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Part 10 - Storms, Limbo, Comics, and Change

I could’ve laid my issues in front of her but, even if I didn’t have a touch that infused pure catgirl or whatever into whoever I came into contact with, those issues were the same. They dragged their heavy steps back as far as I could remember. I’d been through all the psychotherapy to try to put a pin on it.

I’d exhumed and displayed the visage of a scowling father and a screaming mother, her face a twisted, mummified head. I almost wished I’d been hit more. The stinging, insidious words, the drilling guilt about how terrible I was, about how much I owed them, citing the oldest words they knew only to wield for their benefit. I spent some time trying to build a defense, but I was weak. I nodded to them and displayed some words that stopped the conversation assault. In later years, I used more quiet meditation as my stomach churned against waves of invectives and lulls of sudden sweetness. It was all a storm to me.

Twice before, I nearly let slip what I was thinking to Allison. That was probably what she was picking up on. I took a breath, let all the other stuff slide away, and told her, “It was good. It could be better though. But I don’t want Carlos to feel bad about that.”

All four of her ears were trained skeptically at me as she softly said, “I wish you could control it and just be a happy kitten.” Without qualification or hesitation, I answered, “Same here, Allie-cat.”

She couldn’t resist a snicker at the nickname (I used it rarely) and nodded softly. “You work on smiles or I’ll send more of us around to cheer you up.” She pointed for emphasis with her eyes raised. I gave one nod back and that was enough.

At least she didn’t bring up her analogy I was the 'mom' of her rebirth or anything crazy like that from last week. Only she was saying that, but it was impossible to ignore the sparkle in the eyes of Nina and Alexis as well. I tried to distance myself from that sort of adulation.

To my credit, I didn’t spend too much of the time after they left moping. And most of the moping was the usual stuff about how I’d been given a gift two paw prints away from King Midas by that mysterious, nameless friend of the also-elusive Gloria.

I didn’t blame either of them though. I accepted that fate. I wanted it. And there were parts of it I didn’t regret an iota. I just…wanted to see the cute blond catgirl everyone else saw outside of a few works of art. I wanted to just be one of them, no matter how terrifying that prospect felt when I actually thought about it. It was better than limbo.

At least I didn’t dwell on my handling of the first two catgirls who were still incognito out there somewhere. I followed Allison’s subsequent message updates without the sort of sour melancholy I usually fostered because I distracted myself by calling Steve.

I expected to catch her just getting off work, but she was home. She explained that nonsense that wasn’t her fault resulted in her being let go. My first hope was that it wasn’t because of her ears or tail but fortunately it was just an asshole customer who didn’t like her work and a larger asshole supervisor who actually fretted about the complaint. I mined some memory of an incident I’d overheard from someone at work. It was only vaguely funny but enough to get Steve chuckling. I was glad for that. I really wanted to freaking hug her right then. I passed along that so long as I had something like a spacesuit with me then I could touch whoever I wanted and I informed Steve, “Next one in it is for you. Also, you might run across a random Allison and someone new.”

Steve thanked me for the offer and asked, “So, I’m not the newest catgirl in the…litter? No, that sounds weird. But cool, I guess.” I gave her the basic rundown and she seemed pretty excited to meet Carlos. We didn’t talk for that long but it was enough to keep a frown off my face.

I’d been taking better care of my phone, which was a pointless shame considering it was a narrow brick that was half-broken by the time I met Gloria. Its meager screen was discolored like a vaguely-triangular shadow had fallen across it. What looked like stray pepper leavings were actually the graves of dozens of dead pixels. Then there was the rebellious one which flashed green like the strangest star in the sky. And that was before considering that using any part of the map option caused a hard reset. The back was barely on with the battery often slipping out. It was noisy and far too expensive for what it hardly did.

Only with the girls did I become conscious of how useless it was for interacting with others. Allison offered to get me a new one after we’d thrown this one over the edge of the best, highest cliff we could find. I chuckled and rested my eyes as I clutched it in my hands.

I wanted a nice dream. Usually, I got weird ones or vague feelings and fears. Other times my dreams were like quick dunks into cold baths which startled me back to consciousness. This one, I woke to find myself on a couch which sagged in the middle. The room felt familiar just looking around, but it took an appearance by Gloria’s friend to make me realize why.

She gave a soft, cheerful, “Hello again” accented by a pleasant wave. I rubbed my left eye and realized it felt really rough, a little like it had grit in it. Rubbing it didn’t help. It just felt raw. I usually didn’t feel anything in my dreams.

Seeing nothing else to do, I answered, “Hello.” There was something strange and I couldn’t quite pin down what it was. I cleared my throat and kept trying to make my eye feel better. She reached out for my hand. The pressure alone almost seemed enough to wake me up.

“I’m sorry, but I promise it will be okay.” That’s all she said to me before I drifted back to my own couch in my own apartment. At least the raw feeling on my eye hadn’t traveled back with me. I didn’t think too much on the dream because Allison was stirring up a hornet’s nest of vibrations from my decrepit phone.

Still half in the dream with the other couch, I murmured into the receiver, “Wahzit, Allie?”

She wasn’t really talking any faster than usual but, to me, it felt like a chipmunk sound being hurtled at me like a wave of massive tires that didn’t allow me to stagger to my feet. It took slapping my head and hearing it more than once before I was able to parse her words as, “We ran into the next catgirl!”

I pieced together the details with creeping consciousness. For some reason, Allison had taken Carlos to a comic book shop. I knew the one. Little hole-in-the-wall but with a lot of trade paperbacks and merchandise marked down in price. Apparently, Allison was showing off some photos to Carlos on her phone when some curious passerby happened to say something. I lost the thread of events from that point but it led to Allison concluding he was the next person I had to touch.

I picked a few flakes of sleep out of my eyes as Allison lamented, “If only I had catgirl powers too…” I didn’t oppose the idea. I just suspected that if that happened then pretty much everyone in the area would have fuzzy ears and a tail before the end of the week. I told Allison, “Just point him to the online…page.”

Her distress throttled me through the phone in the form of a barely-restrained whisper. “No! We could lose him! I’ll hold him as long as I can. Physically, if I must.” I stared needlessly at the phone, still in a vague state of being awake.

There was no disputing it though. I offered up, “Okay. No promises, but I’m coming.”

I rediscovered my shoes in the place they always were and passed by the mirror on my way to pick up the rest of my stuff. For a flash, for the briefest of glimpses which could’ve been a glint of light and a bleary smear, I saw blond hair and something lingering behind me. My reaction didn’t hit until I was all the way to my wallet.

Slowly, I backpedaled to the mirror. A careful look showed nothing different or out of place, aside from the wild nest of my locks. I could only afford a few more quick mirror passes before Allison rang me again to make sure I was on my way. No matter how I positioned myself, there was no angle where the light caught me to give the impression that I had blond anything. No explanation was possible aside from a fleeting hallucination, which was the least-comforting explanation.

The air outside smelled like the first touch of rain we’d had in a long time, but there was no sign of rain yet. I had on my hoodie, but it hung across me like a cape. The jacket itself was a dark shade of blue, but the lining was a sharp, citrus yellow. It wouldn’t pass for heroic, but it kept me warm.

I rotated my head slowly as I walked. The nap had left me stiff, and the pace of my walk only made the aches worse. I kept going.

By the time I’d gotten to the street with the comic shop, my uneven insole was jabbing my foot in the worst possible way with a tense tingle. It took me longer than I wanted to get to the shop and Allison had already texted me three times on the way. I met her outside with Carlos flipping through a comic as her jade tail gently fanned behind her. Allison’s fuchsia one dipped low.

They greeted me quietly as I scanned the area and asked the obvious question, “Where is he?”

Allison slowly sighed through her nose. “He had to go.”

Before I could apologize in some way, she folded her arms and added, “But, he made a promise to check out our tea sessions. I even got his number in case he’s a no-show….but I really wanted to see another transformation today…” She moped but not for long as Carlos pointed out something in the comic and announced, “A friend of mine does the inking.”

I leaned against a half-sized brick wall and fixed my throbbing shoes. Allison joined me after she’d admired the artwork. She rubbed the back of her neck and said, “Sorry for dragging you out here for nothing.” My shoes slowly feeling better, I assured her, “I was just taking a nap.”

She raised an eyebrow and asked, “Do you think it’s because of the new girl?” I had to frown with that. I didn’t often take naps during the day, but it was my day off, so I slept where I could with my strange work schedule. I shook my head, but I still thought about it. I couldn’t really remember getting tired after catgirl-making before this. Maybe it was some new phase of this ability?

Allison made a note but didn’t dwell on it. Instead, she asked for my opinion on a few books she saw. I sat there quietly for a moment until she fanned her hand in front of me and asked, “So, what do you think?” To be honest, I didn’t know any of them beyond the brief summaries she gave me. Going from that, I could only offer, “Which excites you the most?”

She had to think about that. I pointed out she told me the most about the last book. She took this mention to heart and went for that. I had no idea if it was the right choice and I still felt tense along my chest, but I rocked against the half-wall to distract myself. With the mime of a hug without touching me, Allison returned with her book and a smile on her face. She shared it with Carlos and beckoned us to walk back.

There were apparently a lot of little things Carlos and Allison still wanted to do before Carlos had to go. I resisted a yawn and felt some of my normal energy returning. After chatting about comics and science fiction shows for a bit, Allison trailed back towards me and asked, “How are you?”

Blinking quickly, I assured her I was fine. She returned a nod and stared a long moment at the sidewalk before asking, “I hope I’m not a bother or anything.” I assured her again and she kept a small, quiet smile with her as she said, “You changed my life. Every moment in my life is now separated by the time before I met you and the time since meeting you.”

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About the author

MajorKerina

Bio: I'm MajorKerina and I love to collaborate creatively with a group of friends to make tales where people have their genders, identities, and very realities questioned, contorted, and turned upside-down. I like slice-of-life with a spicing of the supernatural, strange, or surreal. Reality with a scent of the impossible. You can find me on DeviantArt, Twitter, ScribbleHub, and other places.

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