From the 1st – 24th of December authors of GLBT+ fiction will be opening a door to a selection of festive stories to while away the winter days and get you in the Christmas spirit.
Find stories from your favourite writers and discover some new ones along the way.
A small gift from us to you for all your support in 2019.
I'll be posting each day's author and link to their story on my group. You can also click on the master list button below.
How a Ghost Cat Saves Christmas
I am a ginger stripped tabby cat, and my human calls me Alfred. It might be an odd thing to call a cat, but humans are weird that way. I am also dead, and what the humans call a ghost.
Things changed for me after a sniper tried to kill my human Max. I saved his life but the assassin ended up killing me instead. Oh, well. Honestly, being dead really isn’t all that different from being alive and there are some interesting benefits. I don’t need to eat or poop and can wander where ever I want. That’s a pretty sweet deal to an indoor cat.
Max loves me and I love him back so I decided to stay close to him, because he obviously requires a caretaker. The man would be lost without me. I did save him after all – twice. The bond we share also allows me to sense whenever Max needs me which is another bonus. In the beginning, Max had been the only one who could see me, now on occasion, his mate Nick and their friends Kevin and Erik can too. But only Max can touch me which is fine because Max gives the best scratches.
It was dark outside and Max had gone to a ‘meeting’. I was getting irritated at his long absence, I wanted my human home. Even the twinkling lights from the ‘Christmas Tree’ (as the humans called it) behind me were not enough to hold my attention even though I loved this time of year. Shiny sparkling things were everywhere, a veritable playground just for me. But for right now, I wanted Max.
“Easy, Alfred.” Max’s mate spoke from behind me. “He’ll be home soon and yowling at the window isn’t going to make him hurry up.”
That may be so, but luckily I didn’t have to stay by the window and wait. I could feel Max approaching and decided to go to him, walls and doors not a hindrance. Another benefit was not feeling the cold or snow and from the behavior of the humans around me, it was cold and definitely snowing.
As I trotted down the street, I spotted Max approaching Mr. Chen’s grocery store. It was a smallish family owned store that Max had been coming to for years. He hated the large crowds in the big grocery stores and I really couldn’t blame him. A kit, or rather a boy as the humans called their male young, was sweeping the stoop in front of Mr. Chen’s store.
“Hi, Manny.” Max ruffled the boy’s hair. “How’re you doing bud?”
Manny stopped to lean on his broom. “Doing good Max.”
“Working like always.” Manny shrugged like it was no big deal but resigned acceptance radiated off the boy. He was not happy about it.
Max sighed. “Your mom is doing what she can. It’s hard but I know how proud she is of you. Is Rosalie inside?”
The boy ducked his head in embarrassment and nodded. “Yeah, she’s helping sort the produce shipment.”
Manny had a littermate, a younger female that he cared for when their mother was working. Max patted his shoulder before he entered the store. I set out to follow him inside hoping he would buy tuna.
“Hi, kitty.” Manny crouched and held out a hand to me.
That was unexpected and interesting, only a handful of humans could see me. Filled with curiosity, I cautiously approached the boy. Sniffing at his fingers, I sensed nothing threatening about him, and without thinking, bumped his hand with my head. I was surprised. Not only could the boy see me, he could touch me like my human, Max. None of the other handful of humans who spent time with Max could touch me. No matter how much I wanted it.
Manny stroked my head and the comfort of his caress immediately pulled a deep purr from my chest. It felt so good to be touched by someone other than my human. Cats were a tactile species, even dead ones. Unable to resist, I lifted up onto my hind legs and placed my paws on Manny’s knees, then rubbed my head along Manny’s cheek, marking him as mine. The boy giggled and plopped down on the stair ignoring the cold. I immediately climbed onto Manny’s lap, my purr intensifying when Manny found just the right place behind my ears for scratches.
“You’re such a good kitty,” he cooed at me. “You look too healthy to be a stray so you must live around here.”
Yeah, you could say something like that. I liked Manny and I made sure to let him know it as I took in his scent and memorized it so I could find him again.
“Manny,” a young female called to him from just inside the doorway. “It’s time to go home.”
He sighed and I could tell he was reluctant to let me go. Gently, he put me on the ground and gave me a final stroke from head to tail. “Sorry, kitty. I have to go. We have homework to finish and then bed.”
He stood and I wound around his legs. He giggled and gave me another stroke before straightening and entering the store. Of course I followed, discretely. It was easier than tracking him by scent.
The boy took the hand of the young female and led her to the back of the store. An older female waited for them opening a door to allow them to exit. She stood there watching as they climbed metal stairs up to the next floor where Manny opened a window and they climbed into the building.
“Alfred?” The sound of Max calling my name stopped me from following them. Instead, I turned and quickly ran to my human winding around him. He chuckled and picked me up. “What are you doing out here?” So I told him of my meeting with Manny. He squeezed me tight and grinned at me. “From the sounds of it, you had a busy night. Sometimes, I really wish I could understand you. I bet you could tell some amazing stories.”
If he only knew.
I climbed the last step of the fire escape and meowed at the window. Manny appeared after a minute and opened the window to let me in. He closed it once I had hopped onto the floor. His den was smaller than mine and had no lights or interesting shiny toys to play with. I didn’t care, it was Manny I came to see.
“Hi, kitty. Look what I got for you.” Manny waved a small pouch of cat treats in the air. “When I told him about you, Mr. Chen said I could pick out something for you.” I could smell the yummy goodness even with the bag still sealed and began to purr. Manny shook out a few onto his palm and tentatively held them out to me. Max and I had discovered that if he kept in contact with me then I could eat a little bit, mostly for the flavor because I didn’t need food anymore. I waited sniffing at the treats until he put a hand on my shoulders, then I reached out my tongue to scoop up a couple of the treats. Mmm, tuna. I knew I had a reason to like this boy.
“Hey, kitty. Nice to see you tonight.” Manny climbed onto his bed after letting me in the window and I immediately took up my favorite place on Manny’s lap. Good rubs and scratches followed but there was something off about my young human friend. I rose up to rub my head along Manny’s face purring hard, offering what comfort I could.
“Okay. Okay.” Manny giggled and satisfied, I lay down on his lap once more. Manny leaned his head back against the wall and stared off into space. That was fine so long as the petting continued. “I’m sorry I’m not better company tonight, kitty. They made my mom cry again. She calls them every month asking if they’ve found my dad yet and every month they say no. But they won’t release his survivor’s pension, so she has to keep working her two jobs.” Manny sighed heavily. “It’s so not fair.”
I felt something wet land on my head and looked up. The sadness was back and stronger. I understood sadness all too well and climbed up into Manny’s arms. The boy broke and cried into my fur. That was fine, Manny needed me.
“Dad’s a marine but he disappeared one day on a mission,” he began. “I knew grandma didn’t like mom and us but until the day they told us about dad, I had no idea how much she actually hated us. I don’t know how but she took away our house. She’s kinda loaded and won’t share. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the military cut off all of dad’s money and won’t tell us why.” The words come out in between hiccups. “Now we have to live in this tiny apartment and mom has to work very hard to pay bills and buy food and it just sucks.” The sobbing started up again. “And… and… it’s almost Christmas. I don’t care about money or presents, I just want my dad.”
I’d been thinking about Manny’s desperate need for his sire when I was distracted by the shiny which hung from the bottom branch of the Christmas tree. My eyes went wide as its glory overwhelmed me - red, round and covered with reflective lights. It had to be mine.
I snuck up to it so it couldn’t escape and pounced. It wobbled but I was determined to get it down. Ah, sweet success! But it bounced, rolling from me. Naturally, I chased after it. There was no way it was getting away that easy now that I had finally freed it.
One of Max’s human friends, the big dark skinned one, stepped around the corner with two water bottles in his hands just as the shiny rolled under his foot. I was not going to be deterred by his size and slid under his foot after my shiny.
“Dammit Alfred!” The human yelled as he crashed to the floor, water bottles flying into the air. “Max! Can’t you control him?” I ignored him, of course.
Max snorted. “Have you met him, Erik? Ghost or not, he’s still a cat.”
Erik climbed to his feet cursing up a storm which I also ignored. A hand suddenly appeared out of nowhere and snatched my shiny from between my paws. Noooo, I had just caught it!
“I’ll take that you little scamp.” Nick put my shiny back into the tree so high there was no way I would be able to get to it. I felt like using some of those human curses at that moment. Letting them all know my displeasure, I angry walked to my cat tree, climbed it to the top and glowered at them all.
After a minute I heard my human sigh heavily. Max sat at his desk but instead of tapping on what he called a keyboard as he stared his monitor, he was gazing off into space. Nick stepped up behind him and began to rub Max’s shoulders.
“You are really tight. What’s wrong love? Having a problem with your book?”
“Are you worried about the Charity Christmas Party?”
“Nope. Your old precinct has really stepped up. Volunteers are sorted. Decorations are ready, food, toys and gifts are bought, and as far as I’ve heard, the entire neighborhood will be there.”
“That’s a good thing you’re doing, Max.” Erik added wincing as he sat on the couch. Tough, he shouldn’t have been in my way, I thought with satisfaction. Nick and he were working on a case while Max worked on his computer. The low table in front of him was covered with inviting looking papers that I would have to investigate or maybe just sleep on.
“Thanks to the movies, I have more money than I could spend in several lifetimes. It’s only right that I give something back. The problem is I can’t stop thinking about Manny and his family.”
“Yeah. You remember him.” Nick told Erik. “Ten year old kid helps out Mr. Chen who pays him in groceries to help his family.”
“I remember but I didn’t know about the groceries thing. Are they in trouble?”
“Sort of. Mostly, it’s the situation with Maria’s husband, the missing marine.” Max said.
“Maybe we can help. We are detectives after all.” Nick added. “It’s kind of our thing.”
I left it to Max to explain the situation to the others while I went for a walk. Maybe a visit with Manny, he might have treats which would make up for my shiny being taken from me. The more I thought about it, the better I liked the idea and headed for Manny’s den.
Technically, I didn’t need to wait to be let in through the window but I meowed out of politeness to be let in. When he didn’t come to me, I decided to just let myself in. Passing through the wall wasn’t difficult. Inside, the boy lay in bed with all his clothes on. He looked exhausted. Tear tracks stained his cheeks and sadness poured off of him even in sleep. A photograph was tightly clutched in one hand. I nudged to so I could see it better. It showed a human surrounded by sand, lucky human. The boy looked so much like the man that I had no doubt that I was looking at his sire.
Enough was enough. The boy needed his sire and I was just the cat to find him. I crawled close to him and inhaled his skin several times, fixing his scent firmly in my mind once more. It was time to hunt.
I decided to start with the mist place. All I had to do was concentrate on going there and a small doorway opened for me to enter. It was a kind of boring place being all white and smoky but I was nothing if not a determined cat. Determined to look anywhere and everywhere. The problem was that no matter how hard I tried to sense Manny’s sire’s presence, I wasn’t having any luck. He wasn’t here.
“What are you doing, little one?” A gentle voice asked from behind me.
Turning, I saw a woman crouching down to offer me her fingers. After taking a sniff, I decided she meant me no harm and pushed my head into her fingers. I meowed to her in great detail about my goal, apologized that I couldn’t stay and turned away to continue my hunt.
“My, what a tale.”
I flicked my tail in farewell but she scooped me up before I could get more than a couple of paces and despite my protests, refused to put me down again. There was no way I would hurt her, I was too well mannered to do such a thing. I would simply have to wait until her grip loosened and I would be free and clear.
A second later, we stepped into my human’s living room and I hissed in frustration. This was not where I needed to be. Wait. The boy’s sire was on the computer. I struggled hard, managed to get loose and raced for the table the computer sat on. Jumping up, I pawed at the image.
This is him. I need to find him. I meowed to Max trying to tell him about my hunt.
“Alfred? What are you doing?” Max asked me confused.
“I found him wandering past the portal. I think he’s looking for the person on the screen,” the woman said. “He didn’t find him where he was looking.”
The humans all turned to stare at me and I meowed in frustration. Why couldn’t they understand me? I was making perfect sense. Maybe I needed to meow slower so they would understand that I needed to find Manny’s sire. Humans could be so slow sometimes.
“Is it possible he was looking for Manny’s dad?” Erik rubbed his chin watching me. I lifted a paw towards him trying to tell him he was right. “If he couldn’t find him …” He turned to look at the woman. “Then maybe Manny’s dad is alive?”
She gave him a soft smile. “You know I can’t tell you that. But I can tell you that you will need help from Kevin and from a certain young man in a wheelchair who is positively scary with computers.”
“Jason.” The three humans said in unison. The woman grinned at them.
Max, Nick, Erik and his mate Kevin all strode down a hallway in a large building. The smell of chemicals and sick humans sat thickly in the air. I followed. It wasn’t like they could stop me. While I felt sorry for the suffering around me, it seemed only fair that humans had to go to the vet too. Not much fun was it?
I froze. That scent. I knew that scent. It sent me racing between the human’s legs and into a room near the end of the hall.
“Alfred!” Max called after me and the sound of running feet let me know they were right behind me. My feet slid on the tiles as I rounded the doorway into the room. I leapt onto the bed and crouched upon Manny’s sire’s chest. My humans charged into the room startling the older female sitting to one side, the book in her hands tumbled to the floor.
She quickly rose to her feet. “What is the meaning of this?”
I hissed at her, swiping a clawed paw in the air in her direction. She smelled of Manny’s sire so I suspected she was his dam but I didn’t like her tone of voice one bit. Leaving my humans to talk to her, I focused on Manny’s sire. What was wrong with him? He lay in the bed unmoving, eyes closed. Sniffing around him, I noted scars from healed injuries. The human had been badly hurt but with all the noise, why wouldn’t he wake up? The woman’s voice grated on my nerves and would wake the dead. I would know.
Bouncing on his chest didn’t do anything. This called for more drastic measures. I shook myself out, took a deep breath and yowled into his face as loud as I possibly could.
“What was that?” The woman screamed, frantically looking around the room for the source of the sound. She couldn’t see me and that was fine. I was busy and did it again.
This time, Manny’s sire’s eyes shot open and his back arched before relaxing back onto the bed. He stared at me wide-eyed, chest heaving.
“Michael!” The female immediately came to the man’s side, grabbed his hand and stroked his cheek. “Thank heavens, you’re awake! It’s been so long.”
He scanned the room, gaze moving from one person to the next. “Who?”
Kevin stepped forward. “Good evening Mr. Keating. I’m Doctor Kevin Stuart. These are my associates Detectives James and Horvath.”
“Yes, sir. It seems you’ve been missing for some time and we’ve finally been able to track you down.”
“Missing? I don’t understand? Mom, what are they talking about?”
“Leave him alone,” she snapped at them. “Can’t you see you’re disturbing him? Stressing him out?”
“Mrs. Keating, I would be very careful what you say from this point forward.” Erik came forward then shocked her and Manny’s sire when he read her the Miranda Rights, whatever that was. I didn’t much care. What mattered was getting Manny’s sire to him as soon as possible now that I’d managed to wake him.
“Mr. Keating, your mother has paid off military personal to lie about your whereabouts and you’re your condition, as well as paying bribes to keep your benefits from your family. She evicted your wife and children from your home and has kept your location and health secret from them.”
“What?” He stared up at his mother. “Mom, how could you?”
She stiffened. “What do you mean ‘how could I’? I did what I had to do. I told you not to marry that woman. She was nothing, beneath you.”
Manny’s sire scowled up at her. “I love Maria, you bigoted bitch. You’ve never liked her but now you’ve gone too far. Get out.”
The female stepped back as if he’d struck her. I couldn’t help the hiss bubbling up from my chest. She truly was a terrible human.
“Mrs. Keating, I do not wish to handcuff you. Please come with me.” Erik waved at her to precede him out the door.
“I need to find my family.” Manny’s sire shifted under me. “And could someone please get this cat off my chest?”
Like sire - like son.
The huge auditorium was decorated in lights and all things Christmas. It was hard not to be distracted but I was on a mission. I spotted Manny sitting with his family and staring wistfully at the large Christmas tree on the stage set up at one end past rows of tables. A large man dressed in red and white waved his arms encouraging the crowd to sing Christmas carols. Manny’s littermate sang the songs with painful abandon. She could honestly give lessons to a cat in heat. I pawed at my ears before I hopped up onto Manny’s lap startling him.
“Kitty! What are you doing here?” He glanced around. “Are you going to get into trouble for being in the hall?”
“Manny? What are you doing?” His sister asked as he rubbed and patted me.
“Playing with a cat. What does it look like, squirt?”
“Um. I didn’t know you liked imaginary animals.” She shrugged. “Okay with me.”
“Imaginary animals?” He stared down at me. “There is no way you are imaginary.”
A sudden scream brought the music and singing to an abrupt halt. Manny’s mother leapt to her feet, pushed her way through the chairs, past people and raced for the entrance to the hall. Manny’s sire strode in surrounded by my humans.
“D-Dad?” Manny stuttered in obvious shock as his dam flung herself into her mate’s arms. Rosalie screamed, shoving her way towards her parents. Manny rose, forgetting that he still had me in his arms. I squirmed and he released me, to follow his littermate.
A deafening cheer and loud applause rose around us.
Max approached me and stroked down my back. “We did good fuzzy.”
I was quite proud of my humans and couldn’t agree more as I watched the family laughing and crying, together as they were meant to be.
Coming in 2020, more adventures with Alfred and his humans.