cover, CatalystFrazer lives in a world of too-bright colours and too-loud sounds. He has rituals to protect himself, but it means he can’t connect with anyone.

Then the cat finds him, and Frazer’s world is turned upside down.

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Frazer didn’t think about a lot of things before he found the kemi.

He saw a lot of things, though. He saw everything. He knew how many Froot Loops he’d eaten that morning. He knew without looking that he had six pairs of socks left in the drawer. He knew the Mum had forgotten to put her watch on before she drove him to school. He knew she’d cried the night before after she thought he was asleep. He even knew how many days it had been – fifty-one – since the Dad hadn’t come home.

But none of it mattered to Frazer. It was like he was behind a wall of glass. Inside was Frazer, and Outside was a never-ending mess of sound and sight and smell and touch and taste, things that he knew were supposed to connect somehow and make sense but didn’t. Most of the time he worked to put everything together, like how his ninety-two Froot Loops and the cup of milk tasted together on his tongue, and the scraping sound the spoon made on the pottery bowl, and the feel of the cool metal in his fingers…

But sometimes the sensations outside his glass wall were just too many, too fast, too different, and he’d have to make the growly sound in his throat and shut his eyes and sit on the floor and rock to block everything else out.

He’d done that on the bus too, shut his eyes and rocked in his seat. But the bus had made a wonderful growly noise for him, much much better than the Mum’s car.

Frazer hadn’t wanted to get off the bus. He wanted the growly noise to go on, but no one understood when he tried to tell them.

The MrsGraham just said, ‘Come on Frazer, let’s go and see the tigers,’ and pulled his arm gently to get him moving.

Frazer moved. He knew they would just keep talking at him until he did.

He saw lots of new things that day. Sometimes he would connect the words they spoke to the things they showed him. The tigers were big and black with yellow and white markings. The monkeys were little and brown and one came and hung onto a tree right in front of Frazer and looked at him with huge brown eyes and chattered to him. Frazer made the same noises back and the monkey put out a hand. Frazer did too but he was too far away for them to touch fingers. The MrsGraham chattered too, but her words flew past Frazer’s head and didn’t make sense.

After that there were too many noises, too many new things to count and remember and connect together and Frazer shut his eyes and growled, dragging back on the MrsGraham’s hand, trying to sit and block out the animal smells and noises and the people all talkingtalkingtalking around him.

In the end the MrsGraham picked him up and carried him, stiff and tense and still growling, to a place where the noise wasn’t as bad. She set him down and he sat, hugging his knees and rocking, not even opening his eyes. He could feel rough concrete cold beneath his bottom and smell plants, lots of plants, and hear them rustlerustlerustle softly in his ears, louder than the MrsGraham’s sigh as she sat on the ground a little way from him.

It was then that he heard the tiny food.