ignored it.
I felt irritation bubbling, almost exploding when my phone vibrated again.
A sigh escaped my throat.
On the screen, there were the the sixteen messages from my artist friend, the ones sent before the interview about the emotional friend of hers, and a new message saying, “Here are the pictures you asked me to send!”
My guts twisted.
More messages came in. Pictures taken in a darkened space. A bar, probably.
The pictures were selfies, mainly of my artist friend and several others that I could recognise as some of the childhood friends, and standing between them, was an orange-fur covered human-sized creature.
I looked up from my phone, at my sister who had already returned to her previous activity on the phone.
My mother’s soap opera was still playing from the kitchen.
“Lia,” I called again. “Do you hear me?”
She let out a muffled reply to show that she heard it.
“What am I?"
She did turn to me, blasé. “Uh, I thought you have work?”
I didn't reply, but she replied to my silence.
Then, I went into my room.
The mirror was still hanging on the wall. I saw a glimpse of orange.
I held out my phone and swung at it, as hard as I could.