A little while ago, I wrote about choosing a Narrative Voice for your story. One of the aspects I looked at was person, with 1st and 3rd person being the most commonly used in fiction.
In my first year at University, one of my tutors set out the possibility of writing a story using 2nd person perspective. It was something that sounded like an interesting exercise and as a result, I put together the short story that is now called “Kevin.”
Second person is a tricky voice to use as it implies you are talking directly to another person (much as I am now). I’m not sure it could be sustained for an entire novel, but playing with it for this short story was a lot of fun, as essentially the character I created talks to himself throughout as a continuous “pep talk.”
You watch next door’s dog chase its tail round in circles. Stupid animal. You know just by looking at it you’re a far superior being. You allow a little smile to pull at your whiskers. Not long now, you think. Not long.
You’ve spent too many years down at heel, scrapping around the wheelie-bins with the putrid smell of dead fish teasing you. Dragging you further under the cruel domination of humanity. The collar around your neck itches as you think about it. The in-felinity of it all!
Your captor rattles a box at you twice a day. You stare at him. He pours the contents into a dirty old bowl. You stare at him.
Dinner time, Kevin, he says gesturing to the bowl. He walks away from you. Your whiskers twitch. Your eyes narrow. Your tail flicks from side to side.
He couldn’t have named you properly?! you think. Something grand and fitting to your station. Something like Macavity. Or Deuteronomy. Or Quaxo. Or Mungojerrie. Mr Mistoffoles.
But no. It’s Kevin. To think that a being of such splendour could be reduced to something so meagre.
Kevin. Huh. You scoff at your captor’s retreating form. He isn’t long for this world.
Your peers look down on you. You’re the black cat of the neighbourhood. The maverick. The oddball. They all have their traits that set them higher than the rest. Their patches of oddly coloured fur. Their stripe of green in yellow eyes. Their battle scars. Come Jellicle-hour, they strut, knowing they’re the cream of the feline world. They balance daringly on a fence edge. You hug the shadows. You glare at them for their arrogance. It won’t be long before they see your power.
‘The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray,’ it has been said. Nothing about cats, though. That’s your advantage. You have the element of surprise on your side. Not to mention nine lives. You’ll bide your time. Wait for the moment to come sliding around the corner like your next meal. Then you’ll pounce… and devour.
Like… now, for instance. You sit low in the flower beds, your beady eyes on the dog still following its own back end round and round. Stupid animal. It’s your perfect opportunity to begin your campaign.
It’s simple. You have a hierarchy in your way to world dominance. Humans being at the top. You – as a cat – are somewhere nearer the bottom – strictly in terms of evolutionary size, of course. When it comes to intelligence, you’re on top of the pile. Second only, perhaps to dolphins but that’s another matter entirely.
Your only chance, you realised some time ago, is to work your way up the proverbial ladder of life until all that stands in your way is – that’s right – Man. It’s easy from then on.
So, step one: Dogs. They’re only above you in terms of favour, which makes them easy to deal with.
You sit low in the flower bed, carefully avoiding the lilies as you creep forward. Your sleek black coat perfectly hidden in the dappled shade. You move forward with the elegance of a panther. Your shoulders roll as you prowl close to the ground. Your eyes fix on your opponent. You smile. He hasn’t got a clue.
You acquaint yourself with the location of every flower pot on the patio; the angle of your opponent’s captor as she sits innocently on her sun lounger, reading. You pick your moment.
You stand on a well placed twig in front of you. The dog stops. Looks around. Looks at you. You raise your head slightly, holding his gaze in yours.
He barks. You stay silent. His captor looks at him.
Quiet, Angus, she orders.
Angus desists, but still stares at you, a growl hovering in his throat. You take a step forward. You’ve been rehearsing this moment in your mind for months now. He barks again. And keeps on at you, no matter what his captor says.
One more step, that’s all it’ll take. You take it. Angus lunges at your position. You dart to the side, crying in mock horror as you go. Angus follows you round the small garden, barking and bounding clumsily. You spring towards the flower pots, delicately swerving each one at the last minute. Angus is not so graceful. He knocks all of them flying. Soil and begonias and pansies flow freely from them, as blood from a wound.
ANGUS!! his captor chides, taking hold of his collar.
You spring for the fence and, in two light bounds, are home free. You listen to the woman’s voice as she reprimands her animal for causing such chaos. Angus whimpers. You slide up to the fence and peer through. You catch his eye again and smile. He knows you’ve won.
You know you’ve won. Step one complete. Yours is the earth! And everything that’s in it!
It won’t be long now.