‘Well I’m already there now so tonight’s definitely off. I’ll
call you as soon as I get back from Cairo,’ Anthony
snapped, and hung up. Tiffany exploded with rage.
How dare he stand her up? She slammed her mobile
phone down onto the sofa, but it skittered across the taut
fabric and shot into the shrine nestled in the old fireplace,
toppling the joss sticks and tumbling flowers before
smacking into four bronze Egyptian statuettes. Osiris, Isis,
and Nephthys crashed together into a triangular but
delicate balance, while Seth – that old trickster – clattered
dramatically right out of the grate, knocking over the cat
figurine on the hearth. The duo fell sideways, narrow eyes
‘Now look what you’ve made me do!’ Tiffany shouted.
All desire to see Anthony had popped like the soap
bubbles sometimes playfully batted by her tabby cat. She
hated the man tonight, and glared at the mute phone now
resting in the wreckage. It flickered in a panicky blue burst
and went blank. The sleek tabby, woken by the commotion
from his snooze beside a bowl of geological crystals on the
coffee table, sat up bristling. Tiffany reached out a hand to
soothe him, cupping his chin, and bent to rub her forehead
gently against his.
‘Oh Felix, dearest moggy, why can’t some men be
more like you?’ she muttered, but the cat was not
appeased, and jumped down. He stalked to the open
ground floor window. When things got noisy at home, a
neighbour’s cluttered study was worth a sly visit, but as he
dropped down onto the garden path the air outside seemed
as charged Tiffany’s mood, and distant thunder grumbled.
He hesitated on the warm flagstones. Inside, Tiffany knew
she should rescue the tumbled figurines, but her head was
throbbing and now her throat hurt. ‘Shu!’ she sneezed,
ignoring the chaos. ‘And now the blasted cat’s taken off as well.
Ptah,’ she finished, crossly, as if appealing to that
life-giving Egyptian god about whom her great-
grandfather Freddie once wrote his pamphlets. She had
loved playing with these sounds as a small child. ‘I can’t
be getting a cold now – it’s almost summer.’ She stalked
over to a small sideboard tucked into the alcove next to the
fireplace to find her bottle of whisky and poured a shot
into a tumbler, hoping the Elastoplast-y taste and kick of
the peaty malt would numb her sore throat. It made her
gasp – ‘hehh’, another ancient incantation – and she
poured a second shot to savour more slowly. Thunder
muttered again, louder and closer, and the gauzy curtain at
the window fluttered anxiously. Tiffany turned away,
deciding that a deep bath might help to soak her ills away,
with a generous libation of perfumed oils.
As she left the room, bearing her consoling glass, a gust
of wind rattled down the chimney, costing Isis her fragile
balance in the fireplace. The figurine slipped forwards, her
bronze headdress striking the abandoned mobile phone’s
screen with a sharp ‘nt’ sound. Its blue-green flash lit up
the mocking features of Seth, just as a sudden crack of
lightning outside breached the early evening sky and a
violent burst of rain clattered on the garden flagstones, as
if crying the name of its ancient goddess Tefnet, ‘tf-nt, tfnt!’
In the same moment a loud yowl exploded outside,
and an expanding ball of fur hurtled through the open
window into the protection of the apartment, tumbling
heavily onto the floor perilously close to the fallen
figurines. The thud made Seth rock again, while more
thunder growled and the rain cackled harshly.
Upstairs, Tiffany heard only the water filling the
bathtub. She sat on its edge, alternately sipping whisky to
dispel her throaty feverishness and pouring swirls of
iridescent oils from an array of glass bottles, one after
another, onto the steadily clouding water. Then she leant
across to turn on the radio on the windowsill and prepared
to descend into the waters, unaware of the outraged
creature racing silently up the stairs beyond the closed
door. Badly ruffled and tingling with static, it sped past the
bathroom and turned the landing corner to flee further
upstairs. Gaining the open door of Tiffany’s room, it leapt
straight onto the large bed and huddled into the soft duvet.
All the air seemed humming with electricity. Then the
whole room crackled with vivid white and green light, and
thunder crashed directly overhead. No respite, then. The
creature pressed deeper into the comfort of the duvet,
waiting for the next shock.
Tiffany also heard and felt that explosion of the sky as
she lay in the cloudy water, steam rising above her. She sat
up in alarm, wondering if a bath was really the best place
to be with so much electricity raging directly above the
building. Then her radio, which had buzzed abruptly with
the lightning, resumed its quiet chatter on the windowsill
‘Some say myths seem to be ancient stories, but they
can actually happen again at any time – it’s like a game
that asks “what if?”, and moves in and out of time,’ a
warm, mezzo and vaguely familiar voice said, and then
softly repeated the phrase: ‘Myth moves in and out of
time.’ It sounded like a mantra. Tiffany relaxed back into
the silky water to listen, as the speaker warmed to her
‘I’ll demonstrate. Look how mythical thinking and
science interact. They both reach us through our
imagination and by following their imaginations –
exploring their curiosity, if you like – scientists have
already brought some things from the world of myth into
our reality. For example, space travel and visiting the
moon, both once only possible in ancient myths. You see
my point?’ The voice was brisk now, commanding.
Yes, Tiffany thought, although I wish I could just
imagine myself up to the moon – so much easier. Or
Anthony to hell.
‘So myths can transform us,’ the speaker warned, ‘and
many modern physicists agree that the border between
science and myth is porous. Things can cross; and in my
view a myth that makes us live more fully today, is still
valid,’ she concluded, her voice rising on ‘valid’ and
challenging the interviewer, who chimed in.
‘I’d like to explore that idea further with you, Iris—’ he
began; but Tiffany’s own imagination had already drifted
too far away, lulled by the perfumed water, and conjuring
visions from the radio’s faint chatter while outside the
thunder receded. Through the dissipating steam images of
a young man with hazel eyes and a sly, inviting smile
drifted behind her closed lids. Trying to remember which
old tale he might have sprung from, she returned to
wakeful reality with a start as the radio crackled faintly
again. More lightning out there somewhere, she thought.
‘That’s why ancient Egyptians used animals to
communicate with the gods,’ the mezzo voice was now
saying. ‘They saw that animals always sense first
whatever’s happening in nature, so they believed the
animals must know the secret language of the gods, which
made them like an interface between humans and the
divine. Cats, for example, being beautiful and self-
indulgent creatures, were dedicated to the goddess of love
and beauty and self-indulgence, Bastet.’
The programme was out of time now. As Tiffany
stretched her limbs and prepared to climb out of her
bathtub, the presenter wrapped up with the detail that next
week the Egypt-based opera, Akhnaten would be explored.
Surely that’s what that old rogue Ozzy’s doing the stage
sets for quite soon, Tiffany thought, as the busy radio
pipped the time signal for seven in the evening and a news
report began about stricken boats of refugees at risk of
capsizing in the Mediterranean Sea. She turned it off.
Stepping out of the clinging water, and wrapping a fresh
towel securely around her, she still felt oddly exhausted
and went rather slowly up the stairs to the bedroom –
where she stopped, in the doorway, in shock.
On her bed, naked and lying stomach-down, his elbows
bent and his face propped in his hands, sprawled a
muscular, lightly tanned young man. Soft strawberry
blond hairs on his back and limbs made his body look
almost stroke-able. He turned his head towards her, and
the expression in his tawny-green eyes – somewhere
between smug, mischievous, inviting, and questioning –
seemed weirdly familiar.
‘There you are,’ he said.
‘What the hell are you doing in here?’ she snapped. Her
anger at this intrusion fused with alarm. In the electric
moment Tiffany did not know whether to turn tail and flee,
or to hit him over the head with the nearest suitable object,
but nothing solid enough was within reach. All she could
see was him, and although his presence was alarming, his
pose was utterly relaxed. So she stood there tensing for
flight and waited, almost aggressively, for an answer. He
rolled on to his side, revealing a lightly furred chest, and
well (but not excessively) endowed genitals, and smiled
cheerfully before replying.
‘Apparently you invited me! Downstairs.’ He paused,
but she could only stare, uncomprehending. ‘You don’t
remember?’ Now he sounded slightly hurt. He was not
physically aroused, which made her feel a fraction safer.
She noted the toned and downy body, the well-muscled
legs and arms. Some sort of athlete?
‘No, I do not. Nonsense.’ She almost growled the reply.
I am looking, she thought.
In one quick movement he was off the bed and
standing in front of her.
Cupping her face in his hands, he held her gaze with
those tawny eyes, then gently rubbed her forehead with
his. Now she could not turn and run; her shocked mind
was quite unable to command her body.
‘Like this, barely half an hour ago. Remember now?’
he said, and then he actually purred.
‘Felix?’ She was nonplussed. ‘Don’t be ridiculous!
Cats don’t turn into people. You must have been listening
outside – and broken in somehow...’ She wanted to tell
him to leave immediately, but astonishment constricted her
throat and for a moment she could say nothing more. He
released her, to reassure her that no menace was meant,
‘No, no, the garden window was still open,’ he said. ‘I
was spying when you were rolling all over the floor in here
with the dreadful Anthony, though!’ Appalled, Tiffany
suddenly could step back from him, and hastily did. A
peeping tom! Embarrassment and fury gave her a new
‘Well you must either leave right now or – or turn back
into a cat!’ she spoke harshly as she tried to gain control of
the situation. Far away, faint thunder still rumbled and
echoed, and the air was heavy, as if the storm might roll
back around and return.
‘’I don’t think I can go back,’ said the invader, glancing
briefly over his shoulder towards the bedroom window,
whose panes had rattled softly as if echoing the thunder.
‘I’m not sure I know how to, yet. You’re being very
ungracious, considering it was your idea, and you’re not
the only one who’s just had a huge shock. Anyway, as
you’ve noticed, I’ve no human clothes. I can’t just walk
out of your home like this.’ He indicated his nakedness
with a sweep of his hand from head to thigh. ‘Where
would I go? No, I’d definitely like to stay on for the time
being. It’s been a pretty good home so far, apart from
having to put up with the dreadful Anthony taking over
most of the bed, including my corner.’
Tiffany thought that she might faint, but fought it.
Everything in the room but the naked intruder seemed out
of focus. The bath oils on her skin felt cloying, their
perfume overwhelming. Fever, or the aromatic whisky, or
both, must be catching up with her. The young man
studied her stunned expression and wondered if his nicely
muscled, slightly downy forelimbs could still catch her fast
enough if she did fall.
‘Don’t worry,’ he said. ‘I’m not a stalker, or no more so
than most cats, of course. Rather a good one, in that
context. I’m genuinely just a “pussycat”, as you and your
girlfriends do like to say about some men, you know.’ He
folded his arms across his chest, and waited. Tiffany
breathed out shakily but her alarm was ebbing, like the
thunder, somewhere into the near distance. In its place a
weird curiosity tapped lightly like the rain on the window
pane, and whispering through the leaves of the garden. He
seemed quite peaceable. How could he know all this? She
considered. Not by peering through windows. Her
bedroom was too high up and its white voile blind was
almost permanently drawn, with floor-length gossamer
drapes pulled across it every night. Parkour, perhaps? She
blinked, trying to clear her thoughts, but all she could
picture was how frequently her tabby cat found a space on
the large bed regardless of any other occupant. Anthony
had kicked him off more than once, to Tiffany’s (and the
cat’s) indignation. As she hesitated, words from the radio
programme came whispering seductively again in her
mind: “Transformation myths... are valid”.
‘Are you really expecting me to believe that you are
Felix? My lazy moggy?’ she asked. ‘Made man, and—’
Recalling that she had never got round to having the cat
neutered, she paused. Was it relevant? This man was
certainly all there.
‘Exactly,’ he replied calmly, still trying to soothe her.
‘Your idea. I merely took it up, although I dispute the lazy
bit.’ Thunder growled again. ‘OK, you could say it rather
forcibly took hold of me. I was nearly electrocuted out
there you know, which was your fault. If you hadn’t
thrown that silly tantrum over the ghastly Anthony, I
would never have been outside when lightning struck. I
raced to the safety of our room in a fearsome state.’ Our
room! Tiffany shivered a little.
‘I was definitely not myself, half-stunned, totally
confused,’ he continued, watching her reactions. ‘Couldn’t
tell if I were beast or man, as I think your saying goes?
Anyway, I fled up here and collapsed on the bed with your
words ringing in my mind at the height of that awful
storm, and woke up as you see me now. Rather splendid,
don’t you think?’ He grinned. ‘It’s not the first time I’ve
made myself comfortable here, but I might need a bit more
space now.’ He glanced past her at his reflection in the
cheval mirror. ‘You’ve always been perfectly willing to
share the bed, and to give me a cuddle in the morning so
far, Tiffany dearest.’
He knows my name, she thought, and Anthony’s. Not
just a random intruder then. As she continued to stare
wordlessly at him, he spoke again.
‘In fact, no-one has been a more constant or
affectionate companion than me. Frankly I think you owe
me a bit more respect for my devotion, and for my
willingness at least to pretend to tolerate your latest
appalling boyfriend.’ He stopped, partly to assess the
effects of his words, but mostly to rest after so much
conversation. Hoping he hadn’t gone too far and has
finished on the right sort of note, he casually brushed his
left cheek with the back of his right hand and then rubbed
just under his left ear, while he studied her expression. She
looked less alarmed, but still confused. He cleared his
throat, and tried again.
‘But right now I think we could just settle for a spot of
supper. I take it that all cat food can be dispensed with?
I’ve always preferred the look and aroma of what you
prepare for yourself, as you may have noticed.’
Tiffany was too astounded to reply but a tactic was
taking shape in her reeling imagination. Unsure, like a
feline’s cornered prey, of which way to turn before a
pounce came, she took the best gambit that seemed
available. Moving this weird intruder from the bedroom to
the ground floor, and its escape routes, somehow felt
logical in this fog of confusion.
‘You might at least put something on first,’ was what
she said. He was delighted, and immediately asked if he
could wear her white Egyptian cotton robe, whose cool
lines and elegant folds had always appealed to him. As the
robe was currently out of sight, inside her wardrobe, the
request somehow seemed to support his tale of
metamorphosis (and associated voyeurism). Tiffany
stepped backwards cautiously to the wardrobe, felt for its
handle, keeping her eyes on him at all times as she pulled
its door open enough to reach for the folded robe on a
shelf inside. Then she silently moved towards him,
opening the garment and holding it out like a gift whose
bounty in return was her own physical safety.
Opening his arms in acceptance, he let her slide one
sleeve over his right forearm and then turned so that she
could sweep the garment behind him to manoeuvre his left
arm into the other sleeve. The fine material felt cool on his
skin, and made the golden and russet hairs on his limbs
and body tingle and fluff up. As she drew the garment
across his torso to tie the belt, the folds of material eased
into a flattering fall that also hid a dropped thread in the
fine fabric. She stepped back and studied him. They
looked at each other silently. The process of wrapping him
in the robe seemed to have transited them into a fragile co-
conspiracy. He considered. Should he rub his cheek
affectionately against hers now? Not yet. He waited.
Are his eyes greeny-gold, or mostly hazel? Tiffany was
wondering, intrigued against her better judgement. The
more she stared into them, the harder it was to tell. He
studied her eyes too. One was a deep blue, the other dark