It’s harder to post letters than I thought. I’ve had to do it before, of course. I was programmed to take dictation, spell-check, grammar-check. I’m a secretary model. But writing to you is different. I want to tell you everything, but I don’t know how to do it.
I told you about the party, but now I realize that I didn’t even say why. You know that I work for Marta, but I didn’t say how long I’ve been doing that, or who I am really.
I’ve had a friend before. Not a person, not like you. There was a little cat who lived with me. It wasn’t with Marta, it was before. I’ve had a lot of masters and mistresses. Some of them were kind to me and some were cruel. I don’t really want to write about all that.
I don’t need to sleep, but I have to have a place to restart and absorb new data. One hour a night is a minimum, but every few weeks I need to do a total shutdown and reboot (and once a year I have to be examined by a representative. That’s happened to me a number of times now).
Marta gave me a cupboard for my own when I first came to her. She told me to clear out all the files and boxes, and told me that I could store my clothes and anything else I wanted to keep in there. There’s a hook for me to hang myself on when I do my restarts, and shelves and hangers for the coats and dresses. There’s even a bulb and a light-switch, but I don’t need light.
Before I met Marta, before she bought my contract, I used to live in a block of flats. I was the concierge for a four-floor building. Most of the people living there were young couples, and they couldn’t afford a fulltime servant. So all the people living on that staircase got together and each bought one seventh of my time. I had to spend three hours a day in every flat, and I would spend the night each day of the week with a different master or mistress.
There was a garden out the back where I used to hang washing.
And one day, while I was down there, I met the cat.
He was a little white cat, quite dirty, and he had a limp. I think he must have been quite young. I didn’t speak to him, but I knew that he was there. I could see his big eyes staring out at me from a mass of briars.
Later that day, when I came down to take in the washing, he was still there. This time he crept out and looked at me again. I didn’t move, but he ran back as if I had.
He was afraid of me, I thought. But then I realized he was hungry! None of the couples living on my staircase had children, but I’d seen some playing in the park across the way, and their nurses were always giving them food and drink, ice-cream and sweets.
I don’t really need to eat, though I do have to inject myself with supplements every day or two, so it took me some time to think of what I could give the cat. Finally I managed to steal some table-scraps, and I also took some milk. Babies like milk. I know that – basic training.
The little cat seemed quite pleased with what I had brought him. He ate it all up and lapped up the milk form the concrete path, and then he started to growl and rub against me as if he wanted more.
I had no more to give, but every day I would come down with some bits of food and a saucer of milk, and he would come out and eat it all up and rub against me. I worked out after a while that the growling meant he was full.
But then he wanted to come inside with me.
I told him he couldn’t come in. That the people would see him and they’d punish me and probably him as well, but he was only a little cat and he didn’t understand. He’d play around the door when I tried to shut it, and it was very hard to shut it again and leave him outside.
I told you I had to stay in a different flat every night. Mostly I stood in the corner when my work was done. I’d give myself my shots and then turn off.
Some of the men would do things to me. Some of the women, too. But most of them were couples, and the men slept in the same beds as their wives.
There was one flat, though – the top flat, the biggest of the seven (all the other floors had two flats each; only the top floor was lived in by one person). He was away a lot, and he had so much space that he’d set aside a whole room for me to use!
It was wet and cold in the garden, and the little cat shivered and sneezed so much that I began to think I might be able to hide him in that room.
It was stupid. I know that now. But the first time I carried him in there and put him down in the corner and he butted me with his little head, and I knew that I could keep him there with me all night, I felt as if I’d never be sad again.
I told him lots of things. Things I’d done, places I’d been, dreams I had, and he never answered me – just looked up with his big eyes and rubbed against me. I’d never had a friend, or even known that I could have one, but it made me feel happy.
One day when I went up to the room to feed him he was gone. I looked everywhere for him but couldn’t find him. Then, when I was looking through the rubbish bins (he used to sniff around them sometimes, looking for food to eat) I found him wrapped up in a black plastic bag.
His pretty white fur was all muddy and stiff and I could see that someone had broken his neck. He had a snarly look on his face as if he’d been very frightened, and that made me feel frightened, too. I was afraid that they’d ask me about him and that they’d find out he was my friend.
No-one ever asked, though, and a bit after that, when my contract was up for renewal, Marta outbid the flats. I didn’t know, then, but she was a friend of the man in the top flat, the man I hardly ever saw. He’d told her about me and that was why she brought me.
“No friends, or pets – or cats,” she said to me when I first moved here. That gave me a strange feeling. Did they know about it all along? About the cat? The man in the top flat, the couples in the other rooms? Did they talk about me and my little friend the cat? Was it too much for them that I should have a friend?
He didn’t do any harm. He never scratched anything except the old blanket I found for him, and he hardly made any noise. I kept him clean and tidied up after him. I wanted to ask Marta about it but I knew she wouldn’t tell me.
I wanted to help the cat, feed him, give him a home. Instead I killed him.
I don’t want to do that again.
That’s why I chose you.
your sister, Eva