STRAY: Chapter Four
STRAY: Chapter Four
by J.K. Hogan
Noah let himself inside the house, and turned to look through the peephole to see if he’d been followed. He couldn’t believe he’d let his guard down like that. Beltrane was a harsh city, and he was a young, pretty seventeen year old with parents who barely gave enough of a shit to make sure he was still breathing. He was constantly being targeted by criminals, degenerates, and pedophiles who thought he was younger than he really was, so he knew better than to stop paying attention to his surroundings even for a second.
But there was no sign of the creepy stalker, or the peculiar man with the long blond hair who’d run him off. In fact, the only thing out of place was the very large, white cat that sat on its haunches on the sidewalk across the street, staring straight ahead as if it were watching Noah’s house. It was big for a domesticated cat—he thought it was probably one of those big-boned breeds like a Maine Coon or something—not that Noah new much of anything about cats.
It was odd to see a stray cat out and about. Decades before Noah was born, a disease called hypertoxicosis had ravaged the world’s population, much like the bubonic plague had centuries before. And like the black death had spread by fleas on rats, hypertoxicosis—or the leeching, as it had been called due to the rapid exsanguination from every pore—had been traced back to a certain few breeds of domestic cat. Since cross-breeding was rampant and uncontrolled among strays, there’d been no way to tell which cats carried the leeching gene, so there had been mass extermination of non-purebred and stray cats. The disease had been almost completely eradicated, but most people still wouldn’t touch a cat with a ten foot pole, and many people would still kill them on site. Not Noah though. He liked them. And he knew exactly what it felt like to be stuck in a world that didn’t want him.