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NINE LIVES OF XEN: The Secret History of Cats, Part 2: 1888

People had a real hard time in London in 1888. Food was scarce and people were dying every day. Good thing I’m not a person. Not that it was a Sunday parade for cats either. Scarcity of food affected us just as much—well, maybe not as much, but we did feel the pain.
A cat can live quite some time without any actual physical food, the essence keeps us alive. The thing is we still feel the hunger. If we don’t eat real food, our stomachs start to cramp and it feels like the stomach is digesting itself. No one wants to live forever if they’re starving the whole time.
We had to be very careful where we went looking for food back then. There was a crazy old lady with red hair who would chase cats and put them in her oven—with meat being so scarce and all. If you were unlucky enough to be caught off guard, you would end up in one of her pies. Luckily for us, she wasn’t very fast.
Back then, it really was an “us”; I hadn’t taken to my solitary ways yet. I ran with a small group. We looked out for each other while scrounging for food. More times than not we found sanctuary in the alleyways of Whitechapel. Rowdy pubs overran with drunken patrons who never finished their meals made for excellent waste to sift through. Life was pretty good for a while, being a part of an ally-cat gang. As August rolled around, our good time was drawing to an end.
It was the dog days (God, I hate that term) of summer. August was at an end and the nights were still uncomfortable. Sleep didn’t come easy to any of us, so we spent most of the time patrolling the allies, looking for anything edible. The night hadn’t been going well—not so much as a scrap in sight. Just around 3 a.m. a man in a shabby coat started calling out to us.
“ ‘ere puss, puss,” he said. “Come ‘ere now luvs.”
Always ones to mistrust humans, we kept our distance, but something caught our attention. There was a distinct crinkling sound behind his back.
“’ere now, you’ll want this.”
He produced a lump wrapped in butcher’s paper and laid it down in front of us. Lying on the paper was a giant hunk of fresh bleeding meat. The man backed away, raising his hands as he went. “Don’t mean you no harm, luvs. Just wanted you to know you have a friend.”
We watched as he left, but as soon as he was gone our eyes dropped to the feast. There were probably many things we should have been suspicious of, but hunger got the best of us: We tore into the tender offering. About an hour later, after we finished our meal, we heard a commotion coming from one alley over. The meat made us complacent so none of us felt up to investigating. Maybe if we had taken the time, things wouldn’t have ended up the way they did.
A week later I was wandering around by myself when I was confronted by the shabby man again. “I’m not gonna ‘urt ya, luv.” His voice was eerily soothing. “‘Member me now, don’t ya?”
Despite my instincts that had kept me alive for so many years, I walked over to him. “I’ve got another present for ya. But just for you now; there’s not enough for all, you see.”
He set down a small piece of newspaper and unfolded the edges. Glistening on the middle of the print was wat appeared to be half a kidney. “Go on, now; you must be hungry.”
I waited to see if he would walk away again. When I realized that he was standing his ground, I waited the slightest of moments before slowly approaching the organ. I sat there and ripped it into small pieces as he watched on.
“That’s a good puss. You have all of Hell in you, don’t you?”
The question didn’t even register. The fresh meat was too tantalizing a distraction.
“You have all of Hell in you, and that’s what I want.”
His hand was suddenly on top of my head, softly stroking down my back. My aversion to being touched is not something that came with age, I have never liked it. For some reason, between his soothing voice and generous gift, I allowed the contact.
“I know about you and your kind. I want you to help me. Let me see the Hell in your eyes.”
He gently grabbed the scruff behind my neck and lifted my head up. He lowered his own so that he could stare into my eyes. I’m not sure if he ever saw the “Hell” he was looking for, but I certainly saw the devil in his.
“Go, now, puss. Tell your friends how nice I b’ens to you.”
As he walked away, I felt the once tantalizing meal in my stomach turn to stone. It weighed me down as I sauntered around the alleys at a miniscule pace. It wasn’t long before I heard a commotion that lifted me out of my daze. Someone had cut up poor ‘ol Annie. She was known by us for her tendency to throw us scraps whenever she had the chance. She never smelled very nice, but she always had a smile and a biscuit. Sometimes that’s enough to endear yourself to a person forever. Now, she was sprawled on the damp, trash-ridden alley, life oozing out of her onto the stone. The nice bawdy lady that no one had the decency to cover up, just lying there for everyone to see.
No one took notice of me as I circled around and pushed past the parted legs to get a better look at our former benefactor. Poor Annie’s head barley clung onto the rest of her body, but for what it’s worth it was still there. It appeared that whoever did this removed something from the giant wound they had produced on her abdomen. It was quite possible that she no longer had her…
The thought stopped there. The stone in my stomach made its way up, and I turned away from the body to spare it the further indignity. The contents of my stomach now lay next to the brutalized body.
It was too much to handle. By the end of the month, I jumped onto a ship and set off for America.
The reason I tell you all of this is because I thought I had seen the worst humanity had to offer that night. One look into the shabby man’s eyes and I knew fear like I never knew before. I was comforted it could never get worse. But when I saw Mr. David’s memories, as I transferred his essence to M., I knew I was wrong.

Anthony David Lawson is the author of “Novel,” as well as a local playwright, director and actor. He will write a piece of prose presented in parts every other week in encore throughout 2015, entitled “The Nine Lives of Xen.

People had a real hard time in London in 1888. Food was scarce and people were dying every day. Good thing I’m not a person.  Not that it was a Sunday parade for cats either. Scarcity of food affected us just as much—well, maybe not as much, but we did feel the pain.

A cat can live quite some time without any actual physical food, the essence keeps us alive. The thing is we still feel the hunger. If we don’t eat real food, our stomachs start to cramp and it feels like the stomach is digesting itself. No one wants to live forever if they’re starving the whole time.

We had to be very careful where we went looking for food back then. There was a crazy old lady with red hair who would chase cats and put them in her oven—with meat being so scarce and all. If you were unlucky enough to be caught off guard, you would end up in one of her pies.  Luckily for us, she wasn’t very fast. 

Back then, it really was an “us”; I hadn’t taken to my solitary ways yet. I ran with a small group. We looked out for each other while scrounging for food. More times than not we found sanctuary in the alleyways of Whitechapel. Rowdy pubs overran with drunken patrons who never finished their meals made for excellent waste to sift through. Life was pretty good for a while, being a part of an ally-cat gang. As August rolled around, our good time was drawing to an end.

It was the dog days (God, I hate that term) of summer. August was at an end and the nights were still uncomfortable. Sleep didn’t come easy to any of us, so we spent most of the time patrolling the allies, looking for anything edible. The night hadn’t been going well—not so much as a scrap in sight. Just around 3 a.m. a man in a shabby coat started calling out to us.

“ ‘ere puss, puss,” he said.  “Come ‘ere now luvs.”

Always ones to mistrust humans, we kept our distance, but something caught our attention. There was a distinct crinkling sound behind his back.

“’ere now, you’ll want this.”

He produced a lump wrapped in butcher’s paper and laid it down in front of us. Lying on the paper was a giant hunk of fresh bleeding meat. The man backed away, raising his hands as he went. “Don’t mean you no harm, luvs. Just wanted you to know you have a friend.”

We watched as he left, but as soon as he was gone our eyes dropped to the feast. There were probably many things we should have been suspicious of, but hunger got the best of us: We tore into the tender offering.  About an hour later, after we finished our meal, we heard a commotion coming from one alley over. The meat made us complacent so none of us felt up to investigating. Maybe if we had taken the time, things wouldn’t have ended up the way they did.

A week later I was wandering around by myself when I was confronted by the shabby man again. “I’m not gonna ‘urt ya, luv.” His voice was eerily soothing. “‘Member me now, don’t ya?”

Despite my instincts that had kept me alive for so many years, I walked over to him. “I’ve got another present for ya. But just for you now; there’s not enough for all, you see.”

He set down a small piece of newspaper and unfolded the edges. Glistening on the middle of the print was wat appeared to be half a kidney. “Go on, now; you must be hungry.”

I waited to see if he would walk away again. When I realized that he was standing his ground, I waited the slightest of moments before slowly approaching the organ. I sat there and ripped it into small pieces as he watched on.

“That’s a good puss. You have all of Hell in you, don’t you?”

The question didn’t even register. The fresh meat was too tantalizing a distraction. 

“You have all of Hell in you, and that’s what I want.”

His hand was suddenly on top of my head, softly stroking down my back. My aversion to being touched is not something that came with age, I have never liked it. For some reason, between his soothing voice and generous gift, I allowed the contact.

“I know about you and your kind. I want you to help me. Let me see the Hell in your eyes.”

He gently grabbed the scruff behind my neck and lifted my head up. He lowered his own so that he could stare into my eyes. I’m not sure if he ever saw the “Hell” he was looking for, but I certainly saw the devil in his.

“Go, now, puss. Tell your friends how nice I b’ens to you.”

As he walked away, I felt the once tantalizing meal in my stomach turn to stone. It weighed me down as I sauntered around the alleys at a miniscule pace. It wasn’t long before I heard a commotion that lifted me out of my daze. Someone had cut up poor ‘ol Annie. She was known by us for her tendency to throw us scraps whenever she had the chance. She never smelled very nice, but she always had a smile and a biscuit. Sometimes that’s enough to endear yourself to a person forever. Now, she was sprawled on the damp, trash-ridden alley, life oozing out of her onto the stone. The nice bawdy lady that no one had the decency to cover up, just lying there for everyone to see. 

No one took notice of me as I circled around and pushed past the parted legs to get a better look at our former benefactor. Poor Annie’s head barley clung onto the rest of her body, but for what it’s worth it was still there. It appeared that whoever did this removed something from the giant wound they had produced on her abdomen. It was quite possible that she no longer had her…

The thought stopped there. The stone in my stomach made its way up, and I turned away from the body to spare it the further indignity. The contents of my stomach now lay next to the brutalized body.

It was too much to handle. By the end of the month, I jumped onto a ship and set off for America.

The reason I tell you all of this is because I thought I had seen the worst humanity had to offer that night. One look into the shabby man’s eyes and I knew fear like I never knew before. I was comforted it could never get worse. But when I saw Mr. David’s memories, as I transferred his essence to M., I knew I was wrong.

Anthony David Lawson is the author of “Novel,” as well as a local playwright, director and actor. He will write a piece of prose presented in parts every other week in encore throughout 2015, entitled “The Nine Lives of Xen.

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