Mercer awoke the next day surprisingly well rested. He stretched and yawned and was glad to see daylight. Until, that is, he opened the door to find Kevin sitting in the hallway, waiting for him.
“Meow,” Kevin greeted.
“Shut up,” Mercer grumbled. Suddenly, morning wasn’t so welcome.
He huffed his way to the bathroom.
“Meow,” Kevin said again when the grumpy human returned.
Mercer fumed, but he didn’t reply. He stalked past his antagonist and got on with his day.
“You tell us this insane history of some alien race,” Mercer scolded the dash of his car, “and then you just turn back into a regular old cat and act like nothing fucking happened?”
He dropped his hands onto the steering wheel and turned to the empty passenger seat. Before he could continue his tirade, something through window caught his eye.
An old woman on the sidewalk was having a serious conversation with a dog. Some sort of terrier.
Two angry honks sounded behind him.
Through the rearview, he saw a truck giving him the finger.
Mercer pulled through the light as it turned yellow.
Ton. Meowsing Ton.
Dressed in a tuxedo and drinking a martini, surrounded by Chinese businessmen and the carpeted walls of a casino. Smoke trailed a cigarette as the man across the table made an offer.
“I have two aces, Mistah Ton. Are you sure you want to risk so much on so little?”
“Meow,” the cat replied, eyebrow raised.
Something in the back of the casino exploded. The room flooded with thin-bodied, large-headed aliens carrying laser rifles.
“Meow!” Meowsington sang viciously. He slashed at his opponent’s face with his razor claws and sprang back, ready for action. To his chagrin, the lasers had done all the work. In only a short few seconds, there wasn’t a single human body without the red sere of laser marks.
Meowsington straightened his suit and grabbed the nearest martini. The alien soldiers ignored him as they prodded their way through the bodies.
Mercer was at work, but he wasn’t at work. The lights were on, the doors were open, but he was officially checked out.
“You alright, man?” Barry asked through speaker phone.
“Is it the Gretchen thing, or…”
Mercer sighed. “No. It is not the Gretchen thing. What’s up, man?”
“You don’t sound… I don’t know,” Barry said.
Mercer spoke before another lull kicked in. “I’m just…”
“No,” Barry said. “Yeah, No, I get it, brother.”
“No, you don’t,” Mercer said, “but it’s alright.”
Barry went silent.
“It’s just,” Mercer tried, “it’s hard to explain over the phone, man. It’s not…”
He threw his head back against his chair.
“Shit,” he said. “I got somebody coming in.” He made sure to make it sound like he was in a sudden rush.
Mercer swiped the phone off.
He didn’t like doing that to his friend, but he was too distracted to have a real conversation.
He stood and began pacing.
“Am I going crazy?” he asked himself. He reached the end of an aisle and turned.
“No,” he answered. “It fucking happened.”
He let that sink in, and turned again.
He got home early, and there was still some sunshine left as he stepped out into the backyard. He would skip the garage for the time being. He didn’t feel like arguing with his roommates: The cat talked. The cat didn’t really talk. But the cat talked! No really, how did you do it?
Instead, he relaxed into a lounge chair pilfered from the garage, and he admired the landscape. The yard was shaded by an oak and sweetgum canopy; instead of grass, past the concrete of the patio lie blankets of ivy surrounding a long forgotten stone pond now full of leaves. Greenery hid the wooden fence around the perimeter, complete save a section in the back. The trunk of a tree, a jagged casualty of some stormy August, pointed straight toward the gap, and he could see evidence of a neglected path through the leaves and ivy. It led to the broken section of fence, and through to the cookie-cutter mirror image of his own home and patio.
Mercer absently lit a cigarette, jealous of the roof over his neighbor’s porch. He retreated to his phone, settled in, and entered the internet.
Somewhere in the distance, a Tesla coil was churning out bolts of electricity, The hairs on Mercer’s neck bristled. He looked up to find that his eyes were blurry to the world outside of his phone.
“Meow,” Kevin said. His face wasn’t quite pressed against the glass, but his whiskers bounced off of it when he spoke.
“How did you get down here?” Mercer asked, shaking his head to clear his vision. He stood and opened the door just a crack.
“Meow,” Kevin greeted him.
“You’re an asshole, you know that?” he said and stomped his foot. The cat crept back. Mercer stuck his leg through to block the exit, and then pulled it open a hair wider to move his shoulder through.
“Damnit!” Mercer cried as Kevin darted at the few inches of space available. Mercer tried a hard block, throwing the weight of his leg against the cat’s body to stop the momentum, but the feline wiggled wildly and quickly broke free.
“Asshole!” Mercer called after the streak of grey as it disappeared into the fading light.
“Shit,” he said and pulled out his phone. He pointed the flashlight at the foliage, but twilight absorbed the light before it reached even a few feet. He paced the available space of clear land, but Kevin was gone without a trace. There were no meows. No motion. No buzzing. Just crickets claiming their evening territory.
Mercer propped the door open in defeat and sat back down in the lounger with a sigh.
Meowsington, still wearing his James Bond tux, sat in a cold concrete room. Three large-eyed aliens stared him down, their spindly bodies crouched on hard metal chairs.
“You came in too soon, see. I almost had the codes,” Meowsington said in voice meant for a 1920s gangster.
The aliens clicked and chirped their replies. The sharp metallic sound of artificial intelligence translated the message.
“We move when they say we move.”
The door through the fence opened, and the porch light flicked on. The screech of a toddler leaked out into the neighborhood, drawing Mercer from his slumber.
“Ask your mom!” called a muscular bald man in a superman tank top as he stepped out onto his covered patio. He closed the door behind him and fished a pack of smokes from the pocket of his basketball shorts. He took a seat at the weight bench near the door, lit a cigarette, and picked up a dumbbell the size of a car.
The muscles under Mercer’s shoulder blade yelped a sharp complaint from his napping position. He stood, supporting his lower back with his hands and slowly twisted out the kink. His gaze slid higher as he stretched back, head up toward his own house.
He met eyes with Kevin’s shadow, a dark bulge in the dining room curtains.
“Asshole,” Mercer grumbled.