Cats and Dogs - Excerpt

 

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All text © by Laura Warby, 2013

All text © by Laura Warby, 2013

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

First Edition, Published 2013

 

Cover Art by EJ Kellan.

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Excerpt

This is the first 10% of my published novel 'Cats and Dogs'.

 

The full versions are available from:-

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Prologue

A.D. 2206

 

Tess Shermann was washing up in the kitchen, when she glanced out of the window and saw her son, Cameron, playing with his best friend, Luke, in the back garden.

They were playing catch with a tennis ball; Luke was catching the ball in his wide jaws and tossing it easily to Cameron, who was having difficulty handling the ball with his small paws.

Luke’s long, furry ears flapped in the breeze as he ran to and fro after the ball, his tail wagging enthusiastically.

“Are you alright?”

Her husband, Howard, came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. His green eyes were concerned; he knew she disliked dogs, after what had happened to Duncan.

“Just watching Cameron,” she said stiffly. “He’s still friends with that boy.”

“They’re only four years old, Tess,” Howard said gently, already knowing what she was thinking. “They don’t know any better. They’re best friends.”

“You said that your boss was offering you a promotion. Up north, away from here.”

“Yes.”

“Take it,” Tess said firmly. “We can move away while Cameron’s still young, and he won’t remember Luke in a few months.”

Howard hesitated for a moment – his son looked so happy, playing with his best friend – before he saw the determined gleam in Tess’ eye and nodded reluctantly.

“I’ll tell my boss tomorrow morning.”

 

Chapter One

 

A.D. 2220

Cameron

 

I fished the last of my textbooks for the day from my locker and shoved them into my old, battered rucksack.

I slammed the metal locker door shut and started to turn around, when a strong scent wafted into my nostrils, stopping me dead.

A heavy paw landed on my shoulder and spun me around.

My rucksack fell to the ground as I hissed, my pointed ears lying flat back against my head, my sharp white fangs bared by the time I faced the pack.

Three dogs stood in front of me, all with their hackles lifted, displaying their own sabre-like fangs.

Their leader, Mike, had some sort of terrier in his bloodline; he was covered in short white fur, and had pointed ears, like my own. His eyes were near black, and looking sharply at me.

Quentin and Peter were brothers, with some kind of mastiff-blood in them. They had thick necks, broad shoulders and strong legs. Their fur was coppery-brown and their eyes a light hazel, currently narrowed in hatred of me.

Before any of them could act, I lashed out with my paw at Mike’s face, my sharp claws leaving deep grooves across his furred muzzle.

He let out a funny noise between a howl and a snarl, his own paws coming up to pin me against the row of lockers.

Quentin and Peter were growling ominously behind him, their lips curling upwards to reveal more of their fangs.

I hissed again, my long tail lashing, ready for a fight.

The three dogs were constantly harassing me, and although I wouldn’t ever back away from a fight, I was getting tired of their continual persecution of me.

My standoffish – considered rude by many – attitude had made me a target of many of the dogs in the school.

After several fights, however – the worst of which led to a dog-boy losing an eye – the headmaster had stepped in.

Teachers now patrolled the corridors between classes, stopping fights before they could start, and we had regular assemblies on tolerance of other hybrids, where guest speakers came in to tell us of their ‘inspirational’ relationships with hybrids of sub-species different to their own.

“I’d let him go, if I were you.” A low voice said, before the fight could begin in earnest.

We all looked over towards the end of the corridor, where another dog was standing; he had black fur, a thickly-feathered tail, long ears that dangled over his shoulders and deep brown eyes.

He was watching us – well, me – intently.

“Why would we do that?” Mike asked nastily. “Who are you?”

“My name’s Luke. I’m new here. There’s a teacher coming down the corridor.” Luke nodded behind himself, his long, black ears swinging at the motion.

Before the pack could step away from me, Mr Larsson turned the corner, coming down the corridor towards us.

He saw the three of them pinning me to the lockers and sighed wearily.

“I’ve told you three about fighting in the corridors often enough, you should’ve learnt by now. Go to the headmaster’s office, now. Tell him why I’ve sent you. And I will check with him later to make sure you’ve been to see him.”

The three shouldered their rucksacks and trooped off slowly, glaring at me before they disappeared around the corner of the corridor.

“And you-”

Mr Larsson turned to me with a frown.

“Haven’t I told you before about walking alone in the corridors? Get Sandy to walk with you, or Becky.”

I raised my eyebrow at him, but said nothing.

Mr Larsson sighed again.

“Come on, Cameron. I’ll walk you to your English class.”

He put his paw against the small of my back and firmly propelled me back down the corridor, towards the English Department.

“Mr Larsson?”

“Yes, Cameron?”

“You’re a dog. Why are you always helping me?”

Mr Larsson looked at me thoughtfully.

“My wife is a cat,” he said after a moment. “My half-sister is a cat-dog hybrid. I’ve grown up with a mixture of cats and dogs, all getting along.”

“Oh… I didn’t know.”

“Didn’t you smell Jayne’s scent on me?”

“No. Cats don’t have a sense of smell quite as good as dogs.”

“I keep forgetting that,” Mr Larsson said with a smile. “I can always tell what Jayne’s cooking when I get out of the car, but she can hardly tell what I’m cooking if she’s in the next room.”

We arrived at the English Department as he finished speaking, and I reached for the door gladly.

“Thanks for walking me to my classroom.”

I slipped inside before Mr Larsson could speak again, and went to my seat beside the window.

My friend Sandy was already there, talking to her friend, Becky.

Sandy was a cat, like me, Becky was a cat-bird hybrid.

“Hi, Cam.” Sandy swivelled in her seat to greet me, her pointed, furry white ears pricked up in pleasure.

“Hi, Sandy.”

I slid my rucksack underneath my desk and started licking my paw clean, wincing at the sharp, metallic taste of dog blood. I’d caught Mike pretty well with my claws.

I smiled in satisfaction, unable to stop a soft purr escaping from my throat.

“Mike again?” Sandy asked.

I nodded, and dried my paw on my jeans.

I curled my long tail around my waist as someone walked past me and almost trod on it.

I hissed menacingly at the culprit – a bird-boy – who shrank away from me as he slid into his seat behind me. The feathers on his head flattened in submission, and I turned around to face the teacher’s desk, satisfied.

Mrs Abbot walked into the room, carrying a thick folder under her arm, followed by the dog-boy I’d met in the corridor; Luke.

His brown eyes met mine for a moment, before he followed Mrs Abbot to her desk and collected a couple of forms and a new notebook from her.

I scowled at him when he came over and sat in the empty seat beside me. There were several other empty seats scattered about the class that he could have chosen; why did he want to inflict his presence on me?

His floppy black ears swished gently as he turned to look searchingly at me for a moment, before he bent silently over his forms and started to fill them in with neat, clear handwriting.

I ignored him for most of the lesson, until he gently nudged me in the side.

On reflex, I hissed and lashed out at him, raking my claws down his furred forearm.

He winced, but firmly disengaged my claws, ignoring the blood that started to pool on his black fur.

“She said we should work together for the last part,” Luke said quietly, nodding towards Mrs Abbot.

I glared at him for a moment, before nodded shortly, and examining the blackboard for instructions.

I thought I heard him huff in frustration beside me.

With a sigh, I yanked my textbook from my rucksack and started reading the required chapters.

“Have we met before?” Luke asked me suddenly.

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“How come you’re so sure?”

“We have not met,” I hissed, glaring at him, my ears flattening against my head.

“You smell really familiar,” he insisted, frowning at me.

“If you don’t shut up, I’ll scratch you again,” I snapped, firmly turning my back on him.

“Jeez, hostile much?” Luke muttered.

He growled a little at the back of his throat, before opening his textbook and falling silent.

We didn’t speak for the rest of the lesson.

Sandy shot me a curious look.

I rolled my eyes and ignored her too.

 

Chapter Two

 

Luke

 

I watched Cameron from the corner of my eye as I pretended to read my textbook.

He smells so familiar; I’m sure I’ve met him before.

He had bright green, almond-shaped eyes, like almost all of the cats I’ve met, and thick grey fur on his arms and the portion of his shorts-clad legs that I could see.

There was a thinner smattering of fur over his face, and he had a few long, black whiskers too.

His long, furry tail was curled neatly around his waist.

His fur was a gorgeous, smoky grey colour.

He had a little triangular, pointed nose; a feature unique to the cat hybrids.

He radiated hostility.

“Do you want to do Task A or B?” I asked after I finished reading the chapters Mrs Abbot had indicated.

“B,” he said quietly.

Good; I was hoping to do A. We had covered that topic in my last school, a few days before I’d left.

I’d found the work at this school very easy so far; all of my other lessons this morning had covered a lot of the subjects I’d already studied at my old school.

We spent the rest of the lesson in silence, working through our individual tasks, before he handed me his worksheets and let me take them up to the teacher’s desk for marking.

“Hey.”

I almost caught hold of his arm as he left the classroom with his friend, but remembered his sharp claws, and instead tapped his shoulder and withdrew my paw quickly.

“What?” His eyes flashed as he looked over his shoulder at me.

“Can I… follow you? I have no idea where I’m going around here.”

Cameron opened his mouth, undoubtedly to say no, when his friend butted in before he could speak.

“Sure, you can. Becky and I are going to the Art Department, so I’ll let Cameron take you to your next lesson.”

Cameron scowled at her as she departed, but didn’t argue as the other cat and the cat-bird hybrid walked away.

“I’ve… got Spanish next,” I said after a moment, not knowing what else to say.

“Go down to the end of the corridor, turn right, go through the third set of double doors on your left, then look at the numbers on the doors for your classroom,” he said in a bored voice.

I opened my mouth to speak, but he’d slipped through the door and disappeared in amongst the crowd of students before I could catch him.

Sighing, I followed his directions and found myself in the Languages Department.

 

Chapter Three

 

Cameron

 

I escaped the dog-boy and made my way to the canteen.

Settling myself in one corner of the busy room, I pulled my usual break-time snack – a tuna and lettuce sandwich – from my rucksack and started eating it slowly, purring softly to myself.

The other students in the canteen gave me space; I had a reputation in school as being very free with my claws and fangs, and very easily provoked. Even some of the teachers were wary of me, particularly the bird hybrids.

That suited me fine; most people left me alone now. Sandy was the only person who had dogged me – for want of a better word – about my hostile attitude.

Gradually, she’d managed to worm her way into my life, and I’d grudgingly accepted her as a friend.

Finishing my sandwich, I threw away the wrapper and made my way to Biology, not caring that I was a little late. Mr Henderson was one of the teachers that were afraid of me.

 

*

 

I was joined by Sandy and Becky at lunchtime.

They settled themselves opposite me and tucked into their own lunches, discussing a new technique they had used in their Art class.

I saw Sandy debating whether or not to try and steal a piece of my salmon fillet, but the gleam in my eyes made her think otherwise before she tried.

“Can I join you?”

A low voice made me turn.

Luke was standing behind me, smiling shyly. The base of his ears were lowered submissively.

I scowled at the sight of his long fangs, but Sandy said that he could sit down before I could speak.

He slid into the seat beside me gratefully and pulled out his lunchbox.

Eyeing me carefully, he took out a little pot of mackerel paste and slid it towards me.

“Would you like some?” He asked.

I just looked at him.

“I’ve had cat friends before,” Luke said. “I… know you guys like fish.”

“Genius,” I mumbled, scowling when Sandy accepted the pot and spread a little paste onto a cracker.

Luke took a small bone, I think the bone from a steak, from his lunchbox and crunched it happily, before he tucked into a sandwich stuffed with more meat than there was bread.

Becky was watching him curiously; because she hung around with Sandy and myself, she’d never really spent time with any dog hybrids before.

“So, erm… What sort of dog are you?” She finally asked.

My ears had to strain to hear her.

“Cocker spaniel,” Luke said, sounding proud. “My family’s one of the only pure bloodlines left since the Great Experiments. Others of our kind have interbred so much, there are very few pure lines left. I think the Dalmatians are all pure, and most of the Poodles. How about you?”

“I’m half-swallow by my father, half… I’m not sure. I think my mother was a Siamese. She left just after I was born. My dad brought me up on his own,” Becky whispered.

“I’m a pure Persian,” Sandy said cheerfully. “Cam’s a pure Russian Blue. I think the cat bloodlines are purer than the dogs.”

“Yeah well, dogs screw anything,” I muttered.

I slid out of my seat, grabbed my rucksack and left the canteen.

I wondered where to go for a moment, before I headed to the library and spent a few minutes perusing the books.

I found a few books that would help me with my Biology homework, and one that looked like an interesting read that might help with my English classes, before going to my next classroom and settling down with one of the books.

 

*

 

“You were rude to Luke at lunchtime, you know,” Sandy said to me as we walked home together after school.

I sighed and rolled my eyes.

“Yeah, well. He’s a dog. What do you expect?”

“It would be nice if you could give people a chance for once,” Sandy snapped unexpectedly.

She rarely lost her temper, which is why she was able to be my friend. My bad attitude didn’t grate on her as often as it did on the other students.

“We’ve known Becky for four months, and she’s only just stopped being scared of you.” Sandy continued, looking at me accusingly.

I rolled my eyes again.

“I don’t care if she’s scared of me.”

“Well, you should. You can’t spend your whole life pushing people away, Cam. It’s not healthy.”

“No, it’s not healthy being around so many dogs,” I snapped. “You know I hate them.”

“I do. I just don’t know why,” Sandy said quietly.

I hesitated, before shaking my head firmly, not wanting to answer her implied question.

“I have my reasons, alright? But they’re my reasons, not yours. I’ll see you tomorrow, maybe.”

I walked down my driveway and let myself into my house before she could reply.

I dumped my rucksack on the hallway floor, kicked off my shoes and put them neatly away in the cupboard, and ran upstairs for my usual evening bath.

Unlike most cat hybrids, I actually like the water, and pick having a bath over having a shower any day.

I ran a bath of warm water, added some bubble bath, and lowered myself into the bathtub.

I let the water sluice through my fur, cleaning away the day’s dust.

Cat’s fur – being much finer – requires a little more grooming than dog’s fur; my usual daily cleaning routine consists of a half-hour bath – it takes that long to properly shampoo and rinse all of my fur – and another half an hour of drying and combing my fur until it gleams.

I heard the doorbell ring a few minutes after I sank into the water and groaned, before reluctantly stepped out of the bath.

I shook myself off quickly, grabbed a towel and wrapped it around my waist, and went to answer the door.

 

Chapter Four

 

Luke

 

“Oh… Hello.”

I stepped back in surprise when Cameron opened the front door wearing only a towel.

His smoky grey fur was wetly slicked to his slim body. It covered his chest and back, and the entirety of his legs, as well as his face and arms.

“What do you want?”

He scowled at me, pulling his towel a little closer about his waist.

“Did you follow me home from school?”

“A little bit.” I smiled shyly. “We’ve just moved in across the road, and my mother came to ask you if you’d like to come over for dinner. She’s invited all of the neighbours.”

“My father works late,” Cameron said.

“Oh… Well, just you and your mum come, then.” I suggested.

His green eyes narrowed.

“My mother’s dead,” he hissed, before slamming the door in my face.

I felt my long ears flap slightly from the breeze created by the banging door, and sighed to myself.

I stared at the closed door for a moment, before turned and going to the next house along to extend my parent’s dinner invitation.

I’m sure I’ve met Cameron somewhere before.

 

*

 

I showed the last neighbour out of the house with a thankful sigh.

I was glad Mum held the dinner tonight; Friday. I’d at least have the weekend to recover from the sheer boredom I’d suffered tonight.

There had been a young cat couple with a young baby – left with a babysitter – and they had been distracted all evening, thinking of their absent child.

There was a little old bird hybrid from the house beside Cameron’s, who had looked almost too frail to have the strength to hold her cutlery, and a young, single male dog that had talked of nothing but his work in accountancy all night.

I glanced across the road to Cameron's house as I started to close the front door, and stopped short.

The only light on inside the house was at the very top, in one of the attic rooms. Light spilled out of an open skylight, illuminating the curled-up cat on the roof.

I could make out the reflection of the starlight in his vivid green eyes, which were turned upwards to the night sky.

I felt myself looking upwards as well, and was astounded to see such a clear sky. I could make out several of the constellations; the simple ones I’d memorised from a book as a child.

I’d always lived in a city, until we’d moved here, and the most I was used to seeing of the night sky was a thick covering of clouds or smog.

I watched the stars winking down at us for a moment, before I looked back over at Cameron’s curled-up body, outlined against the dark roof tiles.

His green eyes had turned towards me, watching me intently.

After a moment I mouthed a goodnight, knowing he could see me clearly, and went back inside.

 

*

 

The next morning I awoke late.

Mum had gone to the hospital to see her sister, and Dad had gone out shopping with my brother and younger sister.

I ate my breakfast in the living room, happy to be able to choose what I wanted to watch on the TV for once, instead of my little sister’s cartoons or my brother’s crime dramas.

After breakfast, I pulled on a pair of tracksuit trousers and a thin sweatshirt, and went for my usual morning jog.

I didn’t know many places to jog around the new town yet, so I followed my sensitive nose until it led me to the park, where the clean, country air was fragranced with blossoming flowers.

Fruit trees lined the entrance to the field, and tall oaks were planted around the edge of the park, enclosing the space and shutting out the noise of the surrounding roads.

I decided to run three laps of the massive field, feeling my heart thumping hard in my chest as I pushed myself harder and further than usual.

Though it was early, there were already a few people in the park, enjoying the early morning sunshine.

Three small dog-children were playing near a large duck pond built in the centre of the park, pushing a little wooden sailing boat out onto the pond and running around the other side to collect it as it hit the bank.

Two cat-children were clambering agilely over a wooden climbing frame at the far end of the park.

A pair of elderly birds – ravens, from the blackness of their feathers – were walking amongst the flower beds; the male had one of his wings extended and wrapped lightly about the female’s shoulders.

I left the park after completing my laps, and jogged back home, feeling sweat trickling through my thick, black fur.

I jumped in the shower when I got home, and cleaned my fur thoroughly. I dried off quickly, and spend a while grooming myself, paying particular attention to my ears, which were prone to tangling and matting if not properly cared for.

I then settled down in my bedroom to finish unpacking my belongings.

All of my furniture was already assembled; all I had to do was sort out my books, DVDs and knick-knacks.

I set up my set of shelves around the window, and arranged my books on one side, and my DVDs on the other.

I had an impressive DVD collection; almost two hundred discs of varying genres, starring a wide array of actors and actresses.

The pride of my collection was a set of twenty factual films from the 2030s, chronicling the Great Experiments, and the early days of the hybrids.

While I was rifling through stacks of my books, I found an old photograph folded inside the cover of a book I hadn’t read for years.

The photograph was bent at the edges and worn where it had been folded in half and left like that for a long time.

I opened it and looked at it.

I was in the picture, with my arm around the shoulders of a young cat-boy who looked familiar, but whom I couldn’t remember.

He was smiling, his little pointed fangs bared playfully at me, his triangular ears pricked with interest. He was holding a tennis ball awkwardly between his delicate paws.

My tail had obviously wagging hard when the picture was taken, for it had come out blurred on the print.

I heard my dad and Jonas, my fifteen-year-old brother, come through the front door, and ran down to meet them in the hallway.

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