Ben Gillman woke up not knowing where he was or how he got there. But what he was certain of, or almost certain of, was that there was an enormous Persian cat standing in front of him smoking a cigar.
“Ah, you’re awake. Ben, is it?” asked the huge feline who was puffing away, blowing heart-shaped smoke rings.
Ben did not respond. It was safe to say he was slightly more than confused. It has to be a dream, he thought.
“I appreciate that this might seem strange and illusory, but know that I am real and this is really happening,” said the cat.
This, understandably, Ben found hard to believe. He had so many thoughts running through his mind and so many questions that needed answering. But there was one particular thing he wanted to say, and though he knew it was obvious and somewhat redundant, he felt it still needed to be said.
“You’re a talking cat.”
“Very astute of you, Ben.”
He was taken aback. “How do you know my- Who are you?”
“Big Kitty,” said Big Kitty, before taking another long drag on his cigar.
“That’s your name?” Ben asked, almost smirking.
“Well, my name is Norman but only my friends call me that.”
“Your cat friends?” Ben asked.
Big Kitty seemed to take offence at this. “No. Just because I’m a… no.”
A silence descended upon them.
“Can all animals talk?” Ben finally asked.
Big Kitty smiled. He had this question put to him a number of times.
“Not all. Some are born with the ability to speak human languages, and some are really good at carpentry. We are all talented in our own ways.”
“Right. Just like humans.”
“You could say that, yes.”
A slightly more ominous silence settled over them this time. Big Kitty sighed.
“You’re probably wondering why I’m here,” said the enormous cat.
“Among other things.”
“Ha!” Big Kitty guffawed. “Humans can be such a delight. You don’t get witticisms like that in the animal kingdom. We could learn a thing or two from you humans.”
“So why are you here?” Ben asked wearily.
“Oh, to kill you. Sir,” Big Kitty said, with incredible nonchalance.
“Yes. I understand that death is a big deal for you humans, though I don’t really know why. Everyone is going to leave this place eventually, and pardon me for being a little harsh but you’re not exactly making a huge contribution to your species, are you?”
It was at this moment that Ben realised his hands and feet were tied.
“I don’t care! Let me go!” Ben cried.
“Just following orders, Sir,” he said, holding up his paws.
“And who is that exactly? A goddamn panda?” Ben cried.
“No, Sir. And I would appreciate it if you would not swear. Gratuitous swearing is unbecoming.”
Ben Gilman was someone who had always been quick on the draw, someone who was armed with a vast array of rejoinders, but this was the second time Big Kitty had left him speechless.
“I work for Fanny Dog,” Big Kitty uttered.
“I’m sorry, what?” Ben asked, letting out an incredulous chuckle.
“Fanny Dog,” Big Kitty repeated with furrowed brows, unsure as to why humans always found this funny.
“Right. So you’re a talking cat hitman named Big Kitty, and you’ve been hired by your boss, a dog named Fanny Dog.”
Ben laughed. He couldn’t stop laughing. He laughed so hard that he thought he’d die laughing. Then he remembered that he was going to die, and he stopped laughing.
He had another question to ask Big Kitty.
“How can I be sure this isn’t a dream?”
“You can’t, Sir. You’ll just have to take my word for it.”
He mulled over this for a while.
“What about falling backwards, like in that movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and the dreams?” asked Ben.
“That tranquillizer may have been stronger than I anticipated,” Big Kitty intoned.
“No, you know… that movie. The only way to find out if you’re dreaming is to experience a falling sensation.”
Big Kitty didn’t reply. Now he looked confused. Figuring that he had nothing to lose, Ben threw himself backwards, hit his head hard on the wooden floor and immediately lost consciousness.
When he came to, he saw the same huge cat standing in front of him. He was still smoking a cigar, but now he had a drink in hand as well.
“Do you believe me now, Sir?”
“OK. OK. But why do you want to kill me? What have I done to offend Fanny Dog?”
Big Kitty gulped down his iced milk. Then he turned to Ben.
“Do you remember Mrs Snuffles?”
Big Kitty sighed. “Mrs Snuffles, Sir. Does the name ring a bell?”
It did ring a bell, though Ben couldn’t understand what that particular bell had to do with this ordeal.
“You mean my pet cat when I was a kid? Yes, I remember her.”
“And do you remember discarding her like trash in a park when you grew bored of her?”
Ben was so confused that his eyebrows threatened to partially blind him.
“Well, she didn’t like that very much. She had a tough time surviving and had to resort to licking other cats clean for money.”
Missing the relevance of this at first, Ben soon caught on.
“Wait, did she do this? Did she hire Fanny Dog?” Ben asked frantically.
“Yes. She wants retribution.”
“I WAS ELEVEN YEARS OLD!”
“Age is irrelevant when it comes to cats”.
“What does that even mean?! Let me go, you insane cat!” Ben shouted as he started to cry.
“Please calm down, Sir. You are going to lose your life, but your dignity doesn’t have to go as well.”
Tears continued to roll down Ben’s cheeks. Was this really the way he was going to go? Murdered by a talking cat? He had so much to look forward to. So many things he hadn’t done. What those things were, he wasn’t sure at the moment. But he definitely wasn’t ready to die.
Big Kitty then took out what looked like a gun. He pointed it straight at Ben and cocked it.
“Please don’t do this. Please,” Ben whimpered.
Ben woke up in his bedroom with his t-shirt soaked in sweat. He vaguely remembered having a terrifying encounter with a large talking cat who was going to kill him. He surmised that his encounter with Big Kitty must have been a dream even though it seemed so real.
Ben suddenly thought of Mrs Snuffles and felt a pang of guilt for what he had done. Nevertheless, it felt like he had been given a second chance of sorts; a wake-up call. He was thirty-six, unemployed, and had been living off a family inheritance since he was twenty-five. He had no love life to speak of and spent most days playing video games until he fell asleep. It was time to change.
He decided to cook himself breakfast that day before looking through online websites for jobs. He was going to improve himself and work towards achieving his goals. What those goals were, he wasn’t sure at the moment. But when a cat insults you about your laziness, you know it’s serious.
He brushed his teeth, showered, and looked at himself in the mirror. He liked what he saw. He looked like a completely different person despite having the exact same features as the day before.
When he entered the kitchen, he saw what looked like an enormous Persian cat sitting by the dining table reading a newspaper and smoking a cigar.
“Ah, you’re awake. Ben, right?” asked the huge feline who was puffing away, blowing heart-shaped smoke rings.
Shawn Michael Ambrose is a freelance writer based in Singapore. He spends most days hiding in bushes, waiting for crime to occur so he can save the day in a costume he may or may not have stitched himself. Check out his writing at shawnthescribe.com