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On that first day, Jackson wasn't the only one who had immediate reservations about her. When I went to pat her she whipped around with a hiss and sliced the back of my hand. In bed that night James confessed she had done the same thing to him. We lay there in silence, stewing over our mistake. My mistake. Scream padded into the bedroom. She made a strange sound, the sort you'd make if you tried to meow with your mouth closed.
"What's up with that weird little noise?" I said.
"I think it's nice. It's like she's saying, 'Oh, here you are.'"
James was right. Most cats will sneak into a room and then jump on your bed or armrest and scare the bejeezus out of you.
"Maybe that's what we should call her," I suggested.
"Yeah. I don't like Cream. Too sweet."
"The name Scream's not sweet."
"No, it's evil. Yet strangely apt."
At that moment Scream-now-Meems jumped up on the bed with a thud, and walked up the length of James's body. She stopped and stood on his chest. We held our breath. She stared into his eyes, growling fiercely. He was too afraid to budge, terrified she'd pull out her knife-claws. I wondered who he'd look like if he had to get a full face transplant.
"Get her off!"
"I can't. She might kill me."
Meems's growling grew more insistent.
"Do something. I can't breathe!"
"Oh my god."
I lifted the quilt in front of my face, in case she rushed me. "She's a bad kitty."
"What are you crazy? Don't call her that, she can hear you."
"I'm just saying."
"She hears you call her that, she'll have to live up to it."
"Well what do you want me to do?"
"Tell her she's a good kitty."
I looked at Meems. Her yellow eyes turned on me.
"Meems, did anyone ever tell you you're a good kitty?"
Droplets of catspit fell from the corners of her mouth onto the quilt. Was it the froth of rabies? She leapt from James's chest to mine with a thump and knocked the wind out of me. I gasped for breath. Her weight bored into me, her paws pounding me in an alternating rhythm. She inched closer to my face. Another drop of catspit. This time sliding down my neck, leaving a tuna-stink trail on my skin.