Monday, 01 May 2023 14:00

Alley Cat: Part 1

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A Second Generation Whateley Academy Story

Alley Cat

by

Domoviye

 

Part One

 

Whitman Cottage,
August
20th, 2016

Shisa stared out the window, wishing she was outside in the fresh air. It wasn't home, but it would be better than being stuck inside the virtually empty cottage.

Shaking her head, she refused to give into temptation. If she went outside feeling like she was, she'd keep walking and never come back. That wasn't an option for her, not anymore. Until she graduated or got kicked out, Whateley was her home, and her prison. Sighing to herself, she closed her eyes. She might as well take a nap, there wasn't anything else to do.

Her eyes opened and her ears twitched at the sound of people. They didn't sound like either of the House Mothers, or anyone else she knew. Jumping down from the window, she padded downstairs on silent feet, taking a seat under the chair nearest the entrance.

Two girls, one older with black hair, the other a young blonde, were standing just inside the door. The older one was talking to Mrs. Everette, while the other waited, expressionless and listless, staring at her feet.

“Darcy, why don't you sit down while I talk with Kara?” Mrs. Everette said, motioning towards furniture.

The girl silently obeyed, while the others went into the House Mothers apartment.

Shisa watched Darcy for a few moments, not sure what to do. It had been a long time since she'd dealt with a fellow classmate. Then the girl began to softly cry, trying to hide her sobbing behind her hands.

Now she knew what she had to do.

Walking out from her hiding spot Shisa meowed before jumping onto the arm of the chair and meowing again.

The young girl turned to look at her, wiping her eyes to see more clearly. “I didn't know they had a cat,” she said, reaching out to let Shisa smell her hand.

Shisa leaned in, giving the hand a sniff, it smelled clean with a bit of a flowery scent from soap or perfume. Giving it a lick, she ducked her head under the hand, brushing her fur against the girls fingers and started purring. The fingers began scratching pleasantly between her ears. With introductions over, she stepped onto Darcy's lap and made herself comfortable.

The crying and sniffling stopped. One arm cradled her body while the other softly stroked her back. For the first time in days, Shisa felt comfortable and useful.

Several minutes later, Mrs. Everette and the other girl came out of the apartment. They both stopped in their tracks at the sight of Darcy smiling softly while stroking Shisa.

“What a pretty cat,” the girl said, getting closer and holding her hand out, clearly wanting to pet Shisa, while not scaring her.

Mrs. Everette grinned. “I see you've met Shisa, she's an even earlier arrival than both of you. Why don't you say hello, Shisa.”

The two girls looked at the house mother, clearly confused about what was going on.

“He-llo,” Shisa said, flicking her tail in amusement.

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Cape Coral, Florida,
June 29
th, 2015

Micheal finished typing up his very last email for Neo Widgets Incorporated. He had to admit it was one of his best. If his team stuck together and followed the plan, they'd be able to get a new client, which would ensure everyone not only kept their jobs, but had the chance of getting a nice bonus. He had high hopes for them, they were mostly good people who had just needed some guidance.

Smiling pleasantly, he got up to get a coffee. Chris, the youngest employee at the office, and the one Micheal had paid special attention to, came over to him.

“Hey Mike,” the young man said. “I really need to thank you. I had a long talk with my parents like you recommended, and we both actually listened to each other. It... it went well. We still don't see eye to eye on everything, but we did our best not to take everything we disagree on as a challenge. We've agreed to have dinner once a month and keep things open. I couldn't have done that without your advice.”

“You don't need to thank me, Chris. I saw how much you missed your parents, and just showed you how to get you and them to open up a little. You did the heavy lifting. I'm just glad it worked,” Micheal replied, pulling the young man into a half hug.

“Micheal, can I talk to you?” Nancy asked.

“Sure,” he replied, following her into the stairwell where they could have a bit of privacy.

“I... thank you for getting me in touch with the lawyer. She had some really good advice, and I'm not only divorcing Paul, but I called the police too.”

“I'm very proud of you. I understand how hard that had to be.”

She wiped her eyes with a very wet tissue. “Well it's like you said, it doesn't matter if he only hit me once, it was too much. I shouldn't be afraid of going home after work.”

“Damn right. Now please, take your time and learn how to be the strong, vibrant woman I know you can be. Then when you're ready, get back out there and find the right person for you.”

After several more thank you's, he finally got to the coffee maker. Pouring himself a cup, he made a new pot, using the really nice gourmet coffee he'd introduced to the office.

“Micheal, thanks for telling me to see the marriage counsellor,” Bob said, keeping his deep voice low. “It's been great for Margaret and I. I feel like I can actually say something at home now and she takes the time to listen to me. I was on the verge of a divorce, and now, we're planning on a vacation to Mexico. Things are still touch and go, but we're learning and trying to get better. I wouldn't have believed it was possible a month ago.”

Patting his co-workers shoulder, Micheal beamed. “That's fantastic man. Keep that attitude and you'll do great.”

A harsh voice made itself known over the quiet, productive noise of the office. “This is unacceptable. Do you have any idea how to do your job? I should fire you for being this stupid.”

All eyes went to the office door, where Clara, head manager of the local office, was once again destroying one of the people under her. This time it was her favourite target, Ryan who worked in sales. Through the glass wall, Micheal could see the mousy, young man standing there, accepting it, his head bowed, nodding as he was ripped to shreds.

Putting his coffee down, Micheal marched right into the office and up to the desk.

“What are you doing here, Micheal? And why the hell did you come in without knocking?” she demanded.

“Ryan, go to your desk,” he said.

Clara got to her feet. “You do not tell Ryan what to do. I do. And you'd better have a very good reason to be in here or I'll see you fired by the end of the day.”

He started laughing, which only made Clara angrier. “I'm quitting. Today is my last day and this is actually my last five minutes. But I thought you deserved to know what I did two hours ago. I sent a message to head office. It listed your bullying and humiliation of the people working under you, with dates, times and audio recordings. You'd be amazed at how long that took to write up, you are a very nasty person. I also have video of you sexually harassing several of the younger men, threatening them with being fired if they said anything. And as a cherry on top, there's the misuse of company funds for your own personal use.”

The soon to be former assistant manager stared at him, her mouth moving soundlessly, making her resemble a stunned fish. Then the phone rang.

“I think that's head office now. You shouldn't keep them waiting,” he said, smirking evilly.

Walking out of the office, he saw that everyone had been listening to him. He took a bow. “It's been a pleasure working with all of you. I hope you all have pleasant, happy lives. Except for Clara, she can go to hell.”

Taking off his tie, he tossed it in the garbage as he headed for the door. Once outside he reached into his pocket and pulled out a magic eight ball. Giving it a good hard shake, he read the message that slowly formed. “A cat needs to learn about magic.

That was odd, even for him. Putting the eight ball away, he pulled out a bus ticket for Seattle, Washington. With a spring in his step, he went to the dumpster and pulled a suitcase that had an old, battered top hat and tuxedo in it. Not caring that he was outside, he quickly took off his pants and shirt, replacing them with his new outfit.

Grinning, he did a little dance. “It's been too long since I've been Magic Mike,” he said.

As he made his way to the bus station, he tossed his wallet, which was stuffed with most of the money he'd made at his job, into the hat of a busker. He gave his nice pants and shirt to an older gentleman that was just about his size, who was looking for work in a worn-out, old suit. His cell phone, that was on a really good plan and paid up for a whole year, was given to a crying young woman. He helpfully pointed out that it had the contact info for a number of youth helplines that could give her a hand.

As always, Micheal's future was bright and he was more than happy to share the wealth.

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Lucky Seven Casino, Seattle,
Late Night,
July 5th, 2015

Ten year old Gregory sat on the sidewalk outside the old casino, holding his little sister. It wasn't raining for a change, but that was the only good thing about the night. People kept going in and out of the casino, ignoring the two dirty children, or giving them a single look before looking away, not wanting to spoil their night.

His stomach rumbled. It had been a long time since they'd had supper, and that had just been a hotdog from a convenience store. Pulling his old, dirty plastic bottle from his backpack, he took a little sip of the water and handed it to Gloria. She shook her head, and leaned in closer to him.

They were both tired and wanted to find somewhere to sleep. But their mom was in the casino trying to win some money. Until she came out, they had to stay where they were. He hoped she wouldn't be much longer, but she probably wouldn't leave until she ran out of money. Depending on her luck that could be an hour or two or all night. She'd been in there for five hours already, and she'd gone in with a lot of cash. He didn't know how she'd gotten it. She'd just been laughing about it, saying how she was going to win big and get them a nice house, lots of good food, and beautiful clothes.

He'd believe it when he saw it.

“Hey kids. Wanna go to a party?” a guy asked. The girl who was holding onto the man's arm started laughing.

Looking away Gregory didn't say anything. If he shut up and ignored them, they'd usually go away.

“He's so cute,” the woman said. “I could just eat him up.”

“You hungry kid. I can get you and your sister some food and some things that'll make you really happy. I know some guys who would love you.”

Wrapping his arms around Gloria, he kept staring at the ground. The pair kept talking, promising them a lot of things if they went with them. He knew they were lying. Adults always lied, just like mom. And if he went with them, they wouldn't give him anything nice, they'd just hurt him. He wouldn't let that happen again.

Finally they went away, yelling that kids were stupid and didn't know what was good for them. They went into the casino, where it was loud and bright. Where there was food, and music, and fun. Where Gregory and his sister weren't allowed.

“Come on, Gloria,” he said. “It's not safe here.”

Half carrying his sleepy sister they went into an alley where a dumpster sat open. Climbing up the garbage stacked around it, the pair got inside. It stank, but it was mostly soft, and no one would see them in there.

Holding his sister close to him, they rested their heads on his backpack. Shivering in the cool air, he wished he was in his bed. He remembered what it had been like when dad had been with them. He'd had a bed then, and food every night. His clothes had been old stuff they got from a second-hand store, but they'd been clean. And he'd had his toys. He missed those.

Crying, he tried to sleep.

Something jumped into the dumpster. Looking up he saw a large grey cat with pretty green eyes, staring at him. They watched each other for a while, then it walked over and licked his forehead. He petted its nice warm fur, managing to smile for a moment.

The cat climbed onto him and his sister, acting like a blanket for both of them.

Slowly he fell asleep.

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Waking up at dawn, Gregory saw that Gloria was up already, sitting with the cat on her lap. Her face was clean and her hair was combed. Her hair hadn't been combed in over a week. He'd tried to get the knots out the other day, but she'd cried that it hurt too much. Now her brown hair was nice with a long braid..

“Who combed your hair?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.

“The kitty. She licked my face all clean too.” Gloria said, bending down to kiss the cat on the head. “She's a magic kitty.”

The cat just looked at him with it's big green eyes. There was a comb hanging from it's neck, but there was no way the animal could have combed Gloria's hair. It didn't matter anyways, they needed to find their mom and maybe they could get some breakfast.

“Let's go. Maybe mom's out of the casino,” he said.

“I'm hungry,” his sister said.

“I've only got some water.”

The cat meowed, patting something with its paw. His eyes widened at the sight of a twenty dollar bill. It disappeared into his pocket. Now they could get something to eat.

Climbing out of the dumpster, they went back to the casino. The cat followed along, it's tail held high, sticking close to Gloria. His sister was babbling at the cat, saying something about how nice the magic kitty was.

They found their mom asleep in a doorway. He shook her shoulder. “Mom, wake up. Come on, we need to get breakfast.”

“Shut up,” she mumbled. “Mommy's head hurts.”

“We're hungry. Let's go eat.”

“We don't have any money. The machine cheated me. I was winning, then it took it all. It's all rigged,” his mom said.

Pulling the twenty out of his pocket, keeping it close so the early morning passerby's wouldn't steal it, he showed his mom. “I have money. I found it.”

“Magic kitty found it,” Gloria said.

That got mom's attention. Her eyes snapped open and she snatched it out of his hand. “You're such a good boy!” she said, hugging him. “Now I can get my money back.”

In shock and horror, Gregory watched the woman who was supposed to take care of him and Gloria, head for the casino. Leaving them alone with absolutely nothing, again.

The cat hissed, making him look at it. He saw it move it's front paw, which looked a lot like a little hand. It seemed like the cat was yanking something towards it. There was a scream and a thud. Turning away from the cat, Gregory saw his mother lying face down on the sidewalk, blood pooling around her head.

A woman came running over, her phone out, calling 911.

Gloria ran to their mom, crying and holding her. The cat followed along, rubbing it's head on her leg. When the ambulance came to take them and their unconscious mother away, the cat finally ran away.

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Homeless Camp,
Late Evening,
July 21st, 2015

Sarah huddled all alone in the tent she called home. Her mother was working the night shift at an all-night fast food place and her father was at work as a security guard. Neither of them could bring her to work with them, and they needed someone to watch their things so they weren't stolen. '

So at fourteen years old, Sarah was all by herself, curled up in a sleeping bag, hoping no one would come by.

She tried to sleep. If she went to sleep her parents would be there when she woke up, and everything would be all right. But the noises of the camp wouldn't let her. She kept jumping at the shouts and footsteps. Clutching an old bottle of pepper spray to her chest, her mind went back to the memory of watching a woman being raped the day before in a tent just like hers.

A pair of voices laughed. A man and a woman were coming down the path, staggering along by the sound of things. The woman said something just a little too softly to make out.

“You sure, babe?” the man said.

“Fuck yeah!”

Her heart went into her throat as the pair came to her tent. The zipper moved. She tried to tell them to go away, but nothing came out. The zipper went up, revealing two dark faces. Swallowing Sarah found her voice.

“Go away!”

“Dammit, this ones taken,” the woman said.

“It's only a girl. I don't mind an audience,” the man replied, opening the tent flap all the way.

“Get out of here! This is my tent!” Sarah screamed.

“Shut up!” the man said, slapping her hard across the face.

The pepper spray went flying, and her head hit the ground. Stunned, she couldn't do anything as the two adults crawled into the tent. Crying, she covered her head, hoping she'd wake up.

Then the man screamed as he was yanked out of the tent.

“Wha-” the woman's confused shout turned into a yell of fear and she went flying through the tent flap as well.

Holding her aching cheek, Sarah sat up, trying to see who had saved her. Through her tears she saw the pair scrambling to their feet, trying to cover themselves while yelling in pain. It sounded like someone was beating them, but no one was there.

A large grey cat stepped into the tent, it's green eyes glowed in the dim city lights. It watched her for a moment, then turned, stood up on its hind legs and unbelievably closed the tent flap. It watched her again, seeming to judge her reactions.

Sarah just sat there, mouth open in shock. This had to be a dream. There was no other explanation.

The cat came over to her. With a paw that seemed more like a hand, it stroked her hair. Climbing onto her lap it licked her tears away, careful to not touch her bruise. Then the cat gently pushed her chest, making it clear it wanted her to lay down.

More than ever convinced this it was a dream, she laid down and closed her eyes. The cat climbed off and curled up beside her, resting it's head against her shoulder. To the sound of purring, she fell asleep.

When Sarah woke early the next morning to her parents coming back from work, the cat was gone. If it wasn't for the bruise on her cheek and the cat fur on her shirt, she'd have thought it was a dream.

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Magic Mike sat beside a barrel fire set up in the homeless camp. It wasn't needed for warmth, it was there simply because people liked fire. So a group of early risers sat around it, passing time until it was time to go to work, or beg, or do whatever they did during the day.

Passing a cigarette to an old man, he watched a large grey cat make its way out of the camp. It wouldn't have attracted his attention, if he hadn't seen it open and then close a tent while looking around for observers. If that was an ordinary cat, he'd eat his top hat.

Smiling, he considered what he'd have to do to make things right.

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Aurora Avenue, Seattle,
Late Evening,
August 2
nd, 2015

Magic Mike sat on the roof of the building, his legs swinging over the edge, watching the street below. The oldest profession in the world was thriving down there. Not all the people were old enough to legally get a job, but that didn't stop the potential buyers.

Something moved along the roof, doing a very good job of being stealthy. The grey cat he'd been keeping an eye on was observing the street, just like him.

“Hello again,” he said, not looking at the cat. “Something you need to learn is that you can't help everyone. You'll want to with every bit of your being, but you can't. You'll run yourself ragged, make mistakes, hurt the people you're trying to help. And you'll eventually burn out if you're lucky, or end up dead.”

The cat was listening to him. This wasn't the first time he'd crossed her path. Usually she ran away, but now she just watched curiously.

“But if you're smart, use your powers wisely, pace yourself, you can make a real difference. Like with that kid there,” he said, pointing at a teen with short red hair, who couldn't be older than fifteen.

He heard the scratch of claws and the cat was gone.

Humming to himself, Magic Mike kept watching the crowd. He wouldn't be able to do anything for most of them, but there would be a few he could help. He'd spot them soon enough.

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Jessie hugged herself, trying to stay warm in the cool night air while only wearing a crop top and mini-skirt. Her stomach rumbled unhappily. Pressing her hands against her belly, she promised she'd get something to eat as soon as she got some money.

A car pulled up to the curb, the passenger window came down and a middle aged man leered at her. “Hey boy, you interested in a good time?”

Her cheeks turned as red as her hair, and she looked away in humiliation.

“Hey, you interested or not?”

“Yeah,” Jessie said, trying to make her voice higher.

The man looked her up and down, undressing her with his eyes. “How much?”

“Forty bucks.”

“You're not worth that much, boy. Twenty.”

Her stomach rumbled again. Twenty bucks would get her food for the night and the next day, and no one else had stopped since she'd come out over an hour ago. “OK, twenty.”

The John leaned over and opened the door. Something seemed to grab Jessie, making her stumble. At the same time, the man slapped at something on his cheek, looking away. A grey blur streaked across her vision, seeming to jump into the car and then the back seat.

Shaking her head, Jessie wondered if she'd really seen something. It had moved too fast to be real. Sure there were mutants who could run that fast, but they weren't about to go into the backseat of a car. Getting in, she smiled nervously as she put on her seat belt. A hand grabbed her flat chest, squeezing it painfully. Wincing, she squirmed a little, but didn't object. She needed the money.

They drove in silence, the John's hand exploring her body. She forced herself to smile, even when he hurt her.

Finally the car stopped at a dark parking lot. Trying not to tremble in fear, Jessie got ready to do what she had to. Her heart was beating a mile a minute and she was ready to break down in tears, but that would get her thrown out without the money.

Taking off her seat belt, she turned to face the man. “So what do you want me to do first?” she asked, her voice barely audible.

A punch to the stomach knocked the air out of her. Hunched down, she grabbed her stomach, trying not to vomit. What had she done wrong?

The man grabbed her hair, twisting it so hard, it felt like it was being ripped out by the roots. “Don't speak to me boy. You're going to shut up and do what I tell you.”

Jessie cringed as the man raised his hand to slap her. Then the driver seat slammed forward, driving the man's head into the steering wheel.

Eyes wide in horror at what had just happened, Jessie watched the man groan with blood dripping down his face. The groan turned to a snarl, and the John reached for her with his enormous hands, his teeth bared like he wanted to bite her.

An invisible force struck the man. He hit the driver door so hard the back of his head cracked the side window. He slumped down, the only sign he was still alive were the bubbles forming in the blood pouring out his nose.

Jessie stumbled out of the car, screaming in horror.

A creature was moving in the car. It was studying the man, grabbing something from his jacket. Then it turned to Jessie, it's large green eyes pierced hers, holding her in place. It jumped out of the car, and she saw that it was a cat.

Somehow it was holding a cell phone. It dialed a number and held the phone out to her. She stepped back, too confused and horrified to comprehend what was going on.

A voice came from the phone. “911, what is the emergency?”

The cat moved closer motioning for her to take the phone. Reluctantly she did. “Hi, I-I need an ambulance, there- a man's been hurt.”

As she tried to answer the operators questions, the cat bounded away into the night.

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Downtown Seattle,
August 9
th, 2015

Checking his watch David saw his lunch break was nearly over. He picked up his pace, weaving around the other pedestrians who filled the sidewalk. A large grey cat came out of nowhere forcing him to skip and hop, first to avoid it and then to keep his balance. Cursing, he wished all the mangy strays would be trapped and put to sleep.

A family of tourists was coming down the sidewalk, taking up most of it of course. One of their brats was playing with a ball, throwing it up in the air and catching it as it fell. Stupid kid, he was going to lose it if he kept it up. And just as he expected the kid missed the ball. It bounced off the curb going into traffic.

David watched it happen, getting ready to smirk. It would be a good lesson for the kid to lose his ball. Maybe he'd learn to be more careful.

Then he saw the kid run after the ball. Time moved in slow motion. He started to shout, but even as the milliseconds seemed to stretch into minutes, there wasn't time. A car was coming, and there was no way it would miss the boy.

Horrified, he could already picture what was about to happen. The kid was going to be hit and if he was lucky, he'd only get some broken bones and a bad concussion. If he wasn't, he'd be dead before he hit the pavement. His hand started going to his phone to call 911.

And then he saw a miracle.

The grey cat was standing on its hind legs seemingly pulling at the air with it's front... hands? Cats didn't have hands. He didn't know exactly what it was doing, but it wasn't supposed to be doing that.

The car slammed on the brakes. The boy looked at it mouth open in shock, realizing too late, what he'd done. And then the kid was yanked off his feet, flying through the air, screaming in terror, straight at David.

Reflexes David didn't realize he still had, went into action. Spreading his arms, he caught the kid, spinning from the impact. He fell to the ground, cradling the boy against his chest. His back hit the sidewalk, making him gasp in pain.

Lying there, trying to catch his breath, he caught a glimpse of the cat watching him with bright green eyes. It nodded at him and ran away.

As the boys family and onlookers came over to him, David tried to comprehend what had just happened.

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Aberdeen, Washington,
August 11
th, 2015

The hospital room smelled like death. Luna Wright hung back from her grandmother, afraid to get close. She didn't know what she was afraid of, it might have been the hospital itself. Or the cancer that had ravaged the kind, old woman who used to make her cookies and cakes. Maybe she was afraid that if she said goodbye, the most important person in her life would finally pass away.

“Come here, Luna,” her grandmother said.

Forcing herself every step of the way, she went to the bed. Tears welled up in her eyes at seeing the frail old woman. Reaching out, she took hold of the painfully thin hand. “Grandma,” she sobbed.

It took some time for her grandmother to work up the energy to speak, and even then her voice was only slightly louder than a whisper. “Luna, I know it's sad. I don't want to leave you. But I'm old. I've lived a good life, and you made these last years so precious and wonderful. Remember what I've taught you. And I want you to know that I'll be watching over you.”

Kissing her hand, Luna nodded. “I'll remember.”

“Give me a proper hug.”

Trying to be as gentle as possible, afraid she'd break something, she bent down and just barely touched her grandmother. Amazingly she felt arms that were only skin and bones wrap around her. There was very little strength in them, but it was more activity than her grandmother had been able to do in a week.

“Oh, just holding you is making me feel better. Don't let go,” her grandmother said.

They stayed like that for several minutes, but eventually even the newfound energy faded away, and her grandmother had to let go. Kissing the woman's cheek, Luna was surprised to see that some colour seemed to have returned to her face. Her mother wrapped an arm over her shoulder, as they watched the old woman fall peacefully to sleep.

“OK, I think it's time we go,” her father said.

“I wish they'd let me light some incense in here. I have a nice herbal blend that would help give her some energy,” her mother said.

“Mom, you heard the doctors. Grandma is having enough trouble breathing already. No incense,” Luna said, shaking her head. Why did she have to be the sensible one?

“At least they let us put the energy crystals by her,” dad said.

She rolled her eyes. The crystals were just ordinary rocks they'd gotten from their so-called magician friend Moonbeam. She couldn't believe how gullible her parents were. They would have fit perfectly in the hippy movement of the sixties, now they were just weird. And they insisted on dragging her along in the weirdness, which was how she got named Luna. That made school so much fun.

They saw her eye roll.

“With magic and superheroes, you should open you mind to the higher dimensions, Luna,” Mom told her.

“Yeah, I know it's real. But paying hundreds of dollars for some amethysts and semi-precious rocks is silly. I could get them off the net for forty or fifty bucks.”

“They're not just rocks. They're full of healing energy,” Dad told her.

“Sure they are. Grandma is going to get out of bed and start dancing any day now.” She tugged at the door of their rusty old car, getting it open on the third pull.

“Those stones are helping. You saw how much better grandma was doing on this trip. It just takes time.”

Her mom nodded in agreement. “You have to believe to have the best effect.”

“So if the Witch Queen comes after me, I just have to say 'I don't believe in magic', and she'll fall over dead?”

That made her parents shut up. In annoyed silence they drove back home, and she was thrilled when they arrived. She could hide out in her room until supper. The home wasn't much, just an old farmhouse her parents had bought years ago using money her grandparents on her dad's side had left them in a will, but it was well cared for, for all her parents faults, they weren't lazy. Still they spent a lot more time and money on the new age wellness retreat they'd built on the former farmland.

Her parents headed back to the small wellness centre where their 'guests' were probably doing yoga surrounded by foul smelling incense, under the guidance of their employee and best friend, Indigo. Her dad would start cooking a healthy vegan supper, which she would be forced to eat, when all she wanted was a nice burger. And her mom would set things up for the nightly, naked, meditative marijuana session.

Why couldn't she have normal parents?

Going to her room, she pulled out her homework. If she wanted a real education and job after graduating high school, she had to study. Her parents might want her to join in the new age hippy lifestyle, but she certainly didn't. Putting on some grunge music, Luna started on her math. She'd just gotten the first question done when every nerve in her body exploded in blinding, red hot, liquid agony.

Shrieking, she fell out of her chair.

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Seattle,
After midnight,
August 23
rd, 2015

Jamie walked behind his friends, drinking from his bottle, wishing they'd finally call it a night. His feet hurt, he was tired, and he just wanted to sit somewhere comfortable, finish his drink, and enjoy the good feeling.

Wayne was up ahead, hooting and hollering, dancing and having a grand old time. He was why they were wandering around late at night looking for something to do, instead of sitting comfortably at the bar, shooting the shit and munching on snacks. The guy just didn't know when to call it quits. Sucker punching a guy who objected to his girlfriend being hit on, had been a dumb ass move.

He hoped his two real friends. George and Keven, would say something soon. They weren't any happier with Wayne than he was, and they'd sometimes stand up to him. Jamie couldn't, he didn't have the guts. He was happy just being accepted by the group, and he didn't want to risk being tossed out.

“Hey Wayne!” George called. “Let's call it a night.”

“What?! It's still early, and I'm not even drunk yet,” Wayne shouted, still dancing.

“I've got beer at my place. Let's go crash, nothing is happening tonight.”

“Fuck no! I'm not stopping until I'm drunk and have some pussy!”

Jamie sighed as George and Keven shared a look, shrugged their shoulders and kept walking. They wouldn't be going home any time soon. Swallowing another mouthful of whiskey, he pushed his unhappiness down, and kept walking.

Wayne shouted and glass shattered on the ground. Looking around his friends, Jamie saw Wayne on the ground, his bottle of liquor smashed, and an old homeless man was cursing sleepily.

Running over to the pair, Jamie silently prayed that nothing bad would happen. As Wayne got to his feet, his face red with rage, he knew his pleas were useless.

“YOU FUCKER!” Wayne shouted. Without any warning, he kicked the homeless man in the side.

The man whined, his words slurred so badly they were unintelligible. Wayne kept kicking him, his swearing and cursing turning to laughter. He motioned for them to join in.

George and Keven took some halfhearted kicks, mostly to the mans arms and legs. The man was barely conscious at that point, only able to wrap his arms around his head, feebly trying to protect himself.

“Fuck! He broke my bottle,” Wayne said. “What the fuck am I going to do now.”

Jamie held out his bottle. “You can finish my whisky,” he said, hoping it would keep Wayne from doing anything else.

Swatting it out of his hand, Wayne glared at him. “I don't want your shit drink. I want my shit!”

“I've still got the beer at my place, and some harder stuff. Let's go and enjoy it. This piece of crap isn't worth our time,” Keven said.

“Shut the fuck up! I'm not going until this useless, filthy, piece of shit knows not to fuck with me.”

Wayne reached into his jacket and pulled out large flask from his coat. Jamie knew it was his friends so-called good stuff. He'd tried it once and almost vomited, it had tasted like jet fuel. Wayne began pouring it over the old man.

Jamie didn't know what to do. If he tried to stop it, Wayne would probably beat him up. If he didn't do anything Wayne would set the old man on fire. He looked at his two friends, hoping they'd know what to do. They just looked down the street, to make sure no one important was watching.

Turning away, he hoped the old man was unconscious and wouldn't feel anything.

He spun back around at the sickening sound of flesh hitting stone, and the crack of bones. Wayne was practically embedded into the wall. He looked surprised for a moment, then his face went slack, and he sort of peeled off the brick, falling in a broken heap on the sidewalk.

Jamie screamed.

Reaching into their coats, George pulled out a pistol, Keven got a knife. They were shouting incoherently, it sounded like they wanted someone to come out, or they were demanding to know what happened. They spun in circles looking for the attacker.

Then George went flying across the street. One moment he was standing there, gun at the ready, then he wasn't. His body hit the sidewalk and his scream was cut off with a sickening suddenness.

Keven lunged for the old man. “It's you! You d-”

Something slammed into Keven's head, driving him into the cement face first. Blood sprayed outwards, and Keven didn't move.

Jamie stood there screaming. He couldn't think. He couldn't move. He could only scream.

Something jumped down from the buildings roof. It landed silently in the shadows. All he could see were demonic green eyes. They were staring into his soul, judging him. Deciding if he deserved to die.

He fell to his knees, hands up, fear making tears well up. “Please don't kill me! I didn't do anything! I won't do anything! I'll change! I'll become better! No more drinking! No more drugs! I won't hang around people like Wayne anymore! I'll do whatever you want! Please, just give me a chance! I swear, I'll be a better person!”

The demon didn't move, it didn't need to. He was nailed to the spot. All he could do was beg and sob.

After an eternity the demon pointed a clawed finger at him. Blubbering Jamie waited to die.

It slashed the air and pain lanced through his head. He collapsed, fainting from fear.

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In the hospital room the next day, Jamie touched the bandage tightly bound around his forehead. The doctors didn't know how the three cuts had been created, they were so deep they'd cut into his skull. They would probably scar. Whoever had cut him had rubbed dirt into the wounds, and widened them at the same time.

When the police questioned him, he had told them everything. Wayne attacking and planning on killing the homeless man. His friends kicking the man. How he had stood by, too scared and useless to stop it. They wanted to know who had attacked them. He couldn't give them any details, except that it was a green eyed demon, with a grey clawed hand.

“Why did it spare you?” the police officer asked.

“I don't know. Maybe I wasn't worth it. Maybe it thought I deserved a second chance,” he said.

Looking in the mirror later, he touched the bandage. Jamie knew he'd been marked by the demon, a warning of what would happen if they ever met again. He swore to himself he would do better. He didn't dare do anything that might bring the demon back.

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August 24th, 205

Magical Mike sat in an alleyway, humming a happy little song to himself, munching on a tuna fish sandwich. He was smiling, like he usually was, wondering where his feet would take him next. Busking might be nice. Or he could go to the casino and see what turned up there.

As he thought, the large grey cat came walking down the alley with a dead rat in its jaws. Despite the several times they'd met, she still watched him with wary green eyes.

“You probably don't want that rat,” he said. “It's not very clean. Would you like half of my sandwich. It's a really good tuna on rye with tomato and lettuce.”

He put the uneaten half of his lunch on the ground, making sure it was on the wrapper so it would stay clean. To be polite he took a pack of wet wipes out of his hat and placed it beside the sandwich. Then he moved away so the cat girl wouldn't be so nervous.

She looked at him, looked at the sandwich, and repeated the motion several times. Finally she dropped the rat and went to the offered food. Sitting down the cat girl once more looked at him, then looked around. She seemed to shrug her shoulders, opened up the wet wipes and gave her hands a long, hard scrub.

She looked at him again, he smiled and nodded. Seeing that he wasn't panicking or shouting, the cat girl threw the wet wipe away, picked up the sandwich and began to eat with neat little bites.

“You know,” Magic Mike said, “being alone too long isn't healthy for a person. People need people, or they'll start reinforcing their bad habits and way of thinking. Sometimes it's not too bad, but with some people it can make them get nasty.

“I've met some people who the only way to deal with them was a good punch to the nose, or worse. But it shouldn't be something a person does without thinking. Having a friend to talk too, to bounce ideas off of, to keep you from going too far, that's the ticket. Then you can keep doing good, without going too far and starting to do something bad.”

The cat was watching him, still eating, but more slowly now.

“Now me,” he said, “I try to make friends wherever I go. I travel a lot and I've made so many friends I can't remember them all without seeing their faces. It helps keep me grounded when the stress of the world gets to be too much. I used to keep out of the way. Only dealt with people for a few minutes maybe a few hours. Made sure they were OK, shared a meal, helped them deal with a problem, and then away I went. It got lonely. I started wondering what I was doing. Was I really helping people? I almost turned in my top hat.”

Reaching into his hat, he pulled out a black collar with a little zip up pouch on it. “Then I got a friend who helped get me back on my feet.”

Placing the collar close to the cat girl, he tipped his hat to her. “I think you've had enough of a lecture today. Think about it and see what happens. Maybe you'll find the friend you need. I'll see you around sometime.”

Taking his leave, he reached into his pocket and took out a handful of poker chips. With a skip in his step and a song on his lips, he headed for the nearest casino.

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Aberdeen, Washington,
September 10
th, 2015

Luna placed a tiger lily on the coffin. Her grandma had loved the flowers when she'd been alive, it was appropriate she be buried with one. She'd held on for weeks longer than doctors had believed possible, but the fight had finally ended a week ago.

Going back to her place beside her parents, she hoped she wouldn't have one of the bouts of pain that had been becoming more frequent. She didn't want anything to mar her last memories of her grandma. She hadn't been able to visit her for the last two weeks, she couldn't have this ruined to.

When she started having her pain seizures, for lack of a better term, it was usually after visiting her grandma. Since the tests had all come back as normal, her doctor had thought it might be some emotional reaction to seeing the most important person in her life dying. So she'd been kept away, only talking by video. It had seemed to work, but then the pain had come back anyways, not as intense, but falling down after gym class screaming had been pretty memorable.

They were talking about trying some anti-anxiety meds on her to see if that helped. Her parents were 'helping' in their own way, trying new diets, making her wear 'magic' jewellery, and filling her room with nasty potpourri. All of it was just making her more anxious.

The coffin was lowered into the ground. Wiping her eyes, she hugged her mom. Her parents were annoying, but she did love them, and at the moment they both needed the support.

The small crowd, mostly made up of older people who had been friends of her grandma, came over to give their condolences one last time. She was polite, hugging and shaking hands with the old folks, saying thank you, when they told her what a wonderful person her grandma had been. As they walked away, Luna couldn't help but think they looked a little healthier and more energetic than before.

Taking one last look at the open grave, Luna blew her grandma a kiss and turned to go to the car. She looked down, fixing her sleeve, and saw an ugly green mark on her hand. Wondering if a bird had pooped on her, she touched it with her finger.

Pain far worse than anything she'd ever experienced in her life erupted inside of her. Knives plunged into her stomach. Acid ate away at her skin. Her bones shattered. Fire ran along her nerves. Reality had turned into a torture chamber, intent on making every part of her being scream.

Screeching so loudly flecks of blood came out of her mouth as her throat tore, she fell to the ground without even realizing it.

She didn't lose consciousness until the pain finally ended.

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Hope Youth Drop In Centre,
September 20
th, 2015

The art room was full of young children just out of school, taking advantage of the art supplies and snacks the drop in centre offered to the poor and homeless children that were all too common in the city. Father Liam walked around the room, making sure everyone was behaving and had everything they needed. He stopped at one young girl who was a regular to the centre. She was painting a picture of a grey cat.

“Hi, Nevaeh,” he said, kneeling down to be on the same level as her.

“Hi, Father Liam,” she said, not taking her eyes off of her picture as she added more green to the cats eyes.

“What are you drawing?”

“The Grey Cat.”

Trying not to chuckle at the perfectly accurate, but utterly useless answer that was so common when talking with a child, he tried again. “I've seen some other children drawing the Grey Cat. Why are you drawing her?”

“Because she helps kids.”

“How does she help kids?”

“If you're cold or lonely at night, she'll come and keep you warm and safe. If you're hungry, she'll bring you food or give you money. And if someone is going to do something bad, she'll beat them up. But you have to be a good girl, and you have to be lucky.” She said this with the same certainty as he would say the sky was blue.

“Why do you have to be lucky?”

She looked at him like he was an idiot. “Because she's all alone. She can't help everyone. Abby says she used to be a human mommy, but she and her children died and now she tries to protect other kids.”

Now things were starting to make sense. Children talked to each other, trying to make sense of what they saw and heard. Children on the street who lived with uncertainty, fear and violence, talked even more, sharing stories, adding to them with each telling, until they were truly fanciful, or tragic. Sometimes the stories were to give them hope, sometimes they were warnings, and sometimes they were just to explain why bad things happened. He'd heard plenty of similar stories in his many years of helping them. “Have lots of children seen her?”

“No, not lots. But I did.”

That was new. Usually it was a friend of a friend in the stories. “What did she do?”

“Jayden and me were walking here after school yesterday. Some mean boys wanted to beat Jayden up. They had pipes and knives. Jayden told me to run, but they were all around us. Then the Grey Cat flew down from the sky like a superhero. And she hissed at them, and waved her hands in the air, and a big wind knocked the mean boys down, and me and Jayden ran away.” She looked away, like she'd just said something bad. “You won't tell the police about her will you? I don't want her to get in trouble.”

Patting her on the shoulder, he smiled. “I won't tell them. If she was protecting you, she was doing the right thing.”

Her smile lit up the room.

Saying goodbye, he got to his feet, his old knees cracking painfully. After one more circuit around the room, Father Liam headed for the small indoor basketball court, Jayden would be there. The boy would tell him if his sister was telling the truth.

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Aberdeen, Washington
September 30
th, 2015

Laying in bed, Luna thought about moving.

She wanted to move. At least she thought she did. It was hard to think. Wasn't she supposed to be in school?

Maybe?

What day was it?

“Luna, lunchtime,” her mother called.

On autopilot she headed for the kitchen. Someone else was moving her legs, she was just along for the ride.

Sitting down, she looked at herself in her spoon. Was her skin darker than before? Maybe. Did it matter? Maybe.

Her mom was saying something. Trying to focus, she caught a few of the words, “New recipe... Good for mental health... Positive energy... Negative feelings... Hold out your hand.”

She could do that last one. She held out her hand and a little white pill was put in it. Luna noticed a cut on her mothers hand. When had that happened?

“Now swallow the pill,” mom said. “I know you don't want to, but the doctor said it will take some time for your chemistry to adjust to it. You'll feel like yourself any day now.”

That sounded good. She swallowed the pill. Picking up her spoon she began eating the soup. It tasted awful. It was chicken soup, her favourite, but it made her want to vomit.

Finishing, she got up and stood in the dining room, not sure what to do. She didn't want to lie down again, but she didn't know what else to do.

Her mom came up behind her. Arms wrapped themselves around her. She felt her mom's tears falling on her neck. Turning around, she hugged her mom back, It was a nice feeling. She could do this for a while.

Time had no meaning. A while later, it could have been five minutes or five days, she was back in her room. Mom was sitting her down in front of her computer. Some math homework was on the screen. She had to do it for school.

She could do that. Maybe. Looking at her mom's hand, the cut was gone.

Had it been there?

She couldn't remember.

She hated this feeling.

She hated her life.

She heard the door close.

Staring at her hands, she saw an ugly green mark. That seemed to be important. Why couldn't she think?

Right. The medicine. It was keeping her from feeling pain. Keeping her from getting too anxious. It was supposed to help her.

Opening her browser, she slowly began typing. She was all done when she realized what she'd written. 'How to run away'

Hitting enter, she slowly she began reading, forcing herself to remember.

When she was done, she exited everything and deleted her history.

Looking at her hand again the ugly green mark looked like it was shrinking. That was good.

Then the pain came.

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Seattle, Greyhound Bus Station,
November 6
th, 2015

Stepping off the bus, Luna put her backpack on and wondered where she should go. She had to avoid the police, they'd send her back to her parents, where she'd be drugged and turned into a barely thinking zombie again. She had a few hundred dollars with her after clearing out her bank account, it would help her for a little while.

Searching for youth shelters on her new phone, she found the closest one and started walking. The city was damp and cold, making her glad to have her winter coat. Shoving her hands deep into her pockets, she tried to not only stay warm, but to avoid looking like a scared young girl. Which was exactly what she was.

She'd been to Seattle before, but always with her parents and a plan. She'd known the hotel she was going to sleep at, or what friend they were staying with, and had a couple of emergency numbers just in case. Now she had none of that. It was just her against the world.

As she got closer to the shelter she saw more signs of poverty. Tents were set up right on the sidewalk, beggers were panhandling, people looked at her more closely, sizing her up. As she stepped around a pile of crap that didn't look like it came from a dog, a filthy man got in her face.

“Whatcha want?!” he shouted.

Jumping back, she managed to stutter, “N-nothing.”

“You wanna start something!”

Not answering, she tried to dodge around him. He moved to block her, making her bounce of his chest. “No running! Running isn't allowed!”

“Sorry. Sorry.”

Seemingly placated, he moved away, stumbling and jerking awkwardly with every step. Hurrying on her way, Luna hoped that would be the worst thing that happened to her.

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Fighting back tears, Luna asked, “There's really no place for me to stay?”

The woman shook her head. “I'm really sorry, there aren't many facilities that can house children under eighteen. I can get you in touch with some programs that offer short term accommodations, you'll be put on a waiting list for an opening. And there are a few places that offer a place to sleep for the night, but they're first come first serve, so you'll want to get there early. What I can offer you is a safe place to spend the day, a breakfast and supper, shower facilities, free laundry, tutoring, legal services, family reconciliation, getting you into foster care, counselling for addiction or mental health issues.

She saw how the woman looked at her gloves, and noticed the emphasis on the last part of the spiel. It probably did look like she was nuts. She didn't dare take the gloves off, and she'd avoided touching anyone in the centre. She'd discovered that if she didn't touch anyone at all, she didn't have one of her episodes. No one had believed her back home, they kept trying new medication and remedies.

“I don't want to go back home.”

“I understand. No one is going to force you to do anything you don't want.” The woman kept talking, explaining some of the rules for using the centre, giving advice for staying safe, and letting her know other places where she could get help.

Luna listened and nodded at the appropriate places. She really did listen, but the realization of just what she'd be facing was slowly dawning on her. She wished her grandma was still alive, she'd know what to do.

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Leaving the centre, Luna looked up at the sky and realized it was getting late. She needed to find somewhere to sleep. She'd read that the best places to spend the night was somewhere around the edge of the city in a forest or at least thick bushes. That wasn't really an option. Maybe there was a 24 hour bus station she could sleep at?

“Hey,” a girl a little older than her said. “You look like you could use some help.”

“Maybe,” Luna replied.

The girl didn't look too out of the ordinary, she was wearing ordinary clothes, just a little dirtier and more worn then most teens. She was smiling in a friendly way.

“I'm Trish.”

“Luna.”

Trish smirked. “You pick that name, or did your parents hate you?”

She had to smile. “Parents. They're really into the new age hippy shit.”

“Well you should change it. If they look for you, they'll be looking for a Luna. If everyone knows you by another name it helps you hide. You'll want to change your hair too.”

“I don't really have the money to get a haircut.”

“There are a few places that offer free haircuts. Just need to find out when they do it and show up early.”

“Thanks, I'll check that out tomorrow.” She wondered if asking Trish where a good place to sleep would be a good idea. The girl clearly knew what she was doing, and with all the excitement, fear and disappointment, she was exhausted.

“No problem. Girls have it really hard out here. It makes things easier if we stick together a little.”

“Yeah. I can believe that.”

She was about to ask about where to sleep, when Trish punched her in the jaw. Having never been in a fight Luna didn't know what to do as she fell to the ground. She covered her head, trying to protect herself as the girl grabbed her backpack and pulled it off of her.

It was over in seconds, and through her tears she saw Trish running away with all of her clothes, food, phone, and most of her money. An old man who looked like he was drugged out of his mind, hooted with laughter.

Getting to her feet, wiping away her tears, Luna started walking. She didn't know what to do anymore, all she knew was that she couldn't trust anyone.

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Early Morning,
November 8
th, 2015

Jordan clutched her tiny purse to her chest. It didn't hold any money, she wasn't stupid enough to put her earnings in there. Her cash was in her bra, if she lost that, she was fucked anyways. The purse had everything she needed for work, lube, condoms, wet wipes, and a knife.

She wished Ellie was with her, there was a bit of safety in numbers, and it would make the walk to their squat a little less scary. But her friend was still off her feet after getting raped and beaten earlier that week. The thought made Jordan speed up a little more, trying not to look like she was running.

Most of the people she passed ignored her. It was late and she wasn't some lost little girl. Sure she was all alone, and only seventeen, but she knew to keep her head down. She also looked like she'd put up a fight if someone came at her. It wouldn't stop someone who really wanted to hurt her, but it would keep the casual scum away.

An odd looking man in a top hat was walking on the opposite side of the road. She didn't like the looks of him, and her heart raced as he seemed to point at her. Avoiding eye contact, she kept walking, watching him from the corner of her eye. As he walked away, seemingly not noticing her at all, she started to breathe more easily.

A large cat trotted across the street, disappearing in the overgrown bushes that filled too many of the yards here. She hated the plants. She'd been jumped more than once by people hiding in the shadows they cast.

Skirting around some garbage bags, she glanced back and saw a figure walking behind her. He could just be someone heading home, but he could also be following her. It wasn't far to her squat. Just two more minutes and she'd be safe.

She heard the mans footsteps. Looking back, she saw he had sped up, he was going to be on top of her in a moment. Reaching into her purse she pulled out her knife, keeping it out of his view.

“Hey, how much for a fuck?” he asked.

Half turning, keeping her body between him and the knife, she tried not to show how scared she was. “I'm really tired, and not in the mood. I just want to get home and go to bed.”

She couldn't make out his eyes in the dark. For a moment she had the horrifying idea that he didn't have any eyes. Just empty black holes where they should be. He was a lot taller than her, and the way he held himself reminded her of a buzzard she'd seen on TV once, looming over a dead animal.

“Come on. I've got cash. You're cute, I'll give you a hundred, we can do it in the bushes.”

Jordan could use the money, but there was no way in hell she was going to go with the guy. Every instinct she had was screaming danger. She shook her head. “No. I really have to get home. My boyfriend is waiting for me.”

He grinned. “I don't believe you.”

The man stepped closer to her, getting well into her personal space. She swung the knife at him, hoping that it would cut him and he'd back off.

The knife didn't get anywhere close to him. He just reached out, catching her hand. Then he squeezed, forcing her hand to open, making her drop the weapon. She gasped, pain flaring all the way up her arm. She saw him reach into his coat and pull out a butchers knife.

Opening her mouth to scream, something warm and wet sprayed across her face. The man's hand fell to the ground, along with the knife. They both stared at the stump as hot, red blood poured from the wound.

She felt something swing past her, and the man's other hand was separated from his arm. It clung to her for a moment before spasming and falling off. Too shocked to scream, Jordan jumped back, trying to brush the blood off of her.

The man stared dumbly at his bloody stumps. His mouth opened and shut like a fish, letting out a high pitched whine that slowly got louder as he realized what had happened. Before it became a full blown scream of pain and horror, an invisible knife bisected him. His body split down the middle and fell to the sidewalk.

Shaking, Jordan hugged herself looking for the attacker.

A large grey cat came out of the bushes, it's green eyes were briefly lit by the streetlights. It looked her up and down, then went to the body, grabbing her blood covered knife in a hand-like paw. Walking on three legs it went over to her, holding the weapon by the blade, and dropped it at her feet.

“Y-you aren't going to hurt me?” Jordan asked.

It shook it's head, then patted the knife.

She realized what the cat was doing. She couldn't leave her knife there, it had her fingerprints and she had no idea how she'd explain this to the police. Taking a wet wipe out of her purse, she picked the weapon up and wiped the blood off of it. “You're smart aren't you?”

The cat nodded.

“Are you the Grey Cat the little kids talk about?”

Another nod.

“Are you magic?”

That made the cat shake it's head.

“A mutant?”

There was a long pause, then it nodded.

“Do you... Thank you, for saving me. We really should get out of here. Do- do you want to come with me? I don't have much, but I've got some food at my squat. I'll share it with you. It's the least I can do.”

The cat looked around and started to walk away. Then it stopped, shaking it's head. Turning back to Jordan it walked up to her and nodded.

Jogging away from the scene of the crime, the cat ran alongside her. Jordan didn't know why she'd made the offer. The cat- no, the mutant, was dangerous. But it had saved her life. And if it wanted to kill her, it could have done it easily enough. Inviting it home after it protected her seemed like the right thing to do.

Praying that she wasn't making a mistake, Jordan tried to think of what she'd tell her friends.

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Jordan saw that Ellie was up, lying awake on the old couch that had been left in the foreclosed house. It had been covered in mildew and mold, until they'd soaked it in bleach for a day. Now it stank but it was comfortable. So whoever was feeling the worst got to sleep on it.

“Hey how ya doing?” she asked her friend.

“Better, I can walk again,” Ellie said. Her voice was flat and lifeless, with none of the usual snark.

It wasn't the first time her friend had been assaulted, but she'd never been beat up so badly. Jordan hoped once she healed up, she'd feel better. Things sucked, but if they let it get to them for too long they'd roll over and die or grab as much drugs and booze as they could find and check out.

“Do you need anything?”

“Painkillers.”

Opening the cheapest bottle of extra-strength painkillers they could afford, she put two of them in Ellie's hand. Then she poured a bit of straight vodka into a paper cup and held it while her friend swallowed the pills.

Taking the vodka, Ellie drank it in one gulp, gagging at that taste. “Ugh. That tastes like shit.”

“It'll help you sleep,” she said.

A tiny meow reminded her of something important. “Oh yeah I brought a... friend over.”

“What?!” Ellie said, trying to sit up. “OW! What do you mean? We agreed that anyone else has to be agreed on.”

“She saved my life, and she isn't... exactly ordinary.”

“What do you mean?”

“Meow,” the grey cat said, jumping up onto the back of the couch.

“Oh she's pretty.”

“Yeah. Now I need to wash up, you get some sleep,” she said, giving her friend's hand a squeeze.

Going to the bathroom, Jordan stripped out of her ruined work clothes. She couldn't really see the blood on them without a light, but they were damp in a lot of places. She'd need to dump them somewhere far away tomorrow, and maybe the knife to. That would suck, she'd have to go hungry for a bit to replace them. Her underwear and cash were put safely off to the side.

Taking her bowl, soap and wash cloth from the tub, she poured water into it from the big water jug Frank had filled that afternoon. Lathering up the cloth she scrubbed herself as clean as she could. She'd have a proper shower the next day, for now she just wanted the blood, sweat and spit off of her.

Rinsing herself off, she dumped the dirty water into a bucket beside the toilet, cleaning her bowl and cloth as best she could. Putting her underwear back on, and her bloody clothes in a plastic bag, she went back to the living room where Ellie was sound asleep and the cat was waiting for her. Waving for the cat to follow her, she went up the stairs, avoiding the rotten steps that were spray painted white, and went to her room.

An a pad and sleeping bag, both brand new thanks to a charity, were kind of hidden in the closet. Rae was snoring in the corner, curled up into a tiny ball, her head hidden. As quietly as possible, Jordan went to her back pack and pulled out a dented can of sardines. Opening it up, she put it down for the cat.

“Here you go,” she whispered. “You can stay the night if you want.”

The cat nodded, sitting down in front of the sardines. It took a crumpled pack of wet wipes from a little pouch on her collar and wiped her hands clean before picking up a sardine and eating it just like a human would.

Jordan had to shake her head, it looked so unnatural, she wondered if she was dreaming. Crawling into her sleeping bag, she closed her eyes and quickly fell asleep.

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Jordan woke up and didn't know why. It was still dark, and she was exhausted. Shifting, she felt something heavy resting on her bag. Pulling her arm free, she realized it was the grey cat. The girl was pressed tightly against her side, and apparently deeply asleep.

Slowly and gently, she put her hand on the cat girls back. Closing her eyes she went to sleep.

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Champ flew down out of the sky, landing beside the lead detective. It was early, and he'd had a late night, but when his VI assistant notified him of the latest murder he hadn't hesitated, he needed to see it with his own eyes. Fortunately he was an exemplar alongside his superman powers, so he didn't require that much sleep.

“What happened here, Zhao?” he asked.

His friend was used to his brusque attitude while on duty, and didn't take the lack of greeting personally. “Got a call two hours ago about a homicide. When we arrived we found the body like this. Hands were sliced off, and he was cut from the crotch to the head. We'll need to have a coroner look it over, but it looks like it was done with surgical precision. A butchers knife was being held in the right hand.”

“Any witnesses?”

“No one credible. One guy was going on about a witch killing the man, and how she had a familiar with her. We have him down at the station giving us all the details in return for a burger and fries.”

“What did the familiar look like?”

Zhao didn't bother looking at his notes before answering. “A demonic grey beast with flaming green eyes that spit fire. Like I said not very credible.”

“Grey. Surgically precise cuts. Green eyes. A woman,” he muttered, scratching his chin.

“You know something I don't?”

He nodded. “I read a report. Around August 5th, a pedophile picked up a teen and started beating him up. The scum was found with a broken nose, and two orbital fractures, along with a fractured skull and severe concussion. The kid says a grey cat with green eyes did it without ever touching the pedo, then made him call 911.”

“Oh yeah. I heard about that one in the paper.”

“It gets better. A few weeks later three guys were about to set a homeless man on fire after beating him, while one of their friends watched. According to the friend, a demon with a grey fur covered hand and green eyes, killed his friends using magic. They were thrown into the wall or the sidewalk hard enough to break most of the bones in their bodies.”

“And this green-eyed demon let him live.”

“He claims it slashed his forehead from at least ten feet away. The medical report says the weapon left grooves on his skull, and the attacker made sure the wounds would scar.”

“Why haven't we heard about this?”

“The witnesses aren't very reliable. They happened in very different parts of the city. And a cat running around playing violent vigilante, who would believe it?”

Zhao smiled. “You would it seems.”

Grinning, Champ nodded. “Yeah, I don't like the idea of someone running around killing people, not even criminals. I set up a program to go through police reports looking for keywords that could help find similar cases. There are some that would have the person called a hero. A kid ran into traffic and was thrown into a pedestrian by an unknown force. The man who caught the kid claims he saw a grey cat with hands wave at the kid as he was being thrown. Or an eighteen year old male was being beaten for his shoes in July. His attackers were bruised up by being tossed into a dumpster, he never saw who saved him, but mentioned seeing a cat. There's a dozen reports that could be the cat. So if this 'cat' is mostly helping the poor and homeless, there's a lot more we haven't heard about. And if they're accurate, the vigilante has been getting progressively more violent, broken bones instead of bruises, scarring people. And now the cat has likely killed at least four people."

Nodding in agreement with his worries, Zhao let out a puff of air. “I'll start looking into this and light some fires.”

“Good. I'm going to drop by a few of the run away shelters. Maybe some of the kids will be willing to talk to a real live superhero if I say I'm looking for a super cat.”

“Good idea. I'll talk to some of the staff, see what they have to say.”

Glad to have his friend on the same page, Champ patted him on the shoulder. “I'll leave you to this. I need to get back to bed so I can get an early start tomorrow. If I find anything useful, I'll send it your way.”

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Late Morning

Jordan woke up late in the morning as usual. Groaning she climbed out of her sleeping bag, and grabbed a breakfast bar from her bag. Wrinkling her nose, she opened up the chocolate and banana flavoured meal. She hated the taste, but the variety pack had been half off because it was damaged, so she was going to eat it.

Looking around, the cat girl was nowhere to be seen. Had last night really happened? Superheroes and crap like that happened to other people, usually the people who mattered. Not teenagers like her. But she recalled everything so vividly, it had to be real.

Opening the plastic bag she'd tossed her bloody clothes into, she saw they really were stained. She gave herself a few minutes to let that thought settle in her mind, slowly eating her breakfast. When she was sure her thoughts wouldn't give her any trouble, she got up, changing her underwear and putting on a clean tracksuit. She'd need to wash her laundry soon.

She shivered as a cold breeze came from the open window. Rae wouldn't have opened it when she woke up, it had to be the cat girl. Sighing, she went to close it. She'd really wanted to learn more about the strange girl.

As she got to the window, Jordan jumped back with a little shriek. The cat girl jumped up to the ledge in a single leap, holding half of a dead mouse in her jaws. The cat definitely wasn't normal.

“Is that your breakfast?” she asked.

The cat nodded, then hurriedly crunched down the bones and swallowed the rest of the vermin. With it's hands, it opened the collar pouch and took out a wet wipe, washing the blood off while licking it's lips clean.

“Is that... tasty?”

The cat girl held up a hand and made a so-so gesture.

“You're a mutant right? I mean a human mutant.”

Nod.

“Do you have a name?”

The cat girl didn't do anything for a moment, but her somewhat expressive face and eyes looked really sad. Then she shook her head.

“I understand. I'm Jordan, it's not my real name,” she said. She started stroking the girls back, her fur was soft and warm. Then she realized what she was doing and jerked her hand away. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do that.”

The girl looked up at her and mimed a petting motion.

“You like it?”

Nod.

She went back to petting the girl, and could feel her start to purr. She tried to think of what the girl had to have gone through to become like this. To live and even eat like a cat, and to kill so quickly. Putting a stop to that line of thinking, Jordan realized she really didn't want to know. "Do you have anywhere to stay?"

The cat shook it's head.

"Any friends?"

Another shake of the head.

Biting her lip, Jordan wasn't sure what she should do. The girl had saved her life, and she seemed lonely. Maybe she could offer some help. "Would you like to stay here? I'll have to ask the others, but I don't think they'll say no."

The girl looked out the window, then at Jordan, her face twisted with indecision. Then she nodded.

“I should go introduce you to whoever is hanging around downstairs and see what they think. They're pretty cool,” she said.

Another nod.

Downstairs Ellie was on the couch using her cell phone to watch some stupid anime. Frank was bringing in two battered five gallon water bottles for the bathroom, and Crystal was reading to her six year old twin sons by the bay window.

“We can wash up and use the toilet again,” Frank said. His job done, he wiped the sweat from his wild beard and collapsed on a kids mattress in the corner of the room. Taking a joint from his pocket he lit it up and started checking out from reality once more.

“Hey, I met someone last night and I'd like her to stay with us.”

“It's a cat,” Ellie said, putting her phone down. “You don't really need to ask permission.

Crystal grabbed Joey and Luke, who wanted to run over and see the kitty. “Is it clean and safe?” she asked.

“She looks clean, and she saved my life last night. And she's not really a cat. She's a mutant,” Jordan said.

The cat girl sat up and waved. It was hard to read her emotions, but Jordan would have bet anything that she was nervous and even a little scared. Which was kind of hard to believe, knowing that she could probably kill everyone in the room in a few seconds.

Frank gave his head a shake and slapped his cheek. “You're fucking kidding me! That's awesome, man. What do you really look like?”

The girl looked down at herself, then held her hands out.

“Can you talk?” Crystal asked.

That got a shake of the head.

Crystal whispered something to her sons who ran upstairs. They kept watching the cat girl the entire way, their eyes wide open with amazement.

“What do you mean she saved your life?” Ellie asked.

“I was attacked by a guy who was going to gut me. She- well she cut him first.”

“No shit! She's the one who took out the guy,” Frank said. “The police are pissed, even had a superhero come flying down to check it out. Lotsa guys were talking about it this morning.”

“You killed him?” Crystal asked.

The cat girl nodded.

The older woman pursed her lips. Her eyes went to the stairs where her kids could be heard looking for something. “He was really going to kill you?” she asked Jordan.

“Yeah. He was attacking me. I tried to stab him, but he grabbed my hand and made me drop my knife. Then he took out a butcher knife, that's when she stopped him. If it wasn't for her, I'd be dead.” She looked the protective mother in the eyes. “You know I wouldn't do anything to hurt Joey or Luke. She only did it to protect me, and I didn't know she existed until she came out of some bushes to help me. If she was nasty, she could have let me die or done it herself.”

Ellie looked at the pair of them, then nodded. “If she saved Jordan, I owe her. I say she can stay. And she's a really nice and soft pussy... cat.”

Crystal glared at the teen for the joke, and motioned at her sons who were coming down the stairs. Joey and Luke put a pack of crinkled printer paper that had gotten wet and dried out on the floor by the cat girl, along with some markers.

“Are you really the magic cat?” Luke asked.

The cat girl nodded.

“See I told you she was real. Noah wouldn't lie to me,” Joey said.

“Can you do some magic?”

Looking around the room, the girl raised her hand and suddenly a pillow flew across the room like someone had tossed it. The pillow hit Luke in the back of the head, making him and his brother laugh. The cat girl started squeaking, which sounded like laughing.

“Do you have a name?” Frank asked.

The girl shook her head.

“How long have you been like this?”

Taking a marker the cat girl wrote, '1 year.'

Crystal held a hand up to her mouth. It was one thing to see the cat girl nod and mime, and having her throwing pillows with some kind of TK was cool, but heroes did that all the time. It was something else to see a cat write. The woman recovered quickly and asked, “Do you have any friends or family?”

The girl shook her head again in reply.

“A whole year alone?”

That got a nod, and the girl wiped her eyes.

“How old are you?”

She wrote, '15.'

“And your fam-”

The cat girl cut off the question with a loud, angry hiss.

Jordan knelt down and started stroking her back. “It's OK. I do the same when people ask about my parents. So is it cool if she stays with us?”

Ellie nodded. “We'll need to tell Rae and Asher, but I'm cool with this. Especially if she'll sometimes walk with me at night.”

“As long as you keep things clean and don't cause trouble, you're a friend of mine,” Frank said. “Do you like the bud or should I get you some catnip?”

The cat looked at the middle aged man, like she didn't know if he was serious or not. Jordan knew he was totally serious. Frank had checked out on life and most responsibilities years ago after losing access to his kids.

Crystal looked at the cat girl. “Do you swear you won't hurt anyone here? I need to protect my kids.”

“Mom!” Joey said. “She's the Magic Cat, she helps kids.”

“Yeah!” Luke said, backing up his brother.

The cat girl wrote on the paper and held it up. 'I like kids. I'd like to have friends again. So if you let me stay I'll help protect them.'

The twins looked at their mom, trying their best to give her puppy dog eyes.

Crystal nodded and smiled. “All right. I think it's time for proper introductions.”

As Crystal did her thing, Jordan would swear the cat girl was fighting back tears.

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“OK, Cat,” Jordan said, as she and the cat girl headed out, “a few rules for the house. Don't make a mess outside or inside. Don't leave through the front door. Don't draw attention to the house. The place is going to get torn down in a few months, maybe a year or two. As long as we don't screw around, the company that owns it doesn't care. If we screw around they'll come and kick us out. We want to avoid that, finding a new one that isn't taken, covered in mold, or really falling down dangerous is a pain. And we'll have to clean it out which always sucks.”

That got a nod.

“Having a proper name for you would also be nice, Cat just really doesn't work.”

Another nod.

“We try to act nice to each other, you got a beef with anyone, shove it down or talk it out. No fighting. We've got some decent people there, we don't want to screw it all up. And most important be nice to the twins, Crystal will kill to protect them and Frank is almost the same. They're sweet kids, so we all treat em nice. Pretty much everything else is up to you.”

Yet another nod.

Jordan was starting to feel a little weird talking to what looked like a cat as if she was a person. But it was the least she could do, and considering some of the people on the street, just treating a cat like a human was downright normal.

“If you want anything, you can ask me. If you have the money, I'll grab whatever you need or want, so you won't have to keep eating mice. The others probably will too. And if you help out, and I can spare the cash, I'll do what I can just as a friend.”

As expected that earned a nod.

“I may have a few ways for both of us to get some money. There's the usual panhandling. If you help out with that, we should get a decent haul since you're really pretty.”

She had to laugh as Cat raised her head so her nose stuck in the air and started to strut like she was on a red carpet. The girl would fit right in.

“And if you're willing to act a bit, I think I might have an idea for a bit of busking.”

The girl meowed, it sounded like she was curious.

“It's a funny idea and if you're up for it, I think it will really work. But I need to think about it a bit more, and it can wait until I've had a shower and something to eat.”

Reaching the bus stop, Jordan realized she had a problem. “Um, I'm not sure how I'm going to get you on the bus. I think I need a cat carrier or something.”

The cat girl waved her hand, as if to say it wasn't a problem.

“Oh, right. I guess you have your own things to do. I was just thinking that after I'm done washing up, you and I could get a burger or something.” She didn't know why she suddenly felt so worried about not being near Cat. But now she was cursing herself for not thinking to ask what the girl wanted.

Cat mimed eating, pointing first at her then at Jordan and nodded.

Feeling a lot safer, Jordan asked, “But what about the bus?”

Again Cat waved it away.

“OK. I'll trust you.”

The bus came along, and she hopped on. Cat walked away, making no move to get on. As she took a seat, Jordan wondered if the girl had some power like teleporting or super speed, or something. Clutching her backpack that had her toiletries, towel, phone and money in it, she stared out the window watching the city go by.

When she reached her spot, she hopped out and looked around for her new friend. Someone shouted in surprise as a grey cat jumped off the top of the bus landing neatly on the ground.

“You rode on top of the bus?!” Jordan asked, unable to keep the shock and surprise from her voice.

Cat nodded, waving her hand as if it was an everyday occurrence. Which, considering how she looked, it probably was.

Very aware of the people watching them, they hurried away. Halfway down the block they came to a Planet Fitness. “OK, Cat, you really can't come in here. I'm going to be about an hour, if you're not here, I'll meet you outside the fast food place across the street.”

Nodding, the girl trotted away, exactly like a cat in a hurry to get away from the busy street. Jordan wondered what Cat would be doing while she waited.

Going into the fitness club, she flashed her membership and headed for the massage chairs. Sometimes she'd work out, especially if the weather sucked, but what made the monthly fee worthwhile were the massage chairs and most importantly being able to get really clean.

Leaning back in hydro-massage chair, Jordan tried to relax. This was usually the best part of her day, but she was worried. Cat had killed someone in front of her. Sure it was to protect her, but it didn't seem to be affecting the girl at all. What type of person had she invited into her life and home? And why did she feel so nervous with the girl away from her?

Being nervous and scared was just part of her life. She was used to it. She'd never needed someone to protect her before. Why was she so freaked out?

The thoughts chased themselves around in circles as she tried to enjoy her massage, and then headed for the showers. Scrubbing herself down, she remembered the butcher knife pointing at her stomach, ready to gut her. The impossible to break grip the psycho had on her hand. The look in his eyes as he got ready to kill her.

Keeping her head under the water, she tried to pretend the tears were just water dripping down her face.

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Since Cat couldn't go into the restaurant, Jordan found herself sitting outside on the curb eating her lunch while her new friend acted like a cat eating a kids burger. It was a bit cold on the butt, but she wasn't going to complain.

A man in an old beat up tuxedo and top hat suddenly loomed over the pair. He had a big, friendly smile and didn't hesitate to sit down. “Hello there! I see you've made a friend.”

Cat looked up from her food, apparently unbothered by the newcomer, and nodded. Then she went back to her burger, hungrily ripping it to shreds.

“I'm Magic Mike, an acquaintance of this young lady,” the man said, tipping his hat. “And you are?”

“Jordan. How do you know her?”

“We both came to Seattle around the same time, and happened to meet up on occasion. She's not much for conversation, but I've found her to be a wonderful listener.”

“Uh-huh.” When had her life gotten so weird?

“Well now that you're here, maybe you can help the both of us.”

Her eyes narrowed. Were these two working together? She got ready to run if he said anything that sounded bad or criminal.

“Our mutual friend has helped me several times and I've never been able to properly thank her, except for an occasional sandwich, and of course being in my magnificent presence,” he said, with just the right touch of sarcasm and pride, that Jordan had to smile.

“Anyways,” he continued. “There is a really good cat groomer just down the street, and it's been ages since she's been properly pampered and had a haircut. I'd appreciate it if you'd take her and have them give her the works.”

He held out his hand which was discreetly holding several twenty dollar bills. She grabbed the money, hiding it from sight. “That's it?”

“That's it.”

“Nothing else.”

“Nothing else.”

“This isn't some kind of scam?”

Chuckling, he said, “No scam. She's helped me, I'm returning the favour. And I consider myself her friend, even if I'm not sure she feels the same about me. So this is my gift to a friend.”

Cat looked up from her nearly eaten burger and stared at Magic Mike. She gave him a nod and batted him with her tail.

“See. Nothing to worry about. And you can keep the change. Now I have lots to do and only so many hours in the day, it was a pleasure to meet you Jordan, I'm sure we'll meet again.” Hopping to his feet, the strange man bowed and walked away, whistling happily to himself.

“So... you really want to go to a groomer?” Jordan asked, still trying to think of how this could be a trick.

Of course Cat nodded.

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Stepping out of the groomers, Jordan was surprised at how much it had cost to get the works. But Magic Mike had given her more than enough, and she still had forty bucks in her bag. Looking down at her friend, she had to admit the grooming seemed to have done Cat a world of good.

Her coat was a lot smoother, the light grey fur really popped, and the dark grey looked shiny and healthy. The groomer had complimented her on how well she took care of her cat, but there'd still been a small mountain of loose hair pulled out. And through it all Cat just went along with it, one of the best behaved cats the woman had ever seen.

Cats hand's had caused a bit of a stir when the groomer went to clip her nails. When asked about them, Jordan had just shrugged her shoulders and said they were like that when she got Cat as a kitten. The women in the shop had kept talking about it for a while between themselves, but it didn't go beyond that.

“You look good,” she said.

Cat could have been a supermodel on a catwalk as she strutted along, tail and head held high.

“I'm going to go buy some clothes, then grab some supper from Hope. You can come with me if you want.”

Shaking her head, Cat discreetly waved good-bye.

Waving back, Jordan watched the strange girl run down the sidewalk and disappear. Smiling, she wondered again when her life had gotten so weird.

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Hope Youth Drop In Centre
Evening

Father Liam watched the volunteers prepare sandwiches and hand out bowls of soup to the line of young people who needed a decent supper. Some of the young people just took a sandwich and left immediately, going to find somewhere to sleep for the night. But most took the soup and a glass of juice, then sat down at one of the tables, talking with friends, or just enjoying their food in silence.

A trio of older teens caught his eye. Well not them personally, but the grey cat that sat beside the oldest girl, Jordan. Some of the teenagers had pets, and well the centre couldn't feed them, they were more than welcome inside as long as they were relatively clean and behaved themselves. For some children the animal was their only companion, and sometimes their only means of protection. But the large cat reminded him of a talk he'd had earlier in the day with a detective, about a possible mutant vigilante. And he couldn't forget about the growing number of children talking about the Grey Cat.

Taking a sandwich, he made his way over to them. “Hello Jordan, Rae, Asher, how is Ellie doing?”

“Better,” Jordan said. “She should be able to come for supper tomorrow.”

“That's good. Please give her this when you see her tonight. She needs to keep her strength up,” he said handing over the sandwich.

“Thanks, I'll do that.”

“Who's your friend?”

Jordan stroked the cats head. “She doesn't have a name yet, so we're calling her Cat.”

Rae smirked. “She found her last night, and apparently she's a special cat. I think she just likes the pussy.”

Ignoring the crude humour from the Japanese girl, he held out his hand. “May I?”

“Sure, she likes getting scratched.” Jordan said.

Cat looked at him with intelligent green eyes, then leaned forward so he could scratch between her ears. “She's a beautiful animal. Where did you find her?”

“She was wandering the street last night. I gave her some sardines and she hasn't left me alone since then.”

“She doesn't have a tag?” he asked. Jordan was smart enough to avoid stealing which could get the police involved. Still she was far from an innocent, and would overlook certain things if she decided it was in her best interest.

“Nope. Just the collar. She seems to like me, and she'll make a good bed warmer. So it seems like a win-win to me.”

“Why can't I find a nice bed warmer?” Asher asked.

“I thought you preferred being the bed warmer,” Jordan teased.

The skinny boy leered. “They're both so much fun. Why should I limit myself?”

Seeing that the trio were all too likely about to start teasing each other as vulgarly as possible, Father Liam smiled benevolently. “Well give my best to Ellie, and enjoy your supper,” he said.

Looking around to see if anyone looked like they needed to talk, he put the thoughts of the Grey Cat and the mutant vigilante out of mind. The cat seemed harmless enough, and he trusted Jordan. She was a smart girl who had survived on the street for over two years, she knew how to keep herself out of most trouble.

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Passing a joint around, Jordan and her friends sat in the living room, with a battered LED lantern for light. An old stained sheet acted as a curtain to keep up the appearance that the house was abandoned. The twins were asleep upstairs so there was no need to watch what they said.

“We need a name for our new friend,” Ellie said.

“Any idea's, Cat?” Jordan asked, holding out the joint for the next taker.

Without warning, Cat reached up and took the joint. She looked at it, then put it in her mouth and inhaled deeply. She started coughing and gagging right away, but didn't drop it, just held it up for someone else to take.

Everyone started laughing.

Frank rescued the joint and patted the cat girl on the back. “You gotta take it easy girl, especially at first. It's like the first time having sex, you do it rough and it's no fun. Ease into it and enjoy the moment.”

Still coughing, Cat nodded. And then she started to wobble, shaking her head and blinking rapidly. She kind of flopped down onto her belly, and closed her eyes. From the way her ears and tail twitched she was still awake, but dealing with the start of the unexpected high.

“We've got a lightweight here,” Asher said.

“She's what, thirty pounds, and this is really good shit,” Frank said. “It's gonna hit her hard.”

“We should call her Cheech, or maybe Chong,” Crystal said.

Cat raised a middle finger.

“How about Bastet?” Asher asked.

Ellie coughed and handed the joint to Jordan, before asking, “What kind of name is that?”

“Egyptian cat goddess.”

Jordan took a toke, holding it in to get the full effect and let it out, passing the joint to Crystal. “Nah, some asshole will think we're calling them bastard, and get pissed. What about Ash?”

“Too close to my name.”

“We could give her your name, and call you Sissy,” Mary said.

“And you could go play in traffic.”

Chuckling, Jordan relaxed with the good feelings. They'd figure out a name for Cat eventually. For now she was just happy with her life.

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Hope Youth Drop In Centre
Late Morning,
November 10
th, 2015

Brett looked around the room before making his way to the large grey cat. Everyone was watching the cartoon playing on the TV or sleeping in the comfy chairs. Now was his best chance to talk to the Grey Cat and find out if she was real.

The cat was sitting on the back of a chair in the corner, looking at the TV with half closed eyes. He wasn't sure if she was falling asleep, thinking or actually watching the cartoon cat get beat up by a mouse. But if she really was magic, she wouldn't mind him talking to her. Would she?

Climbing onto the chair, he leaned in really close so no one else would hear him. “Are you the Grey Cat who helps people.”

She looked at him with pretty green eyes. At first she didn't do anything, then she nodded. It was a really small nod, but he was sure she was saying she was.

Now that he had found her, his tongue didn't want to work. He could hear his mom yelling at him, threatening him with another beating for telling anyone. But the Grey Cat wasn't just anyone. She was magic, and he'd heard other kids saying how she helped them. She had to do the same for him. He'd been really good, even when it hurt.

“I need your help,” he whispered so quietly he could barely hear himself. “My mom makes me do dirty things with people.”

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Father Liam was in the back office doing some of the never ending paperwork that was required to keep the centre running somewhat smoothly when someone knocked on the door. He wasn't sure if he should be happy for the break or worried. When dealing with runaways and at risk children something unexpected coming up was almost always bad.

“Come in,” he said.

There was a short wait, and he could just make out a child saying something about not wanting to do something. Then the door opened, and seven year old Brett slunk in, with Jordan's grey cat using it's head to push his legs. The boy dragged his feet all the way to the desk, with the cat batting and prodding him the entire way.

“Hi Brett. Do you need to talk to me?” Father Liam asked.

The boy nodded, but didn't say anything or even look up.

He was about to say something when the cat jumped up onto his desk grabbing a pen. With a human-like hand it slapped the desk and mimed writing.

He'd suspected the cat was more than a simple pet, but seeing it's hands, and how it was acting was still a shock. Mutants could look like animals, and even monsters, but as far as he knew they still looked somewhat human. The cat- the girl slapped the desk again, clearly irritated.

Still in a bit of shock, he handed her a scrap piece of paper.

She wrote, 'Tell him!' and held it up to Brett.

Slowly and haltingly, with tears rolling down his cheeks, Brett started talking.

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Several minutes later, Father Liam was cradling the sobbing boy. He'd heard similar stories before, but it was never easy. He had to reach deep into his faith to keep his anger and sadness from showing, that wouldn't help the poor child.

A pen scratched on paper. Turning his head to the strange girl that was still sitting on his desk, he saw she was holding up a message. 'Help him or I will.'

He recalled the talk he'd had with the police officer about a number of murders and assaults committed by an unknown mutant vigilante. A chill washed over him as he realized what she meant by helping, the rage in her eyes left no room for doubt.

Nodding, he mouthed, “I will.”

She jumped off his desk, opened the door and let herself out. The way she moved reminded him of a tiger searching for prey.

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Downtown Seattle
Early Afternoon

Sitting on a bench, Luna wished her grandmother was alive. Her grandma would back her up, and she'd be able to live with her for a while without being drugged all the time. Whenever her parents got too be too much, she could escape to the nice little apartment for a few days and be around normal stuff.

She hated Seattle. She hated being cold. She hated being hungry. She hated being scared all the time. She hated having most of her stuff stolen. She hated being tired. She hated her parents most of all for turning her into a zombie.

“Would you like a sandwich?” a man in an old tux and a top hat asked. He had one bag that looked to be full of sandwiches, and another full of juice bottles.

“No,” she said. Her stomach growled, making her an obvious liar.

“Are you sure? I got them from the deli just down the street, they're really good and still sealed. I've got pastrami, roast beef, turkey, a couple of types of ham, and salami. I'm giving them out to anyone who needs it.”

“Do you have ham and cheese?”

He looked through his bag and pulled out a sandwich. “Black forest ham with Swiss cheese, sound good?”

Her mouth started to water, that was her favourite. “Yeah.”

Handing it over, he held up his bag of juice. “What would you like to drink?”

“Apple juice?”

“Got plenty of those,” he held it out for her. “Do you mind if I sit?”

She was ready to say no, but something about the guy was just really friendly. “OK.”

Taking off his hat, he did a little bow. “Thank you. I'm Magic Mike.” Then he sat on the far end of the bench, making sure to give her plenty of space.

“Luna,” she said. Not sure what else to say, she opened her sandwich and started eating.

“If you don't mind me saying, it looks like you're pretty new to the area. I've spent a few months around here helping out where I can, and I haven't seen you before.”

She shrugged. “I don't like standing out.”

“That can be very smart, especially out on the street. What brought you here?”

“Wanted to be able to think and do things again.”

He nodded. “I can understand that. What have you thought about so far?”

“Why do you care?”

“Like I said, I've been helping out where I can. It seems like you could use a bit of help. You look like you don't have much, can I give you some things that'll make your life a bit easier?”

She wanted to say no. So far no one had really helped her since her grandma died, so why was this guy being so nice? But she really did need any help she could get. “OK.”

He reached into his coat and somehow pulled out a small backpack. Luna had no idea how he'd hidden it in there, but it was real, and it had some stuff in it to.

“For you. It has some basic hygiene products, including feminine things. Warm socks, some unopened underwear that should fit, and a couple of water bottles and protein bars.”

“How the fuck did you have that in your coat?”

“I told you, I'm Magic Mike. Emphasis on magic.”

“So what, you're like a superhero who goes around helping people?”

He laughed, shaking his head. “Oh no, no, no. I'm no superhero. I'm just a person who likes to help. So I keep my eyes and ears open, and do what I can. Sometimes it's as simple as a friendly word, or giving away something small that a person needs. Other times it could be some advice, or helping two people meet. If I saw a supervillain, I'd run away, and help others get away too.”

She probably should leave, but something about the guy was intriguing. Everything he did had pizzazz, drawing her in. “So what do you think I need?”

“I think you need someone to talk to.”

“You're offering?”

“It's a cool day, the sandwiches aren't going to go bad. You're here, I'm here, we've got this uncomfortable bench. I have nowhere to be, how about you?”

“I don't know what to say.”

“All right. You look lonely. You lost someone?”

Her mouth worked without letting her brain interfere. “Yeah. My grandma died of cancer.”

“I'm sorry about that. Cancer is a nasty way to go.”

She nodded, wiping her eyes. For some reason she kept talking, she just felt that she could trust the guy. “She helped me deal with my parents. She was always on my side, talking to my parents when their stupider ideas started affecting me. Like when they wanted to become nudists. And sometimes she helped me understand that some of their ideas weren't so bad or were worth trying.”

“And with her gone, your parents stopped letting you think?”

“Yeah. They... I've been having problems, the doctors said it was anxiety. They gave me a bunch of different pills. No matter what they tried, it made me a zombie, and everyone insisted I keep trying new ones. Grandma would have stopped them.”

“You know, some of the drop in centres have people who help kids talk to and reconcile with their parents.”

Shaking her head, she brought her knees up to her chest and hugged them. “My parents are idiots. They didn't just give me the fucking pills, they tried all kinds of new age bullshit that made me feel sick.”

“Your grandma could talk sense into them right?”

“Yeah, and she's dead.”

“Maybe your running away and having an advocate on your side, will bring them to their senses. People make mistakes, especially if they think they're doing right and someone in authority is supporting them. But the choices a person makes don't have to define them forever. People can change.”

“I don't want to go back home and be a zombie.”

“That is definitely a bad choice. But it's not your only choice. Having someone call them, helping you talk to them, seeing if they are willing to change before you see them, that could get you off the street and living somewhere safe. You might end up back with your parents, with someone watching to make sure you're doing OK, or taken from your parents and put in a place better than the street. You have choices, and you don't have to pick one and stay with it for the rest of your life.”

She looked away from him. Could she trust her parents? Could she trust any adults? She thought about her last weeks at home. How she'd gone through life in a daze, unable to really do anything, not even think. Time having no meaning. Eating disgusting foods. Drinking things that made her want to vomit. Whether that was because of the pills or their 'healthy' ideas, didn't matter, she'd been in hell. All because of her parents refusing to listen to her.

Finishing her sandwich, she stood up taking the backpack and juice. “Thanks for the stuff,” she said, walking away before he could say anything else.

She was on her own. Her parents and everyone else could go to hell.

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Late Evening

Jordan skipped along beside Rae, Ellie and Asher as they walked back to their squat, each with several pastries and bread in their ever present bags. They'd liberated the food from a dumpster behind a bakery, where the workers were nice enough to bag the food up separately and throw them on top of the other garbage. They'd gotten a good haul, getting enough to fill themselves up for the night and most of the next day. They'd even found a couple of cupcakes for the twins.

The day had been pretty good, although Ellie had trouble keeping up with everyone and had to sit a lot from pain. Still they'd made a lot of money panhandling, Ellie's bruises had gotten them some sympathy. And with the money she'd gotten from the weird Mike guy the other day, she'd gotten them all lunch to celebrate Ellie being able to go out again.

She did wonder what had happened to Cat. The girl had vanished from the drop in centre, and no one knew where she'd gotten off too. She hoped her new friend was OK, which she realized was kind of silly. Cat had superpowers, she was probably safer than anyone Jordan knew.

A tiny shape jumped down from a roof up ahead and trotted towards them, a streetlight revealed it was Cat. The girl stroked her head against Jordan's leg and fell in beside them.

“Had a fun day?” Jordan asked.

Cat ignored her.

Shrugging, she kept walking, if Cat wanted to talk she'd start writing back at the squat. Keeping her eyes open for trouble, while not looking like she was scared or watching everything like a hawk, she couldn't wait to get back and relax. And then they heard shouting from up ahead. A girl was yelling and crying about something, while a big guy was yelling right back.

They all got close to the curb, ready to head across the street or walk on it despite the cars, if it looked like trouble was going to come at them. Cat however ran towards the arguing, keeping low and close to the buildings. Not wanting to draw attention to herself, Jordan kept her mouth shut.

“I'm going home!” yelled a strung out girl in a filthy sweater and jeans. She was trying to storm away, but was staggering along, barely able to walk in a straight line.

“Like hell you are, bitch!” the man shouted. “You've been using my shit, living in my home. You owe me!”

“Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you! I'm done! Sell your own ass!”

The pimp went to grab the girls arm, and flew backwards landing on his back ten feet away. Most of the people who were conscious and capable of reacting coherently, made themselves scarce. They didn't know what was going on, and that meant it was dangerous, best to get away quick.

Ellie grabbed her arm and started dragging her across the street. Jordan saw Cat shaking in a shadow, glaring at the man. Her hand was raised, fingers curled to reveal her claws. She was going to kill or really hurt the man.

“Cat!” she shouted, not entirely sure why.

The girl turned to look at her, the bright green eyes flashing in the light. Then Jordan lost sight of her, as she was pulled onto the sidewalk on the far side of the street.

Getting to his feet the pimp raised his fists, looking around for who had attacked him. Then he was screaming as he was launched at least thirty feet into the air. For a moment it seemed like he'd land on his head, probably snapping his neck. At the last second he slowed down and kind of twisted in the air, crashing onto the sidewalk legs first. She heard the crack of bone over the traffic.

The pimp kept screaming, but now it was from pain. Jordan could see him clutching his bent thigh, howling in anger and shock. Down the street she saw the former prostitute was making her escape as best she could, a grey cat walking beside her.

Putting Ellie's arm over her shoulder to help, they hurried away before anything else could happen.

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Morning,
November 11
th, 2015

The next morning Jordan found Cat lying on her back enjoying the sun beam that was shining on her stomach. Crystal had taken her boys to school, and everyone else was asleep.

She placed a paper and pen beside the girl, and sat down on the floor. “You were going to kill the guy last night, weren't you?”

Rolling over, Cat looked her in the eyes and nodded.

“Is that how you deal with problems, killing them?”

Taking the paper and pen, the girl started to write. 'I didn't before. Then bad things happened, and I had to kill to survive. Now it's easy for me. Mike told me I should find a friend to stop my bad habits.'

“Killing's a bad habit?” she asked, feeling sick to her stomach.

'Mike is polite, he didn't want to call me a murderer.'

“So you want me to be your friend, keeping you on the straight and narrow? I'm not exactly a good choice for that.”

Cat started writing, stopped, and then started again, pressing the pen so hard into the paper it looked like it was about to tear. Finally she showed it to Jordan. 'I don't know what I want. I'm a freak. I wake up in the morning and yell at God, telling him I'm still alive despite his best efforts. I try to help people so I don't feel so lonely or monstrous. But then I see the shit that people do, the evil. And I remember what THEY did to me, and I get angry. Sometimes I can stop it, sometimes I can't.'

It was Jordan's turn to stop and think about what to say. She'd seen a lot of horrifying shit, and dealt with her fair share of it. Even with the weirdness, she could tell Cat had a lot of demons, and had survived some serious stuff. “Have you ever hurt someone who wasn't doing something bad?”

Cat shook her head, and went back to writing. 'I've seen real monsters. I don't want to be one. I'm not good. I'm not Jeanette. She's dead. But I WILL NOT hurt someone who doesn't deserve it.'

Wrapping her arm around the girl, she stroked Cat's furry neck. “OK. I'm not the best choice, but you saved my life. It's only fair that I help you.”

Thin, muscular arms wrapped around her head, and she felt the strange, sad girl begin to tremble and sob.

linebreak shadow

“I know the perfect name for Cat!” Rae shouted, running down the stairs, jumping over the rotten steps.

“What?” Jordan asked from her seat on the couch. She and Cat both looked up from her phone which was playing a video of a cat doing tricks.

Rae sat down beside them. “My grandma used to tell me stories about Japan. One of them was about guardians of the shrines. They're cool looking stone cats, called shisa.”

“Shisa?” Jordan said, making a face at the weird name.

Rubbing Cat's head, Rae nodded. Looking down at Cat, she said, “Yeah. It's perfect. It's a cool name, and you like to help people. So why not take the name of a protector?”

Cat cocked her head to the side, then to the other side. Finally she nodded, patting Rae on the thigh.

“OK, it looks like it's decided,” Jordan said. “Nice to meet ya, Shisa.”

linebreak shadow

Shisa walked through the bushes, keeping out of sight of regular people who walked and sat on the sidewalk. There was a light rain coming down, which was annoying, but she wanted to get out and think. Being in a house was so unusual for her her now that she felt trapped if she spent too much time inside.

Despite the rain, for the first time in a long time, she didn't feel angry. She wasn't really happy, but she could breathe more easily, and the noises of the city didn't make her want to hiss.

More importantly, she didn't feel lonely. Sure she was alone at the moment, but she had somewhere to go, and people who she could call friends. They didn't want her around because she had just helped them. That had gotten her in the door, but then they just accepted her. And Jordan would help her stop being a monster.

And she had a name. It was an odd name, but it seemed to suit her.

Shisa. She was Shisa, a protector, not a monster.

She could live with that.

Jumping on top of a bus, she went looking for someone to help.

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Late Evening
November 13
th, 2015

Cold, hungry, and soaked from the rain, Luna sat huddled in a doorway. She'd been on the street for a few days and each day was worse than the last one. Looking out at the quickly darkening street, she knew she'd need to leave soon to find a safe place to sleep. But the cold, heavy rain wasn't exactly inviting.

She was almost tempted to call home. But what could she say to her parents? How did she explain why she'd run away? And they'd just drug her again. Her parents weren't an option.

Scratching her hand, she wondered why her skin seemed to be changing colour. It was a becoming pinkish around the base of her thumb. And when she'd had a shower at a drop in centre, she'd seen other patches of colour appearing on her body. It was probably a fungus or something with her luck.

The door opened and a man stepped out, opening his umbrella.

He looked down at her, looked around, then looked down at her again. Awkwardly he sidled past and headed towards a parked car. He paused, looked around again, and came back.

“Hey, you OK?”

She nodded, not wanting to talk.

“You have anywhere to go?” he asked.

“Leave me alone.”

He looked around again, his face turning a bit red. He sounded a bit nervous as he said, “Maybe I can help you. I'm in town on business, I've got a hotel room. You can come with me, get washed up, have a nice bed to sleep in. I'll get you some room service. And in the morning I can give you some money.”

Luna glared at him. She knew exactly what he was talking about. Her stomach growled. She'd only had lunch all day and it hadn't been that much. It was also freezing. “How much?”

“Fifty dollars.”

“A hundred.”

“OK,” he said.

Her hands were shaking as she climbed into his car. While they drove to his hotel, he tried to make small talk, gulping and stuttering in nervousness. She nodded and smiled, her mind distant and getting farther away with every passing moment.

 

Coming Soon
Alley Cat Part 2

Read 6681 times Last modified on Saturday, 11 November 2023 08:49
Dan Formerly Domoviye

Check out some of my original stories on Royal Road.

Comments

0
CAC
1 year ago
My friend, your representation of the Counter Culture is uninformed and, I am sorry to say, offensive. It reflects a hateful attitude that is in conflict with the values you show in your writing and with the values of the Counter Culture itself. I don't know who taught your this hateful attitude, but they did you no good. Lighten up a bit. The world is more complicated and virtue more widespread among different sorts of people than you seem to understand.
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Dan Formerly Domoviye
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Dan Formerly Domoviye
1 year ago
Almost every bad thing that happened in this story was taken from testimonials and anecdotes from homeless and runaway youth.
With adults, certainly some of them are doing it as a lifestyle choice and having a blast, but this is not a story about adults, it's about the youth. And the rate of sexual violence and assaults for them is horrifying.
It's also following a character who has been through hell. Shisa isn't part of the counter culture, she's in the shadows seeing all the evil and garbage of society.
In Part 2, I'll show how it isn't all bad, that's where Jordan and her friends come in. But I'm not about to make running away and homeless youth seem like a fun filled adventure.
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Dan Formerly Domoviye
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Dan Formerly Domoviye
1 year ago
I think I might have misunderstood.
You're talking about Luna and her parents aren't you?

If so, I was writing from the perspective of a young teenager who is going through a rebellious stage. At that age many teens think that their parents are idiots and lame.
However I also showed that Luna's parents do care for her. Taking her to the doctor, trying a variety of methods to help her with her problem, making compromises when she really digs in her feet, and not forcing her to copy their lifestyle beyond eating what they cook.
Are they perfect parents, no. Did I show them to be monsters or abusive? Only if you stretch the word to it's most extreme definition.
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