THE CAT

THE CAT

 

 

 

Pulling on a white shirt, and tan linen slacks over her lithe frame, Caitlyn hurriedly got dressed. Her fingers quickly wove the braid in her long black hair. A long, dark cloak was thrown over her shoulders.

She took a deep breath, and rushed down the stairs, taking them two at a time. Her movements were quick, and erratic so unlike her usual ease, and grace as she flitted around the kitchen searching for her dagger. Once she found it, she placed it surreptitiously in the holster around her ankle.

It would come in handy.

Looking through the small window over the sink, she could see a crowd, screaming, and shouting, running away in the same direction. On the opposite side, flames reached the night sky, bathing it with a bright orange glow.

She knew they would come. They always followed her like flies to shit, rendering destruction in their wake. She may be used to the wanton destruction the followers of Zora caused, but that didn’t mean she liked it, especially when innocents were punished for being around her.

She sighed, tying the cloak securely around her neck, and pulling the hood up over her head. Slipping out into the night through the door that led into the alley, she made her way past the throng of people that filled the road. She bent her head down to avoid their horror-filled gazes.

Many people carried children in their arms, while others had their hands full of clothes, food, and random objects that may have held some sort of significance to them.

Smoke filled the air, making it hard to breathe, and causing her eyes—already guilt-ridden, and tearful—to burn. If it wasn’t for her, this wouldn’t have happened. But because of the unique properties of her blood, she was wanted.

Snarling, with thinly concealed rage, Caitlyn stumbled through the other side of the crowd into another narrow alley. Dark, and empty she moved quickly unimpeded, only pausing for a moment at the end of it before diving into the chaos again. Over, and over she did that, following the same routes she had grown so familiar with over the last few days.

She stopped when she reached the burning wasteland that was once the town’s striving center. It wasn’t because she was tired, or that her breathing had become heavier, and her throat stung from the smoke. No, the reason, or rather reasons, stood in front of her.

Worshippers of Zora—as popularly—simply—known as the fanatics.

Amidst the overturned shop stalls, strewn belongings, and fierce heat, they stood. People who were so far from normality that they seemed like animals, with a pack mentality to boot. Giants in stature, muscles rippling smoothly under their skins, and mad glares in their eyes, they surrounded her.

Their black robes were indistinguishable from the darkness that even the moon’s light couldn’t pierce. Their mouths were the perfect picture of a snarl as they gazed at the lone girl in their midst.

They let loose a collective howl, manifesting their anger, as they bared their teeth, and brandished their spears. They realized who she was, had smelt the blood that pumped within her veins. She could run, but not for long. Her scent was particularly known, and they would follow her to the end of the world if it meant acquiring her.

They were nothing more than cannon-fodders for their leaders, used in whatever way they saw fit.

One charged. His massive weight tore into the ground as he approached her.

With finesse only through years of combat one could attain, Caitlyn ducked a failed spear strike, her dagger tearing through the fanatic’s gut, disemboweling him.

She held her blade in a reverse grip, and with a muttered sigh, she rushed towards them. She weaved through the horde of worshippers, using her magically-enhanced speed, and strength to dodge fatal attacks, and land inevitable ones.

She slashed her way through like an explorer traipsing through the jungle, seeking a river. As the fanatics moved towards her, her dagger swung deftly before her, cutting down every evil man who invaded her one step scope. It wasn’t long before the throng of enemies had become apprehensive about approaching any closer to her.

Their fear rose as lightning erupted from her fingers, frying several columns of her opponents right where they stood, rendering them to ashes. As another group tried to flank her from the other side, blue light exploded all around her, ripping through anyone foolish enough to take one more step ahead.

Caitlyn rushed forward with the fury of desperation, dodging the swipe of a wide-headed spear, and stabbing through the fanatic’s neck. She side-stepped a thrust, even as she parried a slash. Her eyes danced, and her lips smiled without mercy; neither sympathy nor grace for these people.

Death was what awaited them, and they deserved it.

Her dagger darted past a spear that sought to parry, and sheathed its full body in a leather-guarded midriff. The man gasped agonizedly, and went to his knees, but his tall colleague lunged, in ferocious silence, raining blow on blow so furiously that Caitlyn had no opportunity to counter. She stepped back coolly, parrying the strokes, and watching for her chance to thrust right back in the action. He could not keep up that flailing whirlwind for longer. His arm would tire, his wind would fail; he would weaken, falter, and then her blade would slide smoothly into his heart.

She might have seemed ruthless, but they deserved nothing less. She knew if they had their way, she would have been brought to naught before them.

Sweat beaded the forehead of the man facing her, his eyes were like burning coals for no matter how hard he tried, he could not break past nor beat down her guard. His breath came in great gulps, and his blows began to fall erratically. She stepped back to draw him out, and parried the stroke. It beat the flat of her blade down on her head till she saw sparks flashing before her eyes, and therefore, she staggered. With absolute talent, she twisted the spear to the side, and cut the air in an up swinging arc with a blur in the middle, the headless body slumped down, spurting blood.

In a gust of ire, she kicked the severed head across the town’s center.

She breathed out deeply as she faltered, and dropped to one knee with a heaving chest, as the adrenaline slowly wore off from her system. She was exhausted. Her powers tapped a resource that had its limitation, which she had finally reached. The good thing, though, was that the fanatics were dead; their remains sprawled out around her, fading with the wind.

Another evidence against their humanity; their remains could never be recovered for they broke down, disappearing.

A swoosh was all the warning she needed as a spear swung down on her. Luckily, she was barely able to dodge, rolling away as the tip dug into the ground next to her. She scrambled to her feet quickly, gripping her dagger tightly, her heart pounding as another fanatic burst through the flames. Almost twice her height, the man was thick, and muscular, devoid of armor, and smeared dark with mud, and blood. He slowly clapped as he approached her with his ugly scarred face, twisting with a snarl as he twirled another spear absentmindedly.

“I’ll give you one chance to come with me, you little wretch,” his deep voice boomed with evident anger.

“I killed your men!” Caitlyn shouted back, “Do you take me for a fool that I don’t know you will use the opportunity to have your way with me? My blood is needed, not my body.”

A bit of silence, then, “So be it!”

Not so long after the man spoke, a fist impacted her stomach, sending her tearing across the street. She struggled to her feet, her senses on high-alert for any movement. Bringing down her hand sharply, she blocked the kick aimed at her solar-plexus, yet the next punch could find its way to her chin in a brutal uppercut.

Twisting in the air, she managed to land deftly on her feet. She ignored the blood that dribbled down her chin as her hands became a flurry of movement, getting ready for a spell, despite her body’s warnings not to do so. Converting the kneaded magic inside of her into fire, she expelled it in a continuous stream from her mouth. She turned on the spot, and the hot flames followed her movement in a desperate need to air out the fanatic.

“Such a careless waste of magic!”

A hand reached into the flames, backhanding Caitlyn across her face. Her body rolled roughly, coming to a stop when it collided with a cart. She groaned weakly as she stood, watching through half-veiled eyes as the man walked towards her with his spear held firmly in his grasp.

Grunting, she raised her dagger in an attempt to block a strike. Then, she lunged forward to give herself some room before backpedaling quickly. The spear shot out at her. Caitlyn was taken aback by its speed, and its accompanying force, but successfully knocked the weapon to the side with the flat of her blade. With a quick thrust, and a deft flick of the spear’s edge, Caitlyn’s dagger was sent flying away from her grip.

The fanatic lunged at her, grabbing her by the throat. He jerked her up, lifting her off her feet, and holding her close to his face, dark eyes boring into forest-green ones.

“You are right. Your blood is important while your body is expendable,” the man sneered as he brought up his knee sharply against her stomach. She ignored the pain, materializing her dagger in her hand, and stabbing it into the man’s knee. A spell like that would only take a small amount of magic that it was virtually negligible.

She rolled backwards, dodging an angry stomp, and got to her feet. As the blade materialized once more, she rushed to the fanatic with a poised weapon. However, halfway to the man, she saw that his eyes started to glow before they erupted in flames. Despite the blood that dripped from her orifices, she willed a shield of power around her. The explosion appeared around it, then dissipated.

Caitlyn continued forward, closing the distance to the man. Once within striking distance, she swung her dagger, and cut deep into his stomach. The fanatic roared in pain, yet he managed to move back.

She scrambled away on her feet as her heart pounded hard. Her legs threatened to give out on her, but she pushed on. That might have been her only chance to get away with her life. With a last burst of energy, she ran as fast as she could, using the many shortcuts she knew, till she reached the edge of the forest.

Without a second thought, she plunged into the depths of the thick trees, the man’s angry roar echoed in her wake.

Moonlight filtered through the treetops as she ran. Caitlyn wove her way through a maze of shadowy trunks, hurtling deeper, and deeper into forbidden territory, her cloak catching on branches, brush scratching at her boots. The ground started to slope up, making the run for her life much more difficult. The sharp pain stabbed through her side again. She wouldn’t be able to keep up such a pace for much longer. Her steps grew heavier, and heavier.

She went flying after her foot caught on an exposed tree root, and she hit the ground hard, sending a resounding thud throughout the forest. She wouldn’t survive much longer in this form. Not only was she easily seen as a human, but also her magical exhaustion made her escape that much arduous.

Using the last vestige of the magic within her, she willed her body to change shape. Caitlyn stayed motionless on the ground, trying to keep her breathing steady, even though she felt pain building up.

Normally, the transformation would be a seamless transitioning between human, and animal, but without her magic to take the pain away, she was forced to endure.

Her nails fell off as black claws ripped out from under her fingernails. She turned her hand over to the palm to spot faint pink pads growing out, her thumb got smaller, and climbed up to her wrist. She tried to move her fingers, only to stop, and stare in horror when she couldn’t anymore.

Slowly, her hand turned into a paw as black fur began to sprout through the pores of her skin. She felt tears run down her face as her shoulder blades pushed forward. The pain was unbearable. She leaned forward, and realized that it was manageable in that position. She stood on all fours, and felt a sharp pain in her spine. Each invertebrate pushed solely outward in her back.

Then, her feet began to feel the same pain as her hands. She looked down at her boots to find black claws ripping through the threadbare portion of it. It was too much pain to take as her heel stretched up her legs, and cracked back.

“…p-pwease… h-hh-h… h-help… m-meeeoooowww!”

She could still feel her bones shifting, and cracking into new places, and positions as she continued to stifle her scream. Then, her spine began to grow out, and press against her linen slacks. Its pressure against the seams in her pants was excruciating.

Shakily, she felt her paw against the bump stretching outward from her spine, growing down the leg of her pants, and writhing madly in the fabric. She heard her slacks rip, and a long tail with dark fur came out.

The fur continued rushing out of her skin, covering everywhere. Looking around, she saw the forest getting bigger, but no… that couldn't be right, she was the one getting smaller.

Her ears pointed up, and grew to the top of her head. She felt whiskers ripping through the pores of her face. Her nose got pink, and her teeth became sharp, and pointy. Her tongue felt like sandpaper when it touched the roof of her mouth.

Her face felt like it was ripping in two as her muzzle began to crack forward.

“…pprreeeooowww… hhelp… mmmrrreeeooowww… mmrreeeeooow…” was all she could choke out as her muzzle on her face finally snapped outward. Black fur completely covered her body as Caitlyn started clawing at her clothing.

Another side-effect of her exhausted magical energy was that her animal, instead of being a fully mature cat, was a kitten. Slipping out of her clothes’ hold, she raced through the forest.

Her nimble body allowed her to transverse past roots, but her small form made covering distances slower. She could barely cover half of her previous distance in this state.

A spear came out of nowhere, if it wasn’t for her animal instincts, she would have been driven to the ground. Going round it, she fled deeper into the forest, ducking under sharp branches, jumping over saplings, scrambling up fallen logs that came out from nowhere.

Caitlyn had to escape. The only problem was how; the answer to that was still up in the air.

She came to a frantic stop beside a tree, a grin pulling at her lips. Air!

An idea blossomed in her mind. She may have no magic left in her, but she as a witch, could tap into the magic in the air. She had never tried such an act before. However, she was aware that although it may be far-fetched, it was certainly doable.

Imagination was a veritable skeleton key to perfectly achieve a magic act. One only needed to, like implied, concentrate, and imagine.

Caitlyn’s decision made, she began to draw in the surrounding magical energy. She continued to draw in more even after she reached the point she felt safe to stop at. She realized that she was risking her own survival if her willpower got out of control, but she knew that she would need more for what she was about to undertake. She just didn't know how much she could hold.

…Or how to stop, and properly channel the power.

One moment she was racing through the undergrowth, the next, her paw tangled in a thick tree root, and she fell headlong into a pile of brush.

It seemed fate had heard her plea, and answered it though it wouldn’t have killed it to answer in a less painful way.

She laid motionless, neglecting pain, and discomfort as she began to weave the spell. Blood rushed in her ears, and her heart beat an unsteady rhythm. The harshness of her breathing sounded louder in the darkness; a sensory trick, perhaps.

In the distance, she heard heavy crashing as one of the fanatics carved his path through the forest. Heavy blundering noises, and muttered curses told her the darkness, and density of the forest impeded his progress, giving her ample time to be done with the incantations.

 

This one would take more time to produce than her earlier ones. It was probably the most taxing of all spells ever known to casters.

The drawback, apart from the resources consumed, was the fact that the buildup of magic would be noticeable to anyone attuned to it. Indeed, the worshippers of Zora were, by law, attuned, even if most couldn’t wield the mystic energy.

Once achieved, the fanatics would be drawn to her like a moth to a flame.

A bright light began to grow from where she was focusing her spell. A few minutes later, her chant was reaching its climax, so she stretched out one paw at the ever-growing spot of light.

A fierce wind picked up, blowing the fur that lined her body every which way. As she shouted the final word of her chant, the roar of a thunder echoed, and reverberated through the forest, where the bright spot expanded further till it resembled a glowing hole.

Circular, and glowing, the edges rippled with the energy of splitting, and re-joining two different dimensions at one point in space.

The magic holding it began to fade as she let go of her concentration on it.

“I won’t let you escape!” came a shout from behind.

She was found! Meowing out in fright, she mustered the last iota of strength she possessed, and kicked off from the ground.

The man tore through the bushes. His spear was swinging down with so much force that the air rippled like a torn sheet. Luckily for Caitlyn, her form was too small to be clearly spotted in the dark, and the man missed the strike by a couple of inches. The spear struck the ground, upending the earth with its strength, and sending her flying straight into the portal.

Once she had gone through, the rising sun's rays burst through the coverage of leaves. It bathed the portal in light, snapping it closed with the sound of a thunderclap. However, in the last span of seconds, the fanatic had jumped into it, spear at the ready.

 

***

 

He knew he wasn’t alone the moment his eyes opened.

Lucas Anderson woke up, placing a hand over his mouth to cover his yawn as the rays of the sunlight hit him.

At first, he thought it may have still been a dream, but as seconds passed, and the morning weariness left his body, there was no mistaking it; he was not alone in his bed.

However, unlike all previous times, it wasn’t a younger sibling who had decided to crawl into his bed after a nasty nightmare. No, the cat that sat languidly on his chest while licking its paws looked nothing like his siblings, or any other human for that matter.

And what a cute animal it was. A kitten was a more apt designation for it; small, fluffy, and ridiculously cute with those big round eyes, only a foot away from his. There was only one natural reaction once he had fully awakened, and grasped the situation he was in.

“Ah!” he screamed, shoving himself back to sit up against the wall behind him.

The kitten let out a cute yelp of its own, recoiling with such force it fell backward off his bed.

Lucas was wide awake now, his eyes fixed on the fallen kitten. He had never seen it before, and had no idea who its owner was. Could it be one of his siblings’ friends? Maybe, but no one had mentioned anything about a sleepover, but being the weekend, it wasn’t out of the question.

It was possible that one had brought his, or her—though to be fair, a girl bringing the animal was more plausible than the other alternative—pet, and it could had simply wandered off in the middle of the night, finding refuge under the cover of his blanket, and on his chest, where it proceeded to stare at him till the sun rose.

He shook his head to dissuade that thought for it would only lead him to an early grave. For his sanity’s sake, he figured it was more likely that the kitten had scampered off early in the morning, and not in the night as his treacherous mind whispered. Couldn’t his mind hear the rapid beating of his heart, and take pity on him?

Instead of the organ reducing its intense pace, it sped up to such a level he wouldn’t be surprised if it burst. He watched fearfully as the kitten struggled to climb his bed with its tiny, partially sharp claws. It was such a cute sight that it overrode his fear, and his eyes got dopey. He couldn’t help cooing.

Cats are dangerously cute animals.

The kitten, tired of scraping up the woodwork, fell to its paws on the floor. Lucas was about to help the little kitten when, with a loud swoosh, it jumped onto his bed.

Repeating: jumped onto his bed, like a freaking anime character, just animal-sized.

Correction—really scary correction—cats were extremely dangerous. Don’t let their soft features fool you. Behind all that cuteness were claws, ready to tear into the flesh of humans, and other things he didn’t dare to imagine, but he knew.

Lucas stared wide-eyed as the kitten strutted towards him. It might have been just a trick of light, or a blurry fearful vision, but he could have sworn he saw its eyes narrow at him, green orbs shinning with an unnatural glow.

It stopped a few inches away from his face on his chest. Bringing one paw to Lucas’ face while the other dug painfully into his chest, it leaned slightly forward till they were close enough to kiss, and meowly spat out.

“If you say one word of what you’ve seen this morning to anyone…” it mimed a gesture with its too-small claws that anyone with any iota of self-preservation could understand, “I’ll kill you,” it hissed, fangs—white, and gleaming wickedly in the light—poking out.

No one could fault him for his screams.

Lucas had always wanted a pet.

However, that thrice-be-damned kitten managed to change his decision in the span of a few minutes. It was an accomplishment, a major one indeed, to be honest.

The kitten was frightening to be around, a pet he wished he never had. Though if you ask the little animal, she would say she was the one who wore the pants in the relationship.

He didn’t expose his feelings toward her when he heard the comment, even though he felt his masculinity dying a little inside. Her attitude towards him made him more than a little angry.

The only bright side to the whole conversation was that he finally had a name to refer her by:

Caitlyn Pryde. No relations to the mutant hamster.

She was a witch, gifted with the ability to transform into her spirit animal—a kitten. Yes, she was more than irritated at that fact, and yes he had fainted after that reveal.

Who wouldn’t?

Anyway, with the cat (pun intended) out of the bag, it was decided unanimously—without any input from him whatsoever—that Caitlyn would stick around for a while. ‘To recuperate’ was her excuse.

Did he also fail to mention the fact that she was from another fucking world? High school wasn’t teaching him how to deal with his life turning into a paranormal fantasy story. They really should. Maybe it would help him wrap his head over everything, and prepare him for the shit that would come.

Everyone knew that happily ever after wouldn’t come immediately, but trouble would instead.

So here they were, seated some spaces away from each other, with Lucas holding onto his sheets, afraid he might faint again.

“Lucas, are you alright?” Caitlyn asked, concern lacing her tone, “The initial shock on you was terrifying. Maybe if I explain it a little better, you won’t be as afraid.”

Now he was reeling from a new shock. The softness in her voice suggested that she actually cared that he was upset. This was a surprising behavior from the talking cat who told him, to his face, that he was the pet.

Then he realized: What owner wouldn’t be upset that their…

His physical manifestation of anger returned, the tightening of his calf muscles as he fought the urge to kick something fluffy, the roughening of a throat crammed with knife-edged curses, and the overall sensation that she was sucking all the oxygen from the room.

Lucas fought for breath. He had to be calm, and consider his next approach with a collected mind. If she was telling the truth, and there was no doubt she was, since her characteristics were enough to back up her claims, he had to tread carefully. He would definitely not want to vomit slugs, or booger bats.

He had to swallow his resentments over the situation, and learn to work with her, preferably before the guys in hunt followed her, and dragged him, unwittingly, into the ensuing fight.

He made a strategic decision. Only Caitlyn could help him, because in her bid to escape her attackers, and her subsequent appearance in his house, she had left magical traces behind. So it didn’t matter whether she left, or not. Her attackers were not good people—they would burn the house down, or capture him, and his parents to use as bait. Anything was possible for them, as long as it would lead them to achieve their objectives.

At least, with Caitlyn around, there was a chance to avoid that. Everything was still up in the air. His family’s lives were still up in the air too.

He let loose a breath as his shoulders sagged. It wasn’t her fault no matter how much his body, mind, and soul raged the opposite. If she had her way, she would have appeared in a place she knew.

“Is all this for real?” he wondered. Was this just a nightmare he would wake up from? He sighed. If it was, the slaps he had inflicted, and received would have succeeded in awakening him.

This was his reality now.

“It’s as real as the walls bordering your room. Whether you hate me, or not, whether you choose to believe me, or not, the truth won’t change. I have left magical traces in this house, and on you, so even if I go, they would still come here, and attack. They may try to use you as bait, but please tell me why I should risk my neck for someone that sent me away? You would be killed.”

That sealed it then. His assessment was correct. That didn’t make him any happier, though, so he changed the topic.

“What did you mean when you said I was your pet? Some kind of fetish?” he jokingly added, laughing slightly, only to trail off when the kitten didn’t join in. Her expression was a cold contempt.

“If I had it my way, you wouldn’t be the one I chose, but magic never worked according to the rules of man.”

“So it’s like a contract?”

“More, or less, though a soul mate would be a more appropriate term. You are joined to me, and I to you.”

“My soul mate is a cat!” Lucas exclaimed, bending his body, and slapping his palms against his face in sadness.

“I’m human, you fool! Just trapped in a cat’s body for a while. You should even be happy. I was always chased after.”

“By people that wanted to kill you, not marry you.”

“Pretty much the same thing.” Caitlyn shrugged her shoulders, lithe muscles rippling with the motion.

He didn’t know why he noticed that one action with clarity. He wasn’t ready to accept the ‘why’ just yet.

“Any magical being worth their salt would be able to sense the connection between us, and ascertain its nature. Once they know how important you are to me, they would use you to draw me out. I was bluffing earlier on, I won’t be able to stop myself from coming to your rescue, and as I am now, your family, you, and I will all die.”

“Okay,” he scratched his forehead, worry lined across it, “how long do we have till they come. One day? Two? A week? Or is it mere hours?”

“It depends…”

“On what?!” Lucas asked with a red face due to the strain of holding in his anger. He didn’t want to scream, and alert his parents.

Caitlyn didn’t have such regards. “On how much they are vying for my blood!” she practically screamed in his face.

There was a terrifying moment when neither of the two spoke again. Their breaths held as they waited for any sign of his family’s approach. When none came, they both heaved sighs of relief.

Lucas finally opened his mouth to ask the question that had been hanging in the air so far.

“What makes you so important that they would transverse literal worlds to reach you?”

“My blood.”

The meaning behind those words was as clear as daylight.

Lucas blinked, “They want to sacrifice you.”

It was not a question, yet Caitlyn bobbed her little head.

He couldn’t muster up the strength to even sigh. Of course, he would get the special one that was meant to be sacrificed to awaken a monstrous demon hell-bent on enslaving the world, or destroying it.

And the icing on this really shitty cake was her being his soul mate; his perfect match.

Times like this always made him wish he wasn’t born.

 

***

 

Lucas was happy he was strong. If it was a week person that this happened to, that person would never know how to respond. Luckily, he had watched enough anime to know what to do in this kind of situation.

It didn’t make it easier to deal with it, though.

He pinched the bridge of his nose, and sighed as he pushed the cart in the store. He knew he should have left Caitlyn at home, consequences be damned, but she had flashed her unfairly cute eyes, and more, or less threatened to castrate him if she didn’t follow.

He surprised himself with how quickly he had folded, behaving more like a paper towel than a man.

Lucas grumbled under his breath as he felt her flit about him, dashing under, and around the legs of the patrons that wandered the aisle.

She took the trait, curiosity, to some new, and unhealthy level. He knew she was not from this world, but still, the way she was behaving was bound to attract some attention, and that was the last thing they needed.

He desperately wished he didn’t have to buy cat food, that her magic would have been able to sustain her indefinitely. It wasn’t to be, and so he found himself sighing once again—a habit he could blame on her arrival—as he threw packets of animal feed that would last for months.

His pocket cried at the expenses. They weren’t cheap.

His musings were cut short when he realized the cart, which had been moving on its own without any trouble, suddenly felt weighed down. Lucas glanced down, already sure of what he would see, but still had to verify it with his own eyes, and yup… the cart was full of a variety of food. Some weren’t even meant for cats!

She didn’t even know what most of what she picked was. Was she just taking things randomly? Or picking stuff that looked a bit interesting?

Making sure no one was near enough to notice his actions, he grabbed Caitlyn by the scruff of her neck, thankful for the gloves he wore in preparation, and minding his face, whispered not-so gently.

“Do you even have the faintest idea of the nonsense you are throwing in?”

She rolled her eyes, a feat he had thought impossible for animals till now. It was probably because she was a human being, or nigh-human.

“Of course not. I am merely picking items I would like to try.”

Lucas gave her an unimpressed stare, “You want to try out dog food?”

Her expression became sheepish as she turned her head to the side, “No,” she mumbled.

“What?” he asked, grinning from ear to ear, “I can’t hear you.”

“I said no,” she sounded angry, and dared to say, embarrassed, “I can’t read, alright? I don’t have any idea what I chose.”

“Oh…You should have told me,” Lucas’ tone was somber, “Why didn’t you?” he asked, genuinely curious.

“Because I…” a sigh escaped her lips, “I thought you would mock me. What kind of owner would I be if I didn’t know how to read, or write?”

…and the mood was effectively killed. Nice work Caitlyn.

Lucas breathed out deeply, dropping her down gently, and placing back contents on the shelf. “I can teach you. It isn’t that difficult to learn since you already know how to speak fluently, as I can see.”

“Good,” her tone was smug. If she could, her arms would have been crossed over her chest, “You are turning out to be the best pet.”

“Oh, for the love of… Can you stop with the ‘pet’ thing?” Lucas shouted, immediately garnering the eyes of every occupant around. He stifled the urge to groan out loud. He had to fix this, lest they think him crazy.

“It’s my girlfriend, you see. She has this horrid—”

“I don’t see you holding a phone out,” someone interrupted.

He cursed at his stupidity, feeling the perpetrator’s amused gaze at his back.

“No,” he attempted to speak up in defense, “I’m using my—”

“Nor an EarPod sticking out.”

“It’s—”

“Are you talking to yourself?”

“The hell? No! I’m—”

“What? Talking to your cat?”

“Yes!” Lucas thundered, his face reddened as he glared at the man that kept interrupting him, “I’m talking to my kitten, who refers to me as her pet. She said it was because I’m her soul mate! Now would you kindly leave me alone, and mind your own business?”

The silence that followed his outburst was as suffocating as the embrace of a grandmother.

Oh, sweet Jesus, what have I done?

He had dug his own grave, as usual, with that unhelpful mind of his.

“Hello, this is 9-1-1. How may I help you?” The automated voice recording rang out in the quiet of the store.

“This is Connor Williams. I am here to report on a person with mental illness. He is talking to himself.”

“What, no!”

Lucas lunged at the stupid man’s phone, only to be sent hurling into the shelf. A hand grabbed roughly at his, holding it tightly against his back, preventing him from stopping the phone call.

“Yes, he just attacked me… yes, he’s currently held down by a fellow patron… hmm… A teenager, fifteen at best, brown-hair, blue eyes, with an angular face, and a sharp pointed nose, tall…”

Feeling hot tears pouring down his face, Lucas glanced at Caitlyn who was held securely in the bosom of a woman, then back at the man reporting him. He closed his eyes, and tried to futilely free himself.

“This is all a misunderstanding. I’m not crazy, please let me go!” His pleas fell on deaf ears. It was no more than a waste of time, breath, and words. In their eyes, he was a sick man, and no amount of begging would change that fact.

He slowly gave up, resigning himself to the shame. His legs felt weak, his breathing labored as sweat gathered on his brows. Afraid, and uncertain about the foreseeable future, he couldn’t stop his mind from dooming himself.

At least things couldn’t get any worse.

And as if he prompted fate, the walls of the store blew open as a man rushed in. From the appearance alone, it didn’t take a shock to the brain to realize his identity, and the group he was affiliated with.

The fanatic growled, spears twirling dangerously, and rushed at Caitlyn, who was thrown into the air by the woman that held her when the miniature man-made explosion rocked the building. He could do nothing, but watch as the spear cut a cruel line through the air, straight at the shell-shocked kitten.

Splat!

Lucas jumped to protect his kitten, and his soul mate, looking down ruefully at the handle that protruded from his chest. The blood that splattered would be a tough stain to clean. As his vision darkened, his last sight was of Caitlyn, claws out, and as vengeful as a wronged snake.

His name echoed from her lips, “Lucas Anderson, I will save you.”

  

THE END

Lamees Alhassar