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And They Never Knew its Name: Part 1

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Prologue

It was exactly seven o’clock on a quiet summer morning when the first of the cats began to go mad.

She was a fine handsome female called Seelie, richly furred in a luxurious sandy color and possessing a sweet proud temper. But after the pale malevolent stranger came and left, Seelie was the first to fall prey.

The sickness struck quietly at first. Amid the masses of fur, nobody noticed. Nobody except the girl who fed the cats, who sensed something was wrong but could not find the words to tell another. But soon enough, Seelie’s condition began to deteriorate at a frightening pace. Her back legs kicked uncontrollably as if manipulated by some sadistic puppeteer, her eyes shining with tears and delirium.

The next morning, though, Seelie seemed to be making a recovery. Elated, the girl drew near, hoping to coax a bit of water down the animal’s parched throat. But the gleam in the cat’s emerald eyes now appeared deranged, insane. Unnerved, the girl drew back just as Seelie gave a high-pitched yowl and lunged, teeth bared. The girl ran from the room, terrified, and slammed the door behind her. By the time she returned, Seelie lay dead on the floor.

Other cats quickly followed the same route: Tinley, Shadow, Dandelion, Etta. “Kill ‘em,” said some. “They’re too dangerous to be kept alive.” But everyone knew that if the cats died, the town would perish with them.

Dommary, a small ragged village on a dingy estuary, was a town completely controlled by cats. There were people, sure enough, but the Dommary cats determined every aspect of life, right up to whether the people of Dommary would eat or starve.

The cats were Dommary’s only lifeline. The soil was poor and the weather poorer, so it was no good trying to grow crops. Nobody in town had the education or the resources or the sheer will to go into a skilled trade. But the cats had lived and thrived on puny weeds and mangy sparrows for as long as anyone could remember. They had survived there, and as long as the cat market was profitable, so would Dommary.

The Cattery, an immense building of cement-block and brick, dominated the skyline above the estuary’s murky sludge and the lives of all Dommarians. Children were sent there as soon as they were able to leave their mother’s sides, and set to work caring for the looming building and the thousands of cats within it as soon as they could stand. Cats were as essential to life as air. Life without them was unimaginable.

So when the disease began to claim its victims, the Dommarians were convinced that the world was coming to an end.





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