For the Past Few Weeks, the Cats in My Town Have Been Multiplying. But I Think Something Else Is Going On Here, Something Bad.

I don’t remember when it started. I first noticed it a few weeks ago when I went to the grocery store. There were so many cats around.

Seeing cats isn’t uncommon in a rural town such as mine. Many people owned cats, and there are quite a few strays around.

It’s just that you never really noticed them unless you looked. Most cats are rather shy with strangers. You’d occasionally see a stray walking down the street or sleeping on someone’s porch, but that was about it.

That day, during my five-minute walk to the grocery story, I saw at least ten of them. They were sitting on the sidewalks, playing with each other, and even approaching people.

Don’t get me wrong, I love cats. I just wondered where they’d all come from. They were also extremely friendly. They’d walk up to you, meowing and rubbing against your leg, desperate to be petted. I almost tripped multiple when one of them couldn’t stop sneaking around my legs. I petted the little guy for a bit, and thinking he was satisfied, continued on.

When I got home, Simba, my four-year-old tabby, noticed it right away. The moment he smelled the stray on me, he hissed at me before he booked it and hid under the bed for the rest of the day.

Simba’s special. He’s extremely skittish, easily scared, doesn’t like people, and, as I learned that day, doesn’t seem to like other cats either. I love the little guy to death, but our relationship’s more that of roommates sharing the same apartment.

What he loved the most was to sit outside on the balcony, watching birds, people, and even the occasional stray. Yet, in case he’d get a bit too excited, I installed a cat safety net. There was no telling what would happen if he’d ever skip out on me.

He, too, had noticed the influx of strays in the area, and I’d often find him watching them with watchful eyes. Every once in a while, he’d even hiss at those who dared to come closer.

I guess they made him a little restless. He became even more skittish during these weeks, and he’d often hide under the bed or other secret places around the apartment.

This morning, to my surprise, I found him outside on the balcony. I was a little confused because I didn’t remember letting him outside.

The moment he saw me, he began meowing, desperate to be let back inside. Shit, I remembered. I went for a smoke before I headed to bed. He probably snuck outside, and I accidentally locked him out all night.

“Hey, I’m sorry, little dude. I didn’t know you were outside.”

He answered my apology with a hearty meow and began rubbing against my leg, purring loudly.

“What happened to you? Are you that happy to be back inside?” I said, laughing, and to my surprise, he let me pet him.

After I’d fed him and prepared myself some coffee, he joined me at the computer. For a few minutes, he sat by my side, watching me before he jumped on my lap, making no indications of ever move again.

I was more than surprised. As I said, Simba doesn’t like people, and while he tolerated me, he’d never jumped on my lap before.

“Guess you like me after all, do you?”

While I was reading the news and drinking my coffee, I couldn’t help but wonder where this change came from.

“Is it because of all those strays outside? Are you scared of them, little dude? Don’t worry, they won’t be able to get in.”

For the next couple of hours, he happily slept on my lap while I worked.

As I absent-mindedly petted him, I suddenly noticed something. It was a sort of bump on his back. When my fingers went over it a second time, I could’ve sworn I felt something squirm below his skin. In an instant, I pulled my hand back.

By now, he’d woken up and was staring at me.

“Hey, what have you got there? Are you hurt?”

I checked his back right away, going over it again and again, but found no hint of the bump. Eventually, I gave up, and reasoned it might have been some sort of muscle spasm during sleep.

Before long, morning turned to afternoon, and eventually early evening.

When I saw it was already seven, I cursed. The damned grocery store would close in about an hour, and I still needed to get some food.

In a careful, but swift motion, I put down a protesting Simba and put on my shoes and jacket. Then I opened the balcony door, asking if he wanted to go outside and keep watch over the neighborhood like he usually did. Yet he just sat there, not moving, staring at me.

“Hey, what’s up? Don’t you want to go outside? Are you still scared of those strays?”

For another few seconds, he continued staring at me before he slowly made his way toward the balcony door, vanishing outside. I closed it behind him, so the apartment wouldn’t cool down, and went on my merry way.

The moment I opened the apartment building’s door, one of the many strays greeted me. It was an orange tabby who now called the area around our apartment complex his home.

I gently shoed the cat away so I could step outside and noticed three others watching me from the bushes nearby.

“Sorry, I can’t play with you guys. I’ve got to go to the store.”

With that, I set out down the street. I noticed just how many cats there were by now. It wasn’t just a few, it had to be dozens. They were everywhere: out in the streets, on the sidewalks and in front of people’s homes.

My eyes wandered around before they came to rest on a cat further down the road. It was an orange tabby. When the cat heard my approaching footsteps and turned to face me, I looked up.

I saw the crooked tail and the scratch mark on his little nose. It was the same cat who’d greeted me at the door. How’d he gotten here so quickly?

Well, cats are fast, I thought, and I’m not exactly a fast walker myself.

“You’re a quick one, aren’t you?” I said, as it began rubbing against my leg.

“Yeah, I know you want to play, but I can’t, sorry.”

For a moment, the cat stopped and began meowing in protest, almost as it had understood my words.

Then it just sat down in front of me, staring at me. For a second, I couldn’t help but be weirded out.

I stepped past him and continued on. Yet I couldn’t help but feel watched and when I turned around, he was still there, unmoving except for his eyes, which trailed after me.

Freaking cats. Why’d they have to be so weird?

I soon arrived at the store. In the evening, it was always packed. It seemed I wasn’t the only one who waited till the last minute to get his shopping done.

Today, however, the atmosphere felt different. At first, I couldn’t say what it was, but then I realized it. Some of the other customers were strangely friendly. They were beaming as they wandered through the aisles, wishing other shoppers a good evening, or even striking up a conversation. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a bit weird, especially at closing time.

Eventually, I shrugged it off, paid for my food, and left.

Outside, I could already see an assortment of strays and a bunch of kids playing with them.

Once more, I couldn’t help but wonder where all those cats had come from. In my head, I tried to think of a plausible scenario, but nothing made sense.

I counted them. At least a dozen were hanging around the store, but there were so many more out in the streets. It seemed there was even more now than when I’d entered the store a mere ten minutes ago.

For a moment, I watched the group of kids, and saw that they were playing with an orange tabby. It had the same crooked tail and the same scratch mark on his nose. Guess it had finally found someone to play with.

As I walked from the store, however, I saw it again, this time crossing the street ahead of me.

My steps slowed down. How the hell was that cat moving so quickly?

I turned around to look over my shoulder. The kids were still there, still playing with a cat, with an orange tabby.

A shiver went down my spine. Then I told myself my eyes had to be playing tricks on me. Hell, maybe it’s just two cats who look really similar. With so many around, it was possible.

And yet, I felt my steps speeding up as almost unconsciously hurried home. When I reached the building, my eyes grew wide.

“How in the hell had he gotten out?” I cursed to myself.

There he was, Simba, outside, on the ground, scanning the area.

“Dammit, the freaking net must’ve a hole, or one of those damned strays tore it apart.”

For a moment, I opened my mouth to call out to him, but then closed it again. Simba was way too skittish and way too easily scared. There was no telling what he’d do if I’d just call out to him.

Instead, I carefully approached him, hoping to scoop him up and bring him back home.

Yet he started to move and began making his way alongside the building. I watched as he checked out the neighboring balconies one by one, and wondered if he’d jump onto one of them, but no.

Eventually, he snuck around the building’s corner and down an old staircase. It led towards the basement where the maintenance area and boiler room were located.

I quickly followed him, hoping to catch him at the bottom of the stairs

When I reached them, however, there was no hint of Simba. Instead, I found the door slightly ajar.

“Oh for fuck’s sake, you little dummy,” I cursed.

This was a worst-case scenario. I’d heard way too many horror stories about cats getting trapped in basements or garages and starving to death.

I pushed open the door, expecting to find a maintenance worker fixing some sort of problem, but was greeted with nothing but gaping darkness.

But then why was the damned door even open?

From afar, I could hear something dripping onto the floor, most likely a leaking pipe. Maybe one of my neighbors had noticed a problem, checked out the basement and hadn’t closed the door. Good going, idiot!

I put down my backpack and pushed it against the door so I wouldn’t get trapped myself. When I hit the light switch, nothing happened. Cursing, I activated my phone’s flashlight and set out to find my cat.

The moment I stepped inside, I noticed how moist the air was. Even the walls were wet with condensation and further ahead I could see puddles on the floor. Yep, a leak, I thought to myself.

“Hey, Simba, little dude, where are you?” I whispered in a quiet, friendly voice.

I tip-toed on, scanning the ground, careful not to scare him.

“Come on, let’s get out of here.”

Nothing. Not a hint of the cat. I cursed inwardly. Where the hell are you? Don’t tell me he crawled behind some pips or under the boilers. God, you stupid cat!

Darting my phone around, I illuminated an old shelf, then an assortment of pipes, but I still couldn’t find him.

When the beam hit one puddle, I saw that the water was strangely reddish. For a moment, I stared at it. It had to be rust, considering the age of the building.

Once again, I called out for the cat, but all I heard was the same quiet sound. By now, however, my ears had adjusted. It sounded almost like something was moving or squishing around in the water on the floor.

It was coming from the boiler ahead of me, or rather, from something that was behind it. I saw that the strange reddish water almost flooded the back of the room. When I stepped into it, however, I noticed it was too thick, almost syrupy. In disgust, I pulled my foot back.

Then I froze. Was this… blood? Shit! The open door, the broken light switch. Don’t tell me some maintenance worker had gone down here and had hurt himself, hurt himself badly, given the amount of blood. What if he was bleeding out right over there?

In an instant, I rushed forward, stepped past the boiler, and illuminated the area in front of me.

Everything was covered in blood, and right in the center was Simba, sitting in front of something.

At first I really thought it was a body, a torn apart human body, but it was too big for that.

It was nothing but flesh, a giant heap or blob of flesh stuck to the wall. I opened my mouth to tell Simba to get the hell away from whatever this was, but then…

The thing began moving, heaving, almost as if it was breathing. All the while, it pumped out more of the blood that covered the floor.

My eyes grew wide, not understanding what I was seeing.

When I looked at Simba again, I saw how strange he looked. His body was all wrong, deformed, almost as if he’d melted. It began convulsing, shaking, and I saw something squirm inside of him. Then a disgusting fleshy tentacle burst from his back and slithered toward the disgusting blob.

In a trance, I watched as it probed the blob, and then, finding an orifice, contacted it.

The blob in front of him moved again, shook, but this time I saw where the movement was coming from. It wasn’t the blob itself, it was something inside of it. I saw bodies, tiny bodies. I could make out skinless heads, legs and tails. It was cats, skinless, half-formed cats.

Simba’s body was almost a puddle by now. At that moment, two of the things inside the blob began clawing their way outward.

“What the fuck?” escaped my mouth.

Right away, the two skinless creatures in front of me started hissing and meowing at me.

Finally, the trance was broken. I screamed in terror, cringed back, but after only a few steps, I stumbled over my feet and crashed to the floor.

The phone clattered away, its flashlight illuminating the ceiling above me.

There was another one of these things, another fleshy blob stuck to the ceiling. This one, however, was much, much bigger. It, too, was moving, similarly heaving and stretching. And inside of it, there were other things, things that twitch, trying to make their way outside. But they were so much bigger than cats.

For a second, I couldn’t move, could only stare at the surreal sight above me in stunned horror.

Then, the blob burst open and another of the tentacles slithered outward. No, not just outward, toward me.

In an instant, I was back on my feet, then at the door and finally outside.

I was back inside my apartment mere moments later.

I was shaking and out of it. What the fuck had I just seen? This couldn’t be real, this couldn’t-

I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye. Something was staring at me, and when I darted around, I saw glowing eyes from inside my wardrobe.

With a scream, and ready to beat whatever was in there, I tore it open.

I didn’t understand what I was seeing. Right there, huddled under a stack of clothing, was Simba.

“How the hell are you here? You were just outside, so…”

My voice trailed off when the smell hit me. He’d soiled himself.

Yet he made no intention of moving. Instead, he just stared at me with wide, anxious eyes, trying to push himself deeper under the clothes. Slowly, ever so slowly, afraid to see his body contort and change, I reached out my hand. At first, he hissed at me, but then he began smelling my fingers as usual.

I didn’t understand. If he was here, then the one I’d followed must’ve been a… fake?

I thought about all those strays, about the orange tabby, and what I’d just seen inside those disgusting blob-like things. Oh dear god, don’t tell me all those strays…

With weak legs, I stumbled towards my balcony to check just how many of the things were out there.

The moment I pulled aside the curtain, however, I found myself face to face with Simba.

I jerked around, but saw he was still inside the wardrobe, still hidden under my clothes, his eyes trained on the imposter outside.

Another one, it was another fake Simba.

“You… Get the fuck away!” I screamed at the thing through the balcony door.

Yet it didn’t leave. Instead, it approached the door, pushing itself against it, letting out a meow as if to beg me to let him come inside.

At that moment, I realized it. This thing had been with me all day. It had been the one sitting on my lap while Simba was hiding inside the wardrobe. The trick had worked. Its fucking trick had worked!

Suddenly, I grew angry, and in an instant, I tore open the balcony door to stomp whatever this thing was.

When my foot came down hard on its body, it burst open and I saw an assortment of disgusting tentacles slithered out from it. Right away, they reached out for my shoe, trying to get a hold of it.

Screaming, I stomped on the thing again and again. Finally, when I thought it was dead, when it was nothing but a disgusting puddle of reddish goo, I slumped to the ground.

Yet, it wasn’t over. I cringed back when the thing started moving again, pulled itself together and slithered towards the corner of the balcony. There it melted away through a small gap between the balcony railing and the wall. It washed outside before it reformed itself into a cat and dashed away.

For a long moment, I just sat there, utterly confused and half-laughing.

Then my eyes wandered over the area in front of the building. I could see them, the cats. They were everywhere, all staring at me. No, watching me.

I was back inside a moment later.

Something was going on, something bad. I had to tell people, had to get help.

The police, I decided. I reached into my pocket to pull out my phone, but found it empty. I cursed. When I’d fallen down in that damned basement, I’d lost it! It was still down there! Fuck!

The station then. I’d go to the station and tell them what I’d seen. They’d know what to do, or they’d call someone who did.

The moment I left my apartment, however, my neighbor’s door opened.

He was a grumpy old man, the type who’d scoff and yell at everyone. A textbook asshole, so to speak.

When I saw him now, however, he was beaming.

“Well hello there, neighbor. How are you doing this evening?”

I just stared at him.

“I… the police because there’s…”

My voice trailed off when he reached out and put his hand on my shoulder.

“Now, now, young man, just tell me what’s going on. I’m sure there’s no need to bother the police.”

“No, I mean, yes, there is! There are things below the…”

Once more, I couldn’t continue. I felt it again. The same strange feeling I’d felt when I’d petted the imposter cat’s back. Something was moving, or better, squirming, below the skin of his hand.

In an instant, I shook it off and cringed back.

“Get the fuck away from me!” I screamed at him.

His friendly expression, however, didn’t waver.

“My, if it isn’t Mr. Schneider,” a voice reached us.

It was another one of my neighbors, an older lady from upstairs. Her face, too, was extremely friendly, and her mouth was twisted into a disgustingly sweet smile.

She slowly came closer, positioning herself in the center of the hallway that led to the entrance door.

“Not going to let me leave, are you?” I spat at them.

I was about to chance it, to just dart past her, but then I heard more footsteps, and saw more people coming down the stairs. They, too, were beaming.

Right at that moment, my neighbor reached out for me again, trying to get a hold of me.

In an instant, I darted back into my apartment and locked the door.

One glance through the spyglass told me they were all still outside, just standing in front of my door.

“Are you sure you’re all right? Do you need help?” one of them spoke up.

I retreated back to the living room. This couldn’t be real. It was just the cats, wasn’t it?

That thing on the ceiling, though. It had been so much bigger, and so had the things inside of it.

I remembered all those smiling, overly friendly people at the grocery store. Oh dear god…

How long has this been going on? How many people have been replaced by now?

I can still hear them outside. They are still calling for me in their friendly, jolly voices, but there’s more of them now.

But I won’t give up and just wait till they come to get me. No, I’m going to take my chances. If I can’t leave via the front door, I’ll try the balcony. People have to know what’s going on here. People have to be warned.

There’s one thing, however, one thing I know. These things aren’t like animals. They aren’t merely driven by instinct.

There’s a method to this madness, a plan. The cats were only the first step, a way to get close to us and to get us to let our guard down.

No, these things are smart, and this is an invasion.

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