On the morning of the 17th, after a particularly sleepful night, Julie Galles woke up to find herself transformed into a cat. Still half asleep, she watched a set of ginger and white paws stretch out on the beige duvet cover and felt every inch of her body yearning for a good scratch. She yawned and shook her head, a set of gray whiskers flickering in the corners of her eyes. Overcome by a sudden tedious thought, she took a gander around the room, followed by a relieved exhale on the note that nothing else had changed. Her little studio apartment was the same she had left it the night before.
The sun was up. It was glistening through the dirty glass 6
of Julie’s apartment window and formed bright lines on her bed. The smell of red wine from the almost finished glass on her bedside table was mixing with the crisp morning air sliding through the cracks in the old wood frames. Turning herself to align with a sunny spot, the warmth bewitching her mind to an instinctive shuteye, Julie fell back asleep. Whether human or cat, there was no conceivable rush to get up.
Not that anyone could begin to judge her for taking a moment to relax in her studio on the sixth floor of the crooked apartment building number 54 on Rue des Martyrs. Tiny, yet well-furnished, the studio had a touch of what some would call a bohemian charm. Decidedly far removed from the type of bohemians that actually had money, Julie lived a humble life; it marked itself by thrifty way of presentation, accentuated in a modern admiration for woven things and antique stuff. It had been Julie’s luck that her landlady, Mme Dufront, had left the studio furnished with an assortment of cabinets, a decorated bed frame, and one perfectly pink chaise longue that may as well have belonged in the courts of Versailles. All of that was nestled inside the fittingly dolled up green and turquoise facade of block 54. Myth would have it been the domicile of an illustrious brothel that ran the first two floors in the seventies. The question of whether its proprietor was the very same Mme Dufront was never actually answered.
A sharp noise tore Julie from her first feline slumber. A ringing and a humming bore itself into her ear. It came from underneath the pillow. Julie jumped, extending her new claws into the softness and ripping into the fabric. The source sounded small but didn’t scare from Julie’s fierce at7
tack, continuing to ring and tune. Julie put her face down and slid her paw under the pillow to try and brush the culprit out from there. Once she managed, she sat back up and watched her bright metallic phone lie in front of her, shaking her head at each vibration it made. A few seconds passed with Julie staring at its blinking light until she felt it right to push it over the edge of her bed.
Be gone, she thought, watching it glide off. Annoying thing.
But the phone landed with a quiet “Hello?” as Julie’s dismissive tap had accepted the call. She followed the ejected object, stretching her legs before jumping off the bed and surprising herself with a perfect landing on the carpet.
“Hello, Julie? Are you there?” said the voice on the phone. Julie recognized Mathilde, her boss from the Galeries Lafayette. She didn’t sound as if she had the time to relax in the sun that morning.
“Julie, I can’t hear you. Call me back right away! It’s urgent! The Chinese are here! Where are you? Call me back!”
Julie kept looking at the phone until its light dimmed off. She yawned, closing her eyes slowly to look back up at her bed and then meowed. Of all of the things that she had experienced so far that morning, this was the one that startled her. She was struck by a million tiny realizations of what had just happened, wondering if she really did make that noise. She meowed a second time.
Julie did not want to panic, as it would have been unlike her. She was an expert in emotional compartmentalization. In other words, Julie had always experienced life’s precious instances in small, digestible portions. If there had been 8
any time or reason to panic, she would do so, but never unexpectedly or against her will.
Remaining seated on the carpet by her bedside for a quick minute, breathing calmly, and looking at nothing, Julie had all of her thoughts under control. Following a moment of clarity, when all of her first responses began to ebb away, she decided to walk over to the oval mirror by her cabinet and get a full look at what was going on. She approached the upwards-facing mirror, where she would normally be standing, tapped the bottom tip, and thus turned it at herself.
In the reflection, where for twenty-five years she had been met by the familiar freckles of her youthful face, the face of a ginger cat was now looking back at her. Her curly mane of red hair was replaced with lush and shiny ginger fur, dotted by white patches on her forehead and the ends of her paws. Behind her seated figure, a fuzzy tail waved back and forth at her as if luring a welcome into this new reality. She was a cute cat, she had to admit. Long whiskers, a slender figure, and an adorable little head, centered by a pink button nose. The reflection’s green eyes she recognized as her own. Even though their vertical pupils weren’t what she was used to, there was a familiarity in their warm hue that gave Julie comfort. Along with all of her past memory and the ability to perceive it as a reassuring detail.
The initial fright continued to wear off the longer she looked at her new reflection. Julie wondered if this had all been a dream, her human form swimming through the delta waves of her own imagination. Nonsense, she thought, a cat didn’t think like a human, could it? It had to be a dream. If only the hairs hadn’t stood up on her back at that exact 9
moment. She felt her paws keeping the ground below, her hind legs standing up, the end of her tail brushing through the air, and the smells, the millions of new smells. If it were a dream, it was a mighty realistic one. She had to assume that it wasn’t, for better or for worse, turning away from the mirror to get another view of her studio. From this point of view, the wooden frames and wall-length closets looked much taller and carried a different energy than usual. There was an air of adventure around objects Julie had barely noticed before. The shapes and smells of her landlady’s old furniture were teasing her. In excitement, Julie licked her nose. Lavender, that sweet-purple scent of blooming lavender descended from the candle on her bedside table to fill her nostrils. And then a wave of old and new pages coming from her bookshelf; three yoga books, a yellow-leafed copy of Alexandre Dumas’ Monte Cristo, and an illustrated collection of Haruki Murakami’s short stories, gifted to her by her ex. The laundry basket she had thought to bring to the laundromat before opening her Bordeaux last night, a pair of socks by the entrance, and something delicious hanging in the air. It all collided in a carousel of smells firing neurons around her head. The room was more alive than she had ever felt it. She licked her nose once more and shook her head to prepare to take it in once more.