Translation by Adrian Krajewski
At nights Simon turned into a cat. It was a curse put ages ago on his male ancestors. When he was a little boy it felt so natural and obvious and he was immensely surprised when he eventually found out that not all men turn into cats. The curse was so old that nobody remembered who and what cause were behind it. If somebody investigated its origins, then it probably could be removed. However, the malediction was not considered a nuisance, rather, it was a unique family secret, which made its members special.
As a cat, Simon was black, had green eyes and was as corpulent as in his daytime incarnation. The transformation from human into animal always happened at 10 pm. He would be long after supper by then, but he liked to prepare a little bowl with full-fat milk, in case he would get hungry later at night. He would have the main door closed, the entry phone switched off, the curtains were drawn and the phone disconnected. Covered by darkness and wrapped in warm cat fur, he would distance himself from human matters and forget about them for the next eight hours. He liked to spend nights in solitude and read, contemplate or doze off on chairs and window sills.
One night, just after his transformation, he was doing his usual patrol through the house, looking at everything with his cat vision. It never ceased to excite him because in his human form he wore spectacles while his „catsight” was razor-sharp. For that night he planned to do some reading. Under the desk lamp, there was a prepared, open book with a wooden popsicle stick to turn pages with.
Around midnight he was still absorbed in reading and basking under the lamp when suddenly he heard knocking on the door. He looked up for a moment and went back to his booking, ignoring the intruder. There was another knock, however. After the third time, in his mind, Simon went through all his evening security measures. The curtains were drawn and thick enough to block all light, so pedestrians could not see it. But hold on a second… The door! He did not remember turning the lock today! He jumped off the desk and run to the corridor. The moment he reached it, somebody turned the doorknob and the door opened slowly. Simon froze terrified in his inability to do anything.
– Hello, excuse me. I know it’s late. I got this address from Arthur Myers. Is anybody here?
A young woman walked in without closing the door behind her. She put her suitcase on the ground and felt around for the light switch. When she saw the cat, she smiled and leaned over to pet it. Then she hesitatingly looked inside the adjacent room.
– Hello, is anybody here? – She repeated.
When she could find nobody in other rooms either, she turned to the cat and rhetorically asked:
– Where is your owner? I’ll wait here for him if you don’t mind.
In the study room there was an open book on the desk, also the lamp was on, so she assumed that somebody would come back to it any minute now. She shyly walked into the living room, sat on a couch and looked around. The room was equipped only with bare necessities. There was a couch, a coffee table, a dining table with four chairs, a soft, woven carpet, heavy wooden shelves and lamps with green shades. She studied the room for a moment and then went to the kitchen to grab a glass of water. The girl didn’t feel at ease being in somebody else’s house, so she boosted her spirit by humming a tune. When she came back with the drink, she took a book out of her bag and read. However, after half an hour she felt sleepy, so she lied down, put a blanket over herself and dozed off almost immediately.
Simon was watching her from behind the table’s leg, anxiously wagging his tail. He was not ready for a surprise like this and he pondered what to do about it. His cat night got interrupted for the first time in some dozens of years.
– Arthur Myers, Arthur Myers. – He repeated the name of the person who gave his address to the girl. – Arthur Myers. – That didn’t sound familiar at all.
In the first few seconds of panic, he decided, that he would talk to her in the morning and find out what this is all about. He curled up behind a curtain in his study and fell asleep. With the first sun rays, at dawn, he turned into a human again. He could now approach the girl, wake her up and make everything clear. Instead, however, he put clothes on as quietly as he could, took his briefcase and other necessities and slipped out his house. Paradoxically, he did this because he was curious. Simon was now convinced that the girl came to his place by mistake, so if they both clarified the situation, she would apologise and leave. Instead, he was hoping she would come back tonight too and this way he could study the girl uninterrupted. He also knew the girl wouldn’t steal anything. She would have done so last night if she wanted to.
It was very busy at the College where Simon worked because the school processed student applications from the international exchange programme. Simon went to his room and started the day by checking essays from a group of students he was to have classes with later this afternoon. Two hours later he went to the main auditorium to deliver his lecture in literature. He was a high authority in the subject and popular, so the hall was full. He approached the stand, put his briefcase off and began to speak. The hush talk in the room stopped immediately. As he lectured, he was looking around, as he often did. Suddenly, in one of the rows, he saw the girl from his house! Surprised he stopped talking. He did not expect this at all. Has she been attending his classes since the beginning of the term and he never noticed her before? He immediately continued his interrupted monologue, so noone even noticed his confusion. He thought she would approach him after the lecture, but instead, she left the hall with the rest of the students not even looking at him. Simon thought she did not recognise him and it made him even more positive that she had come to his house by mistake.
In the afternoon, after the classes, Simon went to his colleague’s birthday celebrations. He left the party early to make it home before his transformation. As he was approaching his flat, he noticed that the kitchen light was on and there was someone inside. He entered the stairwell and immediately headed to the basement. He opened his storage cubicle and he got inside just in time for the transformation. Now, in his cat body, he closed the door behind him with his front paws and went upstairs. There he meowed and scratched at the door of his flat. The girl opened soon after.
– Ah, here you are! – She said happily. – I have been wondering where you were. I thought that maybe you disappeared just like your owner. Come on in, I have something tasty for you. – She said and pushed the door to let him in. Inside she opened a can of tuna and served it on a china plate from the set which has been in Simon’s family for generations and was used only for special occasions.
There was a frying pan and pots on the stove with food cooking. Music was plaing on the radio. The girl behaved much more comfortable compared to the last night. When the meal was ready, she waited for some time hoping the owner of the place would turn up. Eventually, she ate on her own and left the other portion in the pan for later. The same scenario happened in the next few evenings, during which Simon had a lot of time to observe the girl. While preparing the meals, she liked to dance and talk to Simon the cat. Later she would usually study covering the whole table in the living room with her notes and books. She used red lipstick and often wore her hair loose. Sometimes she liked to braid some of it and was often wearing dresses and skirts.
Simon liked to feast his eyes on her behaviour and routines. Thanks to her personality his flat became full of life. It was the play of one actress in which she did not know she had the leading role. Simon hoped the whole situation would continue for a long time, but a week later the girl suddenly disappeared. One evening she did not turn up and Simon had to return to the basement for the night as he could not open the front door. In the morning, when he finally got into his flat, it felt as if he dreamed it all up.
After a few days, he saw her at the college again and since then he would stumble across her regularly. He even found out her name. Every day he made plans to talk to her, but he never found a good excuse to do that.