Rambly backstory if you want it: This novella was written in April 2013 during Camp NaNoWriMo. Once that was done, I did some edits here and there whenever I got the chance, but Mystery often interrupted me. There were always more important things to do, like cuddling with her. After she died on June 17, 2014 (I later wrote about it here), it was tough to get back into the swing of things without her. Eventually I opened up her story and picked up where I'd left off editing. I designed (and re-designed loads more times, haha) the cover, experimented with the formatting, edited, edited, and edited some more. I ordered a physical proof, marking it up with my red pen and recalling all those days spent editing newspaper articles in high school and college. I then edited it a bunch more times using the digital proofer online, and I think it's finally in a good place and ready to be read. Overall, this process has been a lot of fun; I know I've whined “I just want this to be done already!” so many times, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. I'm glad I published it myself, maintaining control over my words and taking responsibility for all the behind-the-scenes work. At various times, I've viewed it as a puzzle, and the editing process in particular as a linguistic version of sculpting – carving out chunks when you realize they aren't necessary, gently chipping away, smoothing rough edges, smiling as the final form comes into view. OK, maybe a bit dramatic but you get the picture haha.
As a preview, here's the introduction to When I Was Midnight...
My human friend is going to help me share my story since I can’t type anything other than “,mkcvaiugew lds.” You might know me as Mystery, but that hasn’t always been my name; for most of my life, I was called Midnight. My new name has a nice ring to it, however, and the two humans who adopted me like it as well. Sometimes they call me “Missy” or “Baby,” which is odd since I am significantly older than they are, but I humor them since it seems to make them happy.
My life now is a lot calmer, safer, and definitely more predictable than it was before. I have three square — well, round, if we are being literal here since they are presented in a bowl — meals a day and I get treats and cuddles and always have fresh water. It’s nice and warm in the apartment where they live and, while they have had to give me a couple baths, at least I am always clean.
I still find myself falling back into old habits every now and then, like getting that nervous feeling that would keep me on high alert when I was out on the streets. Sometimes I stalk around carefully and check for anything out of the ordinary. My human friends call it “checking for monsters,” and I find that slightly patronizing. I know there are no such things as “monsters,” but there are always things that can hurt you, and they are not imaginary. I hope I’m not coming across as pessimistic or dark, but I still remember that dreaded feeling of being scared, of not knowing, of fearing injury and pain.
I have a little stuffed pink bear that I cuddle with; none of the other toys they got for me are the least bit interesting. I mean, I appreciate the sentiment behind them buying all these things for me, but I’m a simple little lady, and I value my leisure now that I have it. Running around and chasing things is for young ones who have excess energy that would otherwise make them bounce off the walls. I have more than earned my rest, so I will treasure it.
I’m good at jumping up onto couches, chairs, and beds. I grumble every now and then, and I greet my friends with a short “m’rahl!” I’ve started talking a lot more; to my human friend, it often sounds like I’m sad and crying, and sometimes, I actually am, so she comes to comfort me; she pets me and snuggles me and sometimes even picks me up. And then I purr and purr and purr.
I like it when they hold me close, me on my back, snuggled into their arms, “like a baby,” as they say. And I like them to rub my belly and to scratch my head with their knuckles. The tall one recently discovered the best scratching spots behind my ears; I like it so much that I can’t help but kick my back legs whenever he does it.
And I don’t hesitate to tell them when I need attention, or to remind them that I would love to have more food added to my bowl. When my human friend sits at her desk and writes, I put my front paws on her seat and meow for attention, and — ever since that time I tried to pull myself up on my own and ended up with my back legs swinging underneath the chair, claws dug into the seat, eyes wide — she lowers my front paws to the ground and picks me up to either sit on her lap or be snuggled like a baby.
I’ve heard I’m also a rather effective alarm clock because my morning yowls — right in their ears — startle them awake faster than any beeping or ringing of their phones ever will. And if they ignore my calls, I just walk on top of them, across their bodies, stepping on their necks and heads, sometimes even on their closed eyes. Eventually they wake up.
There’s not much else to tell about my life right now; the real story started many years ago. I don’t remember exactly when, since we cats don’t keep track of things the way you humans do, with so many different numbers for years, months, days, hours, minutes, and even seconds. If I try really hard, I can almost understand why you would want to, for the purposes of exactness and sureness, but it’s not something we can relate to.
We just have days and nights, warmth and cold. We start out tiny and grow bigger and then start to shrink again. We get older, but we don’t count the years, for that would distract us from living them. It also forces us to be a bit more honest with ourselves. We can’t hide behind a number, nor can we be hurt by one. We are who we are at each point in time, and right now, I’m simply a little old lady cat with a story to tell.
April 1, 2013