It was the prettiest cat Sarah had ever seen in her whole life.
She didn't know the word "calico," because eight-year-olds typically don't. It was brown and tan and orange and its eyes were the brightest, brightest gold you've ever seen, Sarah would say, or something to that effect. And it was looking right at her.
Sarah assumed it was one of the "river cats," as she heard her parents calling them; a random group of strays living in and around the little creek that snaked through their town. The creek ran through patches of woods, reemerged periodically near houses (like Sarah's), and continued on to…somewhere. Sarah had never seen the source of it, but it was a perfect place for cats to live and hide from people for safety. Various neighbors gave them food, but Sarah hadn't had the chance to do so yet. Her friends would be soooooooo jealous.
Her parents were home and likely wouldn't approve of her feeding stray cats, but they had some food in the house that she could put out later that night. She hoped this cat would be the one to come around.
Persephone. She would call this cat Persephone, even if it were a boy. He'd be okay with it.
Sarah waited until she heard her parents close the door to their bedroom. She had learned how to sneak down the stairs without making any noise months ago, so she didn't need to wait any longer than that. Sarah grabbed a can of tuna out of the pantry and carried it to the counter. Yuck, she thought as she wrenched the manual can opener around the can's edge, but she knew that cats liked the smelly stuff. She opened the back door silently and walked onto their patio.
Persephone was waiting for her. The pretty calico was sitting right where it had been when Sarah had first seen her. Sarah could see the cat clearly, even with the back light off; her eyes, gleaming under the full moon, were staring directly into hers. Not at the food, at her. Sarah felt a shiver as she put the can on the deck and made a tss tss sound to coax the creature over.
The cat made a little head motion, shaking her head to one side momentarily, then leapt off of the rock she was sitting on and ran over to Sarah. The cat, pretty as she was, was a little jerky as it climbed up the stairs, almost as though she were just figuring it out for the first time. Sarah noticed that the cat's tail didn't whip back and forth when she was running, only once she was on the deck; even then, the motion looked…more deliberate, she would have thought if she had known the word.
Sarah loved her clumsy little Persephone.
The kitty let Sarah pet her while she ate the tuna, purring all the while. When the last of the fish was gone, the cat licked her lips and nuzzled against her leg. Sarah picked her up and put Persephone in her lap. She felt the cat tense up, as though it were going to resist or scratch her, then relaxed at the last moment. The cat began purring again (with that same sort of deliberate effort, Sarah didn't think).
Sarah stroked Persephone with the clumsiness of a young girl. She laid down on her back on the cold deck and continued to pet her. Persephone walked along the girl's short frame and sat on her chest, gazing into her eyes. She began to lick the girl on her nose. Sarah giggled quietly.
The cat just nipped her a bit, right on the nose; not enough to hurt, but Sarah didn't know why she wasn't letting go. Then she felt herself become very sleepy.
Manuel saw the shape of his daughter lying on the back porch and ran outside. She was just lying on the deck, apparently asleep. Manuel carried her into the house and laid her on the couch in the living room. "Sarah? Sarah? Are you okay?"
His daughter jerked awake suddenly. Sarah looked around the house with a certain unfamiliarity. "How…how did I get here?"
"What were you doing out on the porch? You scared the hel—the heck out of me!"
"There…there was a stray cat outside. I was taking it some food. I thought it was my friend." Sarah began to look sad.
Manuel understood now. "Oh, honey, it's okay. Sometimes you think animals are your friends, but you have to remember—"
"That wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit?" Sarah replied. Her eyes were now glazing over, staring at the wall behind her father. "A friend to all is a friend to none. A true friend is a soul in two bodies. He who has many friends has none. Daddy what's happening."
Manuel couldn't get his cell phone out fast enough. "Hello, 911? Yes, it's my daughter. She was bitten by a stray cat, and I think she…she just needs help. Please, send an ambulance to…"
Sarah heard her address and kept fading into the fog that was overtaking her. So many thoughts, ideas, words, all just coming out of the aether. A constitution is the arrangements of magistracies in a state. All virtues are summed up in dealing justly. The history of the current Regent of Novomundus tells to us that he fails to behave as such a ruler and cannot be permitted to live.
What was happening to her?
Random words and phrases continued while Manuel called her mother and kept pacing around the room. Suddenly, a knock at the door. The back door. Manuel walked over and opened the door. Sarah heard some bits of the conversation.
"Good morning…tell you about…gospel…Christ?"
"No…not a good time…exactly is that? What the hell is that you're holding?"
Sarah felt a screaming in her brain, pulsing, throbbing, exploding. It stopped just as she heard a popping sound, a grunting from her father, and the thud of an adult male hitting the floor and convulsing, electricity coursing through his muscles. Three men stepped over him while another administered an injection into her father's neck, picked him up, and carried him out the door. The three men advanced on Sarah.
If she were thinking coherently, she would have thought what happened next was like watching one of those action movies Daddy liked. She was trapped in her brain, watching her body leap up suddenly and begin attacking the burly men walking towards her with a strength and speed that was completely foreign to her. She watched herself claw a grown man's eyes out of his head, then bite down into his neck. She (felt? heard? knew?) something inside her brain, something foreign to her brain, calculate that there was little chance of success, calculate the best vector for exit, attempt to escape.
She heard that popping sound again, felt her entire being explode with pain, watched herself fall to the floor just out of reach of the open window she was leaping towards, and (heard/felt/watched) the screaming in her brain again. She felt herself having her hands tied behind her back, being picked up and thrown over one man's shoulder, being carried out of her house, being thrown in the back of a van. She heard people climb into the van, heard unmuffled voices from the front:
"Did you get confirmation this time?"
A different voice, female: "The little detector thing led us right to her living room, and the little bitch tried to take Eastman's jugular out with her teeth. I think that's confirmation enough."
"Mac, we gotta confirm it, after what happened last time."
"Yeah, yeah." The (woman?) turned towards Sarah, grabbed an instrument from the floor in front of her, pressed it against Sarah's forehead.
"Electronic emissions at standard amplitude, broadcasting at frequency Chi-19. Presence of SCP-877 confirmed at this time, 0811 hours." The woman turned to the man driving the van. "Did Lee take care of the ambulance?"
"It should still be working its way through various 'detours' as we speak," the man said. "We're home free."
The woman didn't respond. Sarah could see the harsh expression on her face soften somewhat. "This has been happening way too much lately," the woman said to the driver.
"No shit about that," he said.
The woman smiled at Sarah. "It's okay, baby," Agent MacGilligan said. "We're here to help."