Hybis and Sleer

You go to the no-kill shelter to pick out a cat. It’s time. You’re ready for this step in the establishment of your adulthood.

You’re also becoming more comfortable with the notion that you might be the kind of boring person who enjoys sitting at home with a beverage and a warm loaf of cat on your lap over going out to yet another crowded show with overpriced, watered-down drinks and awkward acoustics. It’s not as sexy as pressing your abdomen into the rim of the stage, but in truth, everything sounds better on headphones.

You see rows of tabbies, fat and slim, tuxedo cats in various states of fidelity to the classic pattern, shorthairs and longhairs draped over surfaces. Most of the cats are in cages, though some are prowling the social room.

You settle into the couch to inspect a sleeping mound of black velvet. A relaxed, easygoing cat would be best for your lifestyle. You’re trying to think through which other criteria might be important to your new relationship, listing out things like personality, age or tendency to vomit.

That’s when you notice the hybis and sleer snuggling on the bookcase. You’ve never seen anything like these creatures before. The sleer is coiled, snakelike in an empty nook of an upper shelf. Its heads drape in different directions. The hybis, fluffy, wide-eyed and dreamy, looks like something the sleer would enjoy as a breakfast snack. Yet it projects absolute peace.

You are informed by a shelter volunteer with long dreadlocks and rose-colored harem pants that the hybis and sleer were relocated to the shelter when a downtown cemetery made way for a new set of condos. She didn’t know which ones.

“They go together, or they don’t go at all,” she informs you, which makes you even more intrigued. How many people can say they have a sleer, much less a hybis? Besides, you reason, they can entertain each other while you’re at work.

You sign the paperwork, pay the fees, take the loyalty oath and begin your new life as a pet owner.

They immediately take over an open space on your bookshelf and guard it fiercely, although they will creep down to the sofa if you’re watching a film. They seem to enjoy the Cinéma vérité films best, and in these quiet, intimate moments, the hybis purrs in a way that makes it levitate lightly off your shoulder.

Despite sealing off all access to the Russian classics area of your book collection, the sleer proves to be a remarkably effective household security system. One day you arrive home to find a burglar holding your iPad, frozen, aghast in a bedazzled hypnosis, thanks to the sleer’s unblinking stare. You call the police and prepare a nice tuna snack for the sleer. They can have the Russians. You probably weren’t really going to read Dead Souls anyway.

While you’re at work, they take care of a few small tasks around the house, munching fallen crumbs from the carpet, dusting high surfaces, quietly darning the holes in your socks with nimble hybis digits.

Your only regret is their longevity… or possible immortality. For the first time in your life, you face the inevitability of your tiny, shining light blinking out.

You start your first long-term savings account and draw up a will to make sure there’s another caretaker in line. This makes you feel extremely mature and responsible. You wonder if you’re there now, in the midst of official adulthood.

You download Citizenfour and feel a warmth rise in your chest as your strange little family slithers or glides to cuddle up near you on the sofa.

A soft-coiled shift along your thigh. A purr. The brush of feathery fur against your ear.

Like what you read? Give The Januaryist a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.