When next he knew anything, he was naked, shivering in the chilly night air, and covered in blood. He whimpered and sat up, tears clogging his throat and the taste of blood ripe in his mouth. His stomach rebelled and he vomited.
He’d killed them.
He’d killed them.
Not only was he possessed by a beast but now he was a murderer.
God help me!
Disoriented, Raphael looked around. He didn’t know where he was. It was too dark for him to recognize any structures, and he was too weak to investigate further. Dizzy, he lay down and curled into the fetal position, the blood drying on his skin. Not for the first time, he wondered if he should end it all. But then he would be damned to hell. He was Catholic and that just wasn’t something he would do. There must be another solution.
“Can I go home now?” he whispered, shivering.
The angry growl made him cry.
“I hate you.”
A mournful howl echoed in his mind and he prevented himself from releasing it into the darkness by clenching his jaw.
It was dawn when Raphael woke, surprised he’d managed to sleep. He sat up and cringed at the gore covering him. He didn’t consider it too closely and ignored his small pool of vomit. He needed to get clothes and clean up without being noticed. He realized he was in a narrow alleyway, and from the smell emanating from the dumpster, he guessed the buildings were restaurants.
A soft sound caught his attention, and he blinked at the large cat staring at him. His eyes widened. That was one big housecat. And so beautiful! This one was hefty, but slinky with big ears and equally big green eyes. As the sun rose steadily, he could see the cat had silver, black-spotted fur.
“Wow,” he whispered.
The cat sat staring at him for a long, poignant moment before stepping closer.
“Hey kitty,” Raphael said. He lowered his hand cautiously and held it out for the cat to inspect.
Upon seeing it, he winced, once again reminded what the beast had done. Blood was caked on his arm and under his fingernails. The cat paused and stretched his neck forward, sniffing at his fingers. Then he jerked back as if punched and hissed, showing small pointy teeth.
Raphael flinched and huddled tighter into himself. “I won’t hurt you.” Tears choked his words. “Non sono un mostro. I swear to God I’m not a monster.”
Overcome, Raphael sobbed, face pressed against his knees. Not even a cat trusted him! Why was he being punished? What had he done to earn God’s wrath? Why was he cursed?
It was a long moment before soft fur touched his arm, accompanied by a deep purr like a well-tuned engine. He lifted his head and realized the cat was rubbing his head against his arm. Raphael sniffed, reached over and scratched the cat’s head. The cat arched into the touch, still purring.
“You’re a good kitty,” he said with a wobbly smile. “You’re a pretty kitty.”
The cat regarded him with those hypnotic eyes, whiskers twitching. Such intelligence in his gaze.
“I’m not bad, you know?” he said. “I can’t be all bad if you don’t hate me.”
The cat set his front paws on Raphael’s thigh and lifted himself up until their faces were level. Then the cat leaned forward and surprised Raphael by licking the tip of his nose with his rough tongue. Raphael jerked with a watery laugh.
“Whoa, what was that for?”
The purring continued as the cat climbed into Raphael lap and settled there, his body heat a wonderful thing. Raphael resituated himself, taking care of his genitals, before wrapping his arms around the cat, taking comfort from his warmth and gentleness.
As the sun rose higher and the day grew warmer, Raphael was surprised to realize the beast didn’t mind the cat in the least. Not a snarl or growl came from the monster inside him. It seemed to hate humans but the cat had apparently earned its approval. Whatever the reason, Raphael was grateful. He didn’t want to hurt this cat. He didn’t want to harm anyone else.
“I won’t hurt you,” he whispered in Italian into the cat’s fur. “I promise I won’t hurt you.”
It wasn’t long before his protesting stomach could no longer be ignored. Raphael set the cat aside and approached the dumpster, aware of his nakedness. He lifted the lid and breathed through his mouth. The rising heat of the day did the garbage no favors. He’d be lucky if he didn’t get horribly ill from whatever was in there.
The sharp sound caused Raphael to jump along with his heart. He swung his head around to stare at the cat as it gazed at him with apparent disapproval. And why did the feline’s eyes appear to be glowing? Must’ve been the sunlight.
“What? I have to eat something. I can’t catch birds and mice like you can. If you’re hungry, go do that.”
The cat flicked his tail, sitting with an air of royalty.
Raphael picked through the garbage, distressed to find nothing remotely worth the risk to eat. Sighing, he lowered the dumpster lid and rubbed his stomach.
“This is your fault, beast,” he whispered. “Are you trying to kill us?”
The beast snarled.
The cat bumped against his leg, distracting him. Blood transferred to the cat’s pristine fur, and Raphael loathed to see it.
“Stop that.” He stepped away. “You’re getting my grossness on you.”
Determined, the cat trotted over to him and continued to rub himself against his legs.
“Il gatto pazzo. That’s what you are.”
Noise near the mouth of the alley had Raphael scrambling behind the dumpster. The cat followed him. He squeezed the cat in his arms, his heart racing. He didn’t want to hurt anyone else.
Behave yourself! he told the beast silently.