Eyes gleamed, flashed when the light caught them, high and low, everywhere. Mine hurt from the stink, filled up with tears, and I wondered how those cat's eyes could stand it. And the sounds, all that breathing, purring, the hiss of fur rubbing against fur, the lap and lick of small rough tongues.
Something brushed against my leg in the dark, and I yelped.
I watched his light sweep the room, catch eye after eye, wished I'd thought to bring one. Old furniture, overstuffed chairs and a long couch, all covered, every surface, with furry, twitching, breathing bodies. They lay on the floor, watched us with those eyes of theirs that closed slowly into slits.
And more cats too, in a cabinet beside me. Mickey's light wavered over china cats, glass cats, plastic cats even, the kind you might get free with your burger. Cats in blue with large saucer eyes, in painted china gleaming, in old silver all tarnished and dusty. I saw Sylvester looking mad, because maybe Tweetie had managed to escape him again. Hobbes was there, looking lonely without Calvin to keep him company. Garfield sat all plump and smug next to lumpy knitted thing I'd never have known was supposed to be a cat if I'd seen it anywhere else.
"Chris?" Mickey called in a hoarse whisper from the other side of the room. There was another door there and he was gesturing at me to hurry it up. I could see more now, I realized. Light from outside was creeping through the window, and I could make out the shapes of things. It gleamed on the cabinet, the moon coming out from behind cloud, and on a little china cat with mackerel stripes.
I took it. It fitted nicely in my palm, cool and smooth. It felt good I'd taken something before Mickey. Taken something, stole it. I thought of Mrs Timmins coming down in the morning, wondered when she'd see it was gone. Wondered if she'd cry. But I had the cat, held secret in my hand. My prize. My heart gave a little jump, like a bubble of pain bursting.
"Ok ok! I'm coming!"