Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

The lover of cats does not so much love the little sycophant balls of fur as he craves their affection. Anything, any trace of attention directed toward the frost of his cold and achingly lonely existence. Even as they pander to him solely in search of food, he caresses – slicking down the arch of their backs – convincing himself that their purr is a whirring sonnet of love exclusively written for he.

The cat lover also loves the thing. The beautiful thing that he watches each and every day as it walks through the courtyard that divides their world in two. There is something about the wild bloom of its hair, how it bounces and sways like sand hill tussock every time that it opens its mouth. Though not ever to him, no, not a once has it ever spoken to him.

The lover of cats gets angry sometimes and he grabs at his furry charges throats. He squeezes until their little eyes bulge and the pink tips of their mocking tongues poke right on out. But he loves them.

He does.

The cat lover is tonight stalking the thing and a scraggy troop of felines patter in his wake. He is beckoned by the images that form in his bed and he now squints at its ass as it walks. How beautifully its skin glows in this dusk, he thinks. The powdery rust tinge of its skin in the glare of the street lamp light.

He passes the shuttered newsagent’s kiosk with its peeling leering posters that taunt as they pout and they stare. The thing turns, into and up a cobbled side street that now abruptly seems to fold in onto itself, narrowing into the darkness’ gently wettening mist.

The thing stops and turns and its shoulders heave, its breath a pumping gush spillage that rolls as smoke from its lips. The cat lover lashes out and with the quake of his fingers he grabs at its throat and he stymies its pant as he tightens.

It is cold tonight but the fear that shakes in the thing’s eyes warms him. But then, suddenly, it calms and its full lips part and they knead themselves into words.

“May I ask you a question?”, it asks.

“Don’t talk”, the cat lover snaps, his grip ever so slightly loosening.

“Sorry, it’s just perplexing, is all. In this age of Tactile VR Sex and Rape-bots, in a society where you can legally marry a bio-synthetic celebrity deep-fake, why, why do you crave me so?”

“Don’t talk.”

“It’s because I’m real, isn’t it? It’s power. You feel no such supremacy with something you can programme and switch on and off at will. But here’s the rub, cat man, I’m not human. And just so you know, I am also no machine.”

With that, the cat lover’s fingernails slide and drop away as does the meat that cupped them in place. Unable to move nor scream, the cat lover feels and he hears as every last agonizing strip of sticky flesh now pries away from his bones. He breaks and he parts and he drops with a wet dead slap to the ground.

“You were not special. Not particularly maligned. I, too, am lost in myself. Trapped in this dark corner that nobody knows and they judge and they wonder just why I keep to myself. We are all secrets”, he says as he shoos away the cats as they feast.