I was certain I was dead.
The rain burst down onto the streets, with every raindrop feeling like a bullet against my skin, and though I did find some shelter in a cardboard box, I shuddered and fell. It felt like my life was oozing out of my body, and my long-overdue death was approaching. I had travelled for so long and over so many places, I kept telling myself that a human or a rabid dog or my own stupidity would kill me some day. I don’t know how long I’ve lived, but I’m sure I’ve lived more years than I should have.
Still, I wouldn’t give it up. There’s more adventure to be found out here than in my old home, and certainly a lot more food.
So there I was, barely able to move, when I was certain I saw myself walking through the rain. It looked just like me, except maybe a little plumper. I actually wondered if my soul had left my body and I was watching a replay of my death, or even the Grim Reaper had come for me, and had taken on a familiar form to soothe me.
He didn’t disappear or fade into nothing or take me to the great beyond. He simply asked, ‘Room for one more?’ and I nodded. When he sat next to me, a tiny bit of energy sparked within me. I had seen several other cats before on my travels, in fact I had even impregnated one, and yet, there was something I couldn’t quite put my claw on about this one. Even though I knew he wasn’t a spirit or a past vision, he still seemed to have a bit of me about him. I just knew he went through the same things I did, but there was something else as well.
‘Thanks,’ said the other cat.
‘It was nothing,’ I replied as I stood up, ‘I guess we have to stick together.’
‘You’re much nicer than some people I can mention,’ replied the other cat.
‘Oh, I know what’ s happened,’ I said, ‘you were abandoned. Your owners just went and kicked you out when they couldn’t take care of you.’
‘Couldn’t?’ replied the other cat with an angry scoff, ‘Won’t more like.’
‘True that,’ I replied, sighing. I noticed the rain subsiding – but I don’t want to be corny and say that it happened because I made a new friend – so I stepped out of the box, even though it was still wet. The other still lay down. ‘They just wanted me because I was a black cat. They said I had “mystique”. Just wanted a black cat and not what comes with it. Called me “Twilight”, they did. Crap name. Call me Steve.’
The other cat shook his head and walked out of the box to stand beside me. ‘At least you weren’t called Mr. Fluffy. I’m not even that fluffy.’
I shook my head. ‘You’re like the third Mr. Fluffy I’ve met. Humans, eh?’
‘They gave me that “mystique” crap too. He thought I was good luck…look, I don’t want to talk about it.’ He looked up at the dwindling rain, letting some of it plop on his nose. ‘When it gets drier, let’s go find some rats or something.’
And to that I agreed. We both went back into the cardboard box and waited for the rain to completely dry up before we ran across the streets, and Fluffy even challenged me to a little race to the next alleyway. I won – I had been out on these streets longer than he had – and he gladly celebrated my victory. We found nothing really edible in that alleyway except for a half-eaten chocolate bar, which looked appetising to neither of us, so we moved on. Another race, another victory snatched up by yours truly. Next alleyway we went to had a rat scurrying across, which I pounced on immediately. Fluffy looked on in admiration, and would have applauded were he physically able to. We shared the rat and he promised he would bring me something next time we meet.
Sure enough, Fluffy appeared right before me the next day, presenting me with an entire apple pie. ‘Would you believe humans still leave them out on the windowsill? They’re idiots, aren’t they?’
‘Yeah,’ I said, looking harder at the pie just to confirm that it actually lay before me, ‘but…how did you…’
‘I told you, Steve,’ Fluffy said, narrowing his eyes, ‘I got it because humans are stupid.’
‘Okay, calm down,’ I said, raising my paw, ‘thanks, anyway.’
So we both dug in and though we devoured it in a matter of seconds, we felt it unnecessary to do any hunting, so I thought we would just have a couple more of those little races. Well, it’s not like I had anything better to do. When we were both tired out, he took a look at the road and sighed. ‘We’re not like humans, you know. We can do with less. I think everything would be better if humans were just gone.’
‘Wouldn’t go that far,’ I replied, ‘I mean, without them we wouldn’t like have half our favourite foods.’
‘You said it yourself,’ said Fluffy, his eyes seemingly glaring, ‘they wouldn’t even give you that.’ He raised his paw, baring his claws. ‘Your old humans. The ones which abandoned you. Wouldn’t you like them dead?’ The way he said that last word seemed to sting my skin even more than the rapid raindrops.
I ran in seconds.
Again I found myself hiding, not just in cardboard boxes, all over the place. I shouldn’t have run, I told myself, now he’s going to kill me. He didn’t say he would, I just felt it in my gut.
Even though he said those things, even though I was certain I saw a glimpse of hellfire in his eyes, he still reminded me of myself.
It was one of those things I needed to talk about with my “wife”.
I still remembered the way, I still remembered how the house stood out even among its nearly-identical neighbours. It was just a matter of sitting by the bushes and waiting for her to come to the window. Princess, the lovely little tabby cat. One day I found myself wandering around her neighbourhood when I saw her in her garden, rolling over on her back, just for me. I visited her multiple times, mostly to see our kittens before they were given away. People snatched them up in minutes.
‘It was the right thing to do,’ Princess said, ‘they’ll be taken good care of. My humans are smart.’ I had never been able to find my kittens, and she told me not to; it was time for them to be independent. Thus when I came to her, it was for reassurance that humans weren’t as bad as they seem to be. Even after what I did with her, the humans still kept her and she never had a bad thing to say about them.
‘Twilight,’ she said, peeking from the window crack (she’s the only one allowed to call me that name), ‘what are you doing here?’
‘I just needed someone to talk to,’ I replied, ‘I got a new friend the other day, and we looked for food together, and then he started talking about destroying the human race.’
‘Now that’s just silly,’ said Princess, gesturing towards her collar, ‘who would want to destroy a race that could create things like this?’
‘Thing is, he just…sorta reminded me of me a bit. Like…’
‘You mean you want to commit genocide?’ Princess tilted her head.
‘No, he’s been recently abandoned, and he’s like me in my early…I don’t know how to…’
All of a sudden, I found myself levitating.
‘Is that him?’
I looked down on the ground and saw Fluffy, holding what looked like a glowing rod in his mouth. Then he shook his head and I slammed against the wall.
‘Yes, I suppose humans do make some items of worth,’ he said after he put down the rod.
‘What…’ I gasped as I lay on the ground.
‘I think I should tell you about my owner,’ said a grimacing Fluffy, ‘His name was Professor Destruction, head of the GEIST corporation for world domination.’
My energy shot back into my body in an instant, yet my next word was another ‘What?’
‘He kept me around for luck, as I said, always keeping me on my lap, stroking me as he dictated his plans to conquer the earth. He always made sure to have a rabbit’s foot or a horseshoe around his neck, and at four every day he would throw salt over his shoulder. The type of poppycock humans take as gospel.
‘His plans for conquest were always thwarted by this secret agent guy, can’t remember his name. Well, he managed to find our latest secret hideout, and I know he found it because he slept with our secretary, and yet I’m the one that gets blamed for not bringing enough luck. He kicked me out, but not before I managed to pinch this.’ He nodded in the rod’s direction. I had half a mind to snatch it away from him and send him skyrocketing to the other side of the planet, yet all I could do was hiss at him.
‘Don’t be like that, Steve,’ said Fluffy, placing his paw firmly on the rod, ‘you see, that’s why I befriended you. I want revenge on that idiot master of mine, and I’m going to build an army of cats to do it. You have shown great speed and agility, so I think you will be perfect. Don’t you want revenge on humanity for sending you out on the streets with nothing to eat but what you find in the bins? Don’t you want them to be as scared as you felt when you first stepped onto these streets?’
‘No!’ I barked, and I swatted at him, making him back away. In seconds, I grabbed the rod with my mouth and readied myself to catapult him over the fence and out of my life forever.
But I didn’t know how the damn thing worked.
He leapt at me, releasing the rod from my mouth and pinning me down to the ground. ‘I’m going to give you one last chance to join me, and sit by my side as I conquer humanity. Just think of the power.’
‘Weren’t you talking about how we were better than humans because we can live with less?’
‘Well,’ said Fluffy, spitting, ‘this is different. This is something important…’ At that moment, I slashed him in the face again, so hard he yowled in pain. ‘You’re making a big mistake!’ cried Fluffy, ‘The humans rejected you!’
‘Well,’ I replied, ‘you ever think that maybe I like being out and about? I like the adventure?’
‘But don’t you want the humans to serve you?’
‘But they already serve me!’ Princess, the clever little girl, had managed to get the window open and had escaped into the garden. ‘I want a fuss, they give me a fuss, I yowl for food, they give me food.’
‘You’re lying!’ snapped Fluffy.
‘No, really, I’ll show you.’
To my surprise, Fluffy actually followed Princess into the house, bringing that rod along with him. Cowardly custard that I was, I made my escape. A very selfish thing to do, I admit, yet the fact that he willingly went with her eased my nerves.
I returned a couple of days later to find Fluffy sitting at the window of the house, his fur neatly combed and a collar around his neck. ‘I suppose I was wrong about humans,’ he said, ‘they really do know their place. Watch.’ He howled and yowled until a bowl of cat food was placed before him.
A quick glance into the living room, and I saw the patriarch of the house, clutching that rod, using it to bring the TV remote to him.
Once again, when I saw him, I saw me. I saw an alternate me. A me who gave up the streets for another owner. A better owner.
So I looked for one.
(Quick Note: Black cats are considered good luck here in the UK.)