I can’t say that I am prone to self-examination. I have lived a very long time, which is itself proof of my skill. I am First, and I am Cat, and these things are sufficient to overcome almost any obstacle in my way. The handful of times when I have found myself defeated, I returned to my human, settled down to receive affection and grow stronger, and then proceeded to murder whatever had embarrassed me. It was very difficult to kill me, so long as I had a human. But Horace had a rather frustrating lack of confidence in me. “You know what your job is, Horace. Why are you going through this? How can you even trust this man?”
I smoked a cigarette to try to regain some sense of normalcy. I smelled of rosewater and lavender, which made for a disconcerting change. The strange spirit had come through with disease-repelling essential oils. I’d taken a long bath in it, and while it had been enjoyable, it had made me feel like I should be eating chocolate ice-cream and doing my nails. It helped that Hector, John, and Marco were no more pleased with the situation than I was. We had met briefly on the sidewalk outside of the park, before moving to our predetermined locations to prepare for the battle ahead. It was Sunday. Horace had gone with the camera to go get what he was needed. Randall had arrived as the last of the cult’s setup was being completed. Betty and Li were… Well, I didn’t know. I didn’t need to know exactly where they hid, and with any luck, they’d remain hidden until the moment when they could do the greatest damage.
The human capacity to live with the apocalypse is unrivaled. On the first night after the meeting, I had horrific nightmares of plague, of Betty dead, of Randall and my new friends torn limb from limb, of the world falling apart around me. It was excruciating, knowing that there was nothing I could do besides what I was already doing, taking care of Betty. But I got used to it surprisingly quickly. By Wednesday morning, the dream had faded entirely. I asked Betty about that.
I sat down heavily on the subway, my head spinning from the encounter. My hand still ached faintly. I’d performed actual magic, three times. There was a small thrill in that, and a lot of disappointment.
I sat at the front desk, a tall tumbler of scotch in hand. I stared down at the dispatch through a haze of amber. We were getting quite a few calls from frightened people. I took down their information, told them what I could to try to help ease their fears and advise them, and then went on to the next call. I threw a paperweight at a large, glossy black rat in the middle of a call. It hissed at me defiantly, and skittered away into a hole in the wall, followed by half a dozen others. I was tempted to get my gun, but I’d been drinking. That would probably not look good at review time. I sighed, and instead threw back the scotch, feeling the burn as it went down.
It was Sunday afternoon. There was only one place my uncle would be. I sat in the subway, feeling the rage burning in the pit of my stomach. It was almost deserted, except for a pair of men in rat-faced masks holding a conversation, and watching me from one of the far corners. I tightened my hand around the pendant Betty had given me, and thought of the words to the ritual that Phoebe had told me. It suited me, I supposed, a magic to let me run away. It wasn’t as though I was going to be any good at fighting if things became violent, no matter how angry I was. But eventually, the two men got off the train, leaving me alone with my thoughts.
I left the apartment, seething, on Friday. The human just didn’t understand. Just because I didn’t want to mate with him didn’t give him permission to go find some other spiritual floozy who had none of my restraint and experience, and lay with them. And there was still the stunt he’d pulled with the serpent sorceress. Humans just couldn’t seem to understand ownership, sometimes. I hissed as I hopped out of the window, leaving it open behind me. It was time for me to investigate the clinics that the human had found. I still knew little about what was being planned by the cult, but it didn’t matter. Perhaps I would pin down a few of those rat-faced men, and ask them questions.
It was 1919. I knew this, because my owner bought newspapers, and read them to me from the head of the table. His Hearth was weak. He did not care much for his home, and he brought many people into it, none of them for very long. His heart did not burn. It was cold and chilled the house around him. But nonetheless, he was my owner, and I cared deeply for him. He was a tall man, and not very well-dressed. He tended to favor very silly looking turbans. I was merely an apartment, and not particularly skilled in the ways of human fashion, but even I could tell that they were ridiculous.
My eyes opened sharply, heart pounding as I woke out of the nightmare. It had featured rats heavily. It was another early Friday morning, the sky not even gray outside yet. Betty was lying next to me, in her cat form. I had soothed her with praise and apologies for half an hour the night before, with limited success. I shifted as carefully as I could, and miraculously, did not wake her. I tiptoed through the bedroom, into the living room. I had two and a half hours before I would have to shower and prepare for work , and I intended to make good use of that time.